I’m very excited to introduce a new series here on Travel Junkette: The Seasonal Worker of the Month. You may have read in my blog’s birthday post that I want to start focusing more on seasonal adventure jobs and seasonal workers on this blog. I think that’ll be a good way to differentiate myself from the zillion other travel blogs.
Whereas most of these blogs tell the story of people going crazy working at a corporate job, saving up money, then breaking free to travel the world, my story is different. And I think it’s one that many people don’t know about.
Seasonal jobs rock
Instead of working at a job you hate, you can work seasonal adventure jobs around the country (and world!). Though the pay varies greatly, they’re fun, and they’re located in some of the most beautiful places on earth. If you’re smart, you’ll be able to save up enough money to allow you to travel in the off-season, and then start up at another job in a few months.
Sounds incredible, right? It is. And it also is possible.
To show you the way, I’ve recruited some friends that I’ve met on the seasonal worker circuit. They’ve graciously agreed to tell you about the ins and outs of seasonal adventure jobs and share their personal experiences. (Thanks, guys; you rock!)
First up is Angela Jacobus, whom I met while teaching English in South Korea. She and I immediately clicked over our love of deep powder, international travel, and photography. She’s one talented lady — both with a pen and a camera — and she’s done some awesome things in her life. There are enough inspiring responses below to fill a book. She radiates positive energy and is living proof that it’s never too late to change the rest of your life. But enough of me, already; here’s Angela!
Name: Angela Jacobus
Hometown: I don’t really have one. Let’s just say Southern California.
Current location: Jessore, Bangladesh
Current job: English trainer for a soon-to-open eco resort.
Life philosophy in one sentence: Well, long before the whole YOLO thing became a thing, my philosophy was, “You only live once.” These days, though, I prefer, “Teach to travel. Travel to learn.” (Sorry, that’s two sentences.)
Spirit animal: I didn’t have one before this, but I just took an online quiz and it told me my spirit animal was a butterfly. Sounds about right to me!
Favorite quote: “I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.” – Joan Didion
Favorite condiment: Mayonnaise!
Fun fact: It’s impossible to hum while plugging your nose. (You just tried it, didn’t you?)
Angela’s seasonal life
What’s the first seasonal job you worked?
Snowboard instructor, at the ripe old age of 34.
What led you to getting that job?
I was slowly suffocating in my grey cubicle and relating far too well to Office Space and this quote from Fight Club: “I’d flip through catalogs and wonder, ‘What kind of dining set defines me as a person?’”
What other seasonal jobs have you worked?
Mammoth Lakes summer job: Front-desk manager of a boutique hotel. (This turned into a year-round job.)
After three years in Mammoth, I needed a change, so I moved to Utah for the winter. I couldn’t bear to pay for lift tickets (you get spoiled after three years of free snowboarding), so I got a job at Snowbird in order to get a season pass. I arrived too late in the season to get an instructor position (and honestly, I was burnt out on instructing anyway), so I took whatever job they would give me: working in the snack bar by the hotel pool. Probably the worst job I’ve ever had. No, wait … those couple of months at Starbucks were worse.
I lived in Oregon for a while and found a part-time job as the office manager of a boutique real estate company there.
And how could I forget working in the box office during the Sundance Film Festival? (Two years in a row.) That was a great job.
Does teaching abroad count as seasonal? If so, two years in Korea and currently beginning the sixth month of a one-year contract in Bangladesh.
Among those, what’s been your favorite and why?
Snowboard instructor wins, hands down. Your office is a mountain, your desk is a chairlift, and you get paid to go riding every day.
Sundance is a close second. I love indie movies. At the festival, you get a first look at some of the best movies of the year (for free) AND meet many of the actors and filmmakers.
How did you get that job? Any tips or advice for others interested in the same thing?
I didn’t start my job search with the intention of becoming a snowboard instructor. I just knew I wanted to escape my cubicle, and that the last thing I wanted was another “real” job. At the time, I was working as an editor in the marketing department of a Fortune 100 corporation. My ten-plus years of professional experience meant I was overqualified for most seasonal positions on the mountain. So I updated my resume to highlight the service-oriented jobs from my teenage years and focused on the aspects of my professional skills that would be valuable in the service/tourism industry.
On Labor Day weekend, I planned a trip to Mammoth with a supportive friend, and with my new resume in hand, just started asking around. I went into the HR department at the mountain and talked to one of the women there. I told her exactly what I wanted and why. Based on my skills, she wanted to place me in an office position. I almost let her, but then out of curiosity — mixed with apprehension and desire — I asked, “What does it take to become an instructor?”
To my surprise, she didn’t ask about my snowboarding skill level. Instead, she asked about my experience with kids. Luckily, I had enough babysitting and volunteering and “auntie” experience to convince her to give me a shot. At first, she offered me a coordinator position, which is basically a glorified daycare job, but told me I might be able to move to an instructor position if something opened up. I was ecstatic! As soon as I got home, I started looking for places to live in Mammoth, and once back at work, I broke the news to my boss. Thankfully, everyone in the office was amazingly supportive, so I was able to work another two months before resigning to make as much money as possible before my transition.
Finding housing in Mammoth was a bit challenging. It took about a month to find a place to live. Once I did, I called the HR department at the mountain to let them know everything was on track. The woman who hired me was so impressed with my proactiveness (proactivity?) that she upgraded me to instructor over the phone.
Again, I was ecstatic and also very scared. It was a huge change, but everything was falling into place so perfectly. I knew it was right. And to this day, I believe it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
My advice to others would be this: Don’t place limitations on yourself. So often, I hear people making excuses for why they can’t do something. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. If you want something, go for it. Then, once you decide what you want to do, do your research. Talk to people. Make connections. Figure out what you need to do to get what you want … and go for it. Sometimes doors will close in your face. Don’t be discouraged. If it’s what you really want, keep trying. Be open to opportunities you may not have considered. The right doors will open at the right time. (I looked into teaching in Korea 10 years before I actually ended up moving there.) Trust me, if I can live this life, anyone can.
Have you tried a traditional “grown-up” job? If yes, why did you stick with it or why did you quit? Do you see yourself working one in the future?
Yes! See above. I stuck with it for 12 years because when you have a good job, that’s what you do. Except, I started to realize that I was waiting for life to happen to me rather than actively living my life. It took many years of daydreaming and complaining and wishing for something MORE before I finally had the courage to make the leap. But I don’t regret the years I put into my career. I learned so much and developed so many important skills that have helped me in every job I’ve had since. And, seven years later, I still do freelance work for my old employer. (How great is that?) Also, because I put in all that time in a “real” job, I don’t feel insecure about working seasonal jobs like some of my younger friends. For me, it’s a conscious lifestyle choice, and one that I continue to make confidently. I can also confidently say that if you can live your whole life without ever having a “real” job, you should consider yourself successful.
Do I see myself working at another traditional job in the future? Probably not, but you never know.
What rocks about seasonal jobs?
1. You get to do activities everyday that most people only get to do once a year, and usually for free.
2. Your home is a destination most people only dream of visiting.
3. You meet really interesting people.
What sucks about seasonal jobs?
The transient nature of seasonal jobs can be tough on relationships and friendships.
Not all seasonal jobs are desirable (see Snowbird snack bar job above). Some are just a means to an end, and you might find yourself working really hard for little pay while your ego gets tested (dealing with snooty, judgmental tourists, for example). That’s why you have to choose your job carefully.
Have you used seasonal jobs to travel? If yes, how and to where?
I’m currently teaching English abroad as a means to travel. I lived on a beautiful island in Korea for two years. While I was there, I had time and money to travel to Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand and Japan. Now I’m living and teaching in Bangladesh.
Have you gained any special skills or qualifications through seasonal jobs?
I got my Level One Certification as a snowboard instructor and recently obtained a CELTA certificate for teaching English to adults.
What’s the one coolest thing you’ve done through seasonal jobs?
Being an active participant in the world and my life.
Do you have any general tips for seasonal job seekers — to find jobs, keep them, and have fun?
Finding the job: The internet is your friend. Scour it. Join groups on social networking sites to find out as much information as you can about your desired destination/position. Connect with people who are currently doing or have done what you want to do.
Keeping the job: Have a strong work ethic and be professional, no matter what position you’re in.
Having fun: If you choose your destination/position wisely, this should be effortless. If it turns out you made a bad decision, see if it’s possible to change your situation. If not, remind yourself that it’s only a seasonal job, and it will be over before you know it. Also remember, the only thing you can control is your own attitude. Try to find things to appreciate about your situation. Use it as a learning experience for next time.
What would you say to someone who is interested in a seasonal job, but is scared of quitting their grown-up job?
DO IT! You won’t regret it.
A HUGE thank you to Angela for sharing her incredible story with us. If you’d like to read more about her experiences, check out her blog: http://untitledadventure.wordpress.com/. She also recently started a Facebook community for women travelers — like it!
PS. If you or anyone you know would like to be featured as a Seasonal Worker of the Month, just send me an email at traveljunkette(at)gmail(dot)com. xo