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.

Be Water

Be water.

As a raft guide, water is my life; as a human, water is essential to life. On a personal level though, water is much more.

Water is strong, water is powerful, water is humbling. Until recently I whole-heartedly believed in the adage to just “go with the flow” and take life as it comes, but this ideology is flawed.

It may be cliché to talk about water and reference Bruce Lee’s famous “be water” quote, but if you don’t know it, the philosophy is this:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

The value in the idea of being formless yet forming to everything is untouchable; in modern society it seems harder today than ever before.

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But is it? Really?

As a raft guide I’ve flipped boats, I’ve rocketed out of rafts because of mistimed paddle strokes and I’ve been stuck under rafts in class III and IV whitewater; the key, in my mind, though is not just to go with the flow, but to embody its dynamic force. Feel the power around you, develop understanding with the current and in that moment of humility allow the energy to manifest itself within and through you, guiding you to a better place.

I have written before about the unmatched power of water, but in considering my experiences and the words above, contextualized by the current state of global politics, I believe we must allow ourselves to be guided by the energy around us.

Regardless of cultural background or political standing, there is value to be found in the water analogy. According to philosophers Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese, the Tao Tê Ching teaches:

The highest good may be likened to water.
Water benefits all creatures yet does not strive or argue with them.
It rests content in those lowly places which others despise…

To me, this doesn’t conflict with any belief system. Believe in whatever God(s) you want, I won’t tell you you’re wrong, but in the idea of making ourselves like water and “resting content in those lowly places which others despise,” we may find a rejuvenated appreciation for those people around us. Family, friends, neighbors, let us derive our purpose from benefit of each other, finding our way to those at rock bottom and surrounding them with the relentless energy of forward progress.

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Like the unyielding power of water, we flow forward; at times raging and torrential, more-often-than-not placid and welcoming. Let’s be like that. Together, let’s be water.

The Veiled Woman

I don’t know her name, I don’t know who created her or what she was made of.

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Walking through the famous Louvre, on a hurried three hour tour to see the greats of the museum, one sculpture caught my eye; a veiled woman, standing isolated at the end of a display, solemnly gazing at the crowds inevitably passing her without a second of consideration.

To say art speaks to people is a cliché to be avoided, yet, regardless of reasoning her hollow gaze pierced me, calling me from the crowd to pause a moment at her feet. I took pictures, I lost myself in question and simply stood in her presence, thanking this seemingly avoided woman for reaching out to share this brief moment together.

Paris was beautiful, and the Louvre was more than I could have ever imagined, but in the midst of the Mona Lisa’s fame, and the classic romance of the French capital, she stopped me in my tracks.

Among the Michelangelos, the veiled woman looked into me, and asked me what I saw.

Want to know more about our trip to Paris? Destination: Paris over on The Eddy Folk has a look at how we maximized our short time in the City of Love

The Eddy Folk

What happened to the Freelance Rider?

Life..?

For those of you that have wondered, or been wondering, what happened to the daily posts, why it’s been an eternity since my last post, here it is:

The Eddy Folk

Photo via Paige Hogan | @paigewilhog
Photo via Paige Hogan | @paigewilhog

Together, Paige and I have been chasing dreams of backcountry adventure, mixed with the art of slow living and garnished with a few of the finer things in life. Which doesn’t sound much like raft guide life, but guiding is actually what has launched the pursuit.

So what does that mean for this site?

Two things:

  1. I have a ton of opportunity to draw inspiration from everything that happens in this new outlook on life, AND,

  2.  There are two places to find out what life has in store for us as we make our way through this adventure writing, rafting and photographing every step along the way.

As a part of my resolutions for 2017, I told myself I would turn attention back to my writing, discover the voice that’s been developing in this time off, and bring more to each of you.

If you’ve been with me from the beginning, I thank you. If you’re just discovering the Freelance Rider as we enter this new chapter, welcome, and don’t forget that the adventure continues together over on The Eddy Folk!

Want to see the adventure as it happens? Instagram has everything from recaps real-time Stories available!

Turning 25: Am I Ready?

I just turned 25. I raft guide at the US National Whitewater Center and I freelance write, but with another year down, I’m asking myself: where am I?

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Guiding pays, it’s fun and fulfilling, but it certainly isn’t enough to truly prepare for the future. On the other side, as anyone that freelances will tell you, when the money’s good it’s great, but when it’s slow, things dry up pretty quick.

Which is what brought me to where I am today. Twenty-Five and considering what the hell I’m doing to prepare for retirement.

That may sound like a tremendous jump, you know, something that is meant to be far off, in the distance, and virtually forgotten until it’s right around the corner, but seriously; what am I doing.

Considering seasonal employment, I love it, but there’s no financial security in the form of insurance, retirement plans or paid sick days. On the freelance side, even less. So as i stare down what my wife calls the “quarter-life crisis” I’ve decided that 25 is all about the prep.

Not a five year plan, not even ten; where will we be when it’s time to retire? Will we be ready? Sure we tried to save, but did we do everything we could?

That last one is a question that seems to plague me; like in “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Andy is confronted with the smack of truth that she isn’t really trying all that hard to be the best at her job as Miranda’s assistant. I feel that I do everything I can, but there are still days off, slow days and in a 12-month span I’m still not making close to an entry-level income. So am I really trying, or like Andy am I traipsing around with the facade of a hard-working 20-something that’s actually reluctant to move totally beyond his comfort zone to realize the fullest potential literally right in front of him?

For now, we’ll say the jury is out, but what I can do is begin preparing, with whatever I have at my disposal.

I’ve looked up IRAs, Solo 401(k)s and suggestions on investing as a freelancer. I’ve come back to writing. I had been on hiatus from working on my book, but I’ve picked up the research again.

There are no guarantees in life, that I’m confident in, but there are steps that each of us can take to at least guide our lives in the right direction. Much like whitewater rafting occasionally you’re going to hit some rocks, maybe even flip your boat, but don’t be afraid to call a couple backstrokes and point your boat in a new direction. We all end up making it downstream, how we do it is up to us.

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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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