River Guide – This IS My Real Job

River Guide - This IS My Real Job

“When are you going to get a real job?”

I had just finished up my first season as a river guide when my parents sat me down and asked me that dreaded question. The truth was, I had found my calling but I didn’t know how to break it to my mom and dad that my college degree would go unused.

I knew I had found something special on the river and I wasn’t about to give it up. But how do you explain that to a society who views success as financial stability? How do you tell your parents that you’d prefer to be perpetually dirty and sunburnt, over having a permanent address?

I came to the conclusion that the most real job you can have is the one that makes you come alive, the one that sets your heart aflame each morning. It’s the job that allows you to be the best and most complete version of yourself, while pushing you to be better. It’s the one that both fulfills you and replenishes you. It’s the one you love. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else.

For me, that’s guiding. Here’s why:

People are in their most raw and vulnerable state in the wild. This goes for both guides and guests. Take away crutches like electronics, access to the media and make-up; and voilà everyone is fully engulfed in the moment, fully themselves. Freedom from the pressures of daily life is beautiful and you will have no choice but to fall in love with your wild, vulnerable self.

River Guide - This IS My Real Job

Guiding is an incredible way to gain valuable interpersonal and career skills. What other job simultaneously allows you to be a customer service expert, safety facilitator, chef, team leader, and logistical planner? None. Guiding is unique in the fact that it provides the opportunity to gain a ton of real-life-skills. The result is a well-rounded, adaptable, confident individual. So, even if guiding isn’t a long-term plan, it prepares you immensely for a vast number of other careers.

You are able to create life-changing moments. I don’t think I’m going too far by saying that most of us hope to leave a positive impact on the world. Seeing a child’s eyes sparkle with bewilderment during their first wilderness experience or witnessing someone facing their biggest fear – these are the small moments that assure guides they are doing something important, something meaningful.

My parents, along with my closest relatives, signed up for a river trip my second year of guiding. I was excited for their support, but nervous that I would get grilled with the same questions as before. Lucky for me, the river spoke louder than any response I could have articulated.

As the last night of the trip wrapped up and the guides joined the chair circle, my parents looked up at me, nodded and smiled. It was a small gesture, but I knew in this moment that they understood. They knew why I was out there, what I had found.




  • Eric Crosier

    It all starred with my wife saying.” You have to listen to the whole thing before you ask any questions. I want to go white water rafting on a 4 day trip down the Rogue river in Oregon.” My wife Does NOT Rough It. Sleep in tents or commune with nature up close and personal. I, on the other hand love to camp, paddle and get face to face with nature for days at a time. Long story short we went on the OARS Wine on the River trip and Carley was one of our guides. The guides were all amazing. They opened up a world for my wife that I never thought would happen. I knew that cool things were happening when our guide Alyssa asked us if we wanted to “swim this rapid?” She told us to sit on the side of the raft and go “nose up, toes up” as soon as we slid over the edge. My wife did this with out hesitation. She slept in a tent she set up and bathed in the river. Carley and crew exceeded our expectations. She is truly one of the few people i have met (the other guides fit this definition too) that are actually living a life that aligns with who they are at their core. If you are skeptical that is OK, all you have to do is step outside your comfort zone and book a trip. I highly recommend the one with a chef and cases of wine included.

    • Love hearing this story about your wife, Eric! So awesome to see newbies in the outdoors embrace the outdoors so whole-heartedly.

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