I’ve got it. I'll go to Spain to hike the Camino, and then find a summer job in a park. No, but I've already done that. Plus, parks are too isolated. I want something with more culture. Maybe I'll go to Asia instead. Yeah, start up north, then work my way southeast. Maybe come back to Colorado after that. Or maybe I’ll find a hut on some Cambodian beach. Take a season off. Yeah, that sounds nice. Somewhere warm. I’ll write.
As I write this, I’m about half-way through my third seasonal job, and again, I’ve begun to contemplate what’s next. I know, it's too early. I just started this one, but then again, it’s almost over. It always is. All this thinking has made me well... think, about the things I love and hate about seasonal work and the lifestyle which accompanies. Here are 5:
1. It ends
Everything in life is temporary, including life itself. "Dudeeee that's deep". But, unlike the inevitable end of life, the last day of the season feels more concrete. During my brief stint in the corporate system, I became terrified of potentially staying forever. Up until then, I'd lived my life on a student's schedule. School, break, school, break. New classes, new year, new friends, new school. After five months at Schwab, I was ready to move on to the next grade, and to eventually graduate, but it didn't work that way. I fled.
With seasonal work, you can see the finish line. It's not invisible, but neon bright, and it's anchored firmly in the ground. Sure, it may sway a day or two in blizzard conditions. But you know it’s there. It's a reminder to enjoy your time, and a comfort to know that there's an end to the grind.
If you're a planner, seasonal work is not for you. Trust me, it’d be miserable. Luckily, I’m not quite that way. I may have grown up thinking toward the future, but lately I've learned to follow opportunity. Of course, the best path isn't always clear.
Having an end date is refreshing, but it also means constant uncertainty. The urge to think about your plans after the season can be consuming. Do it too early, and you'll waste the present dreaming of some far-off date. Put it off until the last minute, and you may find yourself blowing through hard earned savings without purpose.
So, when’s the right time to think ahead?
I’ve found that booking a flight about two months before my departure helps me to avoid the stress of obsessively checking prices. And once the flight is booked, I can set aside the plan and enjoy the time I have left in my current life.
*tip* use skyscanner for amazing flight deals
2. Employee housing
Summit County Colorado is home to some of the most expensive real-estate in the country, and me. How expensive, you ask? A friend of mine rents a room in a three-bedroom condo for 900 per month. It’s a great deal considering that it’s not uncommon to pay well over 1,000 for something similar. This is where employee housing comes into play.
My fully furnished studio costs just $385 per month, including furniture and utilities. There’s no lease, which means you can leave at the end of the season, or even early without paying a fee. It’s less than a mile from the slopes, and there’s a free shuttle that runs every twenty minutes. So, what’s the catch?
My place is about 15x15, and I share it with a roommate. We have a full kitchen and a bathroom, but we share that with two sweet mates. Multicolored stains cover more floor area than the original carpet brown. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had on that springy mattress. And believe it or not, this place is a pretty substantial upgrade from my room in Alaska.
Before moving into employee housing last season, I’d never shared a room. But, to my surprise, I adjusted in no time. Sure, employee housing isn’t exactly HGTV, but it’s a place to sleep, and as a seasonal employee, that’s all you need. After all, you’re there for an experience, and it’s temporary.
“You know, you’ll have to get a real job someday”
Even if they don’t say it, I know that’s what some people believe. And they’re not entirely wrong. Seasonal work can be difficult. No healthcare, or 401k. Plan on taking a mid-season vacation? Think again. With seasonal work, PTO doesn’t exist. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind working holidays, without extra pay.
But, if you limit your expenses and live in employee housing, you should be able to save. In Alaska, I worked as a server on the breakfast shift. With tips, I made a decent wage, but nowhere near as much as some of the dinner servers, who were making over $3000 per month after taxes, with housing and food included.
As for time off, you may be able to attend a wedding or family event, but most requests will have to wait until shoulder season. The time between seasons, or shoulder season, typically lasts about two months, and it’s an excellent time to travel. After a summer in Alaska, I used my savings to travel Europe for six weeks before returning for another season at Keystone.
4. The Schedule
It’s Wednesday as I write this, but it’s more like Saturday to me. While schedules vary widely across departments, it’s not uncommon to have odd days off as a seasonal employee. By nature, we work when the crowds demand, therefore, mid-week weekends are the norm. For a ski bum, it’s great. The crowds are absent, and the snow is fresh (usually). In fact, I’ve just finished up a day of snowboarding at Breckenridge, the most visited resort in the country. In three hours of riding, I didn’t wait in line once. After I finish this coffee at Clint’s Bakery, where I easily found parking across the street, I plan to go buy groceries, again without waiting. Everything is easier in the middle of the week.
Part of my decision to return to Keystone was based on its proximity to the city. After spending my entire summer in Alaska, I craved an urban setting. At just over an hour from downtown Denver, my apartment in Keystone offers the access I was looking for. But because I have Tuesdays-Thursdays off, I can’t take full advantage of the city. My city friends have normal weekends, and most events take place on Saturdays and Sundays. I still go downtown time to time, but when I do, it’s quiet. It’s been nice to visit cafes and write, but because of my odd schedule, I haven’t been able to fully immerse myself in the city life.
In the seasonal world, things happen fast. I moved to Keystone in November of ’17, without knowing anyone. Within a week, I’d met an entire group of friends. Mid-way through the season, I left to teach English in Korea. There, I felt extremely isolated, and I longed for the familiar faces of the seasonal community.
It was this longing that ultimately drove me to accept a summer position in Denali. Again, I went alone, and again, I made friends, and interesting ones too. Yanara, from the Dominican Republic, Felipe from Vegas, my roommate Blue, from China. Toward the end of the season, I even met a girl. Seasonal work brings together communities of people from all over the globe. As part of such, you never know who you might meet.
As a returning employee at Keystone resort this winter, I expected to plug right back in to my old community. But to my surprise, I seem to be one of the few who’ve returned. Many seasonal employees are nomadic, which means there isn’t much stability in these pop-up communities. It can be frustrating constantly starting anew, but at the same time, it’s exciting. With each new season comes new opportunity.
As a student at Texas Tech University, I studied Hospitality Management because I though it may one day allow me to live and work in an exotic place. In three years, I never once heard even a mention of seasonal opportunities. Since, I’ve worked three straight seasons, and in just 14 months, I’ve seen more of the world than I ever thought I’d see. From entry level jobs such as snowboard instructing, to management (with benefits), and constant exposure to interesting people, there truly is no shortage of opportunity amongst the seasonal community.
Interested in seasonal jobs? Check out these links to find opportunities: