“Alaska?” The worry in my mom’s voice was palpable. “Why Alaska?”
In retrospect, I understand her apprehension. The last frontier of the American wilderness and home of the reality television series Ice Road Truckers probably wasn’t the most appealing place for her 19-year-old daughter to find a summer job. “Why can’t you work at Starbucks?” she suggested.
The truth was that while the idea of seasonal work in an exotic locale sounded great, I didn’t know anything about the reality. But I applied, got hired and before I knew it I was on my way to America’s most mysterious state. While my mom was eventually reassured, I fell in love with Alaska and discovered that it was just the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) when it came to the world of seasonal paid travel.
I quickly learned from my co-workers that seasonal work is a means to an end—it’s the conduit to jaw-dropping wonders that most nine-to-fivers never experience. Nearly every one of them had stories about the exotic places they had worked and they knew all the tips and tricks.
Thanks to the information I gathered in Alaska, my five-year plan is teeming with adventurous prospects. Whether you want to work in a specialized field or not work much at all, seasonal work is the best resource for cheap travel. Get your foot in the door with one of these five unique seasonal opportunities around the globe:
Live the Country Life in Japan
Immerse yourself in the daily routine of a foreign culture. In Japan’s rural countryside get acquainted with the language, culture and customs as you work with a Japanese family on their farm.
This one is for those unafraid to get their hands dirty. Anyone who has spent time on a farm knows it’s hard physical labor, but some employers ask for as little as two hours of work a day. Opportunities are available from rural towns like Obuse to farms 20 minutes outside of Tokyo. Typically, these jobs are offered as an exchange—you provide hands-on labor in exchange for food, housing and the experience. Most farmhand jobs in Japan are offered throughout the planting, growing and harvesting season, but many employers take applicants year-round.
Farmhand jobs in Japan and all over the world are available through both WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and Help Exchange. WWOOF is specific to organic farming, but Help Exchange has opportunities on farms, ranches and in hostels, lodges and B&B’s. Look into helpx.net or wwoof.org for opportunities.
Spend a Season in Antarctica
Sounds crazy? Well it may not be for everyone, but how many people can say that they’ve worked in—or even seen—Antarctica? Through the United States Antarctic Program, companies such as Gana-A‘Yoo pay employees to run the service industry in three hubs across the continent: Palmer, South Pole and McMurdo.
Jobs in Antarctica are created to make the lives of scientists researching in the frigid region more bearable by providing food, recreation, retail, janitorial and postal services. If you have a specialized skill, look for work in your field. Most contracts run for four to six months. One benefit of working in such extreme conditions is the employers usually provide all of your cold gear and transportation to and from the continent. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the training takes place in New Zealand. For more information, check out gscgov.com or usap.gov.
Bump Lifts at a Winter Resort
Winter sports enthusiasts find your grind here. Live and work where you play as a liftie at a ski resort. “Most people lace-up dress shoes for work in the morning. I strap on my snowboarding boots,” laughs Matt Pringle, 28, who worked as a lift operator at Winter Park in Colorado.
As a lift operator, the pay is nothing to write home about but the perks make the job worth it. Resort employees get free lift passes for the season and, at most resorts, cheap housing options are available for employees. Some employees who want to make extra cash work the ski lifts by day and wait tables by night. Many of the local restaurants even purchase park passes for their employees to make the positions more alluring. Most resorts hire directly but liftie positions can also be found at coolworks.com.
Soak Up the Sun at a Summer Camp
If the last few options have your teeth chattering, this next opportunity is for you. Summer camp counseling positions are available all over the world at a wide variety of kids’ camps. Camp jobs range from general counseling positions to more specific skill sets like sports, academia, disabilities or religion.
The seasonal commitment for summer camps is a little shorter than some other seasonal opportunities—typically eight to 10 weeks—so the job is perfect for those who want to work but still want a little summer time off. The work is often physically demanding but Alex Koldewyn, 24, who’s worked at boys’ camps in California, Nevada and Wyoming, insists that “it’s a job with a lot of payoff—you get to see the kids grow and spend your free time with fun people in a beautiful environment.”
Work the Summer Season in Alaska
If thrilling hikes and unspoiled wilderness appeal to you, then this is the place to start. For many employees, discounted or free excursions are at your fingertips. Helicopter around the summit of Denali, raft down the Nenana River or visit Husky Homestead to glimpse Jeff King’s Iditarod-champion pups.
The busy season in Alaska runs from May to September. Seasonal opportunities from Denali National Park to Glacier Bay are available, with companies such as Aramark, Holland America and Del Sol offering work across the state. Most of the jobs available are in the service and hospitality industries, but you can also find jobs for specific skill-sets—like mechanical engineering, bus driving and medical work.
The biggest perk? Most seasonal employees leave Alaska with cash, so it’s perfect for those who need to make money but want the travel experience. Check out alaskatourjobs.com or summerdenalijobs.com to get started.Add this article to your reading list