December 13, 2014

Island Life

"It's only those who do nothing that make no mistakes, I suppose."
-Joseph Conrad

Today I'm taking a little break from reminiscing about my hitchhiking adventure. I've been trying to get it all down on "paper", rereading my journal and sorting out the handwriting, much of which was written in either the dark or the rain. Having shipped my laptop to New Hampshire from Seattle, I find myself less able to make time for typing on the office computer here. And where is here?

Puerto Rico.

Back in June, not long after arriving in Alaska, I recognized that my summer was going to be wet and would not include a beach, so I emailed a hostel in Puerto Rico and asked if they would be interested in a work exchange. They agreed and I bought the plane ticket. Now I live in one of the most beautiful and interesting places I've been to yet. I live on an island off the East Coast called Vieques, a small community on the edge of the Caribbean where there is very little to do but relax. I swim almost every day in water that is warm in the
morning and cool in the afternoon, appearing to change according to the temperature of the air. There are wild horses that wander down the road, palm trees that look like any tropical fruit juice advertisement, and bars that serve as the gathering place for every social event simply because they are the only show in town.

I got here on November 20th, nearly a month ago, and am loving it. I work 28 hours a week for my bed and three meals a day plus discounted drinks, and the other 12 hours I choose to take on get me some cash. No, it's not a good long term position, but it will get me through the next few months far from the clutches of winter, which seems to have ventured much farther south then it belongs. 

December 10, 2014

Day #4 and #5: Beveryly Beach to Newport

Day #4

It didn't rain much during the night, but it was enough to reveal the flaw in my bivy. Somehow, over many years of love, it had ceased to be waterproof and when I touched the sides (which is bound to happen in something resembling a long green coffin) the water would seep in.

So that was the end of the bivy, it went straight into the garbage with what little fanfare we could muster. The Karmatic trade off to the death of the bivy was the discovery of forgotten lentils in a bear box. Someone had, whether intentionally to save weight or out of absentmindedness, abandoned a
two pound bag of green lentils and an equally large bag of lentil and pasta soup mix. As we sat under the beautiful old bridge drying my sleeping bag and eating truly healthfully for maybe the first time in our trip we were really happy to be wandering. Before calling the bus for a pickup we walked to the Devil's Punch Bowl and Otter Rock, two beautiful scenic spots only slightly sullied by our discovery of a dead seal on the beach, which Emy nearly stepped on as she chased the perfect photo.

The Lincoln County bus came into view a little after noon to take us the final leg to my initial destination of Newport Oregon. I'd lived there for a summer maybe ten years earlier and, as we do with most past experiences, I had exaggerated the highlights until only the very best of the town remained and my was actually homesick for a place I hadn't called home in nearly a decade. It was a town of small shops and friendly beer drinkers permeated by the smells of seafood and the sounds of barking seals. I'd forgotten, of course, about the business district, a two mile long strip of car dealerships, Burger Kings, and Laundromats. We walked the length of that blazing hot commercial parade, weighed down by packs and feet hurting, all the way to Walmart and Fred Myer, neither of which had a viable tent option. We did, however, find something else and his name was Wes.

Wes is a gentleman who captures what it means to live on the west coast. He was a traveler, by foot, car, and thumb, recently settled down to the semi profitable growing profession and about as giving as anyone who has every needed something and been taken mercy on. He not only offered me an old tent that was wedged in the back of his truck, but he also let us ride in said truck all the way to the South Beach State Park where he and his friend set the tent up and offered us a beer. In exchange we took them out to the Rouge Brewery for some of the best IPA I've had in a very long time. That night both Emy and I slept dry and exhausted.

Day #5

After a dry night sleep my task became ordering a tent and luckily REI had the perfect solution, but, even with next day shipping I'd have to find a place to sleep for two nights.

That's when we discovered the Yurts.

I'm not sure why but Oregon state parks love yurts (probably because they're awesome!) and the South Beach State Park had lots of these circular dwelling for about $40/night. We booked one first thing in the morning and were blown away by such conveniences as a heater, couch, and skylight as well as board games and coffee at the main office. Needless to say we immediately emptied all of our gear out, including shoes, and set them close enough to the heater that, had they not been so wet, we probably could have burnt the yurt down.

I walked the few miles to town, revisiting the old haunts, while Emy rented her battered feet and walked around the park, falling in love with the Newport Bridge and grasslands.

November 4, 2014

Day #2 and #3: Cape Lookout to Beverly Beach

Do not be angry with the rain; 
it simply does not know how to fall upwards.
 - Vladimir Nabokov

Day #2

Lincoln City Beach Houses
I woke up soaked. Like really soaked. Tent, sleeping bag, clothes, backpack, everything and Emy, despite her waterproof tent, didn't fare much better. Our packs began weighing about 25lbs each but with all those soaking wet supplies they felt like we'd added stones. After some trail mix (neither of us had much of an apatite) we hit the road again and hiked two miles uphill and then another two miles down. I thought I was going to pass out, but we kept on trucking and by mile two we'd begun discussing hip displaysia (at the time it seemed like the only logical explanation for the extreme pain in my hip joints).

Emy's feet were really hurting her but our thumbs weren't stopping anyone until finally, past the sand dunes and after a long break to inspect blisters, we were rescued by a very nice older couple from Portland. He was an ex marine and she was a former teacher and they had a very big van. To continue the way we'd meant to go this very nice couple would have only driven us about 1/2 mile, but they were on their way to Cloverdale Oregon for lunch, about 17 miles south east. We decided to gamble on better hitchhiking via rt 101 and 30 minutes later we were standing in a small farming town.

Our original intention might have been to hitch, but on our way out of town we spotted, nailed to a telephone pole near the post office, a bus schedule. It went all the way to Lincoln City, a place I'd spent a lot of time in when I lived in Newport Oregon seven years ago, and I was sure things would look up if we could only get to that point. The bus was only an hour away and it cost a paltry $2 each for us to ride 20 miles in style.

Here it was only the second day and we already had to have a discussion about a possible hotel room. There isn't much camping near Lincoln City at this time of year, but that concern was secondary to the state of our water saturated gear. Emy's feet were blistering and both our shoes were soaked. When you're walking all day your feet have to be ok so once in the "city" (it's really just a big town) we walked to the Econo Lodge and got ourselves a room.

We emptied everything out of our backpacks and laid them on every surface we could find. Chairs, hangers, doors, the TV. Everything was covered in wet gear and the place smelled like a kennel after a rain storm. We left it, walked to The Old Oregon Tavern for some beers, then meandered back for an amazing night's sleep.

Day #3

The Bay at Depoe Bay
The Lincoln City Beach was only 1.5 miles long, but with a strong headwind it took us over an hour
to walk it with our now dry backpacks. Once at the jetty we started hitching the highway portion and got picked up by an older gentleman (maybe 80) named Yune. Yune is from South Africa and in the 1960s he hitched all the way from London to Singapore. It took him 9 months and makes him one of the coolest hitchers I've ever met. 

Yune dropped us in Depoe Bay, a great little town on the ocean with a wonderful boardwalk and lots of personality. Emy and I dropped into Pirate Coffee Company, where I use to work, to visit Barry the owner and have a Spicy Wench (Chai + Espresso = Awesome!). We then walked to Gracie's Sea Hag, a great little bar which my sister use to work at and is kind of a destination spot in that area. We got beers and waited for a bus to take us to Beverly State Park.

Wow we covered a lot of ground each day!

The bus to Beverly Beach State Park was $2 and it dropped us off right at the entrance. Although the weather had been nice in Depoe Bay it seemed to be turning so we set up our tents quickly and went for a walk.
Cool Trees on Beverly Beach

That night I went to bed early, mainly because the forcast called for rain and I wanted to get at least some rest, uncertain if it had been the tent or my set up of the tent that had caused my wet night at Cape Lookout.

It was the tent.

Day #1: First Day Disasters

“If I saw you hitchhiking, I’d smile and return your thumb’s up, just for you doing such a great job of being a positive roadside influence.”
― Jarod Kintz
So on October 17th Pam, who didn't want to see us begin our journey hiking over some huge coastal mountain, drove us down the road to Rockaway Beach. Emy and I shouldered our packs, about 25lbs each, leaned into the wind, which was blowing directly at us, and began trudging down the beautiful (if slightly damp and cloudy) beach.

We loved it! Even when we had to cross our first little river and Emy got soaked in the tide, and three miles later we were at the jetty.

Ah, the jetty.

Now there really isn't a whole lot published about the Oregon Coast Trail, but we did find a short ebook which said we had to call a fishery for a ride across said jetty. Apparently we glazed over the part where it said "Call 24 hours in advance" so, quick to make decisions in the intermittent rain, we decided to hitchhike towards the fishery in town. Emy had never hitchhiked before but we were quickly picked up by five very nice Mexican guys in a pickup out for a day of fishing. They were great, offering us a beer as soon as we got in, and drove us right around the jetty to the town of Tillimuck about 8 miles away where our guide book said we could pick the trail back up.

A wet walk
13 miles. 13 miles in the rain. 13 miles in the rain and on a main road with no shoulder. Our thumbs stayed out but with the rain coming down I figure that either people couldn't see out honest faces or they didn't want two drowned rats climbing into their car. Pavement is not the same as sand or even dirt hiking trail. It hurts! And we were wet and Emy's shoes were still soaked from the tide and now water pooled on the top of her foot at each step. Despite all of these first day obstacles we climbed the mountain on Whiskey Creek Road laughing so hard it became difficult to walk.

The hysterics didn't pass until we were at Cape Lookout State Park and trying to find the hiker biker camping area ($5 each). By then everything hurt, the rain was coming sideways, and we still needed to set up our tents. We ended up sitting in the women's restroom, the only semi dry place in our world, for nearly an hour, eating trail mix and wringing out our socks before venturing back out into the rain.

Now, Emy, the most helpful and accommodating girl I know, lent me her bivy for this trip. A bivy, or "the coffin" as she calls it, is a supper narrow tent that really just has room for one person laying flat, not even a backpack will really fit. I set it up, staked it down, climbed in soaking wet and got into my new sleeping bag.

It was maybe 20 minutes later that I realized I was actually becoming wetter. My first thought was that I had set up the tent wrong, maybe I let too much rain in while I was setting up, maybe the wind was strong enough to blow rain around the rain fly. I woke up many times that night, each time feeling the puddle I was laying in grow. I will say that my sleeping bag was amazing, keeping me warm and pretty dry (the only water got in through the zipper), but really it could only do so much. The hiker biker site was up against the ocean which, at any other time would have been amazing, but that night it sounded like the world was ending.

Leaving Alaska

Portland, Oregon won't build a mile of road without a mile of bike path. You can commute there, even with that weather, all the time.
- Lance Armstrong
It's been a while since my last post, not because nothings been happening but because so much has been happening that I just haven't had time to stop and recount it all. Even my journals have become bullet points rather than fully formulated thoughts, something I scribble on the floor of my tent under the fading light of a headlamp. That being said, this update may be in multiple parts.

The Mountains Over Anchorage
But now I have time to sit here with that journal, safe and sound and back in the big city. The fire alarm in my hostel went off at 5am which gave me a wonderful excuse to get up and get writing, and sometimes that's what it takes.

On October 1st I left the mighty Yukon River of Alaska after five months in the interior. It was a memorable experience living with eight other employees in the middle of nowhere and I can't say I regret any of it. My mother use to say about albums and cookbooks that if you get just one really good recipe/song out of it than the purchase was worth while. I think that goes for experiences and friends too and I got a few really good friends out of the deal. So I left the river and with two of those now good friends headed to Anchorage for a few days. We saw the sights, rented a car and visited Seward (which is beautiful and highly recommended), and then flew south to Seattle where I stayed at the Green Tortuous, a great Hostel right downtown, which my friend Emy visited family while promising to meet in Seaside Oregon the following week.

Lan Su Gardens
Seattle was cool, some nice little parks and their Museum of Art [SAM] (my litmus test for most cities) was pretty good if slightly overpriced for what they offered. I was excited for their advertised Impressionist Exhibit which turned out to be one wall with only one or two noteworthy pieces, but their display of Greek art was beautiful and worth checking out. My main accomplishment in the city was to stop at the REI headquarters and buy a sleeping bag called the Cat's Meow. Why a sleeping bag, you ask? Well I was planning to hike the OCT with one of those good friends from Alaska. We figured it would take about a month from what we'd read and, while we understood that Oregon in October would be a bit soggy, we were very excited to have a whole month of camping.

After a day in the city and a day with a friend I caught the Bolt Bus heading for Portland. I'd never used Bolt before but it cost about $16 which is hard to beat, and the driver was friendly and on time. 

Powell's Bookstore
Now Portland I could live in. The city itself is full of dense parks, tall trees, statuary (including the second largest bronze statue in America), and they have an amazing art museum [PMA]. I wandered around for hours eating from food carts, getting lost in Powell's Bookstore, strolling through the Lan Su Chinese Gardens and generally having an awesome time. I stayed in a beautiful little neighborhood outside the city with my cousin Pheobe and her husband who had moved there from San Francisco a few years earlier and agreed that Portland was just as awesome as I'd believed. 

Pheobe's friend Pam has a house in Cannon Beach and offered to drive me to the coast, so a few days later we were on the road, bumping along in her pickup without much of a plan for what I would do once I got there. Staying in Pam's little cabin was a great start to the trip and the following day we drove to Seaside to pick Emy up at the Seaside International Hostel, which she tells me was very pleasant. We got a night, one wonderful night at Pam's before heading south, and it wasn't that we didn't understand what we were getting into, but there is a difference between knowing something and knowing something

To Be Continued...

August 26, 2014

Arctic Ocean Adventure

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” 
― T.S. EliotFour Quartets

Full Arctic Foot Dip
The season here at the Yukon River is drawing to a close and I can't say I'm super upset about it. It's been a fun ride; I've met lots of cool people, read a ton of books, seen some local wildlife, and learned a lot about the area, but it's time to move on and I'm feeling the keen pull of a new adventure.

Until this past weekend I'd only left the Yukon River Camp (YRC) once since May. Between bad weather on my days off and lack of transportation getting out of here seemed like an impossibility, but this past Saturday I caught the Dalton HighwayExpress van from YRC to Deadhorse and Prudoe Bay for a chance to dip my toes in the Arctic Ocean. Yes, it's a super touristy thing to do, but I wasn't going to leave Alaska without doing it, having been so close.

The Mountains Outside Atigun Pass
Close is a relative term I guess because the van ride itself was 12 hours each way, which is the equivalent of driving from my old home in New Hampshire to South Carolina, the difference being that we were going about 40 MPH tops and had to pull over for every big rig that passed (and there are a lot of those up here). My day began at 9am on Saturday as I boarded the van, which already accommodated three passengers from Fairbanks. We stopped at the Arctic Circle sign (not super impressive but a good landmark) and then at Coldfoot Camp (about four hours from YRC) for some food before making the big push to Prudoe. We passed through the Brooks Mountain Range, which I think everyone should see at some point because they're AMAZING (I'm already planning to come back and hike), then to Atigun Pass where one of the passenger departed for a hiking trip. After that the mountains that began as "Man From Snowy River" in the south and became "Lord of the Rings" in the north began to peter out, and then the rolling hills and finally the wide open tundra, where the only thing obstructing your view is atmosphere and the curve of the earth. We saw some Caribu and some Caribu hunters before hitting Deadhorse, a small industrial "town" housing more than 3,000 men and women who work the pipeline. Deadhorse Camp was cozy and I got a TV in my room, an unknown luxury which meant I stayed up too late.

Mountain Sheep!

At 5:30am I woke up, got dressed, packed my things, and headed to the dining room for some French toast before meeting with the security guard who checked my ID before letting me board the Arctic Ocean bound shuttle.

TIP: You cannot drive to the ocean itself so if you want to see the ocean while in Prudoe Bay you need to make reservations on a tour 24 in advance. The van needs to pass through a security checkpoint to get to the water, but it's pretty informal. All you'll need to do is have a reservation and then present your ID before the tour. Call 877-474-3565 to make reservations.

The ocean was cold and large and bland, but worth the trip if only for the story. I dipped my toes in, saw some polar bears from super far away, and then hit the road south. The ride back was more eventful then the ride up, in large part because we were joined by three ladies from New
Zealand who began cracking beers as soon as we got on the road. We saw mountain sheep, a very recent plan crash in Atigun Pass, some more beautiful mountains, and a black bear about ten miles north of YRC.
The Brooks Range

So it took me two days and 24 hours of driving to see the arctic ocean, Was it worth it? Of course and I would have regretted being up here the whole summer and not seeing it because really when is the next time I'll be in Alaska? Probably no time soon.

July 6, 2014


The Long Long Dalton Highway
While I am still loving the Yukon River it has become clear that close quarters and boredom breed drama, so last Friday I escaped to the big city of Fairbanks for a much needed reprieve. You'd think that being out in the middle of no place with the wind and the trees and the river would be relaxing, but what I was really craving was anonymity. The chance to walk through a store and recognize no one, to eat lunch alone, to blend in with a crowd and go unnoticed for even a few hours.

So I caught the express shuttle southbound out of the YRC and honestly slept most of the way into town where I checked in at Sven's Basecamp Hostel.

Sven's is a really unique place unlike any other hostel I've been to. It has the air of a brand new facility both because of the cleanliness of the hostel and the enthusiasm of Sven and his sister, both of whom were very friendly and accommodating. For $27 I got a bed in what they call a tent but it really more of a safari tent with permanent wood walls. I could have also rented a tipi or a cabin for some extra privacy, but I was the only girl there anyway so I saved some money.

The first thing I did after checking in was walk down to Safeway, get some dinner, and sit on the bench outside people watching. You know what was the best part? Having someplace to walk to. I wish I were a hiker, someone like my sister who loves to climb mountains and trek far into the forest, but I am the sort who loves walking towards something, even through something and I hadn't realized how much I missed that aspect of New Orleans. The next morning I took full advantage of the city (It's really more of an oversized town) and I walked more than 11 miles. I went to Wal-Mart, the outdoor sports store, got my eyebrows shapes, sat by the river, and even stopped at the Cultural and Visitor'sCenter, which I highly recommend if you're in the area.

As it happened a friend of mine from Vermont way back in 2010 was in the neighborhood on her way out of Denali so we met up around 8pm when her train got in. I had this brilliant plan to check out Silver Gultch Brewery which Google Maps said was just across the rover about 2.5 miles from Sven's Hostel. After walking all day I suggested taking a cab, but, as it turns out, the brewery was all the way in the town of Fox nearly ten miles away and my blood pressure rose each time the cabbie's fare ticked up. $57! By the time we got to the brewery I was highly irritated but the beer was very good and my friend found a nice lady who drove us back to Fairbanks. We stayed up all night drinking whiskey and smoking poorly rolled cigarets with three Argentinian bikers and by 4:30am it was time for my to make my way back up the Dalton.
Cultural Visitors Center

So I show up at the office to catch a van or tour going north. I'm exhausted in that slightly tipsy, red eyes, why didn't I sleep last night sort of way and they tell me that they're going to put me on a plane to Coldfoot. Awesome! It's a little six-seater and the pilot stows my pack in the wing. We take off... and the next thing I know we're landing in Coldfoot. I slept through the entire ride, right over the arctic circle! I'm still exhausted but we (myself and the four others that were on the tour) pile into a van and we drive to Wiseman, a small off settlement with a lot of history, and we get a great tour around some of the original buildings. Then we're on to Coldfoot Camp where I sit and chill with one of the tour guides for a few hours. This is about the point I realized how badly sunburned my face was, the office must have though I was a mess! Eventually I caught a supply van down the Dalton the 120 miles to YRC where I slept for 14 hours and woke up rejuvenated and ready for a another three months at the river.

All in all a good adventure, I just wish I had been a bit more conscious for the second leg. I got to see a few moose though and the next time I cross the Arctic Circle I will be much more rested.

June 24, 2014

Free Time

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” 

The Alaskan summer is well underway, but the nights are still little chilly and I've kept all three blankets on my bed. When I was growing up we only had one car most of the time and it wasn't that reliable so we'd spend most days at home. There would be weeks where we didn't leave and I remember my mother half joking about cabin fever. My sister and I never really felt it. Being stuck at home was fine as long as we had books, movies, board games and weather that would allow us to periodically escape each other. Now I'm grown and living in the middle of east nowhere Alaska and I think I finally am understanding the real stir-crazy potential of cabin fever that my mother way hinting at.

Alaska is beautiful, especially as the weather grows warmer. We have wild roses growing through the front porch and the sky, with it's parade of puffy clouds, is the definition of vast. Unfortunately the mosquitoes seem to have formed loosely knit gangs that attack as soon as I step out the door, so long hikes are out for the time being, which means I'm largely house bound. I get up each morning and fast walk the 30 feet to work where I wait on a slew of interesting tourists and truckers traveling up and down the Dalton Highway. Most of them ask where I'm from which leads to a stock answer, something like “New Hampshire by way of New Orleans” and then they ask what brought me to Alaska to which I answer “Louisiana was getting hot so I picked the farthest point north.” It's like a script now that I recite ten to fifty times a day. And there's the issue. Each day here is very similar to the last one and the perpetual sunshine just adds to the feeling of a never ending loop.

Now, I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. If anything it's made me appreciate the little stuff, the slight variations like a cook that makes a special employee meal or a pair of chatty bicyclists. It also occurs to me that very often we are given things to occupy us, like television, shopping, driving, eating out. Did you ever read Fahrenheit 451? Bradbury wasn't just warning against a world where books were outlawed, though that's what people always pick up on, he was warning against a world where we no longer had the “leisure to digest” information. A world where we were constantly kept busy, so busy that there was no time to wonder about ourselves and our world, to analyze the information in books. I think that's been the gift of Alaska, that I have so much time to think now and, while it can be a little overwhelming, it's lead to some interesting choices.

My house in the woods
For one I asked my father to ship up my violin and now I practice every day, sometimes for hours if my housemates can stand it. I also have begun brushing up on my Spanish and learn at least one new word or phase each day. I still read too, at least two books a week. I take all the work I can now, giving up days off, so I'll walk out of the woods with a good chunk of change, maybe even enough to make a side trip somewhere between Alaska and Louisiana.

So I'm adapting, maybe so much so that my planned one month of city life will be too much of a shock. 

June 6, 2014

How To Get Seasonal Work

“We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work” 
-Thomas Edison

I got a bunch of emails after my last post asking how I go about finding and securing seasonal work, a really good question as there seems to be some confusion about what seasonal work really is.

First of all seasonal work usually means work that is offered for one season (spring, summer, fall, or winter), like a ski resort that hires 300 people just for the winter months and then most of them move on to other jobs elsewhere. Some seasonal work, such as hospitality, is less finite but still seasonal, like in New Orleans where hundreds of bartenders are hired just for the Mardi Gras season with the understanding that they will probably not have shifts come the slower summer months.

Step #1: Finding The Job

This site has come a long way over the past few years. They have a really wide selection of jobs from Conservation Corps to fly fishing resorts and it's organized really nicely by season, state, and job type. This is where I found Yukon River Camp.

I hate to say it but this site seems to be loosing popularity, but it's still a good resource to know. This was the site to go to before Cool Works and is also organized by season, state, and job type. I would highly recommend purchasing The Backdoor Guide to Short Term Job Adventures 4th Edition. Other additions have come out since but the 4th is the most comprehensive and useful. I found the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp through this book and had a great summer.

A job site, like the ones listed above, is just a searchable database of available positions with contact information included. If you're not seeing anything you like then head for Google and search for resorts, hostels, or ski resorts in the region you want then craft a nice introductory email to their HR person. Make sure to attach your resume and inquire about open positions. This is how I got both the New Orleans Hostel and the one I'll be at in Puerto Rico come fall. I emailed them and we negotiated a fair exchange.

If you're looking for a job in a restaurant in, say, Virginia Beach then I'd go with Criag's List. I've met a few people who operate exclusively off this site and seem to be having good luck.

I haven't used this site a whole lot but have heard some good things from coworkers. I found a sailing job and a few interesting resorts when I was researching Florida so check it out.

Step#2: The Application

An application is an application, so make it look good and stand out. Seasonal employers are less concerned about the length of your jobs and more about your responsibilities and work ethic. You see, seasonal employees are often a little flaky by nature. We're cool, don't get me wrong, but we're a little abnormal as well. We live without roots, far from family, and with very few possessions. We need to make friends quickly but can't get too attached to people we'll be leaving a few months later and while many workers travel by choice, some just can't hold down a long term job and by the end of their term an employer is happy to see them go. This is where references come in. Get them from anyone you can and make sure they're glowing because employers are taking a lot on faith and the better you look from across the country the more likely they are to take a chance on you.

Here's my attempt at looking "Resume professional"
Potentially Helpful Tip: I was surprised how many jobs, especially resorts and dude ranches, ask for a picture because that means there are twice as many jobs that want a picture but had lawyers who told them not to ask. One of the drawbacks to hiring seasonal employees is that the employer doesn't get to sit down and interview them; most rely on phone interviews which don't really give them an idea of how a candidate might present to clients (some are going to Skype now, but not many). The employers I've spoken to have all (every one of them) talked about the nerve wracking experience of waiting for new employees to arrive and hoping that they made the right choice, like ordering a painting sight unseen and based only on a loose description of its medium. What if they wear tons of makeup? Or have a facial tattoo? Or a Mohawk? There's nothing wrong with these things and some employers will embrace them while others will shy away, but if you can present well in a photo then go get a hair cut, tone down the makeup, and dress the part then attach a head shot to your resume. It will make you stand out and give employers peace of mind.

Step #3: The Interview

Like I said, most of these job interviews are going to be done by phone which is good for us because we can do them in our PJs surrounded by cheat sheets. I personally have a notebook handy to write down questions as they come up (employers love well thought out questions) and stay on target with the questions they're asking. While these interviews tend to play out along fairly standard lines they will probably ask about your experience with communal living. Many seasonal positions include dorm style housing so you'll be living with your coworkers, which makes for a lot of togetherness and tends to breed drama. Employers want to know that you'll be responsible and professional both at work and towards your housemates.

So by now you hopefully have the job, but remember to learn from my mistakes and as soon as you've secured a position begin your research for the next season. Employers begin hiring a season ahead and if you don't have employment by the time your summer gig ends then you might find that all the fall positions have already been filled.

Good Luck! And if you have additional resources, ideas or experiences please post them in the comments section. Lots of my experience is based on the trail and error of other so lets expand out collective knowledge.

June 5, 2014

Winter Employment

“O, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.” 
-Roman Payne

Something I've learned from my limited seasonal work experience is that it's never too early to start planning for the next jump. Positions like mine have pretty solid start and end dates so it's kind of like putting a puzzle together; you find another job whose start date is close to your current job's end date and try to make them fit. Because I hate being unprepared and scrambling for a last minute job (though that's often what I end up doing) I started my winter job hunt as soon as I began at Yukon River Camp.

The goal, as I've mentioned, is to go south in the winter and north in the summer thereby always being at a fairly comfortable temperature and avoiding both the southern heat and northern snow. Unfortunately for me most of the winter jobs in the US are at ski resorts. They hire huge numbers of employees for the season but not only do I not particularly like being super cold, I also don't have a ability to pack or store large amounts of warm winter clothes.

With ski resorts out I began looking at places like Steamboat Wells in Death Valley California. They offer housing and a meal plan plus a decent hourly wage, but they, like Yukon River, are in the middle of nowhere. While a summer of social and cultural seclusion is relaxing, a sort of vacation, I'm not sure I'm up for nearly a full year of isolation. Next!

Realizing my need for at least visual stimuli (the social part I can usually do without) I began thinking about the Florida Keys, maybe doing some waitressing or working on a boat for the winter, and I started Goggling hostels I could stay at. By pure chance the Google map showed a little dot way off to the south east in Puerto Rico where there is a little hostel that's bright and cheery and very vacation spot looking. So I emailed them, just like I did with The Marquette House in New Orleans, and they they have agreed to let me come down from about November through March. In exchange for 5 hours each day five days each week I'll get a bed in a dorm, $20 daily bar credit, and $50 per week which is enough for me to buy rice, beans, and maybe the occasional chocolate bar.

Now it's time to do some research. I'm sorry to say that most of what I know about Puerto Rico comes from West Side Story, which I'm not sure was the most accurate portrayal even in the sixties. 

May 31, 2014

Downsizing (Again)

“There is always a sadness about packing. I guess you wonder if where you're going is as good as where you've been.” 
-Richard Proenneke

I spent today packing. Don't worry! I'm not leaving Alaska just yet, but I felt the need to downsize once again. Right now I have a duffel bag and a ruck sack holding all my earthly possessions, which doesn't sound like much but I've been wondering lately (especially after hauling the bags through airports all the way to Alaska), how much stuff do I really use?

Do I need six shirts when I only really wear three? How about pants? Two leggings, two shorts, two khakis and a pair of jeans. I think I could cut that in half and be fine. I'm even thinking of sending my laptop back to the folks in New Hampshire, since I have my kindle and do most web based activities on that right now, although the laptop makes job hunting much easier so I may opt to keep it for now.

After packing what I see as the bare necessities into my ruck sack I even have room left over for odds and ends like food or shampoo should it come to that. Without my laptop it weighs about 13lbs and is a little over ¾ full, though I'm planning a few extra lbs for last minute can't-live-without stuff.

I had to downsize a lot to fit into the Jetta and then even more when I went to New Orleans, but I'd like to get to the point where everything I need fits on my back. Maybe this summer will give me the push I need.  

May 30, 2014

Summer On The Yukon

“We got so much food in America we're allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain't allergic to shit. You think anyone in Rwanda's got a fucking lactose intolerance?!” 
-Chris Rock

It's almost June here in Alaska and the weather is beautiful. If it weren't for the small hills around the camp I know I could see the sky go on forever, especially on days like this with light blue skies and the occasional puffy white cloud that takes the whole morning to work its way from one end of the horizon to the other. When I got here on May 15th the nights were still a little chilly and there were even a few days that might have been jacket worthy had I been less stubborn. While it might not be swimming weather yet, summer has definitely arrived on the Yukon River and, though I hear that there's still snow on the ground in Coldfoot, 120 miles north, we wake up each morning to new leaves and greenery that wasn't there when he went to bed.

Along with the changing season has come two new challenges. The first is allergies, which I normally don't have but it seems I have in abundance up here in Alaska. After a week of my eyeballs hurting all the time that symptom finally subsided and was replaced by breathing trouble. Every day I wake up with no voice and an elephant sitting on my chest and it takes at least three cups of honey lemon tea and gargling with salt water to sound like I'm not on helium. I'm hoping that this will also only last a couple weeks. The second challenge is the misquotes which I've been told will begin the bug season as slow and ineffective Buicks and end as deadly Mini Coups. I like to believe that after a summer in North Hero Vermont I have seen the worst mosquito infestation of my life, but the folks here are making me a little nervous. They ever outfitted my bed with a super duper bug net which I hope will be more effective than the duct tape someone has used to seal every whole and vent in my room.

I'm being delightfully lazy up here, working my serving shifts and spending the rest of my day reading and writing and planning. I wasn't expecting to make tips but in the past two weeks I've brought in about $300, which anywhere else might be scoffed at but here at the top of the world, with the fishing and tourist seasons barley started, it's a welcome surprise. The problem I'm now facing is that I need to pay bills and, while I'm holding a wad of cash, there's no money in my bank account. I won't get a paycheck until next week and, because I'm far from civilization, I then need to mail that check to my bank who will deposit it which could take a few more weeks. I figure that if making a bill payment is the worst of my worries than I'm doing alright. 

May 24, 2014

Yukon River Camp

“A half-dead thing in a stark dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold.” 
-Robert Service

Yukon River Camp
Yukon River Camp is at mile 56 on on the Dalton highway, just 60 miles short of the arctic circle. Think of it as an outpost, one of only three on the 500 mile road to offer gas, propane, food, cigarettes, razors, candy... Basicly everything you could need while traveling.

I say road because the term highway (as in Dalton Highway) is used very liberally here. The Dalton is a sometimes paved, sometimes gravel stretch that rolls up and down hills, around bodies of water, and alongside the pipeline. By the time cars reach us at mile 56 they are brown with dust or mud, no matter what color they started as.

The Yukon River Bridge
There's a mix of customers: truckers from the oil industry, tourists on their way to the arctic circle or the arctic ocean, and natives who live at least part time along the banks of the river. Today there were some bear hunters heading down the river who stopped for lunch and 100 gallons of gasoline. Yesterday a guy called from Fairbanks with a message for his father who lives up river and occasionally visits us, so we played secretary and tacked the note up for the next time he comes in.

My job title is "camp host" but I'm kind of a waitress, clerk, gas attendant, and jack of all trades, which is good because it's never boring. There are only eight employees here and, lucky for me, they're all great (this would be a long summer otherwise). So far I'm enjoying myself; reading a lot and going for walks in the "woods" (more to come on that). 

May 21, 2014

Alaska: The New Adventure

“I won't tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world's voice, or the voice of society. They matter a good deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one's own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands.”
-Oscar Wild

It was 2009 when I decided to go back to school and finish up my Bachelor's Degree. I was working at a farm in Massachusetts and about to leave for a job in upstate Vermont and thought that finishing my degree would look good on a resume and allow me to continue working these seasonal jobs around the country. It was a good plan, but somewhere during the college experience I forgot my motivations.
Maybe it was because I had been living in the Jetta for over a year and wanted permanence or maybe it was the prospect of student loans but when I walked out of Amherst with my degree I went for a nine to five job with an apartment and settled into a fairly normal life of work, bagged lunches and drinks with friends on the weekends.

I can pinpoint the exact moment in which I realized that life wasn't going to work (about 1 ½ years in) and within two months I was headed for New Orleans Louisiana with no real plan, just a hostel that agreed to let me work off my rent.

I loved NOLA! The people were friendly and the food was good, although there are definitely a lack of vegetables in the city. So I stayed for three months and worked at the hostel. I met some great friends I hope to keep in touch with, went boating on the bayou, ate lots of seafood gumbo, and saw everything I could in the city. There was really only one problem: Louisiana gets hot in the summer, REALLY HOT, and by April I was realizing that even the muggy heat of spring was more than I wanted. So, just as I had left the New Hampshire winter for the furthest southern point, I escaped New Orleans for the most Northern location I could find.
Today we're watching a wildfire


Yes, I'm now in Alaska working at a little outpost on the Dalton Highway four hours north of the nearest town. It's a bit of a shock going from the heat and city bustle of New Orleans to the cold and quiet of northern Alaska, but I'm loving it. Not much happens up here, but there will be updates!

March 28, 2014

NOLA: Day 24

"Life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving."
-Albert Einstein

It's a rainy day here in New Orleans, although after nearly a month in the city I'm realizing that Southern rain and Northern rain are very different things. In the north when it rains it means buckets of fat drops and it lasts all day, but down here rain (at least March rain) means intermittent drizzle or something like a heavy fog.

I'm still loving the city and, with the understanding that I may be leaving soon, I've been doing all the touristy things like strolling through the French Quarter, window shopping on Magazine Street, and working my way through the museums. There are street musicians and booths that sell everything from clothes and flutes to alligator kabobs. The other day I was on Canal street when I heard beautiful music and when I turned around there was a bicycle pulling a baby grand piano down the road. It really is an amazing city.

I've also been getting into the local swing. Every morning for the past month I have walked down to a little cafe where I sit with my decaf coffee and my laptop looking up jobs, sending off emails, and writing letters to my former students in New Hampshire who are having some adjustment issues with the new teacher. I've figured out where Fresh Market is and stopped taking the streetcar everywhere, which saves me money but also means my boots are wearing out faster than they should). All in all this has been a really fun "vacation".

I really will try to write more often!

March 21, 2014

New Orleans

There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better. There's a thousand different angles at any moment. At any time you could run into a ritual honoring some vaguely known queen. Bluebloods, titled persons like crazy drunks, lean weakly against the walls and drag themselves through the gutter. Even they seem to have insights you might want to listen to. No action seems inappropriate here. The city is one very long poem. 
-Bob Dylan

It's been 17 days since I left snowy New Hampshire for the warmth of the southern states. There's something simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating in a complete uprooting, which is what this was. A new city where I knew no one, had no job and was tied only to a bed in a hostel for the low price of
two hours work per day
For anyone trying to travel on a budget I highly recommend emailing a hostel to see if they will exchange work for rent. I was surprised how quickly this one responded and how many other people I have met that have made similar arrangements in other parts of the country. 
 So I've been down here looking for work, very similar to what I was doing here three years ago applying for teachNOLA, except this time I'm on my own and looking at tutoring as well as teaching. There's a problem though, one that was hinted at by the Old Fool and I wish he were still with us so I could tell him that I finally get it. The people here are very warm and friendly, they talk to you at the bus stop and offer advice in the corner store, but they are by and large uneducation and, much to my horror, very proud of it. There is a culture of ignorance so vast that it seems to actually perpetuate itself. Businesses like the Who Dat Shack and hospital advertisements that dare the reader to translate a review written in "native slang". This pride in culture means that education as I know it is hard to find and support for it by parents even more scarce. The teachers I've spoken to are frustrated
or have checked out, urging me to lower my standards for pay and results.

Like I said, I love the city and have been having a blast walking around, taking full advantage of museums, architecture, and the streetcar system.

  1. Vegetables: I have never been in a place, much less a city, where it was so hard to find a vegetable. I know it's another cultural thing, but as a vegetarian it gets a little tricky! I've found that there are really four places to get produce, Rouse's Market with a really small selection, Whole Food with a huge but more pricey selection, the farmer's market which seems to be hit or miss, and Wal-mart which is the last place I want to but veggies on principle alone. Everyplace is very expensive with a small container of mushrooms ringing up at $2.50!
  2. IPA: Yeah, I have a beef with the beer around here. There are lots of Buds and Miller Lights but not a whole lot of good hoppy IPA or microbrews.
  3. Pay: The cost of living is cheaper than the north, but the pay is also way less in most industries. As a teacher I wasn't offered more than $9/hour which is frustrating when bartenders start at $15/hr. 
So, what to do about New Orleans? Well, I think I'll take advantage of the city for a little while longer and then split for a new state, one with work. I like my hostel with my thirteen rotating roommates, but I've also seen those who have stayed too long, years in some cases, and that's not for me. So on I go!

February 12, 2014

Transient Eats

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, 
it would be a merrier world"
-J. R.R. Tolkin

Today I reached the two week mark. Had I been a normal employee I would have given my two weeks notice today, but instead I gave it four weeks ago which created all kinds of hullabaloo. But oh well, the closer I get to the flight date the antsier I've become.

So here's a serious concern of mine which may seem a little vain especially in our transient world where we tend to be grateful for whatever we get. I loved living in the Jetta, but when it came down to eating it was hard to be healthy without a kitchen or place to store veggies. I tried to eat well with salad bars and lots of chick peas, but more often then not I'd pick up some french bread and cheese so by the time I graduated and moved back to New Hampshire I weighed a little over 250lbs. Now I've never been a small girl but that was the heaviest I've been so taking that off became a priority. The result of my post-vehicle resolution was that I've lost about 60lbs in the past nineteen months, which is roughly equivalent to a nine year old boy.

I started by eating only salads and exercising a lot, which helped me lose some but it really sucked, so (after giving up for a few months) I went Paleo. I really liked Paleo if only because it got me thinking about what healthy really means, but after about five months I went almost vegan. So 60lbs later I feel much better however I'm heading off again and wondering how on earth I'll keep healthy when I am once more faced with no kitchen. My saving grace is that I'll be in the relative heat of the south where no cook food and veggies are appropriate meals as opposed to the northeast in the winter where not only can you barely buy a vegetable (besides potatoes and onions) but all you want to eat is hot food.

I figure that if what I eat is my biggest concern about the move then I'm not doing too badly. I wish I was leaving tomorrow though. I'm ready!

January 25, 2014

Wrapping Up

Things change... Life doesn't stop for anybody
-Stephen Chbosky

How have I accumulated so much stuff?!?

I seem to remember saying much the same thing when I moved out of the Jetta, but since I've had a whole room to fill I've managed to collect everything from japanese lanterns to book shelves. Of course when I move I leave with almost nothing so my mission for February is to get rid of it all (and it's been snowing so tossing it on the side of the road with a "FREE" sign won't work).

The fact is, I suppose, that at nearly 30 I should probably have accumulated more things and be a little more reluctant to give them up.
And this is only half the room...

But I didn't and I'm not.

I realized today that, even though I had the hope of settling down here in New Hampshire for a good long while, I never actually made any plans here. I didn't look into my own apartment or buy furniture. I didn't change the address on my licence and everything was done with the subconscious knowledge of impending transience.

So the flight is booked, accommodations are made, I've given the school notice and told the student's parents. My bedroom is in chaos as I weed out clothes and sell off mirrors and lamps. The challenge will now be to make it through the month as the light at the end of the tunnel draws nearer. 

January 19, 2014

Another Year, Another Move

Would you believe that I've been in New Hampshire for 20 months? That's right, over a year and a half of being a teacher in a small city (remember that's a small New Hampshire city as opposed to a small California city which would be a very different thing). It's been fun! I haven't had a car for more than 40 days of those 20 months so I walk a lot and take the bus. I sit at coffee shops downtown and go out for drinks with friends on Friday nights. I really thought for a while that I might be able to settle here for a while, I love the area and my family is close by, but no dice.

So I'm on the move again, this time to New Orleans! Yeah, I know: I was going to move there a few years ago, but this time I have a work exchange set up with a hostel down there and a plan to tutor. So maybe it's not foolproof, but it's the start of a plan and with all the snow we've had up here lately even half a plan sounds good if it begins somewhere warmer.

Did I mention I just turned 30?