Imagine getting paid to hike?
That would be pretty awesome right?
Now imagine getting to travel while you are at it?
If that sounds like your dream come true, then you should know that I did exactly that in the summer of 2016. Probably the best summer of my life (so far) for many reasons.
Now you are probably thinking along the lines of “No way, Sarah. That is just not possible. You have to be making this up.” Well, I’m not. (I would never lie to you! I love you guys too much!) I will explain exactly what I did that summer, how I got the job below and tips on how to land a similar job.
Although I loved the job, it was still a job. I was a field technician, which meant that I helped to collect and record data that was necessary for the goals of a large research project. That meant forty hours a week of hiking through the woods and taking samples while hauling heavy gear around. These woods were all on mountains, so it was definitely a physical task.
Usually, in the afternoons we would be back at the “lab” (usually just our own accommodations) to process the data, so the balance ended up working out really well. No matter how much you love hiking, your legs probably can’t do it all day every day.
Where I went
I traveled up the Appalachian Mountains, starting in Alabama and ending in New Hampshire with so many memorable stops along the way. The sites we stopped at were in Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts and New Hampshire (in that order).
Before going on this trip I had never really been up the east coast of the US at all, probably because of my general obsession with hiking out west. I had never really given the east coast a chance but I definitely saw what I was missing! Now that I have been to the Appalachians, I have been going back every chance I get.
How I lived
The places we worked in were mostly National Forests or something similar. So appropriately our lodgings were also pretty much in the middle of nowhere. One plus is that we didn’t have to worry about finding our own accommodations, they were just included as part of the pay and our boss would take care of arranging it. We stayed in everything from a dorm room to an Airbnb. We generally shared rooms, but since we were outside pretty much all day I didn’t mind sharing a room.
Groceries could be a challenge, but planning ahead made things easier. If someone was taking the van to town I would usually hop in.
After work, we were free to do what we liked. I usually got off at 4, so I had the how evening to enjoy myself and explore.
The weekends were always adventures! It’s hard to not go exploring when you are in a brand new place. Some of the weekend trips I went on included Asheville, Boston, and Portland. My absolute favorite weekend activity was looking for waterfalls. I am from Florida, a –very- flat land, so waterfalls may just be my favorite thing ever.
The field station in North Carolina was my favorite stop for a few reasons. First of all, it was absolutely beautiful. The mountains were amazing and we lived in a small dorm setup at the base of one beautiful mountain. It was waaay back in the woods and there were tons of fireflies every night.
The group of people living in the dorms was maybe the coolest collection of people I have ever met.
There were so many waterfalls to check out.
And I met someone who is absolutely amazing. My boyfriend and I met right there on the porch and the rest is history. 🙂
How I got the job
I had been looking for a summer job for in between semester and I replied to a flier. Yup simple as that. I saw it hanging in the hallway on my way to an exam (absolutely dreading that exam by the way) and just knew that is what I wanted to do for the summer.
Tips on how to get a job like this one
You don’t absolutely need to start walking down flier filled halls though to find a job like this. My coworker found the ad online.
A good resource to look for field jobs is the Texas AM job board. Check it regularly for nature-centered technician jobs in great locales. Not all of the jobs require travel if you prefer to just explore one patch of woods for the summer. Plenty of them do require travel though, even if it is less extensive. Most field jobs have at least a small aspect of travel. For example, my current day job consists of a lot of travel but only in the state of Florida. Right now that is enough for me, maybe one day I’ll decide to find a more wide-ranging travel job again.
AdviceJust go for it. Don’t worry (too much) about how it’ll be. It is likely that some of the details will be missing and that’s okay, it’s just how a field job works. The dates are fluid and your goal is to just collect the data you came to get.
When I told people who knew me what I was going to do for the summer, they literally thought I was insane. And it turned out to be the best experience of my life. If you think that you would enjoy this, I think you should take the risk and enjoy the experience.