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Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job
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Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/01/2008 20:38:15 MDT Print View


Edited by regultr on 09/05/2013 03:37:36 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/01/2008 21:25:47 MDT Print View

This won't help probably...but here is what my husband and I have come to:
Between us we have slowly grown an outdoor based online business. It doesn't support us but it does take us on vacations and provides a lot of fun - and as well a sense of having done something. We hope to continue to grow the business to where it could support us.

Meanwhile he toils as a corporate slave for The Man. Does he like it? Lord no. But...frankly, it pays well. The goal is to pay our mortgage off as fast as we can. We both try to avoid debt as much as we can. At some point with the house paid down he can go do what he wants and bring in less money. (Ie..his photography)

So yes, it sucks now. But there is the future to work for.

All I am saying is don't bankrupt your chances for a retirement fund and maybe an early retirement. What I would suggest as well is to find other ways to find that fulfillment you need (for my husband it is his photography on the side and us writing books). He doesn't have his joy become what he must do to feed us. So no burn out!

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: "Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job" on 05/01/2008 21:57:34 MDT Print View

It sounds to me like you guys are doing it the right way. My husband and I had a small farm and also worked like fiends (with plenty of 'family time') at "real jobs" so that we could retire early (in our 40's) and we are sure glad now (we're 55 and 60) that we did.
We're not rich, but we're debt-free and our pleasures (kayaking and backpacking) are simple and relatively inexpensive (unless Benjamin T. gets me in a dither about some new tent).
BTW, Sarah, I am a customer of your online business and find it a valuable resource. I know that I am not the only customer that refers friends and family happily.

Edited by toesnorth on 05/01/2008 21:59:14 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: "Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job" on 05/01/2008 22:14:01 MDT Print View


I wouldn’t walk away from a six figure income. I don’t imagine there are many “outdoor jobs”, that are fun, that pay that much. The folks having fun are getting $10 an hour and maybe benefits. The folks making $80,000+ are at a desk and handling personnel issues, even if the door does say “Department of Natural Resources”. Field geologists for oil companies might be the exception.

I knew the guy in charge of the Grand Canyon hydrology. It took him a long time to get there. When his job opened up they weren’t looking for an enthusiastic newbie, they were looking for someone who knew the politics as well as the rocks.

I do know a very respected systems person who worked a deal with the Nature Conservancy to do some of their GIS if she could spend half of her time in the field with each project.

You’ve got skills and tenure and respect. Leverage that to get closer to what you think you want.

For leads, search out respected journals in the potential fields and look at the Careers sections. Then get specific. Folks can’t help if you don’t know where you’re headed. But if you tell me you’re in law and want to protect water I can get you a phone number. If you can put the specifics on the table someone can help you make it happen.

Edited by greg23 on 05/01/2008 22:54:45 MDT.

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/02/2008 00:03:51 MDT Print View

I dabbled in getting an outdoor education degree to avoid the "Office Space" type life, but found that the folks that get these degrees end up being things like 'head raft guides' as opposed to regular raft guides without degrees. can't raise a family on those wages.

The problem with working in the outdoors industry for an employer is the supply/demand scale. So many people would love to do this stuff that companies can pay next to nothing and get a full stable of employees and have others on a waiting list. Ever been to Asheville, NC?

I don't know your background, but teaching could provide you with a liveable income, fulfilled feeling, and summers off for the woods. Being a college professor would also give you great football tickets and lots of art/music/recreational things to do. My Forestry teacher is in New Zealand right now doing crazy forestry things with UGA (Go Dawgs!).

My solution- stay single for a while and see what happens.

You could also try convincing the lady to drop everything and pull a Walden in the woods and live off interest from whatever you have saved and from peddling beans from your garden at the farmers market. She may not be enthusiastic about that however...

Edited by willspower3 on 05/02/2008 00:06:39 MDT.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: outdoor job career change on 05/02/2008 09:56:51 MDT Print View

These are all very insightful comments, and things I have thought about in the past as well. I definitely agree on the teaching aspect; I'm a college professor, and though there are still many things that can occupy one's summers (preparing lectures takes a lot of time, and many professors are required to do research in one's field), in general you are in control of your summer hours, which is ideal for backpacking. You also get extended holiday and spring breaks as well (though again, this may be spent grading papers, but you can do this anywhere, so you're not having to fly on Christmas eve with everyone else). I remember one of my college professors put it well when he said "sure I'm working my tail off 7 days a week during the year, but in the summer I go fishing with my son every day." That said, I also know many teachers who hold summer jobs to make ends meet (construction is a popular one, believe it or not!).

Another solution to this modern dilemma is to move yourself to a city with nearby recreation. Not just a nice local park, or some outdoor trails, but the kind of place you'd actually seek out to go backpacking. This is hard to do, as most of these places are rural by nature and likely won't support a 6-digit income. But I have found a tremendous boost to my morale by moving to a city with nearby recreation. I grew up in Los Angeles, and while there are excellent backpacking trips in California, most involved several hours (usually 4-7 each way) of driving to the stuff I actually like to do. So for a 2-day overnighter, I would come home feeling exhausted--not from the hiking, but from all the driving. So I moved up to Portland, OR, where I can fit so much more into a weekend. One of the main reasons we moved up here is because my wife has a 9-5 profession, and we knew the only way we'd still be happy (particularly with me off in the summers) is if we could get away on a 2-day weekend with a relatively short drive. The photo you see on my avatar was taken from a hike whose trailhead is 1hr 15min from my house, and it's only 3 1/2 hours of hiking to that spot.

I also find the particular suburb I live in is filled with greenery (several of Portland's suburbs have been named "tree city USA"), and I have miles of walking and biking paths from my doorstep. Also, neither of us get on a freeway to go to work. Thus I feel much more satiated doing a weekday morning walk than I did living in a concrete metropolis, and our commutes to work feel more like a country drive (we live right on the urban growth boundary, so we drive by 5-10 acre farms on our way to work). This has done wonders to our sense of balance and ability to spend weekdays indoors.

Again, these types of places are hard to find, particularly when job searching from far away, but they do exist. My wife and I took a risk moving up here, as neither of us had jobs lined up. Our first year was spent in terror, as things weren't coming together as we had hoped. But I start up a new job as a professor in the fall, and my wife worked up a contract business as an attorney. Now, we are extremely glad we moved, and doing well with more flexibility and lower cost of living than we had in LA.

With a 6-digit income, it is likely that you have limited mobility (i.e. you move because of a job opening, not because you want to, and it has to be a somewhat large city to support you income). My first suggestion would be to get out of any debt as soon as possible (for tips, read "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. I typically don't like self-help books, but this one is excellent). Get 6 months living expenses saved up, and then you are ready to be riskier with a career change or a more dramatic relocation. Then, buy a house much smaller than you think you need (the book "The Millionaire Next Door" says that 7 out of 10 millionaires live in a middle-income or lower house--that's how they became millionaires!). I know several people really well who make 400-600k a year who are struggling to retire in their 60s because of their huge mortgage and affluent lifestyle. There's nothing wrong with this, but it does make me ponder the fact that there are many poor people working very hard AND many rich people working very hard. It seems like if you could get a great hourly rate and work 20-30 hours, you could still live better than most, and that would get you out of the office more than many outdoor careers. I think one of Dave Ramsey's most powerful points is that wealth has little to do with how much you earn, and much more to do with how much you save. This is how Michael Jackson can be bankrupt, while a person making $50,000 can retire a millionaire.

Anyway, back to the subject: I had seriously considered a career change to an outdoor field about 2 years ago. Instead we moved our careers to an outdoor city. Ultimately whatever you are doing as your main job will feel like work (I became an orchestral conductor to have a 'rewarding' job, and though there are certainly huge rewards in my field, the vast majority of what I do feels like work). An outdoor job may actually be worse because you will be outside working while those around you are heading up the trail recreating. Doing what you do best in your career while living in a great area can be an ideal balance.

Edited by jcarter1 on 05/02/2008 10:18:20 MDT.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/02/2008 12:20:40 MDT Print View


Edited by regultr on 09/05/2013 03:38:14 MDT.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job" on 05/02/2008 13:21:38 MDT Print View

Just some food for thought: If my conversations with Rangers in the Adirondacks are anything to go on, it seems that a background in Criminal Justice is highly sought after when it comes to aquiring a Park Ranger job.

Being a Ranger wouldn't pay six figures, but you'd be able to make a living hiking. And hiking ain't ice cream. ;)

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/02/2008 16:51:34 MDT Print View

While already touched upon by others and/or probably known to you from your own research, here are a few possiblities to consider that are drawn from my personal experience:

1. Save like crazy and retire as early as possible. This is what my wife and I have done -- along the way providing a college education for our daughter, and then retiring early after she graduated and launched her own career.

2. While doing the "career" bit and waiting to retire, relocate to somewhere that maximizes outdoor opportunities while also minimizing time/expense required to get out there. We followed that course after I graduated from a college in the south -- first, we researched locations appearing to have what we wanted (in our case, the spot that won out was the Pacific Northwest with its abundant wilderness, mountains, rivers, lakes, public lands, and moderate living expenses). Then, with that goal, we saved up for a year before moving to the northwest to attend law school, and havve live happily ever after for the duration of our careers and eventual eary retirements.

3. I am personally aware of a couple of career options that incorporate outdoor activity where someone with your law enforcement background might be able to have their cake and eat it ASAP without returning to school. As you probably are already aware, BLM and the US Forest Service employees many Special Agents who enforce federal law on federal forest lands. Provides adventure and sometimes even personal danger in the outdoors when cruising forests to discover illegal activities, and also the opportunity to meet interesting folks with unconventional lifestyles.

4. If law enforcement is no longer of interest, and if you consider a return to school, an interesting academic field that I learned about only after moving to the northwest and beginning law school was a major in Wildlife Sciences (which is now a graduate level program, I think) that University of Washington offers, linked as follows:

Alas, by the time I learned of the above field of study, I was already knee-deep in law, with no turning back.

I'm not providing very much that hasn't already been put out above by others, but it is a bit of detail as to what has worked for me as far as having time & opportunity to get into the outdoors with minimal effort or expense.

Good luck in your search.


Timothy Roper
(lazybones) - F

Locale: Alabama
Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/02/2008 21:41:14 MDT Print View

Beware of turning what you love to do into a job that you have to do. I grew up an avid hunter. I spent every possible moment in the woods hunting.

I spent two years as a hunting guide. Hunting 70-80 days straight without a break, getting by on 4 hours sleep a night, skinning animals at 2 am in the cold while the customer slept warmly, watching slob hunters disrespect the game all added up to me getting sick of it. It got to the point that the sound of a rifle shot meant hard work to me.

I now hunt 4-5 days a year, and I go more for the experience than the kill. It just isn't the same anymore.

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/02/2008 21:57:28 MDT Print View

A good and valid point, lazybones. I think people should try jobs on for size before they take them on full-time, if possible, maybe during a vacation or other hiatus.
I got a "plum" job once that I wish to heavens I'd been able to try out before I quit an "almost plum" job.

Ryan Gardner
(splproductions) - F - M

Locale: Salt Lake City, UT
Jobs... on 05/03/2008 17:39:45 MDT Print View

I've decided to become a dentist with the hopes that once I get my practice going, I can work 4 days a week, take vacation when I want, etc. My dentist has now cut back to 3 days a week, and he said after a few more years he'll cut back to two and let his partner do more work. He's not rolling in the cash - but who cares.

This will also be perfect for my situation, because my wife prefers weekend hikes to longer ones.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/04/2008 10:21:14 MDT Print View

"Beware of turning what you love to do into a job that you have to do"

So very true. Turning a hobby into a job can be "iffy". Works for some, but not all.

Eric Riddick
(50Miler) - F
Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/05/2008 01:04:27 MDT Print View

If you're into super hard, physical work and being outdoors ALL THE TIME, the lumber industry can be a good choice. The lumber industry is very dangerous...Ive worked in it. Its not professional, but you can make a lot of money in it if you have your own company. But its not for wusses and its not for lazy people. In other words, if really hard work scares you, dont bother.

Its also dangerous, and like other dangerous professions, once you've worked in it for a few years, you might have trouble "adjusting" to regular jobs, AKA, boredom is too much to deal with.

But you WILL be outdoors all the time. I do mean ALL the time. Its kind of a throwback to the old days, kind of an old school job.

As far as most of those other outdoor jobs, you will be competing for a lot of instructor jobs with young college kids that dont pay squat. Most government agencies you speak you work in an office a lot, but spend time outdoors as well. None are high paying.

Be careful about leaving a good white collar, professional job though.


Mike Nielsen
(geophagous) - F

Locale: Pacific North West
Teach, but at the secondary level on 05/06/2008 16:46:19 MDT Print View

As another take on the education area, think of becoming a teacher at the high school level. While the pay will be less than of a professor, there is no research and with the same great hours.

Of course there are drawbacks to being a teacher as well, but many states have programs for professionals with college degrees to "fast track" into teaching with 6 months to 1 year of school all that is required. Again this would get you more time off to do things like hike, but at a much reduced wage.

If you can handle teaching it can be a great way to get the time. I have thought about this and still toy with the idea from time to time.

I would also second the idea of moving someplace with more outdoor rec opportunities. Living in the PNW (suburb of Seattle) is great. I went snowshoeing with my wife and son this Sunday by driving less than 1 hour. The PCT is also in the same spot, so great trails are very easy to access.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Teach, but at the secondary level... on 05/06/2008 19:48:52 MDT Print View

I'm a high school ceramics teacher...I think it's the best of all worlds. 3 months off per year (2 months summer, 2 weeks winter, 2 weeks in spring), every federal holiday, and an additional 10 "sick" days to be used at my discretion. With my current schedule, I start at 7:05 and finish at 2:00.
I know folks that make more money, but none that have the time to travel that I do. I have a good friend that's an attorney- he makes 3-4 times what I do and drives a sweet Mercedes...and is busy every time I invite him out climbing. He can have the money as far as I'm concerned; I'm sorry, but I think you've gotta be a bit messed up to work 50+ hours a week.
I coach our school's chess team and have started/sponsored an outdoor club aimed at teaching LNT ethics, hiking/outdoor skills, and environmental issues. I took a student surf fishing last week, another one out bouldering for his first time a few weeks ago.
As a teacher you would have the ability to do the same- you may not teach an "outdoor" related subject, but you can create your own programs...
It's all a balancing act my friend, I think teaching is a great one. I feel great about what I'm contributing to this world (how many people can say that?), it's fun, and I get FAR more free time than the average American.

I'd recommend teaching to anyone (providing you like kids).

G Cowen
(coweng) - F
Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job on 05/07/2008 13:26:21 MDT Print View

A have degrees in Environmental Science and Wildlife ecology and worked in the industry for 7 years doing everything: wetland delineation, permitting, groundwater remediation, noise abatement, endangered species surveys, explosive ordinance disposal, water resource management.

I have a passion for all things outdoors. Fishing, hiking, biking, diving, anything. But working in the field daily and dealing with the corporate/bureaucracy issues spoiled that passion. That last place I wanted to be after a day at work was back in the field.

The thing is...the environmental field is one that places high value your educational pedigree. I dont mean that you have to go to a certain school, but degrees are very important. Its gonna be hard to get a "sciences" job, beyond a tech position, without the necessary paper.

I'd either go back to school or find ways to free time and resources so that you can more freely pursue your passions...whether thats a job change, financial rearrangement, whatever...

I currently work as a real estate broker and start firefigther/paramedic training next week. The combination of the two do/will provide satisfaction that I am doing something worthwhile, a respectable living and a flexible schedule that allows me and family to do whats important to us.

A few tips:

1. get debt free - freedom from financial obligations new paths and opportunities
2. simplify/de-clutter your life - prioritize what is TRULY important to you and get rid of the rest. work, life, cars, stuff, clubs, organizations. Anything that takes time and resources from your top priorities, lose it.
3. move to an area where opportunity, both work and play, abounds.
4. do it already!

Edited by coweng on 05/07/2008 13:28:26 MDT.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Help me leave the office for an "outdoor job" on 05/07/2008 14:10:30 MDT Print View

Get real man. You're whining cos you're earning 100k plus and not happy in your job. Save up for a year or two then take an 'outdoors' time-out.
Remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Some folks working 12 hour 'outdoor' days wouldn't mind sitting in a warm office now and again.

Eric Riddick
(50Miler) - F
Re: Help me leave the office for an "outdoor job" on 05/08/2008 00:19:05 MDT Print View

>Get real man. You're whining cos you're earning 100k plus and >not happy in your job. Save up for a year or two then take an >'outdoors' time-out.
>Remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other >side. Some folks working 12 hour 'outdoor' days wouldn't mind >sitting in a warm office now and again.

I agree with this. In my teens through twenties, the only jobs I had were outdoor jobs. First it was landscaping, then it was working on staff at Boy Scout High Adventure bases leading backpacking and canoeing treks. Then it became lifeguarding, including some beach lifeguarding. Finally, I ended up working in a lumberyard.

I could have chosen a different way, but at the time, "being outdoors" all the time was what I wanted.

All it ever got me was injured on the job and watching other people get hurt as well, workman's comp claims, low pay, lots of crazy, adventurous outdoor fun most people never get to experience or can relate to, a killer tan all the time, tree-trunk like legs and crows feet by age 28.

Was it worth it? No


Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Re:"Help me leave the office for an "outdoor" job" on 05/08/2008 08:33:50 MDT Print View

James, if I may be so bold to read between the lines; I think your malaise comes from a job you do not find fulfilling, not from the inability to work outside sometimes. Working 'outside' the cube is just one possible way to escape. There are other ways.
Imagine you are on your death bed; what is it you wish you had done? I did that analysis; decided on one thing, and made the leap a couple years ago. I sold my house, quit my job, and moved overseas to live where I feel very comfortable (and where I have much more recreational opportunities and Im surrounded by fit people who share these interests).
If you want to be outdoors a couple days a week; choose a well paying white collar job which gives you frequent three day weekends; and enjoy the outdoors on your own time. If you make it work, you will loose some enjoyment of it, IMO.