Over the course of a summer, I have the privilege of experiencing amazing relationships. These relationships are intense and passionate, fueled by summer euphoria and river adrenaline.
So, for the better part of the summer we river guides are in love. We are enamored with our own innocent existence in the greater river world. Because of this state we fall so easily in love with each other, as friends and as lovers.
Our guests sense that something is different about river people. They get a whiff of our free-flowing life and some can’t help but comment on it. If I could do it over I would do what you are doing, some say. Good for you, you’re living the dream while you’re young, they tell us.
It’s a great life, we respond. And it is.
But we don’t tell them that for every high there is a low, and like everything, there is a down side to spending your summer in love on the river.
The guests don’t see all the grunt work that we guides put in for their trip; the cleaning, lifting boats, long hours, infrequent showers, the physical wear and tear on your own body. But these things are not the down side to river guiding.
The worst part of this job is the goodbyes. We move with the seasons, and at each transition we say goodbye to something or someone we have fallen in love with. Rivers that have captured our imagination, lines in rapids yet to be perfected, we have to let all these things go and move on.
But for me, I always end up saying goodbye to someone I’ve unintentionally grown fond of. We can say we’ll see each other next season, but nothing is ever the same when you come back to it after so much time. Each goodbye wears on me; it’s the only thing tempting me to ‘settle down.’
It’s too much to tell our guests that we throw ourselves passionately at this seasonal life, only to have our hearts broken at the end of it, each and every summer. So we tell them we love our jobs but we don’t have it all, and leave it at that.
Can we have it all? No we can’t, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.