I still fear the all to common travel situation that seems to arise at least once per week. The one where I am sitting in a noisy bar, most likely surrounded by fellow travelers that will be my friends for a day or two before we go our separate ways, and the inevitable questions are asked:
“What do you do for work?”
In any given group, you are likely sitting with one person who teaches English in an attempt to stay away from his or her native country, a university student who still manages to pay for travel through some unexplainable financial position and, quite possibly, a working professional on a year break and a variety of seasonal workers who specialize in tourism, tree planting or fruit picking. The one common thing is a concrete answer.
I like to consider myself a budding writer and photographer but haven’t sold much work and never earned real profit from the trade. I’ve worked in hotels, on ships and in the wilderness. I have been a night manager, an accountant and an environmental data collector. I’ve tested concrete, written travel guides, served drinks and safely loaded tourists onto a gondola.
Five years have passed since I spent more than six consecutive months in the same bed, and that only occurred once, and I wasn’t working at the time. I’ve never signed an apartment lease, but my contract on a cruise ship had me crawling out of bed on a different Caribbean island everyday. I’ve sought shelter from rainstorms in my tent on four different continents and chased snowstorms on three. My memories include trips to the world’s most southern city and the planet’s most northern beer brewery I’ve experienced both forty degrees above and sixty degrees below zero along the way.
I’ve owed a sports car, roofless jeep and a snowmobile but still consider hitchhiking the most affordable and reliable form of travel. Today, my meager possessions can fit into a fairly large backpack, and one bulging ski bag. Laden with expensive, state of the art camera gear, a Mac book computer and expensive sporting equipment, I still carry very little clothing. Sometimes I fantasize about buying a bed that doesn’t leave me with a sore back in the morning, but sadly, that would require buying or renting a house that surely would not fit in my luggage.
I adapt to my surroundings rather quickly, meaning that I am equally comfortable standing with a group of rebellious teenagers as I am with wealthy adults. While I can recommend a quality wine to suit most occasions, I prefer a cold beer in a dingy bar and have only willingly worn a tie on one occasion. I enjoy expensive foods like sushi, steak or seafood but prefer to cook simple rice on my camping stove far away from the nearest city. I am a small town kid, who likes to have the mountains at my doorstep but a good espresso next door. I talk politics, follow sports, listen to old music and read the latest books.
It is amazing how many interests you can have when not tied down by a real job. And that brings us back to the original question:
“What do I do for work?”
Well, I pay the bills, feed myself and ensure I have a roof over my head by making snow, in northern Canada, for ten weeks every year. That is the truth, so I guess that makes me a snowmaker.
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