I was an administrative assistant for a health insurance company with full health benefits, a 401k plan, vacation/sick days and a salary that allowed me to live comfortably. It was a good life, but I wanted to experience life outside of Corporate World. I wanted to experience The West – just like in all those cowboy romance novels. I believed that if I worked on a ranch for one summer, than I would get this whole ‘west thing’ out of my system. When I returned, I would be ready to step back into the cubicle of my Corporate World, settle on Mr. Okay, pump out two kids and live in my dream home with a wrap-around porch that I couldn’t afford. Hey, it can’t be that bad….all my friends are doing it!
Thankfully, my boss granted me a leave of absence for the summer and my seasonal job search to escape the confining cubicle commenced! In January 2003, I stumbled upon CoolWorks.com. For the next three months, I applied for any position at almost every single ranch in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. I swear the interviewers must have conspired against me because they all rejected me for the same reasons. “You are overqualified. You make too much money. You live in New York.” All I wanted was for someone to take a chance on an almost 30 year old female who wanted to experience life on a ranch for the summer. I would have paid them!
In April 2003, after going through the interview process at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch (yep, the search extended into Idaho), I was offered a guest services host position. I remember hanging up the phone and saying, “Where IS Idaho?” Potato images flashed through my mind. C’mon, isn’t that all anybody knows? Getting to Idaho was my biggest challenge since I couldn’t read a map to get from Albany, New York to Stanley, Idaho. In my logistical planning brilliance, I loaded my Altima onto a car carrier (seriously!) in Albany and had it delivered to a hotel in Sun Valley. Two weeks later, I flew into the Sun Valley airport, picked up my car at the hotel and headed north to the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch.
Mother Nature smacked me in the face as I drove over the Galena summit and into the Sawtooth Valley. Snow-capped mountains replaced skyscrapers. Wide open spaces replaced sprawling suburbia. Meadows bursting with wildflowers replaced parking lots. Wildlife replaced people. That summer at the ranch changed me and the crew became my family. We all lived, worked and played together. I embraced all of their different experiences, knowledge and backgrounds and realized just how sheltered my life was in New York. The 2003 Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch crew will forever be interwoven within my core. I loved my job at the ranch even though it forced me out of my introverted comfort zone. As a guest services host, my main job was to communicate to the guests — welcome them to the ranch, tell them about all the area activities, describe the ranch program and be an active listener when they shared their daily adventures.
When the season ended in September 2003, my friend and I went on a 60 day road trip throughout the United States. During that trip, I called my boss at the health insurance company to say I wasn’t going back to Corporate World. For the next three years, I existed in Albany during the winters and came alive at the ranch during the summers. In 2016, I’m still here at the ranch!
I transitioned into the year-round office manager position in 2006. My job expanded into reservations, daily accounting, social media, public relations, marketing, event coordinator and hiring/training seasonal crew. My road to self-realization began at the ranch. My passion for hiking, cross country skiing, reading, writing, learning through online classes and road trips transpired. Although I may never be able to read a map, I am happy to report that I don’t need a car carrier to get me from ID to NY. Stanley captured my soul while the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch fueled my personal and professional growth. I am extremely lucky and grateful to be working and living in a place that rejuvenates my soul every day. How many folks can say that?
I encourage you to find your own happiness in a seasonal job this summer. Maybe you too will discover your ‘true self’ along the way!
Great post, and good timing. I’ve been considering taking a leave of absence next year and finding something via Cool Works. Thanks for the inspiration : )
Vermonter On Fire March 22, 2016
2012 I drove from Ohio to Stanley ID and spent a month in the mountains hunting. I went back in 2014. I retired after 28 years in law enforcement January 29, 2016. I am coming back to Stanley for 10 weeks this fall. There really is no other place I would rather be than in the shadows of the Sawtooths. I envy Erica for following her heart.
Jim March 29, 2016