Retire and become an Adventure Guide

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Bacchus01
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Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Bacchus01 » Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:59 pm

I'm starting to chart out my early retirement options. One thing I love to do is hike the national parks and don't mind the rough stuff.

So, I thought about working summers as a guide for one of the services. I'm wondering if anyone has done this and knows about the process and/or pros/cons of it. I know pay stinks (think just above minimum wage) but I really am intrigued with the idea. I don't mind being away for weeks at a time and I since I will be essentially FIRE, I can fly in anywhere I need to go. It doesn't have to be close by.

I'm thinking Austin Adventures or REI Adventures type of work. But, I wonder if, at 45+, I'll likely not be chosen for something like that.

I suppose I could set up my own business, but I don't really want to live in those locations right now.

brokendirtdart
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by brokendirtdart » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:09 pm

Let me just subscribe to this thread, because at 45 and 30ish months away from military retirement, I have considered national/state park jobs as a second career.

tibbitts
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by tibbitts » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:14 pm

Well, you could do work-camping:

https://workamper.com

Just don't be surprised if your job involves cleaning toilets.

flyingaway
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by flyingaway » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:23 pm

If you do not consider that as a job (since you are retired), then the pay does not matter. If it comes with health insurance, you might get serious competitions for the job.

Bacchus01
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Bacchus01 » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:26 pm

brokendirtdart wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:09 pm
Let me just subscribe to this thread, because at 45 and 30ish months away from military retirement, I have considered national/state park jobs as a second career.
coolworks.com seems to be one of the best sites for opportunities, but so far most have been CSR/Cook/Clean ones that I've seen.

Bacchus01
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Bacchus01 » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:27 pm

flyingaway wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:23 pm
If you do not consider that as a job (since you are retired), then the pay does not matter. If it comes with health insurance, you might get serious competitions for the job.
Pay will be largely irrelevant to me. Insurance would be a huge bonus.

Wilderness Librarian
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Wilderness Librarian » Sun Aug 19, 2018 9:54 pm

Retired two years now - thought of this myself but highly doubtful I will for several reasons.

I think one thing you need to ask yourself if your are truly comfortable on extended backpack trips etc. constantly with a group of strangers many of whom may test your patience and personality. I have been led to believe the burnout factor among guides is very high largely but not exclusively for this reason. I remember reading years ago in an adventure mag about river rafting guides feeling stressed as they are "on stage" the whole time, scouting rapids, setting camp being entertaining etc. I also knew a rafting guide who gave it up after a few years to be an accountant in LA. One time I met a couple in Denali national park who were coming off a season of guiding in ANWR or Brooks range. They were very relieved to be away from the fussy demanding clientele. I am not saying you shouldn't try it but it is likely to be totally different than going alone or with a group of friends.

As far as independent work - look into the state outfitters and guides associations - you will probably need to be licensed

Volkdancer
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Volkdancer » Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:24 am

Depending on your location (they offer trip opportunities throughout and outside the US), you could look into Sierra Club or Appalachian Mountain Club leadership programs where you can begin with short trips and grow into longer ones as your determination and skills develop. The AMC Adventure opportunities may be particularly appealing if interested in outside the US, or within. One participates as an assistant to the experienced trip leader and then can graduate to become a trip organizer or leader.

Their training programs insure that you become truly able to become a trip leader including wilderness safety and first aid qualifying often including coursework with organizations like the National Leadership School and Red Cross. I myself would not consider going with a trip leader/guide who had not gone through such training because you are responsible.

An interesting experiencing in which I participated as a follower was a twenty mile walk from Coolidge Corners to Logan Airport in the Boston area passing by many interesting sites and neighborhood that the leader designed that was unexpectedly, to my mind popular.

Karl V

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midareff
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by midareff » Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:31 am

That was the dream of an x-boss for when he retired. Unfortunately, Parkinson's had significantly debilitated him prior to retirement and he needed attendants after retirement and passed two years later.

coalcracker
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by coalcracker » Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:37 am

I used a guide from discovery treks for a hike to Havasupai (near the Grand Canyon) with my brothers last April:

https://discoverytreks.com/

Our guide was a young woman who worked part-time for the NPS at the Grand Canyon, and supplemented her income with these guided hikes. Sure, she got to hike with us to a beautiful place, but my sense is that her job was 75% organizing/admin PITA details, i.e., shopping for food, coordinating with drivers and campsites, setting up tents, cooking, etc. She had just come off a 6-week non-work trip in which she rafted the Canyon. If money is not an issue for you, why not just travel and hike on your own?

FWIW, this company seemed to only offer tours in the Grand Canyon region. Most of the other tour outfits I researched also seemed locally based.

Shallowpockets
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Shallowpockets » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:19 am

It does not seem like a reasonable idea. You are 45, maybe an age bias when you go to get hired. Also, what experience? Why would they hire you? You've done some hiking trips. You will have to make an impression. What are your people skills? Customers can drive you crazy. You don't get to pick them. They just come, with their possibly inflated sense of their own fitness. You would have to take care of them throughout the trip, not just the hiking part.
Also what credentials such as CPR, or whatever else would be the expected paperwork? Probably should be well up on all those sorts of things.
If you now live in an area not known for the adventure life, you might be at a disadvantage as far as experience goes. Like, say, NYC, or Boston, Miami. Only because where you live is probably reflective of how many times you get out there.
To think you will just fly in and guide sounds like some sort of pipe dream.
Then again there is most likely a high turnover in some of the guide jobs. So you could get in on something. But thinking you may guide an REI trip seem far fetched at present.

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yukonjack
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by yukonjack » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:23 am

My son of 24 does this very thing for an outfit called Wildland Trekking. He loves it. The only specific requirement was taking courses and becoming certified in Wilderness First Responder Training. I don’t think your age would be an impediment but you would need to be okay working with and being managed by 20 somethings. This week he is leading a group from the north to south rim of the Grand Canyon. You generally work 2 weeks out of the month and depending on where you are it can be 12 months a year. This company has locations throughout the US so there are many opportunities.

renue74
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by renue74 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:58 am

We have neighbors who there mid-20s son is a guide in Alaska. He works there during the "season," and then comes home (Charlotte, NC area) during the off season. He seems to love it and has been doing it for 5+ years.

One thing to note, it's definitely not a desk job and there's not a lot of "off-time" when you're on.

My dad retired from the Army when he was 43. He moved to Florida and had a couple small business to add to his pension. Then he decided to work for the State Park Service. He worked at a local state beach park. For the first few years, he enjoyed it, but soon, he hated working the swing shifts and weekends. He would lead environmental walks, help with sea turtle duty, do maintenance, clean bathrooms....all kinds of work. The pay was bad, but he didn't care. I think he stayed for 10 years, so he could get a partial state pension in addition to his Army pension.

It sounds great on the outside, I would love to hear somebody's first person experiences of the real life deal.

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Watty
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Watty » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:05 am

Bacchus01 wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:59 pm
One thing I love to do is hike the national parks and don't mind the rough stuff.
I was just in Yellowstone and Glacier. There are lots of tour buses and a lot of the people are from all over the world so speaking a some language other than english would be helpful.

Seasonal work is areas like that is very easy to get especially now. There was a visa program to bring in seasonal workers from places like eastern Europe but that has been limited so employers are having a hard time getting workers this year. In one restaurant they had a bitter and political sign explaining this was why they were not open seven days a week and could be only open limited hours some days that they were open.

I suspect that getting a job with a big tour company may not be all that hard, but you would likely need to commit to working an entire season. If you have a commercial drivers license and first aid certification that might make getting a job like that easier.

I suspect that you want to be more of a some sort of backcountry guide and not be on a big bus all day.
Bacchus01 wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:59 pm
....I can fly in anywhere I need to go. It doesn't have to be close by.....

But, I wonder if, at 45+, I'll likely not be chosen for something like that.
Getting an RV or trailer that you can live in would be more practical than flying there since accommodations in places like national parks are usually very limited and employers will want to know that you have some place to live so you don't quit because of that. There are often RV parks outside the national parks that have monthly rentals for people that are doing seasonal work. If you fly in you would also need to rent a car which is not really practical.

If you live in Florida expecting to become a backcountry guide in Alaska is is not very realistic unless you have been going to the same area there for years. The lack of local experience is probably more of a limitation than your age for backcountry work.

You might want to focus on the jobs in your part of the country that you know very well to get some experience as a wilderness guide which might make you more employable if you want to work in other parts of the country later on.

middistancerunner
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by middistancerunner » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:11 am

Not exactly the same thing, but on our last winter vacation our beginning snowboarding instructor was a retired guy, probably 65 or 70. He had been skiing/snowboarding his whole life and seemed to be extremely happy to have that kind of job in retirement - said it kept him busy/active, and gave him a small amount of supplemental income (though I got the sense that wasn’t the reason he did it). And free access to the slopes.

He was a great instructor and I liked him better than the typical show-offy younger guys where it feels like half the lesson is really about them trying to impress you.

The thing I wondered about with this as a retirement strategy was the increased chance of injury, especially with downhill skiing/snowboarding. But other than that it seemed like an awesome retirement option and he seemed like a genuinely really happy dude.

DSInvestor
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by DSInvestor » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:18 am

An option is not to guide but to volunteer to work on trails. For example, Washington Trails Association (WTA) in Washington state has a backcountry response team which takes volunteers out on trails to do trail work. No demanding clients to look after, beautiful scenery and working with people who love the outdoors and want to preserve it for future generations.

WTA Backcountry Response Teams: https://www.wta.org/get-involved/volunt ... ering/bcrt

Other states may have something like this.
Pacific Crest Trail PCTA.ORG: https://www.pcta.org/our-work/trail-mai ... struction/
Appalachian Trail: https://appalachiantrail.org/home/volunteer
Pacific Northwest Trail: https://www.pnt.org/pnta/about-us/volunteer/
Colorado Divide Trail: https://continentaldividetrail.org/volunteer/
Wiki

Bacchus01
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Bacchus01 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:26 am

Shallowpockets wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:19 am
It does not seem like a reasonable idea. You are 45, maybe an age bias when you go to get hired. Also, what experience? Why would they hire you? You've done some hiking trips. You will have to make an impression. What are your people skills? Customers can drive you crazy. You don't get to pick them. They just come, with their possibly inflated sense of their own fitness. You would have to take care of them throughout the trip, not just the hiking part.
Also what credentials such as CPR, or whatever else would be the expected paperwork? Probably should be well up on all those sorts of things.
If you now live in an area not known for the adventure life, you might be at a disadvantage as far as experience goes. Like, say, NYC, or Boston, Miami. Only because where you live is probably reflective of how many times you get out there.
To think you will just fly in and guide sounds like some sort of pipe dream.
Then again there is most likely a high turnover in some of the guide jobs. So you could get in on something. But thinking you may guide an REI trip seem far fetched at present.
So, in other words, you have no experience and no perspective on the subject? Thanks.

Bacchus01
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Bacchus01 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:29 am

DSInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:18 am
An option is not to guide but to volunteer to work on trails. For example, Washington Trails Association (WTA) in Washington state has a backcountry response team which takes volunteers out on trails to do trail work. No demanding clients to look after, beautiful scenery and working with people who love the outdoors and want to preserve it for future generations.

WTA Backcountry Response Teams: https://www.wta.org/get-involved/volunt ... ering/bcrt

Other states may have something like this.
Pacific Crest Trail PCTA.ORG: https://www.pcta.org/our-work/trail-mai ... struction/
Appalachian Trail: https://appalachiantrail.org/home/volunteer
Pacific Northwest Trail: https://www.pnt.org/pnta/about-us/volunteer/
Colorado Divide Trail: https://continentaldividetrail.org/volunteer/
I know someone who is an App Trail volunteer in retirement. He loves it.

Katietsu
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Katietsu » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:40 am

Based on conversations with friends who have worked in this area, the greatest cause of stress and burnout is being responsible for the life and health of others. These others may not have the physical fitness or experience that you would hope for. And, more significantly, might not follow your standards and instructions for safety. This is what I would consider most carefully before making a decision. In the worst case scenario... I have known a couple of guides who naturally had a hard time coping with the deaths of members of their group even though the guide did no wrong.
Last edited by Katietsu on Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

DSInvestor
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by DSInvestor » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:43 am

One of the things that will be required for any guide is wilderness first aid and/or wilderness first responder certification, probably the latter.

NOLS offers Wilderness First Aid (WFA) classes around the country. These are 2 day classes. Great choice for those who want to be better prepared for recreating outdoors.
https://www.nols.edu/en/coursefinder/co ... t-aid-WFA/

NOLS also offers Wilderness First Responder (WFR). According to their website, this is the industry standard for professional guides, trip leaders, search and rescue:
https://www.nols.edu/en/coursefinder/co ... onder-WFR/

REI and NOLS have partnered up on WFA classes around the country. Locations and dates of classes available in links above.
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adamthesmythe
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by adamthesmythe » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:41 am

It may be best to do this when you are young and assetless, because of the potential for personal liability. At minimum an older person would want to be sure that the company's liability insurance is ironclad.

Be sure that you have the personality to provide a degree of entertainment and to deal with demanding and annoying clients. Not that these are necessarily common but they would be part of the job.

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VictoriaF
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by VictoriaF » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:47 am

Bacchus01 wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:29 am
DSInvestor wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:18 am
An option is not to guide but to volunteer to work on trails. For example, Washington Trails Association (WTA) in Washington state has a backcountry response team which takes volunteers out on trails to do trail work. No demanding clients to look after, beautiful scenery and working with people who love the outdoors and want to preserve it for future generations.

WTA Backcountry Response Teams: https://www.wta.org/get-involved/volunt ... ering/bcrt

Other states may have something like this.
Pacific Crest Trail PCTA.ORG: https://www.pcta.org/our-work/trail-mai ... struction/
Appalachian Trail: https://appalachiantrail.org/home/volunteer
Pacific Northwest Trail: https://www.pnt.org/pnta/about-us/volunteer/
Colorado Divide Trail: https://continentaldividetrail.org/volunteer/
I know someone who is an App Trail volunteer in retirement. He loves it.
Apart from trail maintenance, hiking clubs have many volunteer leaders. You can start buy volunteering to lead, and after you establish a good reputation organize private trips.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

dknightd
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by dknightd » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:52 am

You might be better off just taking these trips. Or taking your own trips. IMO when you are retired you should focus on enjoying life. If taking care of others makes you happy then go for it. I'm guessing at 45 you would have a hard time breaking into this industry. But I could be wrong, and likely am. Do what makes you happy

Wilderness Librarian
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Wilderness Librarian » Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:20 am

I posted my initial response last night just before I went to bed. Since then you have gotten some very good replies. I would take seriously the suggestions that you approach this by taking relevant training programs, and augmenting them with experience such as volunteer trail maintenance, or manning semi-backcountry visitor centers for a short time. (At least some time ago the Forest Service had volunteers man an historic ranch house/museum in Snake River Hell's Canyon on a month by month basis) I have thought about requesting a winter month to experience the canyon that time of year but haven't .

Admittedly my experience taking guided trips is limited partly financial and partly because I am pretty much a loner and prefer to be by myself most of the time. You do not state your experience as a customer of these services. If you haven't done much already from this angle - this might actually be the best starting point.

You do not state your career or subject interests. My guess is a guide focus in an area such as geology, wildlife biology, birding, mushrooming etc.would help but not be essential. I remember seeing the customer reviews on a very expensive REI trip in Death Valley (hotel stays somewhere outside of park). The comments said it was worth it because the guide had extensive geologic knowledge & field experience in the park and took them to interesting out of the way sites and explained things the park rangers could not. Also growing up in the 60s one of our neighbors was a Botany professor. He did summers in Glacier giving campground talks and short hikes. I suspect his subject knowledge combined with his teaching experience not his woodcraft/wilderness response skills gave him the edge in that kind of situation.

As to procedures: About 20 years ago I looked into seasonal employment in the national parks. At that time you had to fill out a computer scored application in short window of time (I think January/February for the summer) and had to specify a park and only one park. (Maybe a second as an alternative can't remember). I remember racking my brain trying to think of the least desirable ones where I might have a chance. Of course things might have changed.

Bacchus01
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Bacchus01 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:28 pm

Wilderness Librarian wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:20 am
I posted my initial response last night just before I went to bed. Since then you have gotten some very good replies. I would take seriously the suggestions that you approach this by taking relevant training programs, and augmenting them with experience such as volunteer trail maintenance, or manning semi-backcountry visitor centers for a short time. (At least some time ago the Forest Service had volunteers man an historic ranch house/museum in Snake River Hell's Canyon on a month by month basis) I have thought about requesting a winter month to experience the canyon that time of year but haven't .

Admittedly my experience taking guided trips is limited partly financial and partly because I am pretty much a loner and prefer to be by myself most of the time. You do not state your experience as a customer of these services. If you haven't done much already from this angle - this might actually be the best starting point.

You do not state your career or subject interests. My guess is a guide focus in an area such as geology, wildlife biology, birding, mushrooming etc.would help but not be essential. I remember seeing the customer reviews on a very expensive REI trip in Death Valley (hotel stays somewhere outside of park). The comments said it was worth it because the guide had extensive geologic knowledge & field experience in the park and took them to interesting out of the way sites and explained things the park rangers could not. Also growing up in the 60s one of our neighbors was a Botany professor. He did summers in Glacier giving campground talks and short hikes. I suspect his subject knowledge combined with his teaching experience not his woodcraft/wilderness response skills gave him the edge in that kind of situation.

As to procedures: About 20 years ago I looked into seasonal employment in the national parks. At that time you had to fill out a computer scored application in short window of time (I think January/February for the summer) and had to specify a park and only one park. (Maybe a second as an alternative can't remember). I remember racking my brain trying to think of the least desirable ones where I might have a chance. Of course things might have changed.
Sharing the link if anyone else is interested:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/wallowa- ... rdb5227394

btenny
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by btenny » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:31 pm

Well I think becoming a Adventure Guide as a leader guide is probably out of your reach at your age and knowledge status. Leader guides start as assistants in their early 20s and work that job for years and hundreds of trips before any company will let them become Guide Leaders. There is just a ton of things to learn. But if you have good related career knowledge like geology or wildlife expertise then maybe. BUT I am pretty sure you can get a job as park host or a guide assistant. The key is do you have some relevant experience and willingness to work for minimum wage or even free in some cases.

I know I was ski instructor in my early 50s for 6 years after I retired. I got that job because I was already a good skier and former teacher. But I had to do a full winter as a trainee ski instructor and go to classes and night school and take CPR and other training to get my Level 1 ski license. Most of my classmates were 20 somethings. Most of them quit after 1-2 years. A few of the young dedicated ones worked and trained and went to night school for years to get their gold badges and Level 3 licenses. Only then could they work as full mountain ski instructors.

Similar long term training and dedication is required to become adventure guides or river guides or fishing guides etc... https://www.google.com/search?q=guide+t ... e&ie=UTF-8

Good Luck.

UnitaryExecutive
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by UnitaryExecutive » Mon Aug 20, 2018 1:37 pm

I know someone who was doing something similar with photography adventure guiding. They're starting to plan now- taking trips to locations they want to guide at, taking some photos, getting the websites together so that when they retire in a couple years they'll be ready togo.

packerguy
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by packerguy » Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:09 pm

I don't know if you are into kayaking, but the Bayfield, Wisconsin area has a number of businesses that guide kayak trips in the Apostle Islands.

Also, perhaps Wilderness Inquiry would be of interest to you: https://www.wildernessinquiry.org/about ... olunteers/

ThankYouJack
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by ThankYouJack » Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:22 pm

OP, I've thought about doing something similar and I've already given kayak tours and SUP lessons.

The positives: It's always fun showing people a good time doing what you love.

The negatives: What isn't so much fun is handling the logistics, emails, lugging all the gear, etc. It always takes more time than I would think, far more time than actually being on the water.

I don't think the boring and grunt work makes up for the low pay. Instead I'd rather just volunteer and let others handle the boring and admin stuff.

InMyDreams
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by InMyDreams » Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:27 pm

Bacchus01 wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:59 pm
I know pay stinks (think just above minimum wage) but I really am intrigued with the idea. I don't mind being away for weeks at a time and I since I will be essentially FIRE,
Guides on the Colorado going thru the Grand Canyon make good money (partly with salary, a lot from Tips) - but they are very senior guides, and they're really good at their jobs, and they worked they're way up to it on other rivers before they got to the Colorado.

It's long hours while you're out, and it's a service job - lots of nice people, some PITAs, but in either case, you have to put up with 'em day after day.

The Backroads Bicycle Tours guides that I met seemed to indicate that the newbies would often stick it out for a year or two, but only a few stayed long term.

And guides get stuck with the drudgery - getting food on the table, getting the tourists rounded up, the flat tires, the scraped knees (hopefully not worse). Reports.

Are you a people person? Diplomat?

Bacchus01
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by Bacchus01 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:41 pm

InMyDreams wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:27 pm
Bacchus01 wrote:
Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:59 pm
I know pay stinks (think just above minimum wage) but I really am intrigued with the idea. I don't mind being away for weeks at a time and I since I will be essentially FIRE,
Guides on the Colorado going thru the Grand Canyon make good money (partly with salary, a lot from Tips) - but they are very senior guides, and they're really good at their jobs, and they worked they're way up to it on other rivers before they got to the Colorado.

It's long hours while you're out, and it's a service job - lots of nice people, some PITAs, but in either case, you have to put up with 'em day after day.

The Backroads Bicycle Tours guides that I met seemed to indicate that the newbies would often stick it out for a year or two, but only a few stayed long term.

And guides get stuck with the drudgery - getting food on the table, getting the tourists rounded up, the flat tires, the scraped knees (hopefully not worse). Reports.

Are you a people person? Diplomat?
I run a billion dollar company with 2,000 employees. Even then, I'm not sure I qualify :)

ArchibaldGraham
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Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by ArchibaldGraham » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:05 pm

About 10 years ago I was at a cross roads early in my career and I applied for a job like this as a whitewater rafting guide. Pay was $1500. I told the guy that this was a lot less than what I make at my current office job, but I expected that and was still interested. Then I naively asked if the $1500 per paycheck was biweekly or monthly and the guy laughed and told me that it was a stipend for the whole season. The season was ~4 months, so the pay worked out to < $100 per week, which barely would have covered the student loan payment I had at the time, nonetheless cover any expenses. Guides did have opportunity to make tips, but experienced guides got priority so it was not clear what the tip income would be as a first timer. I passed and got a better "real" job. Occasionally, I regret not doing this for a summer, but financially it is hard to justify. If you have no money you probably want to make some money. And if you have money working a low paid service job would get old fairly quickly. Remember most of the guides are not just leading the tour, they may be cleaning the gear, cooking for the group, picking up garbage, etc. depending on nature of the job.

If you were a 22 year old with genuine outdoor interest/skills, no debt, and nearly no expenses I do think it could be a good path to work a few years for peanuts and then eventually hang out a shingle or get in w/ a high-end operator that either offers decent pay or good tip potential. But otherwise I dont see this making sense.

xb7
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:13 pm
Location: WA State, USA

Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by xb7 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:34 pm

This response, too, isn't aimed at exactly what you're asking about (sorry), but you could also consider a long distance hike. I sort of fell down that rabbit hole 10 years ago and got the bug.

Starting out it's best to go northbound more or less "with the herd" on either the Pacific Crest or Appalachian trails, as those are sort of "long distance hiking on training wheels" experiences --- well marked, well documented with lots of maps and guidebook data and so forth, straight-forward logistics for the most part, and with the option of a rich social life along the way.

It's (definitely) not for everyone, but given what you're talking about it could be a way to spend some significant time hiking and interacting with a lot of people. One tends to build up a network of friends doing this, and very possibly meet folks who could help you sort out whether and what sort of outdoor volunteer kind of life you might want subsequently.

And who knows, it could even be something that's on your personal bucket list anyway!

InMyDreams
Posts: 350
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:35 am

Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by InMyDreams » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:45 pm

Bacchus01 wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:41 pm
I run a billion dollar company with 2,000 employees. Even then, I'm not sure I qualify :)
Hmmm, probably a lotta people skills.

Have you thought about an interest interview? Take a trip and quiz a guide, watch them closely, imagine yourself doing it?

Really, rafting down the Grand Canyon is an amazing trip! I've heard of one guide financing a year of law school with his season's earning on the Colorado.

white_water
Posts: 208
Joined: Sun Oct 27, 2013 1:16 pm

Re: Retire and become an Adventure Guide

Post by white_water » Tue Aug 21, 2018 1:09 pm

Go for it. My suggestion would be to apply at a state or national level for a seasonal position in a park or national monument for your entry level job.

You'll need some relevant experience ( climbing, whitewater, back country skiing, ski patrol, horse packing) to find more than a low level private job. But the glam jobs still need support people; drivers, camp jacks, packers, go-fers, swampers, those are often a door to entry.

You'll have to earn your way in. Yes, you're right, expect minimum wage while competing with 20 somethings who already have the skills and are looking for their way in. They likely don't mind sleeping 6 in a small apartment, living in their car, eating ramen noodles, drinking cheap beer. Hint: drive to a national park and look at seasonal employee housing.

Many older people work for a concession owner w/in the park system, live in their own RV, network may help get the job you want.
An acquaintance was the resident "caretaker" of a couple different USFS campgrounds in Alaska. He got to do a lot of fly fishing.

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