JOURNAL

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon

RACHEL

I had done exactly what I thought I needed to do: I earned good grades in high school, I went to college on an academic scholarship, I held my grocery store job throughout college, and I graduated college with one simple realization – I hadn’t a single clue as to what I would like do with my life. Less than two months after graduating college, I found myself lucky enough to land full-time employment at a neighboring university six miles down the road in the admissions department. I had a chance to help others fulfill their dreams. But, after helping develop a workflow for a brand new department, training new employees, and eventually getting swept under the rug as a steadfast worker going nowhere, I woke up. I was helping students find their dreams and chase them, but I hadn’t taken any time to find or chase my own.

The process of finding an exciting opportunity, applying, and interviewing were simple enough, and soon I was off to Arizona for a job with Delaware North in Grand Canyon National Park! Upon arriving, I realized a few things: I had just gotten rid of most of my belongings, including my lovely single bedroom apartment in Florida, I did not know anyone within a thousand miles, I had never been to the Grand Canyon, and my employee housing had NO AIR-CONDITIONING in the middle of June. As a Florida girl, I was beyond dismayed. I wasn’t used to hills, let alone elevation (what the heck was that?!), and air conditioning was my favorite invention. However, I was determined to make the best of the initially shocking circumstances. That resolve helped me very quickly wake up to realize that this was the single best opportunity that had ever been presented to me.

Shortly after settling into my new home, I started spending time with new friends and within the Grand Canyon itself. I have made some of the most beautiful connections since kicking off my weird travel/seasonal life. I have friends now from all over the country and the world. I opened myself up to the idea of meeting new people, many of whom turned out to be characters all on their own. I have run across co-workers and guests from all over this planet even while traveling outside the Grand Canyon. The seasonal work environment is a place filled with people from all imaginable walks of life: the professional wanderers, the college kids (determined to make the most of their summers), the divorcees trying to re-establish themselves in the world, the vets (both young and old) building a community of brother/sisterhood through experience, the runaways, the strong, the weak, the confused, the broken, the dreamers, and a few folks who feel a little of all those things.

Grand Canyon has been a beautiful experience. It is laughable to me now that I could look back and think I couldn’t survive without air-conditioning. It is humorous that I come from a place without hills and yet I have hiked from Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon with three of my loveliest friends from Slovenia. I think it’s sweet when guests here stop me on the trails and ask how I could possibly know one of the mule guides or run into a buddy on the shuttle back to the lodge. The camaraderie and the incredible views have served as the background to my adventures for a few years now. I left the Grand Canyon ‘parkie’ life to travel and learn through new experiences, but have recently found myself back at this gem. It isn’t just the sweeping views, the folklore, the history, or the geography that has built my heart, but it’s also the people I’ve met during this whole crazy, beautiful process.

I’m incredibly grateful that there is a resource like CoolWorks to share these and other opportunities. There are other folks who share this sense of wonder, adventure, and livelihood that we share. The folks from CoolWorks and the brave ones who live this alternative lifestyle and understand that it isn’t just about making a living, but it’s also about making memories. My life is so much richer now because of these experiences, and I am continuously eager for what may be ahead. If you’re wondering what it would be like, I have to admit that there aren’t enough pictures, blogs, or folks out there to bring you the message. I waited in my little cubicle for a sign until one day I was either brave enough or crazy enough, but I will never be grateful enough for having taken that leap. To any reader feeling a hint of wanderlust, a pinch of adventure, and a healthy dose of fear, I hope you take the chance to build the future you envision. So long as you carry a willingness within yourself, adventure will always be waiting.