Have you ever thought about seasonal work in retirement? My friend, Kirk, recently leveraged seasonal work to experience something for the first time in his life. He became a cowboy, through a seasonal job at a Dude Ranch.
At Age 58!Kirk Became A Cowboy At Age 58 by working a seasonal job on a Dude Ranch. Today, his story. Click To Tweet
You may remember Kirk, he’s visited with us before (including his thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, his broken foot on the Pacific Crest Trail and the story of breaking his ribs when he Lived Life At The Limits on a mountain bike ride with yours truly). This Fall, he’s heading to Nepal to do some trekking around Mt. Everest. Interesting guy, my friend Kirk, and we can all learn something from the way he lives his life in retirement.
Today, he tells us the story of doing seasonal work in retirement at a Dude Ranch, which he did in the Spring of 2018.
The old military and corporate guy became a cowboy. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but he did “wrangle horses” for 6 weeks at a Dude Ranch. How cool is that?
Here’s his story…
Working On A Dude Ranch
I promised myself I would write three “potential” blog posts for my friend this year covering what could possibly be my most adventurous year since my retirement began 2 ½ years ago. Caution, I am not the spectacular writer that Fritz is however here is my latest adventure …
(Note from Fritz: I don’t know about my writing skills, but I do know that Kirk lives life more “on the edge” than anyone I personally know. Nepal, really? That Kirk guy is nuts!).
When I retired roughly 2 ½ years ago I decided to do away with my “LinkedIn” account. I was cleaning up some old things from my work years and didn’t think I would need a resume in my retirement life. As I started checking off things in my Dump Truck List (Buckets are no longer big enough) I started realizing that I had some skill gaps. Ultimately, I wanted to be a wrangler for a cattle drive in Montana but realized that wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t have some experience handling a horse.
I researched some possible jobs through www.coolworks.com and drafted a list of the qualifications for some of the wrangling jobs which interested me. Much to my surprise, I met them all with one exception:
I had no experience in riding a horse.
Having grown up on a farm really prepared me well for many aspects of the job, but we never had horses. How could I learn to ride a horse, handle the tack, teach the ranch’s customers, etc. if I didn’t know how to handle horses myself? While I suppose I could have paid for the experience (I am FI, after all), there was something in me that kept gnawing in the deep recesses of my mind.
Thoughts which whispered, and thoughts which led to my decision to pursue seasonal work in retirement:
- You have been so frugal all your life to get to FI, is this really how you want to spend your money?
- Would you really be able to buy this experience or is this something you have to spend time acquiring skill, talent, and familiarity?
- What other experiences do you need now in order to pursue the future adventures of your dreams?
(Note from Fritz: I like how Kirk thinks several moves ahead. Dream for your tomorrow, and identify what you should be doing Today in order to achieve your dreams. Move your life from Good To Great).
After much thought, I decided to venture out to an unknown area for me and listen to the younger crowd who said many of their wonderful experiences were as “Workaway” people. Workaway is simply a web service that connects people who are looking for experience with people that are looking for help. The Workaway people generally work 4 – 5 hours per day, 5 days per week in exchange for room/board and experience. Given that I have plans to travel through Asia in the coming years, this approach could help with some international options as well. I looked into the site http://www.workaway.info and decided to give it a try.
It was somewhat difficult to determine where I would go to gain this experience. I wasn’t sure how it would all work out, so I decided to minimize my risk by choosing a location that:
- had good/great reviews by those who participated
- was close so if it was horrible I could bail
- had more than just myself as a workaway so I could learn from the experience of others
I ended up selecting a Bed and Breakfast Dude Ranch in upstate NY, only an hour away from where I grew up and where my mother still lives. If it was a horrible experience I had a solid Plan B. I would simply bail out and stay with my mom, working around her house to complete some things on her “To Do” list. It would also afford me the opportunity to spend time with some aunts, uncles, and cousins which I had not seen in far too long.
When I arrive at the ranch, there was a check-in period where I placed my pack on my new bed andwas shown around a bit. Informal check-in completed, I headed to the barn, where a birthday party for fifteen 12-year-olds about to take place. I didn’t want to miss the party! There were 2 other workaway people there, a lady from France and a gentlemen from Germany (both under 21 years of age) and a few other helpers. I approached them, and introduced myself as the new seasonal worker.When I introduced myself they about fell down. How Old ARE You, They Asked? Click To Tweet
I smiled and told them “58”. They were shocked (probably not in a good way), but eventually they realized I would not play the role of their father or grandfather. I was just another guy who knew a lot, was willing to share what I knew, and eager to learn the things I needed to know to work at the ranch. (Note From Fritz: Like, um, how to ride a horse? I’m sure they loved having an old guy at a dude ranch who didn’t know how to ride! You’ve got Grit, Kirk, I’ll give you that!).
After learning that weekends were the busiest time and they needed everyone on hand, I set my schedule to leave Tuesday evening and return Thursday evening. This allowed me to spend my 2 days off each week with my mom and relatives.
The work itself was easy enough and there was so much that needed to be done that I could do whatever I wanted, depending on which task best fit my age and experience. A typical day would look like:
- Waking each morning around 7:00 AM, late for a ranch hand but the norm for the farm
- Begin feeding the horses, then have breakfast with the crew.
- Over breakfast, we would discuss what needed to be accomplished for the day, then get to it.
On occasion, I would mend a fence, build gates, fix plumbing issues, shingle sections of roof, clean horse stalls etc. On many days I was able to do my favorite task at the ranch: take one of the horses and clear a section of trail. One of my best accomplishments for the ranch was getting their Allis Chalmers D-14 tractor to run after sitting idle for more than 7 years:
Learnings From My First Seasonal Work In Retirement:
All in all, it was a good experience and I am considering doing something similar in Asia next year. However, I’m unlikely to something like this again in the US. Why? The reality is that a 6-week minimum required time for this adventure was, in my humble opinion, far too long.
I really enjoyed meeting some of the clients and their families. The stories of some of their adventures were amazing, and I’ve added a few of the ideas I received into my new “Dump Truck List”. The other Workaway people added a nice balance for me, giving me some good folks to hang out with and creating some good memories together, like trout fishing in a nearby river:
I really enjoyed the young man from Germany as he let me use what limited German I remembered from my time in Germany during my younger years in the military. He really appeared to enjoy many of the things I did, which was a nice encouragement during my Workaway adventure. He has been on a few of these Workaway adventures internationally and I learned a good deal from him as well. Finally, because I was close to my childhood home I was able to visit some relatives and see some old friends I had not connected with for many years, which was a really special blessing.
Financial Impact Of Seasonal Work In Retirement:
For those of you wondering what something like this would cost to do, I spent roughly $400 on this total experience which included transportation. From a price perspective, you can’t beat it. However, just like when looking for a new job in the business world, be very selective and know in advance what you are looking for. It’s invaluable to put some time into thinking what you really want to experience before you choose your seasonal work in retirement opportunity.
I’ll be headed back to complete the Pacific Crest Trail the end of June. I have half of Washington and all of Oregon as well as about 200 miles in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to complete, roughly a little more than 800 miles. (Note from Fritz: Kirk’s also got a trip planned to Nepal in the Fall, and if all goes according to plan, Kirk will soon be trekking in the Himalayas. Is this guy amazing, or what?)
Seasonal work in retirement is a viable option for folks, like Kirk, who are looking to learn new skills. It can also be a great way to travel at a minimal cost, make new friends, and experience a life that’s different from your everyday routine. It does require a commitment, though. As Kirk notes, his 6-week commitment was a major consideration, and many seasonal jobs expect you to work a minimum of 3 months.
My wife and I are considering seasonal work in retirement, most likely in a National Park somewhere in the Western USA. We’re also thinking about becoming campground hosts. We’re going to wait a few years before we get serious about the possibility, but seasonal work in retirement is on our
Bucket Dump Truck List.
What about you? Have you ever done seasonal work in retirement, or are you considering it in the future? Let’s chat in the comments…