An Interview with surfer, globetrotter, and graphic designer Emily Rathmanner
Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa
Post-college, some may experience the existential malaise of a quarter life crisis. This often involves something on the lines of feeling trapped behind your desk job, relating too much to the movie Garden State, or a regrettable tattoo perhaps. But for the few and the bold like Emily Rathmanner, you pack up your things and leave the mountains of Virginia behind for the blue skies and red earth of Australia.
In his latest interview for the Life in Motion podcast, Jeremy Lux chats with an adventurer, surfer, and nonprofit advocate living her life to the fullest (and furthest) away from home. The journey so far has taken Rathmanner from Australia to Peru to Cambodia, and just about every ocean, beach, and wave in between. In short, her life reads off like the most free-spirited job description ever; “…I basically travel the world working as a graphic designer…finding different gigs to trade for work or food.”
But before she traveled the globe, Emily grew up in Delaware. A surfer at heart, she was raised up on old episodes of The OC, dreaming of California beaches and meeting surfer boys; she instead cut her teeth chasing Atlantic Nor’easters on the coast of Delaware when she was 16.
But before long, Delaware became too small for Rathmanner. While attending Virginia Tech, Rathmanner not only discovered new waves, but a newfound lifestyle for all things outdoors.
“I'm really grateful for going to Tech and just being in the Blue Ridge Mountains…that’s where I got my first trip--my first time away from home doing something new. I'm super grateful for the Hokie spirit,” she explains
By her sophomore year, Rathmanner finally broke out to the West Coast by means of a design internship for Surfing Magazine but soon she was looking at new horizons.
“My senior year, a friend approached me and asked ‘Hey, let’s move to Australia,’” says Rathmanner, “It was daunting, so I was like, yeah sure let’s try…So that’s kind of what kicked off the next stage of my life traveling and being a freelancer.”
“So basically, what you’re saying is straight out of college, you moved to Australia?” asks Jeremy.
“Yep,” Rathmanner replies.
In Australia, Rathmanner worked odd jobs, from a short stint with a publisher, to waitressing, selling jewelry, and dog walking before landing an internship with a Sydney surf brand. Going where the wind takes her seems to be an attribute of Rathmanner’s; a risk taken is a new experience gained.
After Australia was an eight-month backpacking trip around Asia and New Zealand, and before Rathmanner knew it she was back in the States, and to be honest, she wasn’t happy; her heart still lied somewhere halfway across the globe with “all the warm souls” that she had met. It’s hard to transition to a desk job after traveling to the ends of the Earth. Rathmanner’s spirit belonged elsewhere.
Determined to get back into the world, Rathmanner looked towards NGOs and nonprofit causes to live the life she wanted abroad while still giving back to the global community. She fortunately found her answer in the WAVES for Development program, an organization that pairs tourists and volunteers with local youth outreach and entrepreneurial programs in Peru, Nicaragua, and Mexico.
“I think we're just adding more consciousness into the surf travel experience rather than just surfing every day,” Rathmanner says, “You're interacting with the locals who live there and making an impact on them that stays with them after you leave.”
WAVES’ support grows by the year. According to Rathmanner the program plans to start a new location in Africa.
From her travels, Rathmanner says that she’s learned to be more trusting and less judgmental of people.
“It’s just crazy how people draw conclusions so quickly,” she says, “…one thing I notice while traveling are people who don’t have a lot of money but are so rich with happiness. They have a strong bond to their family, friends, and land.”
When it comes to the challenge of broadening one’s horizons, Rathmanner is empathetic yet hopeful for young people trying to break the mold.
“I hope everyone coming out of college listening knows that they have these options rather than thinking ‘Ah, I have to get a desk job and do this because this is what society tells me to do’,” explains Rathmanner, “I’m like, no, dude. You choose what you’re passionate about, choose what’s keeping you up at night, what’s driving you…the least you can do is try and see what happens.”
For Emily Rathmanner, the mantra is simple and heartfelt; humble yet transcendental. Her focus is on experiences, not on possessions; the journey rather than the destination. One can change their outlook with a plane ticket or a full tank of gas, whether it be across the ocean or maybe just the state line. According to Emily, the first step is just igniting that spark.
Check out Emily on Instagram: @rathmaster
This interview is an excerpt from Illumine Collect’s Life in Motion podcast, a new series showcasing the lifestyles and lessons of people inspiring adventure and change. To hear more about Emily Rathmanner’s travels, including her eight-day journey to the Great Barrier Reef with “a crazy drunken, Australian sailor” named Steve, be sure to check out the Life in Motion podcast on iTunes.