Home Asia How Did I Get Here? Seasonal Employment Stories

How Did I Get Here? Seasonal Employment Stories

by Emma April 27, 2015 1 comment

As I am nearing my return back to another hectic work-until-you-drop season on Cape Cod, I can’t help but think about all the other types of seasonal jobs I’ve held in the past and the joys those locations have given me. So, as I procrastinate bigger and more pressing projects, I’ve put together a little gallery of all of my past jobs and their gorgeous locations.

The best part about seasonal employment is that it generally accompanies tourism, which means that there is a major draw for people to visit, resulting in a beautiful place to live and work. The second is that it eventually ends. So no matter how crazy your schedule is, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may take tears, no sleep, and a bit of alcohol abuse and lot of icecream abuse… but there is a light.

First up? My first.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

I first moved to the Cape to surf. I had come to Wellfleet as a child since I was in utero and only had the fondest memories of the tall dunes, wild surf and endless beaches. I did anything and everything to afford that kind of life. Usually a blend of two or three jobs, no days off, and endless doubles to keep myself above the break-even line. Rent is atrocious, as it usually is in popular tourist destinations, but it’s more than worth it when you can lose your sanity on a gorgeous beach with your surfboard nearby to slowly bang your forehead on. A major plus is the shoreline is part of the National Parks Service: aka protected from development.

Jobs Held:

  • Full-time nanny
  • Chambermaid (also known as housekeeper, maid, cleaner , inn keeper’s second-hand)
  • Direct Care Professional at a Psychiatric Residence Center (hello people who ask me when I will ever “use my degree”! hello! here it is!)
  • Lifeguard (still am)
  • Waitress (still am)
  • Wine tasting presentation leader? Giver of wine? Sales representative? Not-a-sommelier? How do I put this? Some things just don’t have appropriate titles. I work at a winery. There. (still am)
  • Surf instructor

Wild clouds
Lifeguarding gives me the opportunity to be on top of all things weather. When there’s a storm, I know about it before it strikes. If the wind is West, I know it the moment I step on the beach. If there’s surf, you better know that I’m at “work” hours before the day starts, getting in the water… to you know… see how dangerous it is for civilians.


Cape Cod Surf
And we get paid to work out, surf, and be in charge of you.

Lifeguard perk #1,309: We take part in athletic competitions and kick ass.

Head of the Meadow

Light Grapes
Every day is a school day working on a vineyard.

Merlot Harvest: four buckets deep.

Everyday is a good day to have a glass of wine.

I don’t have many pictures from my other jobs, because honestly, who wants to see the inside of a restaurant kitchen? Or when would I have time? All you need to know is we move fast.

Next up?

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Situated in the East Caribbean, just Southeast of Puerto Rico, St. John is an island worthy of a daydream. White sand beaches with lazy sweeping palm trees, turquoise water and it is all protected. National Parks for the win.

I first encountered St. John in my teens, as I had heard all about it from my parents’ stories growing up. We stayed at a special place, Maho Bay Campground, a fairytale treehouse community nestled above a small cove. After a few visits as a guest, I was determined to move there and live in the trees. Six years and one undergraduate degree later, I did.

My Job?

  • Housekeeper, volunteering in exchange for room&board

Staff Only
Not quite as glamorous as working at a winery or on the beach, I reverted back to my housekeeping days and worked for my accommodation by cleaning tent cabins for guests and preparing them for hurricane season.

Francis Bay
But who cares what your job is, if you get to play in this on your off days?

Maho Stairs
The morning commute.

Maho Bay
Those tiny white dots on the hillside was my little life bubble. Between after work swims, off-day hikes and snorkeling… there wasn’t much else that mattered.

Turtleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees are my favorite.

Sand shadows


Unfortunately, Maho Bay closed in 2013 due to the land lease running up. As you can imagine, an eco-friendly campground isn’t exactly a high profit endeavor. The land was sold and the tents vacated, sending the community elsewhere for work.

Next on the list is a bit farther away from home..


Now I’m not quite sure I can really say I did seasonal work here. It’s more just that I spent two seasons here (rainy & dry) and free-lanced as it came about. I also have a thing about taking away potential jobs from locals… and since Indonesia is a developing nation, there is not enough opportunity to reach everyone. Still, the realities of working and traveling is one people can’t imagine, so here it is.

I’ve written and posted a lot on Indonesia, including budget breakdowns, galleries, an update when my heart broke and more… so be sure to browse those if you’re feeling curious and need more than I’m giving now.

Jobs Held

  • Freelance copy writer and content manager (aka: I make words and images for others and integrate them into their websites)

Canggu Sunset

The view from our place (read: hotel room rented long-term) was extremely distracting. Having almost zero experience in working for myself, my biggest challenge during my time in Indonesia was figuring out what I needed to get work done. Which was a blend of inspiration, self-loathing, boredom, air conditioning and good coffee.

I was so distracted by how beautiful the culture, the people, the landscape and the social norms were that I did only a few projects. I did, however, get to experience a life so vastly different from the one I was previously leading.

Daily prayers and offerings littered home entrances, walkways and hallways in Bali.

My friend Susi and our seaworm harvest in Lombok, which was by far one of the strangest things I’ve ever done.

A work-trade situation brought me to Rote, East Indonesia to do the copy writing and editing of the website for Malole Surf House. By far one of the best trades, ever.

Sunset from Malole
I still dream about this place, its sunsets, waves and people.

It takes a lot for me not to go into detail about Indonesia, for all of its islands are so vastly different from each other that they could very well be different countries. I was there for just under seven months and saw too much for just one section of a blog post.

Lastly, my current situation in Costa Rica probably needs a bit of an explanation..

Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

I ended up here two years ago, just before one of my dear friends got married on the coast. I traveled with a backpack and a board bag, my go-to situation those days, and discovered a town I won’t ever forget. I decided then, in 2013, that when I was ready to settle down, it would be here in Nosara.

I didn’t intend on becoming gainfully employed this time around, for I simply wanted to get settled and work on this website a bit more… but you know how it goes when you’re not looking for something it just shows up in front of you.


  • Sales associate sounds far too fancy for the work I do in my friends store, but that’s the closest thing to a description I can give you.
  • Waitress (hello restaurant work, I never miss you but always need you)
  • Volunteer at a Refuge for Wildlife, specializing in Howler Monkey rescue and rehabilitation

My volunteer work is the most important and the most time-consuming of all the three. The Refuge for Wildlife in Nosara rescues Howler Monkeys (and anything else) that is electrocuted or burned by the power lines and transformers here. All electrical wires and corresponding transformers are put up live. AKA they can electrocute anything and everything that comes in contact with it. That is where the Refuge comes in.

I spend most of my time cleaning cages, refilling hot water bottles and feeding baby monkeys. It is difficult and rewarding work. It also can feel a bit futile. More than few times I’ve come home from work feeling like humans have done nothing but take advantage of the Earth and its animals.

howler monkey, nosara, costa rica, refuge for wildlife

While life may be hard, our existence be questionable and bad days happen… it is nice to let it all go and realize life ebbs and flows. While certain monkeys don’t make it, certain baby turtles will.

PackThis part of the peninsula has protected is maritime zone to ensure the safety of the turtles that come and nest on its shores.

CLose up babies and sun
Baby turtles, sunset, and waves close by are pretty much all I need to feel good about life.

Rio Celeste waterfall
And if that weren’t enough, waterfalls pumping out mineral rich turquoise water are a road trip away.

Smoothie huts are the best huts.

Wouldn’t you be happier if your after work happy hour had this view?

Under the sea
My biggest motivation to work is to afford more experiences. A month’s worth of money became a road trip up the coast for some barrels. Any excuse to get in the water is good enough.

If there is anything you take away, it’s this: seasonal work is the best way to experience a new place.

It might not be your passion, it might not be your “path”, it might not be your “career”, but the experiences you have in that season and the people you meet along the way will influence you in ways you could never imagine. I’ve always been a fan of the idea that what you “do” is not necessarily who you “are”. So drop the pretense, let your ego go, and clean some toilets or serve beer to live in a new place.


If you don’t like it? Go home after the season is over.
If you do? You may never be the same.

1 comment

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1 comment

How to Take Your Own Advice | Global Frolic October 22, 2015 at 7:04 pm

[…] I barely make a living wage in an industry many would classify as “unstable” [see: seasonal employment]. I climbed the ladder of guilt and excuses. I used every one in the book. Perhaps these excuses […]


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