I’ve been confined to a desk job for over 6 months now, and it is really making me reflect on the ways that your work defines your lifestyle. For example, I do like having my own big comfy mattress to fall into every night, and I enjoy being close enough to my parents to see them regularly, but there are a lot of things that I am missing right now from previous lifestyles.
Life on a Trail Crew
The best example of this I can think of is my time working on a trail crew. I worked for the American Conservation Experience for several months after graduating college. Their headquarters are in Flagstaff, AZ, but I worked in both Arizona and California.
The organization is very upfront about the lifestyle challenges you face while you are on the job. You live in group housing, with weekly cleaning “parties” (although the houses could use daily scrubs), and share rooms and bunkbeds with other crew members. Your schedule is assigned to you a week or two in advance, and you don’t necessarily have a say about where your projects are. (My re-assignment from Lake Tahoe to the Grand Canyon was a surprise!)
But with these limitations also comes the beauty of new experiences.
I worked in a bunch of beautiful forests and canyons. As for off-time, you consistently got long weekends or weeks off between projects. That meant backpacking trips, road trips, and an alluring sense of possibility. It differs significantly from my current arrangement of 2.5 weeks’ vacation per year. Right now, I have to reason myself out of taking trips and going places, whereas on the trail crew I had so much time to explore I would have to brainstorm ways to use it. Creativity and wonder flourished.
Now I don’t know that I want to return to life on a trail crew, but I know there have just got to be so many other possibilities for my lifestyle.
As I reflect on this, I remember a poster I designed and hung above my dorm room bed in college. It read, “The joy of life comes from new experiences.” This was an excerpt from the ever-inspiring book Into the Wild, about the life of Christopher McCandless. (Full quote at bottom of this post.) I hung the quote there because at the time, I felt I was bound by class schedules and exam dates, and once I made it past graduation, my life would fill with renewed possibility. This was my source of inspiration. But now I find myself feeling trapped and limited by my job.
I know I need to make money somehow, but I hope that I am internalizing this lesson right now that the wrong workplace can dampen my sense of freedom.
I hope I can find a livelihood that contributes to my sense of freedom and self, and allows me to continue to experience new things and places.
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” ― Christopher McCandless