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The Rush of the Rapids

Though most guidebook writers come home eventually, there are people in the travel industry who stay on the road practically all year long, chasing the seasons from continent to continent. Rafting guides are a good example. A special breed of traveler, these folks spend much of the year in the outdoors, sleeping in tents, cooking at campfires, and following the water, as they say, wherever it's running. Typical salaries range from $10-20,000 a year, depending on tips and how many weeks they work. It's clear they're not in it for the money, so why do they do it? We spent some time along the Green River in eastern Utah and asked that question of 27-year-old Rebecca Brown, who started guiding eight years ago and hasn't stopped paddling since.

The Rush of the Rapids
Produced by Tom Verde
Rebecca Brown narrating

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I started canoe guiding in Minnesota, up in the boundary waters and I remember going out there and putting the first canoe on my shoulders to portage and feeling like I was just falling through the center of the earth, it was so heavy. There were so many mosquitoes, it rained almost every day, and I just couldn't figure out why so many people loved it when along about the second to last day we were camped on a huge granite outcropping, and I could hear the fire crackling real early in the morning. I woke up, none of the other campers were up, and I got out of my tent, and I look out and just on the edge of this granite rock is my co-guide with the fire already going, so the little trickle of smoke is floating out over the lake, and I walked over to him, sat down, he already had the pancakes fryin' on the griddle, he hands me a mug of coffee, and just as I sat down to drink it this loon called out across the lake and it echoed, and um, as this was happening the mist was rising up across the lake, and I just got chills, and that's when I knew, I was like, this is why people do it.


And it's always exciting, one of the funnest, extreme recreational sports because you know, there you are in the back, your whole boat's having fun going down these great rapids, and it's still challenging for you, there's not too many sports where you, you get the rush as well as the people along on your boat getting the rush as well.

All you have to do is save your money, basically. We get room and board along with our salary, so um, if I just watch my pennies and don't spend it all on activities during the summer, which is not that difficult because we're out on the river a lot, you can spend it all on the winter months.

Last year, I was luck enough to go down to the Caribbean to learn to windsurf, took a few months off, and this year I'm hoping to go to Nepal for three months and then down to New Zealand for another three or four and do some more rafting.


Our look at the traveling life of rafting guide Rebecca Brown was produced by the Savvy Traveler's Tom Verde.


Savvy Resources for Whitewater Rafting:


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