I am a tour guide and driver in a National Park. PINCH ME!
Guests aboard my tours are always asking how I got into this line of work. Look around next time you’re in a park – generally, there’s the college students and retired folks. Then, there is one middle aged woman – me! This really piques the curiosity of travelers, as they have a stereotype of what people my age should be doing or where people my age should be headed.
This journey started 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back since. Living in Ohio, I was just dusting off after a marriage of 24 years. I have nothing bad to say about those days – nothing. My kids were now off on their own, and it was “Sherri” time. A new chapter presented itself, and I hit the road with my basset hound in tow to travel the United States. No plans, no direction. Just hauling behind what Amelia and I would be living in along the way – a tiny 1968 travel trailer. On my last night in the big house in Ohio, I decided to apply at a park that a neighbor had told me about: Glacier National Park. She went on and on about how beautiful it was. I started searching the internet for job postings, and that’s when I was first introduced to CoolWorks.com. A few clicks later, I had applied to Glacier National Park’s concessioner.
And off I went. South and West. Hit some rough times along the way – the tiny trailer was stolen, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, and Amelia passed. In between all that, Glacier call and offered me a job. I’d actually forgotten about applying. And that was the start of seasonal work.
Now it’s 2016 and I have worked in some of THE most gorgeous places! At first I started out in Management, but immediately recognized I needed to be outside more. So I started training as a tour guide and driver (training is often provided by the employer). Since I have always been an outdoors person, this was a long-awaited natural transition. I am now trained as a professional driver with a CDL and am a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association of Interpretive Guides.
I have worked 4 summers in Glacier National Park in Montana , 1 summer in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, 1 winter in Deer Valley, Utah, a stint guiding out of Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon/Hualapai Reservation, and now I am in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska!
Through all of this exploring, I’ve learned that I would love a winter job in Florida or Hawaii. While I love to snowboard, I think I’m done working in a season of snow. I’m ready to take up surfing. I’ve also been climbing for about 3-4 years now. It’s something I would have never imagined in a million years I’d take up, but it’s the most therapeutic sport ever. However, usually where I work, rock climbing isn’t locally prevalent, so Yosemite is on my future seasonal job wish list.
So, how is being a seasonal employee for those over 50? Fantastic and life changing.
But it’s not for everybody. For example, often it’s dormitory style living and you eat in an employee dining room. It’s quite likely you WILL have a roommate. It’s quite likely you will have salad several days in a row because you don’t like what’s being served in the EDR. On the flip side, it’s also highly likely you’ll spend your days off in the most beautiful parks in the United States – even the world! So that’s awesome, right? A job with a park concessionaire will often allow you to live inside a National Park, and perhaps just outside of the park if you’re with a different employer or guiding company. Either way – this astounding place that the rest of the world dreams of visiting for just a blink? It’ll be your backyard. You get to not only visit, but wake up and be home there – everyday.
I always say, that while this is not the most lucrative job in the world, it is the best quality of life I have ever had. And, that is what’s more important to me. Quality of life.
This new chapter has had lessons that make me a much better human being. I live with much less (the current room I have is about 6 x 10, and everything I need is here). I have made like-minded friends from all over the world, whom I still am in contact with and plan to be for my lifetime. I have learned patience and understanding to help me work with a different style of living. I have seen more wildlife in the last 5 years than in my entire life! (This June alone in Denali I saw 72 Moose, 49 Grizzly Bears, 1 Wolf and 8 rare views of the highest mountain in North America – Denali). I have learned how to take care of myself. I have become a better artist and photographer. I see the impact we have on our surroundings first hand.
Having said that, I am very fortunate to have found a partner who supports me in my travels. Last season, he even joined the seasonal life WITH me in Glacier National Park! Yes, I miss family, but I encourage them to visit me and I sometimes land back in Las Vegas (where I was raised and now call home again) for a few months. This lifestyle enables what we call a shoulder season – the time between jobs that allows for travel. That in itself is a delightful bonus! I have been fortunate enough during that shoulder season to travel to Italy, Spain, New England, Chicago, Canada, Coastal California, and much more. Upon my travels to Alaska, I have now traveled to ALL 50 States!
I get giddy when the CoolWorks Newsletter hits my inbox because I cannot wait to explore the options presented to me. The world is my oyster through Coolworks since they bring it all together and inspire me! I even tell guests on tour about it when they ask HOW do I find these “jobs”.
Friends and family are always saying “I wish I could do that”, and I always say to them “Why don’t you?”. Rarely is there a good answer. Time to take care of you and your wants and needs – don’t you think? Make it a family affair. I’ve seen many couples and families (usually using an RV as their home) doing these jobs too.
One of my favorite quotes – “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers, or you can grow weeds.” So get out there – grow some flowers! You’ll never look back.