4 Signs You Should Quit Your Job and Become a River Guide

3 Min. Read
5 Signs You Should Quit Your Job and Become a River Guide

Is this the year you shake things up and ditch cubicle life for river guide life? Here are a few signs you might be ready…

1) You spend every penny you save on river trips.

Some people save for a house mortgage, nice car or Parisian vacation. You save to spend nights under the stars, days paddling a kayak and weeks without showering. If you’re forever wearing worn out jeans and forgoing expensive Sunday morning brunches with friends just so you can save up for your next rafting trip quicker…might as well make money on the river instead of spend it there! You may not be rich in the bank account as a guide, but your stomach and soul are guaranteed to be well fed.

2) You’re enamored with #vanlife.

Is your Instagram feed clogged with images of people exploring the west in their van, tiny house, or tricked-out truck? Do you dream of packing your life up and following the double yellow line? Most river guides rely on sparse employee housing, camping or sleeping in their vehicle when they aren’t on the water. It’s a great chance to minimize your belongings, focus on necessities and say “yes” to any and all adventures. Most guides will also tell you it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. But if you’re willing to make the back of your station wagon into a bed, the river guide lifestyle will fit you well. It’s a worthwhile trade-off to be able to call wilderness river canyons home.

4 Signs You Should Quit Your Job and Become a River Guide

3) You have physical and mental stamina.

Guiding is a physically intensive job, and rowing or paddling a boat is just the beginning. There’s also carrying bags, rigging boats, hauling and setting up camp gear and being ready for any situation that’s thrown your way. Do 100 squats and 100 push-ups per hour for a 16-hour day and you’ll start to get the idea. Guiding also means being “on” around the clock. Are you able to find the positive in tough situations? Do you problem solve on the go? Can you sing your favorite song and tell your best stories while doing those 100 squats and 100 push-ups? If working a mentally and physically taxing job 95 days in a row sounds challenging and exciting, rather than exhausting, you might have what it takes.

4) You want to be surrounded by awesome people.

Hands down the best part of being a river guide is the people you work with. Artists, nurses, teachers, year-round wilderness seekers…there won’t be a boring coworker in the bunch. These people will be your support system, your adventure buddies, your inspiration and your best friends. Being out in the wilderness performing tough tasks as a team builds camaraderie faster than you can say, “Grab the other side of this dry box.” And the guests? The guests are great too. From tenacious 5-year-old sandcastle-builders to wise 90-year-old adventurers, the people you meet on the river are guaranteed to be the most intriguing, interesting people in the world.

Photos: Jillian Lukiwski, James Kaiser

Portrait of a woman fishing

Emerald LaFortune

Emerald LaFortune (she/her) is an outdoor writer, whitewater and fly fish guide, and community builder based in rural Idaho. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @emeraldlensmedia.

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