Life is Like Whitewater Rafting…

Life happens only when you show up and take action.

My friend visiting me with her young daughter, was very keen to do something – anything, outside the Jakarta city limits and close to nature. The thought of long hours of driving around Jakarta is not for the faint hearted or the impatient. I belong to the latter category and chose to go rafting on River Cisadane, a mere 2 hours drive from the city.

Following a leisurely breakfast, we drove to the most easily accessible rafting provider in Caringin. Soon a smiling head peaked in and were guided to their administrative office which was piled high with rafts and a wall unit stacked with oars and helmets and life jackets.

After cleared the administrative tasks, it was time to get down to action. We were strapped in our life jackets, helmets and assigned oars. Prior, to getting into our raft, a short training session taught us how to hold and row with the oar, and what the signals from our raft guide meant.  ‘Maju’ to row forwards, ‘mundur’ to row backward, ‘pindah kiri’ to shift to left of the raft or ‘pindah kanan’ to the right of the raft and finally ‘boom’ to hold ropes and lean in together. It was a lesson in trusting the guide to lead us through the rapids.  Finally, after a short prayer, we were ready for adventure.

Rafting on River Cisadane

Rafting on River Cisadane

It was an amazing ride on the churning water rushing through and over boulders and sometimes falling over in the cold water. The forests and fields on either side of the river were beautiful and each one of us enjoyed the adrenaline rush and sense of achievement at every rapid.

While cruising in the relatively calm water at the end of the journey, I was stuck by the lessons that were equally relevant  in life:

1. Equipment & Tools

When facing challenges, having the proper tools makes all the difference. All the safety equipment and training did make us feel safe and prepared for our trip. It also allowed us to enjoy the experience.

2. Being knowledgeable

Of course a good education and talent are keys to success. Understand your playground and learn the moves and the rules of the game. The more you know, the better you can perform. Knowing what to do will keep you calm.  Staying calm in crisis is critical to safely making it through.

3. Mentors & Guides

The big thing in white water rafting is to let the guide lead. Every top athlete has a coach and their coaches play a major role in their success. Finding your own mentors or even a personal “board of directors” can guide you through the rapids of life. It was a lesson in trusting the guide to lead us through the rapids and following his instructions. Our teachers and mentors in life have the same role.

4. Team work

Working together works! All four of us in the raft had to watch out for each other and follow instructions and working together to be effective. So who is in your team in life? Are you working together and moving towards common goals?

4. Focus on Goals not on troubles

The river bed was crowded with boulders. Some boulders we maneuvered around, others we squeezed through and yet others, submerged under water we scraped on, in our rubber raft through the rushing white water. Such a reflection of our lives! We can choose to go with the flow or choose to be caught up in the boulders and be stranded.

5. Enjoy the Journey

The fun part of rafting is getting wet…while that seems obvious, it can be intimidating to fall in the water. Even when working hard in adverse conditions, don’t forget to look around and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. It would have been a shame to miss surrounding forests, the sunshine, and the amazing scenery.  Life is more than the immediate challenge and it’s beautiful.  Enjoy the journey.

6. Celebrate success

After negotiating each rapid, our guide celebrated it with a ‘high five’ with our five oars and huge smiles. Each obstacle overcome was a victory, so celebrate!

7. Smile

Our guide in our raft and the safety raft crew had big smiles and a very positive and helpful attitude throughout the trip and instructed us to smile for the camera at many a time. Smiling definitely helps and makes everything brighter.

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8 Responses to Life is Like Whitewater Rafting…

  1. Sony Jethnani says:

    A wonderful article Poonam…. The lessons are deep and ring true – Such simple
    rules and yet they apply no matter what what game we are playing in life — indoors
    or outdoors… The Joy & Excitement is definitely in the DOING and the JOURNEY.

  2. ps says:

    Thanks Sony. My biggest lesson was ‘SMILE’ – The crews energy, enthusiasm and positive attitude made the challenge fun.

  3. Anurag says:

    Beautiful in its simplistic wording and deep philosophy. Great work Poonam. Keep going around like this and giving us the little things to create our very own Art of Life guide book; induvidualised to our needs. I guess you will agree that “Focus on Goals not on troubles” & “Enjoy the journey” will be MY favorites.

  4. ps says:

    Hey Anurag, so cool to have your comments and yes ‘enjoy your journey’

  5. mrinalini says:

    Hi! Poonam,
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure trip and the insights. I wholeheartedly agree with them. It’s good to be reminded of things that are truly significant on our life journey or any journey.
    After reading your piece, I was taken down memory lane to a similar trip we took down the Teesta river ( in Nepal) about 24 yrs ago……
    Your articles are joyful, energetic, inspiring and empowering!
    Keep writing and I’ll be here reading.

  6. Prachi says:

    aunty whatever you typed was so true i had great fun !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! miss you…….

    • ps says:

      Thank you dear Prachi. It was so indeed much fun to go rafting with you and to learn from you. Missing you too 🙂

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