Meet office guru and photography enthusiast MJ Blanchet. After a move to Canmore, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies from Montreal, Quebec, back in 2013, MJ fell in love with the mountains and breathtaking views, and what was meant to be just a summer turned into a few years.
MJ first discovered the world of rafting in 2013 while in Canmore, AB, and then later became fully immersed in it working for Canadian Outback Rafting in Squamish, BC, starting in 2014. This year marks her sixth summer rafting season in the office, with five of those years spent at CORC.
MJ let’s start from the beginning… How did you get into the world of rafting?
Well, compared to most of the guides who all have these epic stories of getting into rafting or who grew up in a very outdoorsy environment, my story is fairly tame. Although I grew up a bit of a tomboy; taking Tae Kwon Do classes and summer camps and growing up traveling on the back of my dad’s Harley-Davidson, I’d never been or really truly heard of rafting before I started looking for a job when I made the move to Canmore in 2013. I was looking for a job that would fit within my skillset and that would work within my uncertain future beyond the summer season. A rafting reservations and marketing agent position seemed like the perfect opportunity!
I won’t lie, I liked rafting after giving it a try in Canmore, but I didn’t yet have the “bite”, that came later after rafting here in Squamish the following summer. What I did fall in love with right away were the mountains, the outdoors and the distance from the big city (growing up in Montreal, I’d never truly experienced mountain wilderness).
I ended up “sticking” to the rafting world a bit out of convenience. The next summer, my partner and I moved to Squamish, BC, where he had a job at Canadian Outback, and there just so happened to be an office position available which I applied for and ended up being hired. And that’s where my adventure in the rafting world truly began, and when I fell in love with it all.
CORC is where I discovered the adventure and the rush of going on bigger rapids, but it’s also where I discovered the beauty of being out in the wilderness surrounded by mountains, glaciers and waterfalls. But it wasn’t just about the rafting itself, it was also about the sense of family and community within the rafting team and the many possibilities and freedoms that come with such a unique industry.
From that point on, I’ve had the chance to work and interact within the rafting world while here in Canada and even traveling in New Zealand. And so, I’m now beginning my sixth season in this small special world that also manages to be big and international all at the same time.
So, what’s the best part of your job working in the office at a rafting company?
Funny enough, most people think that the raft guides are the ones who get to have all the fun. When people learn I work at a rafting company, the first thing they ask is “so you’re a raft guide?”. Then I tell them I work in the office and you can just see that light of excitement dim a little. Truth be told, there’s plenty of fun to have in the office!
I get to interact with everyone from the guides to the kayakers and drivers, the rafters and their friends and family, and a variety of others from media influencers to charity organizers and tourism associations. There’s a broad diversity within my daily routine that means my job is never boring, always fast paced, and full of new projects. Everyday I get to put the skills I acquired in university studying marketing and management to use and add a little touch of adventure and extraordinary in the mix.
I like that I have an “adult” job as the sales & marketing manager within an organization that I’m proud to have been with for years and that I’ve contributed to and watched grow. Though my parents may not agree on the “adult” part of that job since in a lot of ways it doesn’t quite fit the 9-to-5 mold with the drastic contrast between seasons and the nomad nature of the industry… but that’s also the beauty of it in that it offers a lot of excitement, flexibility and freedom.
But my most favourite part of the job is getting to meet so many exceptional human beings. Whether it’s an octogenarian recovering from a heart attack earlier in the year going rafting with his daughter and having the best time I’ve ever seen anyone have in my seasons within the industry (or ever), or a unique raft guide who’s been doing this his whole life, is an absolute shark at pool, helps the newbies move in the heaviest couch in the world, and appreciates a slice of fresh made chocolate cake and can figure out its secret ingredient with just a bite… Never would I have imagined getting to meet so many people who have inspired so many emotions and given me so many amazing memories that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life!
Although you can meet a lot of people through a wide variety of jobs, there’s something unique about connecting with people who confide in you about embarking on an adventure and sometimes facing their fears, and then who come back full of joy and amazement and stars in their eyes. Then there’s the near immediate bond that you form with coworkers you’ve known from previous seasons at the company or somewhere else in the world, or those you just meet but who know so many people you know it’s like you’ve known them a while, not to mention those who are like I was at the start (entirely new to the industry) and who you get to see discover the rafting community. It all adds up to a level of social connection that even a quiet introvert like myself can’t help but appreciate for the unique opportunity and treasure that it is.
So, what would be your advice to those looking to come rafting?
Enjoy it! Every. Single. Bit.
There’s something we pride ourselves on at Canadian Outback Rafting and that’s providing every rafter with a memorable experience from start to finish. See this adventure as the opportunity that it is!
Feel that fear and nervousness, but then be brave and face those waves with a smile. Take time to settle on the bus for the bumpy ride to the river, but then participate in the bus talk and group introductions to get to experience a bit of that unique social connection I talked about earlier. Feel the adrenaline and exhilaration of rushing along the river, but then remember to look around and take in all there is to see and believe me there is SO MUCH to see! Chat with, confide in, and share your story with the rafting team (office and rivercrew alike), and then listen to their advice, stories of travels and (often times) far-fetched adventures.
Whether your rafting trip with us is the one and only time you get out on the river or you’re planning on making this a yearly tradition, our team will work hard to ensure you have the best of times, though it won’t be hard work!