Even before I ever traveled, I had made up my mind that I wanted to live a life of nonconformity. As a teenager, I became well aware of the lifestyle most people led – they go to college, get a job, buy a car, house, etc., and work long hours every week – that typical rat-race lifestyle that would continue until retirement. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I found myself thinking, “There’s gotta be more to life than this.”
At the time, I wasn’t exactly sure of what I wanted to pursue in life. My heart wasn’t fully set on going to college, especially when I wasn’t even sure of what I would study, or if I indeed wanted to study. Hour after hour I researched about travel, reading blogs, watching YouTube travel videos, ordering books from Amazon, any travel-related material I could get my hands on, until I eventually worked up the courage to get a passport and make my first trip overseas. Is it possible to have a love affair with a country?
I remember the first time I had flown to Switzerland, I stayed for a month in the Alps and had gotten my first taste of experiencing a new culture, a new land, a new people. It was my first experience being outside of the country. And the mountains….Oh, the mountains. Could this actually be real? I had never seen a real mountain before. Growing up in the deep South of the east coast in Georgia/Florida, I knew only of humidity, the beach, and sweet tea.
I came back home realizing what I wanted to do: travel. I couldn’t get it out of my head. But reality quickly set in shortly after I came back, and I jumped immediately into the workforce. It became a rough year for my family, as I still lived at home during the time and later that summer, in only the span of a month, I had lost a younger sister, my dad lost his job, and we had to suddenly move. I helped my family as best as I could to help make ends meet, but even so, I saved every spare penny I could for travel, even labeling a jar ‘traveling’. It would be nearly 2 years before I would get to travel again. After those 2 years, my family moved again and downsized a lot, so I lived with my grandparents in a new town, but this time, I wanted a change.
I remember scouring the internet for jobs locally. I knew I didn’t want to work two jobs again like I had done the summer before. All I could think about was mountains, forests, and being with nature. To this day, I don’t remember the magical words I typed on Google but CoolWorks came up in the results. I knew from the moment I saw the job listing, that it was the right opportunity to take. The job was in Colorado, working at a place called the YMCA of the Rockies, which provided food and housing for all its employees. Fast forward a few short weeks, and I found myself surrounded by the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains, forests and wildlife, and the most beautiful landscape. I couldn’t believe I was actually getting to work in a National Park! How had I not discovered this seasonal life stuff sooner?
Truly the best part about the whole ‘work and travel’ opportunity, was that it was how I met the man who is now my husband. I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d meet my true love while working a seasonal job in Colorado, but it happened. All thanks to CoolWorks. The memories and friends that I’ve made along the way have been absolutely amazing. I’ve met so many like-minded individuals, free thinkers, dreamers, fellow travelers, photographers, and artists like myself. People who know there’s so much more to life, and dare to seek big opportunities and venture out into the world outside their comfort zones. It’s like having a family outside of your family, and it’s such a wonderful thing.
CoolWorks has also allowed my husband and I to spend a whole summer in Alaska, and this year, in Arizona working at Lake Powell. I’ve hiked mountains, seen the humpback whales swim in the Alaskan bay, visited the Iditarod sled huskies where they train for racing. I’ve seen more wildlife than I can keep track of, as well as the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and visited places I’ve only dreamed about. I am able to continuously travel and save, without settling down just yet. I don’t have the bills that I would from living in an apartment or house, nor do I have to go to the same job every day, week after week, month after month. There’s no hustle-bustle of the city or traffic – just peace and serenity of being out in nature. I’m constantly meeting and making new friends, while getting to enjoy different parts of America. Words cannot express how grateful and thankful I am that such a platform exists to connect people from different places and give them an opportunity of a lifetime. My next stop will be in the Montana mountains over the winter, as I found another job through CoolWorks, and I’m so excited for new adventures to unfold! I encourage anyone that wants a change of pace or seeks adventure to give CoolWorks a try – it just might change your life. It did mine.
You can follow Jeni’s adventures on her YouTube Channel, TheJeniVlogShow