To achieve a freer traveling lifestyle I’ve worked as a valet, carpenter, ski resort parking lot attendant, camp counselor, freelance writer, and English Teacher, among other jobs. What seasonal jobs have you had? What’s worked best for you?
We posted these questions to the Matador Travel Community; here were some of the responses:
1. High-end adventure travel guide. Work your way around the world leading luxury vacations for groups of 10-20. Itineraries range from biking through Tuscany, to camping in Yosemite, to sailing in Croatia. Your job is to organize and execute the best “active” vacation your guests have ever had. Why? Because you love to see people have new, eye-opening experiences, and because it’s your job and the tips pay the bills. Pros: You’re getting paid to be in places and do things people only dream about. Cons: You’re working the entire time and catering to the every need of some extremely high-maintenance guests. Job can be seasonal or year-round depending on language skills. Apply for a job at http://backroads.com
–submitted by Ben Polansky
2. Fishing Guide
One of the opportunities I had in the past, but really didn’t take full advantage of, was working at a fishing lodge on the Kenai Pennisula of Alaska. It really does change your world-view to be waking up directly in the shadow of a green mountain, knowing you have the choice to climb that mountain, raft along that river, fish for red salmon, or make your way towards the ocean and hunt bottom-dwelling halibut.
There’s one particular lodge that has a great boss with good pay, flexible hours, and benefits: Gwin’s Lodge. Whenever a tour company has a last-minute opening on a adventure, they offer it free of charge to this guy, and he in turn is fair deciding which employees deserve a break.
Bring a car or prepare to hitchhike; the closest town is 45 miles away. Make friends with your fellow workers; they come from the continental US, the Czech Republic, and Russia. Come during the summer months; although it’s tempting to see Alaska in the winter, you’ll get bored very quickly trapped inside. It’s easy to feel isolated; stop worrying about internet access, the foods you have to have, going to the gym, and shopping. There’s so much around you, if you can learn to appreciate it.
–submitted by Turner Wright
In high school and college I spent two summers working part-time as a rickshaw runner in Ottawa, Canada. I was outdoors, exercising, meeting people and earning cash in hand. I made my own hours, paid a flat rate to rent my ‘shaw each night, and whatever I earned I kept. Best of all, though, I got to know every café, dive bar, busker, and street-corner drunk of Ottawa’s Byward Market area. The downside? Earnings varied from day to day depending on the weather and the crowds, but rent was due regardless.
A number of North American cities have rickshaw companies, and far more run cycle-rickshaws, or pedi-cabs. It’s perfect seasonal work: my company, for example, had runners in Toronto and Ottawa in the summers, and Daytona and Orlando in the winters.
American cycle-rickshaw companies, by state:
Cycle-rickshaw companies outside the States, including tons in Canada and the UK:
–submitted by Eva Holland
4.Teaching English overseas can be an ideal way to earn money and experience a foreign culture simultaneously, but it’s essential to do your homework before applying.
I worked as an English teacher for two years in Hokkaido, Japan, with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. This is probably the single best English Teaching job available. The pay is good – about $30,000 USD per year, tax free, with benefits. My rent was free. You must be a college graduate, and although no knowledge of Japanese is necessary, you should be able to demonstrate a sincere interest in learning about Japan.
JET is a government program, and participants teach in the public school system. Most English teaching jobs are with private companies, and this is where you’ll find a huge range of quality. On of the biggest Japanese companies, NOVA, recently went bust – leaving teachers stranded without pay. Be careful. Talk with current participants, and take company literature with a grain of salt.
You’ll make the most money teaching in a rich country like Japan or South Korea, especially if you’re good about saving. Teaching in a place like Thailand can be rewarding too, and the cost of living will be low, but you also won’t have much of a salary.
The most important advice is to think hard about your motivations and goals. Do you want to make money? Do you want to learn a language yourself? Do you want to just have a good time and put off a ‘real’ job for a few years? Be honest with yourself, and you’ll find a job that works for you.
–submitted by Tim Patterson
5. Youth Guide. Back in high school, I won a travel scholarship from an organization called EF. At that time, one scholarship was given to a student from each state in the US and one student from each province in Canada, so there were a passel of us who traveled abroad together, and that year’s trip went to England, France, and Switzerland.
Fast forward ten years. I was working as the assistant director of a mental health treatment program in NYC. I hated it. I hated 9-5; I hated middle management; I hated our setting (a basement with no windows and no circulating air); and I realized I was a great therapist, but not for people with mental illnesses. I was constantly agitating for a better working environment, which got me into perpetual trouble, and one day my boss said, “How are we going to work together? You’re so oppositional!” and I found myself replying, “We’re not, because I quit.” Yep, without a job. After a month-long stint at another agency (I quit the day the maintenance guy decided to barge in on a therapy session, crawl onto my desk and begin cleaning the air vent with a toilet brush), and a several months long stint as a personal assistant for a psychoanalyst in NYC who hit the bottle between sessions and interviewed me without shoes on, I found a job posting with EF… sounded great! Travel! Speak Spanish! Teach kids to love travel! I applied, I interviewed, I got the job. EF’s American division (recently renamed EF Smithsonian because of a partnership with the Smithsonian) typically only hires guides– “tour directors” in their lingo– to work in the city where they live (Boston, NYC, SF, Washington, D.C., etc), but they’re always short-handed on Spanish speaking TDs and I was shuttling back and forth between NYC, DC (my first tour was Bush’s re-election inauguration–argh) and Puerto Rico, where EF runs 5 and 7 day tours. I was here so much I convinced Francisco that we should move here.
The job has its amazing aspects… it IS travel and if you’re good at it, you can touch kids’ lives. Kids who have never seen the ocean. Never been on a plane. That kind of thing. But lots of good ole U.S. of A. entitlement, too, which ultimately drove me nuts and made me quit after my first tour this year after two years on the road. Other amazing things: You can pick and choose when you want to work. You’re largely an independent operator– you have 24/7 responsibility as long as you’re with the group, but that being said, there’s no boss breathing down your neck. You get paid cash tips, which is great, and they used to (but no longer) pay in cash. You can sometimes get sent to other cities–especially during the busiest part of the tour season (Easter week, especially) to work. And they ALWAYS need TDs. Always. Because they’ve grown so fast and haven’t done strategic planning for dealing with some aspects of their trips and operations that turn-over is really high among TDs and office staff. Decent money–though, according to other TDs who did this work year round by patching EF tours together with tours with other companies, it wasn’t nearly the going rate. All I’ll say is I could work hard and do some back to back tours for 4 months or 6 months and make enough to live on.
Here’s their website: http://www.smithsonianstudenttravel.com/
They’re honestly so in need of TDs that anyone interested could just call up, ask to speak with Bronwyn Holst, and apply and interview. EF also has divisions all over the world and has an adult division called Go Ahead, where tour guides/directors don’t have to live where they’ll be working. That always drove me nuts, actually, because they send guides to Latin America who know nothing.
If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
–sumbitted by Julie Schwietert Collazo
A youth worker in San Francisco and part-time adventure travel guide, Ben Polansky is the co-founder of Matador
Turner Wright is a freelance writer currently in Japan.
Matador Contributor Eva Holland also blogs for WorldHum.com and Vagablogging.net. (www.notcoming.com).
Regular contributor Tim Patterson is also the contributing editor at www.bravenewtraveler.com.
One of Matador’sregular contributors, Julie Schwietert Collazo lives in New York, Mexico City, and San Juan.
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