Last week, my family and I took a trip to the Colorado Rockies for a week full of outdoor activities. With my new interest in hiking and the outdoors this summer, I was more than excited to see all that Colorado had to offer.
After warming up with a popular hike on day one, we planned a river rafting tour through Brown’s Canyon with American Adventure Expeditions for our second day. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure about rafting. I had a lot of trouble when we went canoeing down the Buffalo National River in Ponca, Arkansas. But I was willing to try something different, and I knew that not only would my entire family be in one raft, but we would have a guide to help us paddle.
To read more about my struggle on the canoe, read my post Out of Control: Floating the Buffalo National River.
Once we had arrived and checked in, we were introduced to our guide Jordan. A young and adventurous girl, Jordan was a college senior spending her summers where she loved: on the water. After kindly welcoming us and introducing herself, she sized each of us for equipment and handed us our gear.
Soon after, we were assembled for a quick safety meeting. The head of the morning’s rafting trip gave us instructions for each emergency case scenario: if your raft gets stuck, if you fall in the water, if the raft flips, etc. Although these what-ifs made us a little nervous, the speaker ended the meeting with a phrase that became our rally cry for the day: if nothing else, “listen to your guide.”
I wasn’t sure why this phrase stuck with me, but it rang through my mind. I let it go for the time being and boarded the bus with the other rafters. With our splash jackets, water shoes, life vests and helmets secured, we bounced along the dirt roads towards the put-in.
After we arrived, Jordan and my family split off from the other groups, picked up our raft and headed towards the water. Along the way, Jordan began giving us basic instruction on paddling, familiarizing us with commands she would be giving along the river. After she had finished and we were setting the raft in the water, she told us that if we felt overwhelmed, to just remember to “listen to your guide.”
As we started our slow float down the calm beginning of the river, I thought more about that repeated phrase. I understood that this was just an important rule for all new rafters, but I still felt like there was a hidden meaning behind it. So I decided to keep it in mind, to listen to what the river had to tell me and see if it would all connect.
Even though the river started slow, it wasn’t long before the rapids started to pick up. I learned quickly that having a guide (and a stable boat) made traversing through the rapids much easier. We easily glided around each rock, following the flow of the water and not being overpowered by rocks hitting the sides.
But soon, the rapids became more intense. The water was moving faster, and the larger rocks started to look like an obstacle course. Jordan’s commands became quicker and stronger. Approaching our most nerve-wracking rapids yet, my siblings froze.
Then, I heard another voice along with Jordan’s. It was my dad, encouraging us to keep going. My brother and sister were pulled out of their trance and dove their paddles back into the water.
These encouragements started to become more common as the rapids approached. I heard my mom’s voice over the sound of the roaring water, telling us “we can do it!” Pretty soon, I joined into our cries, shouting “don’t quit!” and “stay strong!”
Throughout the river was the sound of my family’s encouragements. Our yells echoed around the canyon in a unanimous voice of inspiration. And once we’d made it through a tough section, those shouts turned to laughs and happy cheers as we lifted our paddles in the air for a “paddle high five.”
It was in the middle of those rapids, the craziness of the freezing water crashing into my face, that the phrase returned to my mind: “listen to your guide.” I turned around to see my family, hands firmly gripping their paddles, faces set and focused on the rapids ahead, and their encouragements ringing all around.
And I realized that “my guide” was them. My family. My friends. My mentors. My role models. My supporters. Those that continued to push me forward.
It made me truly appreciate each of them. I knew that, although I was in college and no longer saw them every day, they were a huge part of my life. They would forever be my guides. I remembered that it was with their help I had made it this far. They had always been there for me, and they would always be a huge part of my life, guiding me wherever I go next.
I knew that I didn’t have to live my life and work towards my goals on my own. Instead, I needed to listen to the people, my guides, who would help me get where I need to go.
Who are your guides? How have the helped you get where you are now? How can they help you get where you want to go? Why not reach out to them today and let them know you appreciate them?