Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Odd Jobs - A Vagabond's Bread and Butter

I’ll wash dishes for a quick cash binge, ’til April comes and its into the wilderness again.” - Nahko Bear

Was my job to teach Trevor Hall how to slackline? Nope, but it was a perk.

When it comes to being a vagabond, one has to be creative to continue down the dusty, often times abusive, road. While other walks of life offer things like savings, health insurance, and a consistent bed, travelers and nomads aren't always proud owners of these luxuries. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, as the majority of us chose this life because we love it. This is just the nature of trying to live unyoked in an age where everyone and everything seem to want to clip your wings. While navigating foreign streets and finding adventure are the tumbleweed’s fortay, one of their often undervalued skills is straight hustling

Being from the states, the number one question I get about traveling is not what I’ve seen, where I’ve been, or where I will go next, it is always a question about money. How do you afford this? Where does this money come from? Who funds you? While I’ve gone into detail about this before, this past week I was reminded of another tool in the transient shed of travelers; odd jobs.

The thing about odd jobs is that, starting down this path is sort of like joining a gang. Once you begin, it almost seems as if you are sucked it. Maybe it’s not for life, but it also isn’t something you necessarily dabble in. This, though, is a good thing for those ready to make the leap. Odd jobs don’t offer job security, since most of them are time-sensitive, seasonal, under the table, or one-time gigs. Scary, yes, but once you open that door, it will always remain ajar. After working one job, you will see a flood of these potent positions that are always searching for someone just like you to fill it at the perfect time. It’s as if there is a meta-physical Linkedin that knows when you are getting low on cash, and delivers a high-paying, short-term gig directly to your doorstep. I can’t scientifically explain it, but my growing belly should be proof enough I’ve been eating well while living this life. 

In the last year two years alone I’ve worked as a freelance writer, a sports coach for youth, a travel guide for affluent high schoolers, an urban taxi driver, an “environmental” educator, and a specialist of nutritional and dietary delivery, aka a server. Have all these jobs been great? Nope, not at all. But what they have done is offered the means necessary to live, while also offering the great benefit of flexibility and a free-schedule. While many of us grew up being told following our passion would lead us to financial prosperity, how this would come about wasn’t specified. It would be oh so grand if we literally got to do our favorite thing all day, everyday and get paid for it, but it doesn't always happen that way. Some of us are quite content finding jobs that fit a schedule of our own creation which maximize free time, yet still let us not only survive, but thrive. 

A typical day on the job as a tour guide

While odd jobs are appealing to travelers for obvious reasons (quick cash flow, no strings attached, work when you want) the truth is that they also offer many aspects of travel that we consciously or subconsciously need to make it through the day. Odd jobs normally occur during times outside regular work hours. On top of that, they are also often in fields that introduce you to places, people, and ways of life that are far from the mainstream. These (occasionally somewhat shady) posts grant an opportunity to see the inner or under-workings of places you may have thought you’ve known, blossoming a new interest in a place you may have written off. 

This past week I worked for a transportation company at the largest convention in the United States, CES, hosted in Las Vegas. While I know full well I don’t particularly like Vegas, this job offered me a few things. First things first, I got paid quite a bit to work my butt off for a week. Second, it offered comped meals. Even though I’m not into gambling or clubs, I do love eating, and being able to check out some interesting restaurants was a nice treat. It also showed me a glimpse of both the Tech World and the inner-workings of Vegas. Most days we were waking up at 4:30 am and working about 15 hours. Being able to see what Vegas looks like in the wee hours of the morning, not under the influence, was a very telling experience. Seeing folks stumbling back to their temporary residence, trying to express their need for something to a poor cashier or their spouse, even though their ability to fluently communicate had dissolved with the last drink that hit their lips, was a spectacle to say the least. This, as well as getting to know some of the folks working in the hotels and restaurants, was an intimate view of what makes up vegas, that most weekend bingers don't see. Matched with getting to spend my lunch hour walking around a gaudy show of all the latest electronics the world has to offer, this odd job was a previously unknown experience I'm happy to have lived. 

Odd jobs offer views of the world those in set positions may never see. Though it’s true this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, those who are curious, I implore you to take the leap. It may be scary not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from, but if you take the plunge and get your feet wet, it will come. For this Tumbleweed, I can only dream of what my next short-term, hopefully high paying gig will have me doing, and what sub-culture it will introduce me to.  

It took 28 years to get backstage at Red Rocks...and the only reason I did was due to odd jobs

Photos courtesy of author - First photo taken by a friend on my camera 

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