The Compass Blog

The Seasonal World, the “Real World”, and Friendship

Kathi Noaker

I was reading through a chat thread of seasonal workers the other day, and the theme was the difficulties adjusting to living and working in the ‘real world’ after living the seasonal lifestyle. One point that many agreed on was how much harder it is to make friends. This has given me pause for much reflection.

I’ve been thinking back to my years working seasonally, and all the fast, fun and deep friendships I made season after season.  Seasonal workers, like any group of random people anywhere, come in all shapes and sizes, but have a few things in common right from the start –  everyone has the needed sense of adventure it takes to travel somewhere new – often alone – where they don’t know anyone, to start a new job, and have new life experiences. Yes, there are always returnees, but they were all once “newbies”, too, albeit a season – or 10 – ago. So unlike in the “real world”, there aren’t already solidly established friendship groups to ‘break into’.

Everyone works together, for the most part providing customer service in one form or another to vacationers. Everyone lives together, eats together, and plays and adventures together. And you often experience a lot of firsts together – whitewater rafting, backpacking, climbing, bonfires on the beach, and so many other random firsts, both little and big, that you just don’t see coming. 

When I stopped working seasonally and entered the “real world” – from Yellowstone Park to Bozeman, Montana, it was hard in the beginning. I was lonely. It was when I decided to return to college that I started to make some friends with those in my same major. Study groups are great for friendship making. And then, after a few years, I met who would become one of my dearest and life-long friends when she moved into the house across the street from me. But those first couple years were tough. I felt like I was back in high school and none of the cliques wanted me. And I remember thinking, I’m a nice and fun person. Why doesn’t anyone want to be my friend???

Fast-forward to our current year of COVID. Some folks have decided to put their seasonal lifestyle on hold and go back home to basically wait it out. Combine the “real world” with all the social distancing, and that can make it doubly hard to make friends.

So, what to do? Well, first off, remember this is temporary. That doesn’t necessarily make day-to-day loneliness any easier, but this too shall pass. Really. The seasonal world will be out there for you, when you’re comfortable and ready to go back. It is right now, actually! There are a ton of ski resorts and winter employers currently hiring. But if you’re not ready, or if this ‘real world’ living is something you’re going to try on for awhile, take some breaths. What I’ve found in my life is that friends do and will show up. Sometimes it just takes patience. 

When COVID started to flare up back in March, I made the decision to leave my little town, and my very close girlfriends that pretty much keep me sane, to another small town in Mexico so I could be with my boyfriend (a different story entirely!). A few techie things have really made the difference for me these last 8 months. Maybe they will help you.

The Marco Polo app. It’s pretty genius. You simply push the button and record a video message. Doesn’t sound super innovative in today’s world of FaceTime and Zoom, but ohhhh, it so is. You know those times when you just wish you could talk with your bestie? Well, Marco Polo kind of lets you do that. On the spot. You really have to try it to know how it feels for you. But I recommend you give it a go. 

WhatsApp voice messages. WhatsApp is popular with folks who live in countries besides the US, but you can certainly use it anywhere. It’s got a really easy voice message feature. Slide the record button up and talk away for as long as you want. One of my friends and I exchange a few message every day. We’ve taken to calling them our podcasts. Sometimes I’ll hoard hers. I’ll wait until the end of the day, sit down with a glass of wine, and listen. And laugh, and shake my head, and talk back in agreement – even though she can’t hear me. (I have four waiting right now I’m dying to get to.)

You can also create Marco Polo and WhatsApp groups which might work really well for some of your situations. I’m just more of a one on one kinda person. 

FaceTime, Zoom, Messenger, and WhatsApp offer live video calls. Great when you have the time, but most often you need to make a date for those. The above two options you don’t. Something hits you, you want to tell your friend, you just push a button and record. It’s almost like they’re right there. 

Truth is, life is tough right now for so many of us. And it’s our friends that get us through the tough times. So if you can’t be with them in person, stay in touch as much as you can. And new friends really do happen. You just never know when you’re going to meet your next best friend.