New York City? Really?

Guests hardly ever believe me when I tell them I lived in New York City for two years. How could a raft guide live there? There’s no rafting there.

As I look back on it, on our time chasing dreams in the magazine industry, I too find it hard to believe how far we’ve come from those fresh-faced degree-wielding days in the city that never sleeps.

Clean shaven, short hair, and a lot of collars, I thought the world was at my feet. From PR agencies to publishing houses, this was the big chance to find success.

But how much do you really know at 22?

Looking back, I’m thankful for the opportunities I had. Tracking investments, conducting interviews, Third Wave Fashion opened the door for me to be a writer, a published writer at that. Living in Manhattan provided lessons I never anticipated, from city slush in January to heat-rashed ice baths in July because air conditioning didn’t exist in our East Harlem apartment.

Yet, despite so many memories, so many people met, it’s hard to believe we lived there.

In my third year as a raft guide, I’ve been told by friends and family that this job makes total sense. I’m outside, I’m “in my element” and loving every moment chasing new dreams.

But these same people never saw me in New York. They never saw the late-night bus rides after fashion-tech meetups, or the furiously scribbled notes from interviews that still hide in the shelves of our office.

Our life in New York taught me to work faster, to expect more out of those around me, and to make hard decisions. In that past life I was a writer, I followed stories and helped guide opinions through a still-young industry.

Now, fashion is a new PFD. Everyday-tech consists of little more than a simple watch to keep trips running on time.

It’s hard sometimes to accept that we lived in New York City, but it shaped who I became. Who I am. To draw correlations between life in Manhattan and life running rivers is difficult, but I know it’s this combination that will guide me into the future.

And that’s what it’s all about.

Not where you’ve been, but where you will go because of it.

Airport Assault: Road Racing at WCU

Airport Assault Road Course
Airport Assault Road Course

In a college town that consists of little more than an expanding campus and a run-of-the-mill athletic department, it’s easy to overlook the absolutely excellent events that take place.

Outside of the Valley of the Lilies Half-Marathon and 5k, and when Western alum Manteo Mitchell pulled in Olympic Silver at the London Games, there hasn’t been a ton to be proud of in terms of athletic achievement. Luckily, and thanks to a dedicated group of collegiate cyclists, Western is now set to host a three-part race weekend on Saturday and Sunday March 22 and 23.

Though I wasn’t a part of the riding community, to see this group put together a complete race experience is nothing short of exciting. It’s easy to get lost in the valley that houses Cullowhee, to forget that there are people that want to come and experience the mountains. The nine percent grade of the time trial route may not be the way most people expect to experience Cullowhee, but then again active communities like cyclists don’t always fit into the “most people” category anyway.

The races are open to collegiate riders, with registration online at USA Cycling. These races include the one mile time trial mentioned before, an 18-63 mile road race, and a 20-50 minute criterium. Distances and times will be determined by rider category, which include Collegiate M-A,B,C,D and W-A,B. Each race costs $15 to pre-register, and $18 for day-of registration.

An awards ceremony will take place on Sunday after the criterium, which should not only highlight the weekend’s top racers, but also the little-known hospitality that so many people in the WCU community are full of. With the introduction of the Airport Assault race weekend, I’m proud to say I graduated from Western, and can’t wait to see what this does for the cycling team, the university and the community as a whole.

For more information take a look at the official WCU Cycling Team page and learn more about the excellent people that are making this event happen.

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Connected Runners: Basno Digital Medals

Medals

“Why do you run?”

That question alone is a pet peeve that nearly every runner faces on a constant basis. There are runners all over the world, from occasional joggers to elite runners that can run five minute miles for incredible distances, but the one thing they all have in common is the simple fact that they get out and do it; regardless of reason.

For many though, whether running is therapeutic or just another step toward a healthier lifestyle, there is little more that is as satisfying as a finisher’s medal at the end of the race that you trained months for. Despite blisters and lost toenails, heatstroke and hypothermia, the feeling you get as the medal is placed around your neck is unmatched.

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Unfortunately, the moment is typically short lived when it comes to sharing with friends and family. Newsfeeds fill with pictures of lunches and vacations, and within a day or two the moment disappears and the evidence of accomplishment is tucked away in a forgotten album labeled “Big Race ’13” or simply “Running.”

Luckily for the connected runners out there, Basno has developed race badges to harness the spirit of running and to share the passion for the sport that every runner has.

With digital personalization, times and names can be added to the finishing badge that every runner receives, offering a new way to connect the community and invite others in. Being in the midst of an emphasis on social engagement, the badges make it easier for runners to share their experiences and curate an online showcase of their accomplishments.

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Personally, I’m excited about the ability to store my accomplishments digitally in one place, especially considering that now just two months into 2014, I’ve already got seven finisher medals and no good way to display them online.

Ultimately, the running community is a strong one; a massive group of people that love being active and inviting outsiders to join them. In the digital world, I’m not sure what more could be done to bring such an offline community online than a way to join peers in accomplishments that nobody outside the community could ever understand.

So to answer the question of why we run, it’s because we’re runners. It’s what we do.

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Instagram: A Forgotten Friend

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One of the first apps I got after getting my iPhone was Instagram. I thought filters were fun, I thought it was a brilliant way to connect photographers, all was good.

But if you look at my profile, I have a pretty minor 125 photos in the two years that I’ve been on the platform. Maybe it was an attempt to break the habit that everyone else has of violating the Three Fs (Food, Feet, and Flowers), or it was just a matter that I didn’t think my photos were engaging.

Over the weekend though, I realized that avoiding Instagram isn’t the solution to my problem with the platform, rather, creating better content instead of documenting an average life story is what engages the community.

There are also the Instagram elite. I followed them as inspiration, but low and behold, I just got mad at myself for not having the eye that they seem to have.

Who are sitting in my list of elites?

In no particular order:

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kylesteed

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cacahuete_sr

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thiswildidea

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flashesofstyle

And of course PaigeWilhog
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As you can see, there’s a lot to live up to; though while we were in Japan I may have channeled a bit of Cacahuete_sr…

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So with these folks in mind, and a new focus on sharing the beautiful things that I see, I welcome back my old friend Instagram. A friend that’s always been there, but was too quickly abandoned in my struggle to not take boring photos.

Hopefully you like what you see, but even more important, push your own content to be engaging. Don’t use the platform only as a chronicle of your life, but really show off the beautiful things coming in and out of it.

In recognition of the person that pushes me to enhance my own Instagram, here she is in the beautiful light that we found this weekend.

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College: Is It Worth It?

It’s been a well established factor of every American’s life since the late 90s that a college degree is required for a halfway decent future.

But is that really the case?

tumblr_muumxk9HyX1spokgpo1_250Gif via Chekovy.tumblr.com

As startups and 20-somethings launch their ways through the fog of the saturated job market, it’s left some people wondering if traditional colleges are actually providing an ROI that balances rising tuition costs.

Thanks to The Daily Beast, a list of the 20 colleges with the worst return on investment has been put into pictures. Feel free to peruse the list, and with a list of only 20 it will be easy to think that you’re in the clear.

If you are, that’s great, but more than likely, your next job application is still going to say that you’re not qualified, regardless of whether or not your school was fortunate enough to not make the list.

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I’ll offer my experience as an example.

The image above would be the essence of why we have to question the ROI of college. As tuition costs rose at the university I went to, though not on the list, the school still managed to find the extra money in couch cushions to get signs made that were totally misspelled.

So, as I look for my next job, lucky to be in New York, I too am wondering just how far a four-year education from a school that couldn’t spell university right is going to get me.

347_1053085692656_6951_nOur first picture together, circa 2008

I can gladly say that I met my wife in college, and some of the closest friends I have today I met in college, so I can’t say don’t go.

But when it comes down to dollars and cents, with high school grads developing the next great app and fast-growing businesses, I must encourage everyone to at least consider their options. Weigh the consequences for yourself, and most definitely don’t go longer than you need to.

If you’ve already graduated, struggled finding a job, and you’re considering grad school; reconsider those student loans and figure out if it’s really worth your time, effort, and money.

The Never Ending Honeymoon

There is no way that Paige and I are unique to this notion, but we want to know why the honeymoon should end just because it’s time to get back to work and, as everyone else is putting it, the real world?

Now just over two weeks married and fresh off our trip to Japan, I’m reflecting on the way we worked our way through Japan, how the honeymoon was so perfect and how that translates into the future. No gimmicks or self-help books, just maintaining the level of adventure that has come with our marriage and what will ultimately make us happier.

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The first level, or lesson learned if you want to look at it that way, that I’ll start with is the language barrier.

We hadn’t been in Japan for 20 minutes before we made a friend that turned out to be a baseball trainer from Japan that had lived and worked in the US and was moving back home to join his wife. He helped us navigate the airport so that we could exchange vouchers for rail passes and get on our way to Karuizawa. He joined us on our first train, and along the way asked if we knew any Japanese.

Beyond konichiwa and “Domo arigato Mr. Roboto” we had nothing.

He laughed and was astonished that we would make our honeymoon in a place that we didn’t speak any of the language, but that’s what works for us.

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Why would you want to go somewhere that you already know? That principle is why I believe that Paige and I are capable of continuing the “honeymoon phase” that everybody claims will disappear. We like adventure, and we like to overcome the uncomfortable moments in life, like being immersed in a culture that it turned out we didn’t know as much about as we thought we did.

Granted, the Japanese were very accommodating and English though broken is a pretty solid second language, especially in the heavier tourist areas.

There will be more to come from the trip, but I would leave you with this: Japan provided a great deal of time to reflect on what matters, as well as provided a chance to step way outside the comfort zone; I would encourage you to take every opportunity to do the same.

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I hated to leave the land of the rising sun, but it’s great to be back. I’ll have some great stuff coming your way soon as I roll back into the swing of things.

Image collaboration with Paige