Many years ago I attended a retreat in California. The keynote speaker talked of finding fulfillment in your life. On the topic of work, he said “Find work that is creative and challenging.”
Such a simple phrase, but so much meaning packed into it. I’d probably add one more addendum: “and that pays you a half-decent living wage.” I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve done many different types of jobs in my life. But very few met the criteria of creative, challenging with a good income.
When you’re living in a small mountain town, trying to meet all three of those can be especially tricky, because there aren’t that many career opportunities to begin with. Local restaurants, local shops, maybe a ski resort. None pay particularly well, and often the work is mundane and repetitive.
One of my all-time favorite jobs living in the mountains, was my first summer working as a Park Ranger at Sequoia National Park. Creative? In ways that I could never have imagined. Figuring out how to put together interpretive programs on a variety of topics was incredibly difficult. Making it fun and entertaining, but educational to children and adults was even harder.
You can see how vexing it would be learn an entire topic like bear biology or sequoia ecology, putting together a guided walk for visitors. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly fulfill criteria #3 of being well paid, with a wage of $9.00/hour during the summer of 1997.
Still, I can’t ever remember being happier as I walked among the giant red trees or gazed upon the 13,000-foot peaks. In fact, I remember frequently thinking, I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.
But the reality is that finding jobs like that are few and far between, especially close to where I live. So most of us settle in some way or another. We commute long distances through winding canyon roads, some going as far as Denver in search of work, many at least working in and around Boulder. We take jobs we are over qualified for to stay closer to home. While making less money, we learn to live a simpler life.
But in the advent of the internet and broadband, opportunities are opening up for mountain dwellers. Many of my neighbors work exclusively from home, doing IT, customer service, designing websites, or writing. Websites like flexjobs.com promote these types of positions that can basically be done from anywhere. My husband does consulting work on the side for a company providing weather consulting, where all the work force telecommutes. There is no “home office.”
But even for those of us who do have offices, work places are being more accommodating to letting employees work at least part of the time from home. This provides a huge benefit for those of us living in rural areas. No getting up early to make the arduous drive to work. No having to finding suitably “business casual” clothing. No rushing around to get the kids to school, or take the dogs out. No worrying about having enough gas in the car.
I’m fortunate to have a part-time telecommute schedule this winter and I’m loving it. It’s lovely to have an extra 30 minutes to sleep in the morning. Pulling on my favorite sweat pants and t-shirt takes no thought when I get up. A big pot of my favorite coffee is available all morning long. I have the comfort of a cat snuggling on my lap and a dog at my feet. I can even listen to some music as I work on my computer. And it’s especially nice, when snow is falling outside, and I know I don’t have to deal with an ugly commute of cars sliding every which way.
Yes, the joys of telecommuting make mountain living all that much sweeter.