IRF Rios Tropicales corona 1

We’re all paddling a first descent with the Coronavirus

The world finds itself in uncharted territory in the turbulent crisis of the coronavirus pandemic. Longtime river adventurer, and IRF Honorary President, Rafael Gallo gives some words of comfort for how to navigate through to calmer waters ahead.

by Shannon Farley

We find ourselves in uncharted territory with the coronavirus pandemic. The world’s borders closed. Airlines grounded. Streets empty. Beaches, parks, and recreation areas with hardly a soul to be found. Businesses shuttered. The scene is surreal.

“It’s like the first descent of a river,” said longtime river adventurer Rafael Gallo. “We’ve never navigated this before. Our map is very vague, only giving us comparative scenarios from other similar experiences, and a little advance information from those a bit ahead of us.”

Like rafting or kayaking a river for the first time, what the future holds for the world with the global health and economy crises is a mystery. This has never before happened on this scale and no one can predict for certain what is coming.

“Running a river is like life. From its start in the mountains all the way to the ocean, along the way there are obstacles, calm pools, beautiful spots, and places that scare you and surge your adrenaline,” said Gallo, CEO of Rios Tropicales in Costa Rica and co-founder and honorary president of the International Rafting Federation.

While the current crisis is unique in its extraordinary challenges, Gallo recalls the wisdom that comes from rafting big Class V whitewater and doing a first descent. Drawing on his 42 years of raft guiding and kayaking experience all over the world, with 10 successful first descents, Gallo shares his thoughts:

“When you approach a canyon and it looks steep, scary and mysterious, when you can’t see the horizon line, you have to stop, take a breath, and analyze which way you’re going to go. Take the time to choose your move. Look after your basic needs. Be careful. Mitigate risks. Then, trust in your companions, paddle hard, hold on, and remember that even the most turbulent whitewater eventually ends, and then we can high-five successfully making it through.

“Teamwork is essential. Even when it’s scary and you’re not sure what’s going to happen, what’s coming ahead, you stick together. We have to work together, paddle through the hard parts together, and celebrate the beautiful, peaceful places.

“Don’t give up hope. A river will keep on flowing like life keeps on flowing. You can go through a hair-raising rapid, and then round a bend and enter an amazing scene of awe-inspiring nature that lifts your spirit, calms your mind, and makes you feel like the adventure is worth it.”

None of us are sure where this journey of living through a global pandemic is taking us or where it ends. There’s no horizon line in sight. We know you are concerned about the health, safety and financial well-being of you and your loved ones.

During this time of staying at home, if you find yourself “up a creek without a paddle” feeling anxious, frustrated or worried, we hope you can call upon the moments and memories that have brought you peace, laughter, joy, excitement and contentment, and believe we will have those again.

We encourage you to reflect on the fun adventures you’ve had and to dream of those to come. Think of the places that take your breath away. Where would you like to go when we’re free to roam the planet again?

We look forward to meeting again soon in the wild places that fill our hearts and souls with joy.

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