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Old 03-09-2004   #11
El Flaco's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,879
"The Balance"

Yeah, it's tough to have it both ways. If you begin the Pro Leisure Tour now, you could wind up at 35 with no relevant work history and assets to speak of (which is not an insignificant thing, by the way). With that you could have amazing stories of travel, 1000's of days on the hill / rivers, and be without the stress of mortgages, career mobility, and all that comes with locking into the "career" life plan. Getting a balance of the two sounds more like where you're thinking- because if you were the type that could live the live that Squints was referring to, you probably wouldn't be questioning that move on a chat board.

I think most folks will tell you that it doesn't come easy, but you can maintain a fun lifestyle while getting ahead (from a career perspective) in the game. The key is to keep the momentum rolling- yeah, you can make decent money in the restaurant game and keep you days free for addling/skiing/biking, but in five years you'll have the same skillset as someone just getting out of school. As I'm sure you know, the PolySci tag doesn't exactly break down doors (as with many undergraduate degrees). But if you do some research, you can start out with some lower-level jobs in fun places and map out a career path for the long-term - say, five years.

I know some folks might flame me for this, but state and federal jobs are a great way to get ahead. They actually exist in mountain towns, the pays is decent (especially as you go up the ladder), they're usually not subject to swings in the economy, and the benefits are very good- all the silly bank holidays and vacation is mandated by the legislature, and you can be damn sure they take care of themselves. You might be selling out to the Man, but you can also accomplish a lot of good. I lived in Durango for 6 years, worked with youth-at-risk and got paid relatively well. Paddled the Animas on my lunchbreak & after work, and took vacations fairly often to Idaho, Mexico, Costa Rica and all over Southwest. The first job I had paid crappy, but it was rewarding and the part-time nature put me on the river pretty often. Would I have liked to travel the Globe year-round? Hell yes. But I also wanted other things- to own a house, save for the future, and I didn't want to be working those crappy jobs when I was 35 and everyone else is 22. So, the trade-off was obvious to me. For others, that stuff may not matter and that's fine too. Personal preference.

Good luck- set a goal for how you see yourself in 5 years and start taking the necessary steps to get there.

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Old 03-09-2004   #12
Boise, Idaho
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 108
I got out of college with a psy degree and no intrest going to grad school. I went to Summit Co for the better part of a decade and lived the ski/kayak bum life. It allowed me to define what is important for me in life. I now hold the work-to-live not live-to-work philosophy. But I also know that there are certain things that I will have to have to in order to enjoy life to it's fullest, ie- enough money to have a home and car that will take me where I want to go. Suints, livin' in a van and following the sunset is great, and I'm not knocking it, but I personally need a little more security about where I'll be in 10 or 20 years.

So, I figured it out. Slapshot96 is right on the money. It's all about the medical field. I am now back in school at Boise State University (AKA River Tech) working on a second degree in nursing. After only 5 semesters you can license as an RN. You start at pretty good money (compared to working at City Market in Summit Co), you work three, 12 hour shifts and get four days off every week. The hospital I work at has kick ass benefits and tons of vacation pay. The opportunites in nursings are so wide that if you get bored with one area you can always change to something else. There are lots of exciting areas, ER, CCU... I have never met a nurse that says they hate what they do. There is currently a crisis developing in that there is a serious shortage of RN's. This means you can pretty much pick anywhere in the US you want to work (ski, kayak, mountains, blah, blah...). Where I live is kick ass. You can paddle or mountain bike any day of the year, and the skiing isn't bad either. There are also lots of paddlers/mountain people like myself in this feild because of these reasons. I'm personally totally stoked to be starting this part of my life.

This has turned into more than I meant it to be but I don't think you are the only one in the world that has these questions, I know I sure did. So, if I can share a little insight with you guys out there than great!

Oh, by the way, MaryJane is right. Find a great partner to share the entire experience with and everything will seem perfect.

More than .02,

PS. I wish this forum had a spell check. I'm to lazy to look everything up.

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Old 03-09-2004   #13
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 35
Wow, I’m blown away by the responses. Thanks for all your great insights and keep em coming. These are a lot of the things that I've slowly been coming to realize. El Flaco is right on the money, it’s definitely a balance and one that I’m wrestling with, the five year plan is also a good call. I’ve done the ski-instructor / raft guide bit for a while while I'm in school and it definitely makes me happy but isn't truly fulfilling or something I would want to do as a carrier. As for driving off into the sunset, well I’m a huge Kerouac, and Guthrie fan and all but that’s just not the rout for me, I mean where does family and relationships fall into that equation? I think MaryJane is definitely right that that’s where the largest level of fulfillment and happiness comes from, those around you that you love. Anyways, thanks for sharing your thoughts, its cool to hear what likeminded people have to think about this and to hear about other peoples experiences. The topic of internships came up a bunch. How have you all found these internships or lower level jobs in the areas you were interested in? Specifically that one in steamboat. Double-a-ron, thanks for your post I’ll definitely email you and get some more of your thoughts as well as share any info I have, also feel free to reach me at

Thanks, and keep em coming
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Old 03-09-2004   #14
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 88
Jon, I feel your pain my friend. I have gone through it. I hopefully run into you at the party. I could advise on this topic for hours because I was in your shoes years ago and finally choose, after many stressful scenerio breakdowns, the leisure tour. I am older and I can honestly say I regret some of the decisions I made. Here are some things to consider if you go leisure tour...

Finish your education in Poly Sci. It interests you and you will at least enjoy the rest of school. You can always go back.i.e. My good friend got a philosophy degree and then became a ski bum. He turned into a great skier, picked up some sponsors, became a pro, traveled and skied all over. He finally gave it up, went back to school and got his Masters in Architecture. He is now an unemployed choice Regardless, his undergrad degree put him a position to become whatever he wanted to be. I mean, what the hell can a philosophy major do. My sister has her PS degree and is now Conference Service Director for Marriot Hotels. It is not the degree sometimes, it is the accomplishment of receiving it

Always have insurance. You will have a good chance of getting hurt and you do not want to accumulate debt. If you go leisure, you do not want a huge dept at the age of 29 when you decide to retire from the mountain bum lifestyle and decide you want a family and a house(have you seen the range rover commercial) So don't live off of a credit card either.

Try to pick jobs and/or activities that look good on a resume. It would suck to try and get a real job the age of 35 and have ski shop on your resume.

Never buy or ride in a Nissan Xterra. This is self explainitory.

I have to agree with John Krakauer when he told me that there is no better place to live than the Front Rrange. He lives here. He wrote Into Thin Air, Into The Wild. Have you read Into The Wild. I think a lot of us share Chris McCandless' desire to experience the world around us. He took it to the extreme, but it was very important to him.

You can go on and on. Jon, all I can say is if we lived in Oklahoma, we would probably not ponder this so much. But since we live in such a great place, we think, damn, how can I mix my passions and my career. Yeah it sucks, but it is good problem to have don't you think?
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Old 03-10-2004   #15
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 66

That's a tough question to have answered on the buzz. I don' think I could say much that hasn't already been said but I'll try. Slapshot96 and ID Surfer have a good idea. I'm sure ID surfer can tell you all about opportunities in nursing. My cousin is a traveling nurse and spends 12-15 weeks in each place she chooses to go to, has room and board payed for and gets payed very well. And you work 3-4 days and then you're off 3-4 days. But, traveling around alone gets old and like MaryJane said, it's all about who you're with. Very rich people can be very unhappy even though they have allt he time and money in the world to do what they want. It's really about doing things you love with the people you love.

I myself am a family man and have gone the way of school (I'm in my second year of med school). It takes all my time, but I'm happy because it's time spent doing what I want. Some of the best advice I received was to live my life in a manner so that I can make choices about what I wanted to do and not have others make them for me. For me that meant getting good enough grades to choose a medical school and not have to pray that someone would take me. For you it might be something totally different.

No degree, whatever the major, is a waste of time because it always carries weight when looking for a job even if it's in a different field than what you studied. Do what makes you happy and wait for opportunities to come up. Solutions usually present themselves when you least expect it. You'll figure it out. Good Luck.
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Old 03-10-2004   #16
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Technology Partner, Littleton, Colorado
Join Date: Feb 2004
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The Meaning of Life? ermmm Monty Python style possibly?

Poly-Sci is definitely a field of narrow focus and far fewer opportunities, sans going to law school. For me my bread and butter is software development, especially in this day and age of high-speed connectivity from just about anywhere. One can telecommute quite easily. That being said, you first have to pay some dues in the field before you get to that place where you can telecommute. Meaning you go into an office for a few months or even years. But even that is changing in this day and age. Companies are finally realizing it is cheaper to have you VPN into the office than to actually have space for you.

I got lucky and got the best of both worlds, I can VPN or come into the office down here in Durango. But tech jobs are hard to come by still in the more remote areas of the mountain states. I do see a trend though with more and more companies forgoing locating in the larger metroplex areas of the country and setting roots in more rural/small community settings. So if you do want to change your education focus, there are companies out there in the places you want to be, they just don't advertise it well.

Short of living on the Front Range (hurl..gag... no offense, I just prefer my rush-hour to be getting stuck behind a tractor on hwy 160 than getting stuck with psychotics all around me on I-25), I never thought I find a xxx,xxx.xx per year job in the mountains. You just don't see them up here that often.

Other things you could think about are Teaching, Medicine, Geopetroluem Engineering, or even Botanical Sciences with an emphasis on Range Management & Soil Conservation. Hell even Marketing... according to a friend of mine with a nearby ski resort, their marketing director is a total idiot and hurts business more than he helps it. Opportunities are abound here. Just don't box yourself in with your education. As tired as the line sounds, "think outside the box". It's the key to survival in the real world.

To give you an example from my life. I'm a Software Developer, but I also have picked up skills in Web Development, Database Design & Management, Software Configuration Management (which I am doing now), Technical Writing, Project Management, Process Design & Management, and Software testing. One skill can lead to many others, if you have the right skillset to begin with. I guess "Interoperability" would be the right word here. If your skillset has interoperable overlapping areas, you'll do well anywhere.

Anyhoo... I wish you luck in life.....just stay the HELL out of the telecom industry!!!! It sucks!

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Old 03-10-2004   #17
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 120
Wow, nice posts.

Maryjane I really liked what you had to say and hope that in 10-15 years I can say the same types of things about my family and lifestyle! I hope you come to the party, I'd like to meet you!

Jon, I'm also at CU, but at a different stage (finishing my phd in aquatic ecology). I was lucky because my love of rivers and my love of biology meshed well into a career plan to study human disturbances to river systems. Seems to be working well (though I've been in school forever). For me, having a job that is meaningful and challenging to me, and supports my environmental value system (and puts me in beautiful outdoor work environments) has been the answer. If I'm going to spend 40+ hrs a week working, I'd like it to be something I enjoy, and something that I feel is a contribution to the planet.

Then again there are extremely fulfilled janitors out there too, and those that are happy just putting in their time and playing hard during time off. I agree that the true meaning in life is gotten by sharing it - the ups and downs and all this fun outdoors stuff - with those you love.

Someone mentioned government agency jobs. This might be a good route for a polysci background. I'm most familiar with environmental research jobs, but it seems I come across a lot of administrative (budgeting, personnel and project management, policy...) jobs even just while searching for environmental jobs. You can start exploring federal job opportunities at the USA jobs website. Most state agencies have similar websites. Also, does your department have a career counselor - might be helpful if the person has a lot of experience and has seen graduates move on to all types of positions/lifestyles.

Good luck!!!
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Old 03-10-2004   #18
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 113
been there and done that. I graduated college in '73 with a BA in Social Sciencies (double major in history and sociology/anthropology) and I'm still tryng to decide what to do for a career. Just kidding. Actually, the advice about civil service employment is not bad for paddlers and outdoor enthusiast. I have worked in our Human Services Dept for 30 yrs and I can honestly say that it has offered me as much if not more control over my lifestyle than most others I've known. I've seen friends make a bunch of money early in life and now are no better off than me with my 30+ yr pension options and all the other perks with state employment. I have probably paddled more than most during the workweek when the water (ours depends on rain) was there when others could not. As others stated, the pay ain't great at first but if you hang in there it's like the tortoise racing the may win the race in the long my pay has steadily increased to the point now that it actually is pretty decent. On the other hand....not coming from a wealthy background.....I haven't been able to buy that second house in the mtns that I've dreamed of and that some of my friends in other careers have been able to buy.

Also, the advice about the nursing field is good too, civil service I have never had to work on the weekends, nights or holidays that so many health care jobs require.

So...short of staying in school for a higher level degree, you have received some good advice. Good luck with your decision.

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Old 03-10-2004   #19
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2001
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 384
Yea right. Don't tell me you choose to live in Little Rock because of the great people and wonderful town.

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Old 03-10-2004   #20
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 113
Originally Posted by cosurfgod
Yea right. Don't tell me you choose to live in Little Rock because of the great people and wonderful town.

I'm not quit sure I understand the jab??

LR isn't a bad area for paddling. We have all our own backyard stuff when it rains and we're right in the middle of the country for traveling either direction for the Rockies or Smokies area. Nope....we all gotta live somewhere and I'm not that unhappy here. As to the people....just like anywhere else....some good some bad. As to's just like all the other large towns/cities in America. We're all the same nowadays. Have you ever been to LR or western Pulaski County? You may be surprised on the geography. least I'm not in Dallas, Houston, Memphis, OK City, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, anywhere in Mississippi......and many more places that would be a lot (see I didn't use allot) worse. :P

And and.....I have to admit that I hate the summers here.....when it gets to 100 F with 80% dew point.......ARMPIT ALERT ARMPIT ALERT!!!!!!


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