By Peta Owens Liston

Learning to Swim Again; Taking the River On as A Single-Parent-To-Be. “I think that I forgot that I could swim,” says Charlotte Smith*, referring to the inner-strength she found in herself while rafting the Main Salmon River this past July for 5 days. “This river trip was especially symbolic for me.”

When Charlotte’s husband announced that he couldn’t make the trip (unwilling, and unable to leave his work life behind for 5 days), she questioned whether she had it in her to do it alone with their two children. Setting up a tent, lugging their bags, keeping both kids happy and safe, as well as getting there.

She realizes now just how much they would have all missed out on if she had given into her fear-based, nagging thought: “Hauling two kids, out west, on a river trip by myself is ridiculous. Foolish. You can’t do it.”

Family Rafting on the Salmon River in Idaho - Learning to Swim Again


Yet, this trip wasn’t just about soldiering forward as the solo parent. It was her first out-of-the-box, adventurous trip on her own with her kids. Rather, it was about pushing past the fear of going alone, and the possibility of pushing forward alone in life, as a single parent. Garnering the courage to let go of a marriage that had become hollow, felt akin to letting go of a life preserver, even one adrift.

“This kind of trip allows you to be off the grid for a while. It is a chance to disconnect from things that are not important and to reconnect with things that are important,” expresses Charlotte. She found comfort and inspiration from those around her, like strangers that inevitably become friends. Wisdom and kindness at ease, flowing.

The “awe” factor, found in the natural world surrounding her, bolstered her already strong faith. A midnight sky full of stars, a melting sunset, a gliding eagle some of the beauty she found. “It was a week of comfort and peace that I really needed.”

The last day of the trip, a guest approached Charlotte: “I want to ask you,” he said. “Do your kids know just how really cool their mom is? We watched you put up a tent all week, paddle in a ducky, and swim in the river. Growing up, my mom wouldn’t even get her hair wet in a swimming pool.”

Learning to Swim Again


Of course, Charlotte knew help was an “ask” away. Guides, and other guests assured her they were happy to pitch in, yet she wanted to do it on her own, just with her kids.

“It was a trip about self discovery, a cleansing of spirit. Being on the river is truly therapeutic in so many ways for people. For me, it provided a revival of strength—strengths I had forgotten were in me because I’d been so immersed in emotional negativity,” expresses Charlotte. “This trip was a realization that I can go on separately.”

Peta Owens-ListonPeta Owens-Liston is a writer and editor with extensive experience in magazine writing and marketing communications writing. Publications she has written for: TIME Magazine, Sports Illustrated for Women, Organic Style, Paddler, Redbook, Via, KUER/NPR affiliate (radio essays), Park City Magazine, Salt Lake City Magazine, The Salt Lake Tribune to mention a few.