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.

Travel Writing: Finding My Voice

What’s the key to travel writing? How do you break into an industry that so many people want to be a part of? More importantly, how do you separate yourself from the hoard?

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Having written for the Fashion Tech industry, had a story about life as a raft guide published, and traveled around the world, it can’t be that difficult… Right?

It’s here, at this awkward intersection that I find myself and my writing. Blogging fell out of my routine when we moved away from New York; outside of the UNDO story, writing in general has been almost nonexistent since I started guiding. So what then is my angle? Where is my voice as I approach my third year on the water, just returned from Iceland and finding myself deeply motivated to share my experiences with others beyond my closest friends and family?

The key, so I’ve read, is in separating yourself from the common traveler, that there is an emotional difference in travelers able to share their experiences with the world. I can do that. So why haven’t I?

As I watch the Intagram and Twitter feeds of my favorite travel magazines, the inundation of photos, reviews and mediocre concepts, I realize that the key to travel writing is to separate yourself from those standards. To write in the same vain as a travel publication is one thing, but you can see for yourself among the poorly-lit hotel rooms and over-edited selfies that even getting recognized by these brands is about who you know. And that’s not me. Would it be cool to say you know someone at the top travel mags? Absolutely! But at what cost? In a 30 under 30 story about outdoor photographers, I cringed as children were featured, not because of their prodigal ability to find beautiful light and inspiring dimension, but because their parent(s) were well-known, published, photographers. To me, it isn’t cute.

Photo via Paige Hogan | @PaigeWilhog
Photo via Paige Hogan | @PaigeWilhog

I learned quickly in New York that getting ahead in certain industries was all based on who you knew, and it’s part of the reason why I didn’t pursue a career in PR. Of all the lessons though, New York also taught me if you’re true to yourself and you believe in what you’re doing, it will be hard to stop you.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Between this blog and The Eddy Folk, my goal is to share stories with you that aren’t like all the other travel blogs. Yes, there will be reviews, I’ll tell what gear Paige and I like, and there will be a ton of photos, but the voice will be different. These stories won’t be series-upon-series of listicles made famous in the Buzzfeed generation, and they won’t be full of drone footage shot in some remote corner of the country. These blogs, these stories, they’ll be told from the ground-level. Looking you right in the eye and reaching for your heart, the purpose of the Freelance Rider and The Eddy Folk isn’t to soar above you as you sit behind your screen, rather to invite you on our journey, to encourage you, and share all the Earth has to offer as we explore it together.

If you want to be a travel writer, go write. Don’t set your sights on writing the same garbage everyone else is, just be you. If the magazines like it, they’ll find you… Because you’re that good.

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For more adventures in tapping the travel industry, follow The Eddy Folk on Bloglovin’ and don’t forget to find me on Twitter!

Event Recap: Fashion Business Strategies

The business of fashion can be an overwhelming, but with the right strategies in place the startup process can run a little smoother. That was the focus Monday night at Wix Lounge thanks to sponsors GarysGuide and AlleyWatch, with excellent food and drinks from Qwiker Liquor, For The Gourmet, and Hint.

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Moderated by Dalia Strum, a digital marketing expert and FIT professor, the discussion took aim at the issues facing startups in the fashion business with advice from Becca Aronson, of Adornia, and Ashlene Nand, of Lacquerous. What was even better about the conversation was that Aronson and Nand both brought years of corporate experience to the table as well. Aronson with Lucky Magazine and Redbook, and Nand with Anvil Knitwear and a current position with Gap Global Brand Partnerships, provided insight to the startup world from both sides of the spectrum, which I believe is rarely available and accessible like it was Monday night.

After introductions, the evening turned to questions about branding, customer acquisition and retention, how to use social media, and getting your brand message to the world.

What could be more important than those things?

Determining if you should be an entrepreneur at all. Aronson and Nand seemed to agree on the importance of answering that question first, and basing it on if you want to make money and if you want to do fulfilling work.

Essentially, even if media has always been your dream job and you land it, if you’re creatively left wanting, then you have to pursue the career that will make you the happiest. It may take time to realize it, but the passion and flexibility provided from starting your own business is unmatched by a 9-5 job. If nothing else, making your own decisions and engaging an audience that’s genuinely interested in your product is a rewarding experience. In fact, that interest is where your most loyal customers can be found.

Since business is based on customers, and many of the strategies discussed revolve immediately around the topic, I think Aronson offered one of the best opinions on engaging your customers that I’ve ever heard. She said:

People don’t live in the digital world, they live in the real world.

It seems like a simple concept, something that seems so obvious it doesn’t need to be said, but when you attempt to manage the beast that is social media, understanding that real people don’t actually live online is crucial to your approach. A customer could run a Google image search if all they wanted to do was look at pictures, but that search can’t provide a way to touch the product, can’t offer a hand to shake, and certainly won’t convey the personality that your brand is built on.

That isn’t to say that social media isn’t important, but it does point to the second element that spanned the evening: how you spend your time and what you prioritize will enhance your company and your personal life. Both Nand and Aronson emphasized that you have to be willing to take care of yourself first, and at the end of the day, no matter what you’ll have to live with yourself. Prioritization from there is where the balance in customer engagement and brand growth will take root. More importantly, as your brand grows, you have to remember that some things don’t have to be done today while others don’t need to be done at all. Knowing where to draw that line will come with experience, but the quicker that understanding is developed, the more at-ease you’ll find yourself.

Ultimately, your business is your responsibility. If there was anything to glean from the discussion it was that you must be willing to step outside of your box, learn new things, and partner yourself with like-minded people that compliment your strengths and help you navigate your weaknesses. Build your team based on your needs, but developing your brand voice is like developing yourself, it won’t happen over night, but that process will shape where your brand is heading and how it needs to be positioned.

Be aggressive, be fearless, and always be yourself. You’re brand is depending on it.

No Excuse November: Marathon Monday

Yesterday was the 2013 ING New York Marathon, making today Marathon Monday.

A race dedicated to the runners and spectators of Boston, as well as the Sandy victims that are still recovering along the east coast, the marathon served as inspiration for where my life should be going.

If you ask any distance runner, there are moments of doubt, moments when you just don’t want to get up and workout, but there is something about racing that keeps them going. I like to call it marathon fever. Considering that the wedding and honeymoon basically translated to a month out of the gym, the hype around this marathon has been the catalyst to pushing us toward a more active lifestyle, but with a new twist.

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Photo Courtesy of Paige

On our run Saturday, I chose not to run with music, none of the greats do, so I why shouldn’t I give it a try. The run though provided an unexpected moment, when Paige’s phone stopped working and she was left without music as well.

As a person that doesn’t talk a whole lot during physical activities, even in team sports, it caught me off guard when we began a conversation and maintained our pace rather than zoning in on the tempo of a song and staying in our own little worlds.

Then it happened.

Paige looked over, and between breaths said that it was time for me to get personal trainer certified. To take the money we received from our wedding gifts and put it toward my certification.

First of all, who does that? Yeah, we’ve talked about it before, but she believes in me so much that she would rather invest that money in me, in yet another small round of education, than put it into savings.

Which brings me to my second point: This is now “No Excuse November.”

With the challenge to get certified before the new year, our workouts will intensify, we’ll push each other, and we’re going to blow through the holidays.

The month is focused on no excuses for not finding work, no excuses for not studying, and no excuses for not getting out and active.

I had talked about pushing myself to get to January’s race, but Paige is pushing me to rise beyond the occasion. Mediocrity will no longer be the standard, and from here on it’s all or nothing.

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Photo Courtesy of Paige

It’ll be tough, it’ll be interesting, but I want you guys to join me in the effort to make this an excuse-free month.

If those marathoners that I saw yesterday can elevate themselves to a higher standard, then we can too.

Bill de Blasio: In the City That Never Sleeps

I start every morning with New York 1, it may be one of my favorite morning news programs.

The simple news channel is one of my favorite perks of living in the city, but with the NYC elections coming tomorrow, discussions of the mayoral candidates to replace Michael Bloomberg has been the topic of almost every discussion.

I’ll start by saying I’m not a fan of the Republican candidate Joe Lhota, but I have one outstanding issue with the Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio.

He’s lazy.

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Photo Courtesy of Associated Press

Apparently, de Blasio was late to an 11:30 meeting Saturday morning. Why? According to Politicker, because he had received a phone call at 5 earlier that morning and that threw off his sleep cycle.

Really?!

How many of you are hard working employees that have to be to work before 8 or 9? Why should a candidate for mayor be allowed to consistently show up late to functions that are for him?

New York is supposed to be the city that never sleeps, but a mayor that likes to stay up late and can’t get up in the morning doesn’t sound like the type of person that is going to be concerned with anyone much beyond himself.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around New York politics, but I don’t think location changes what is acceptable and what is just pure lazy.

The Dopey: An Agonizing Countdown

Unfortunately it’s about that time of the year again.

While everyone else is looking for the perfect Halloween costume, or planning Thanksgiving and Christmas with their families; the countdown to race day has begun.

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At 75 days out from the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend the pressure is on to make up for the training that has been pretty non-existent since mid-September.

Paige and I had an agreement that we wouldn’t run on our honeymoon, mainly because we wanted to enjoy it, but having been back for a week now, finding the motivation to put on my running shoes has been an issue.

The worst part about it is that I know I have to get in miles and quality runs so I don’t injure myself like the last time Paige’s mom and I ran back-to-back races.

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In the 2012 Goofy Race and a Half, I set a half-marathon personal best at 1 hour 58 minutes, but developed awesome plantar fasciitis which slowed my marathon the next day to a crawling 5 hours…

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So, on the avenue of prevention Cross Cardio will be pushed to the side once we’re back to New York, and these final months of training are dedicated to watching the agonizing countdown to Disney. A phrase that nobody should ever have to say.

Enjoy your candy and your turkey, and I’ll go run away my holidays in preparation for January.