We had the good fortune of connecting with Benya Basseches and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Benya, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My path to getting where I am today, in career and life, was largely influenced by my drive to live a balanced life. To me, balance means having the time and freedom to do the things that bring me joy, that energize me, that fill me with gratitude for living on this earth…instead of feeling that life is dictated or constrained by work. I ’ve experienced both states of being in the last several years of my life.
Three years ago, I was living in my hometown in Massachusetts and working an incredibly demanding 9-5. (or more often 8-6) corporate job. That job not only consumed most of my daylight hours, but dominated my thoughts on what was important in life. So despite being a dedicated weekend warrior adventurer, my mental health and sense of self-worth were heavily influenced by how I felt I was performing at my job. This compounded in a pretty rough bout of anxiety and depression.
Eventually, that experience culminated in an overdue “leap of faith” where I decided to quit my job, and use the money I had saved up to embark on a 4-month snowboarding road trip out west. That was living in its most “free” form. Every day was an adventure, where I had the freedom to embrace spontaneity and pursue the experiences that felt most right to my soul. By the end of that trip, my new found love for the wild west landed me in Montana near Yellowstone National Park, where I worked as a Zipline guide and enjoyed a similarly free life for the summer. But a few things I really valued were missing in that seasonal lifestyle in Montana…diverse culture, a community of caring individuals, and the feeling of growth that comes with building a career.
In Fall 2019, I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and decided to try and start a freelance career as an Experience Researcher. This is the field (generally known as UX Research) that I was working in before, but I sensed that being my own boss and setting the terms of when and how I worked would enable me to find that balance between work and everything else I value in life. That choice proved to be a great success! That first year, I was focused on growing my business and incrementally taking on more projects, yet I had the freedom to block off my calendar for a long weekend or enjoy a Tuesday powder day!
The freelance lifestyle also enabled me to explore side-hustles that excited me, including leading Sensory Nature Experiences through Cairn Guides, and most importantly, founding FreeFlow Adventure Ponchos with my partner. FreeFlow is about exploring nature, playing in the water, and encouraging others to enjoy these types of experiences. To me, FreeFlow represents not just balance, but the fusion of work and play; the wholeness that comes from building a business around the lifestyle I enjoy living most.
What should our readers know about your business?
FreeFlow is a fresh new outdoor brand, launched in May 2021 by my partner Eileen and I, that is aiming to introduce a unique piece of gear (The Adventure Poncho) to a broad community of outdoor (and comfort) lovers. These ponchos, more narrowly known as surf ponchos in some parts of the world, are the most convenient way to dry off, stay warm, and change comfortably when around water or adventuring. Our vision is that this seemingly simple piece of gear will inspire and encourage people to seek out fun, energizing, and wild experiences…such as jumping in a river or alpine lake, or spending the day boating/wakesurfing to name a few.
The idea came from me owning and loving my surf poncho when I lived on the coast, and upon moving to Colorado, realizing that it’s an incredible piece of gear for playing in rivers, going to hot springs year round, and any type of water activity. We’ve also been hearing about great unexpected use cases such as: a robe after showering, an extra layer of warmth for body and legs while camping, a comfy pillow, and the coziest of loungewear (think Snuggie, but hassle free and more stylish!)
FreeFlow is just starting out, and we are learning that spreading the word about an unusual product is challenging. We’ve found it so fulfilling to hear from our customers about how much they love their ponchos. This is encouraging us to keep working hard to get the word out. For a product that is rooted in the physical experience (most people who try a poncho fall in love), building an online presence and communicating the value is probably the toughest task. We’d love if you follow us on insta @FreeFlowAdventures and share with your friends! That said, we’ve had some unexpected successes come from that challenge, such as getting into retail stores (e.g., Golden River Sports, Montrose Kayak & Surf, Ray’s River Rentals).
We are passionate about our product and the potential it has to inspire people to live their free-est and flowy-est life. We invite you to join our FreeFlow family and Embrace the Elements!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, I’d probably want to bring them to the mountains as soon as possible, but we’d spend the first day in Denver or my hometown Boulder to give them a chance to acclimate to the elevation. In Boulder, I’d take them on a hike at Chautauqua Park, and in the evening we’d grab food and drink at Avanti. The next morning we’d hit the road and head toward Buena Vista and Salida, a beautiful drive that showcases Colorado’s different landscapes and gives an up close look at the 14ers in the Collegiate peaks. After camping in a national forest area around there, we’d raft, kayak, or paddleboard a section of the Arkansas river the next day.
Depending on their tolerance for driving, we might drive down into the San Luis valley, visit the Great Sand Dunes, and enjoy soaking in some natural hot springs. Then we’d head back north through Leadville and into Summit County. We’d drive up to the top of Loveland Pass to experience the true Rocky Mountain High country. We could do some mountain biking around there or skiing/snowboarding in the winter.
The next day we’d drive up to the Indian Peaks and do one or two nights of backpacking there, to enjoy s0me real wilderness immersion.
Finally, we’d drive back toward the city and catch a show at Red Rocks, rounding out Colorado’s beautiful nature with the awesome culture and music scene that the front range is home to.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My design teacher in college, Ian Gonsher, who helped me foster my creative confidence, open my eyes to new ways of seeing and experiencing the world, and exposed me to a path beyond my major (engineering) at the time.
Eileen Walz, Benya Basseches, Cody Brundidge