It was six hot, wet, cold (water is 47 degrees), exhilarating days paddling the Colorado River. One of the benefits of such a trip is that you’re completely cut off from the world. Cellphones don’t work, and of course, no internet. I can’t think of how many times a discussion or question would come among the group and someone would say, “Google it.”
I had a lot of time to reflect while floating aimlessly or paddling furiously through massive rapids with names like Redneck Rapid, Crash Canyon, and the largest one we faced, Hance Rapids. I came to the realization that vacations during which you are truly isolated are good for the soul. I also realized that rafting has similarities to marketing communications, particularly how our team at GroundFloor Media works together on behalf of our clients. Here are some examples and lessons learned:
Paddle in synch – We received many reminders from our guides along the river to watch the two at the front of the boat and paddle in synch. When I was at the front of the raft, I set the tone and pace for paddling. When leading a public relations team, it’s the same thing: provide clear direction and work as a team. If you don’t paddle/work together and have clear communication, things go awry.
Be flexible and expect the unexpected – When Mother Nature is making the rules, you need to adapt. We had six nights of hot, dry weather, prompting us to sleep on mats under the stars, with nothing more than a light sheet. On our last night, it turned into a sand and lightning storm, along with light rain. In the middle of the night, we scrambled to put up tents. No one panicked or made a fuss; it was just part of the experience. Communications is the same way. As seasoned public relations practitioners, we’ve seen it all and are adept at changing course when needed to achieve the best outcome for our clients.
Laugh like a child – When you’re on vacation without a care in the world (and no connection to the outside world), it’s easy to get away from distractions. From massive water fights on the rafts with the pump water guns, to the occasional dunkings, to body-soaking drenchings going through rapids, it was good to belly laugh with each other. Work is the same way. It’s important to laugh and not sweat the small stuff (save the sweating for the really big stuff).
My return to civilization reality came abruptly when I was half way up the Bright Angel Trail and my cellphone sprang to life with phone and text messages from the past week. If you have the opportunity to unplug this summer and enjoy nature, it’s highly recommended. My goal is to return to the Grand Canyon and raft the second half of the Colorado River. I’d love to hear from anyone who has done it.