Dreaming of a Different Way to Be

The View from Nancy's Apartment
The View from Nancy’s Apartment

My friend Nancy has a teaching job in South Korea. She moved there last year, and is staying this year for another term. She says it’s fun teaching the kids English, but it’s also a financial decision. The cost of living there is low since her costs are greatly subsidized by the private school where she works. She won’t live there forever, but it’s a great opportunity for her to spend less money and live comfortably. I love that idea. She doesn’t know this, but I’ve been secretly googling websites with teaching jobs overseas. It just sounds so adventurous to unplug from the monthly bills that I have here, put my stuff in storage and go on an extended adventure.

I have another friend who is retired, and she’s spent the last two summers living and working at Yellowstone. When she’s there, she sends these beautiful photo-journals back to all of us poor sots who are slaving away at regular jobs and socking away money for the future. I’ve heard about those jobs at Yellowstone for many years, but she’s the first person who’s done it that I know, and she loves it. She gets a roommate – which has been a mixed experience – but she likes the work, and, of course … well… it’s Yellowstone National Park. I also know several people who chucked it all and bought a farm. They now make a living off the land. They’ve learned how to raise goats, crops, make cheese and sell things at market. They get up with the sun and go to bed when it’s dark. They work everyday, but there’s no commute, and they see the results – good or bad – of every project they undertake. It seems like a lovely way to live.

Scenes from Nancy’s Life in South Korea

Sometimes I wonder if this is all there is. I get tired of what I call the “treadmill”. The Monday-Friday grind gets to me not because it’s too taxing but because it can be really dull. I always loved jobs with weird hours and odd days off. It kept things interesting. Even though the job might get routine, having weekdays off was good because I always imagined everyone else working, and I wasn’t. I somehow felt superior lounging around on a Wednesday. I loved working 1 PM – 9 PM at the call center at Whirlpool. My life is more of a daytime life. I get up early, and I like to work out, drink coffee, read and relax in the mornings. The rhythm of those work hours suited me. And, at the time, I was married to a man who worked weekends, so having weekdays off was perfect. Getting to work at 8…8:30 … 9 … whenever I can get there… cramps my style. I either have to get up really early to work out or I have to do it after work, and I hate that. I make it work, but it just feels like a grind. I long for an alternative lifestyle… maybe an alternative career.

One of the reasons that I moved down here is I wanted to get experience in my field in Higher Education. Eventually I can consult, and maybe I can teach online. I can perhaps get a different schedule. Maybe I can consult at schools across the country, and it wouldn’t matter where I live. The flexibility attracts me, and I had to get some experience before I can piece together something different. Colleges are beginning to use a lot of contract workers. I, of course, have to make sure my retirement stuff is in place before I do that, but, it will be in the not so distant future, and I will have a lot more freedom.

Karen at Yellowstone
Karen at Yellowstone

I found this website called Coolworks.com. It’s a website dedicated to job postings for jobs in cool places. There are jobs in retreat centers, national parks, other countries, and at summer camps. All are short-term, but they are located in great places. I saw a really interesting one for a program director at a park in Maine in the mountains. It would be 8 months out of the year, and the lucky devil who takes it will be planning events, activities and classes for visitors. Man, would that be fun! There was another one at a yoga retreat center, and you could stay as long as you want. Most of the jobs posted paid room and board, so I’d have very few bills, and I could live in this beautiful spot. I sometimes wish I’d done something like that when I was young instead of getting married, but I don’t actually know if I would have appreciated it as much as I would now. When I was young, I wanted money and a career. I don’t recall even liking nature that much either.

Women friends joke with me that I need to find a rich man who’s almost on his death bed to marry, so I’ll be set for retirement. Sometimes that sounds like a great way to take the load off, but then I remember how much I liked marriage. Yeah... I think I’d rather think out of the box for my future. My parents go out to Red River NM every summer to be campground hosts at a campground in the mountains. It’s beautiful there. They work with friends, and they really enjoy it. They work a couple of days a week in exchange for a campground spot from May – October. On their days off, they go to Colorado, Taos and wherever else they want to go. And, they escape the hot Louisiana summer.

Scenes from Karen’s Summer Job at Yellowstone

I read about this couple that got themselves in a lot of debt. Instead of filing for bankruptcy, they sold everything they had, bought an 18-wheeler and did long-haul trucking for a couple of years until they paid off their debt. They lived in the sleeper. I know they gave up a lot for a few years, but think of the freedom they gained! I imagine they have great memories of being on the road together like a couple of kids doing something that to others must have seemed a bit crazy. I’m sure it was hard at times, but it can’t be much harder than having debt hanging over your head for the rest of your life. I fantasize about doing something crazy like that for a year or two. Wouldn’t it be fun to pack it all up – or even sell it all – get a job where I just have to worry about my own personal expenses and live in a beautiful place like a twenty year old? It would have its drawbacks, but this treadmill has drawbacks too. A girl can dream, can’t she?


4 Comments on “Dreaming of a Different Way to Be

  1. Hey, fellow dreamer!
    This one spoke to me in a number of ways. Anita and I visited Yellowstone in June of 2012 – it was the best vacation ever. We had a few conversations with the employees who were from all over the US. I had to explain how to make a BLT to one of the foreign servers at a diner. (It wasn’t on the menu!)

    My theory is that once you’ve been working for 25-30 years, you start to get an itch. The day-in day-out workaday world does get dull and lacking in satisfaction. My co-worker is your age and we’ve had conversations about this. We’re both without a partner, own homes, and have 20+ years invested in the county so we’ll have a pension, insurance, vacation time, etc. Where the heck are we gonna go???? Renting does allow you some freedom.

    In 2008, Anita and her husband sold a bunch of stuff, left their house, and became house parents in SD. On their days off they pack up the car and head off to camp in some beautiful place out West. It was a very smart move for them and they seem very content with their lifestyle.

    If I know you, you will figure out a way to have what you want!

    • Thanks, Autumn! I was just thinking about calling Anita this weekend. I’ll have to ask her what house parents are. I’m not familiar with that. Maybe we should all consider doing some things together. You know, we could work one year at Yellowstone. The next year we could try being campground hosts. We could be our own little retirement clique. 🙂

  2. Kinda sounds to me like you’d be a great candidate for the RV life style. Traveling and working along the way make a great combo! Lots of singles do it all the time! We’re a couple who live in an RV and travel, working when we can and enjoying the adventures!

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