Why Live Like Gypsies?



Just one of the views we enjoy daily with our gypsy living.

A little less than a year into our gypsy living experiment, I’m pleased to report that we’re still loving this grand adventure.  Is life perfect?  Nope.  Is life easy?  Ha, yeah right!  Do we have everything we need?  Probably, although it doesn’t always feel that way.  Are there still stresses, problems and worries?  You betcha.  But one of the most important differences is that those “stresses, problems and worries” no longer dominate our lives.  Before, it seemed like those were the only things we could see. These days, our view is much broader.

That thought tickles me a bit with it’s irony.  Here I sit here in the great wilderness of the boundary waters on a public highway that’s so remote that it actually ends just a short distance up the road from us. Canada and more trees guard the other side of the lake.   We’re so far away from civilization that cell service doesn’t even exist here.  And, from our “dorm style” room window, I see nothing but clouds and trees.

So what’s the “broader” view then?  It might be easier to show you.  This was my day today:

Today, I woke up precisely 1 hour before work and before the alarm.  There was just enough time to mill around the room a little after breakfast.  I don’t have to spend a lot of time getting ready for work; We all wear jeans and t-shirts.  I enjoyed my 1/4 mile walk to work which takes me through the forest and past a burbling brook.  On a nice day, I take 5-10 minutes.  When it’s cold and rainy, 3 minutes.  Hubby’s walk is double that, as his workday starts at the lake.  Today’s weather was picture perfect.

I work with great people and we have fun while taking care of the guests.  I get an hour lunch break, during which I walk back through the woods and up the hill to my room.    I have a 4 year college degree, plus half of a master’s degree, professional certifications, and 25 years of professional business experience.  My job at this resort is as a canoe trip outfitter.  It’s wonderful. At the end of the day, I go home feeling like I accomplished something but I don’t worry about work and I don’t take work home with me. My time off is my time to do with as I please.  Right now, that’s mostly hiking, kayaking or exploring the area.

I live in a dorm with wonderful young people that are out trying to figure out life and fit in some adventures themselves.  They don’t seem to mind that we’re old enough to be their parents.  In fact, I think they like having us as part of the mix.  And they’re helping keep us young.

For dinner tonight, one of the fellows broke in his new charcoal grill and invited us to join him.  I wrapped pike fillets from hubby’s catch a couple of days ago in bacon and grilled them. The grilling itself was quite a social event, with at least half a dozen of our dorm neighbors joining us.  Hubby and I then enjoyed a lovely dinner together in our tiny one-room apartment.  We spent the evening talking (as we do nearly every evening).  And tonight, I can hear the wolves howling off in the distance.

We’ll sleep well, with the cool fresh forest air coming in from the open window by the bed.  And tomorrow will be a new day.  When it’s time, we’ll move on to the next adventure.

Gypsy living is about living life on our terms.  For us, that’s meant minimizing life’s stress, traveling, seeing new places, learning new things, having new experiences, and meeting new friends.  It’s not been easy, but it has been worth it.  Perhaps we’ll meet you on the gypsy road someday.

Work Option While Traveling: Temping

Temporary Employment While Travelling

So far, we haven’t had much time in one place between jobs.  But now, we’re house sitting in one spot for 6 weeks.  After that, we’ll head up to our summer job in (very) remote MN.  It seems smart to go ahead and get some things taken care of while we’re here in “the city,” but it’s going to take some money to do so.

We’re not (yet) in the group of folks that have income coming regardless of where they are living.  So, that means that we need to go out and find employment.  Back in the 90’s that was an easy accomplishment.  There were more jobs than employees, the pay was more in-line with the cost of living, and office work was still plentiful.  Not so much in today’s economy.

Living honestly is something that’s important to us, and we decided that we don’t want to take jobs where the employer is expecting a long-term commitment from us.  It would be easy to argue that employers don’t offer long-term commitments to their employees, so all’s fair in love and war.  But, in the end, it comes down to principle: We don’t want to lie.  1) It makes you feel bad when you do it.  2) It’s bad karma.  3) Once started, it’s a slippery slope.  It becomes a bad habit that quickly spreads into other aspects of your life.   4) And besides, God’s pretty clear in “the good book” that he doesn’t favor liers.  So that’s my long winded explanation for why we didn’t opt to pursue better paying long-term jobs and just ditch them when we wanted to leave.

Temporary work appealed to us as the best option.  If you’re not familiar with it, temporary agencies hire people to go out and work in temporary situations for their clients.  They could have you go out to an office and answer telephones or put stamps on envelopes.  You might do data entry.  You might be packing boxes in a warehouse.  Or putting gadgets on widgets in an assembly line.  You might be digging a trench or holding a sign on the side of the road.  It all depends on what the agency has as available work that they think you can handle.

You won’t get rich doing it, but the pay is generally better than minimum wage.  And you get paid weekly, which is nice.

Some temporary agencies “do it all,” but most seem to specialize:  office work, medical, labor (factory & construction).  To find a temporary agency near your area, just search in your favorite search engine for any combination of these terms:

  • temporary agencies
  • temp staffing
  • staffing agencies
  • employment agencies

They all have a different flavor, with different requirements.  You might want to call ahead, so that you’re not wasting your time.  Introduce yourself as new to the area and  looking for temporary work.  Politely ask them a few questions, like:

  • what types of work do they handle?
  • do they have work available for immediate placement?
  • what do they need for an application?
  • what are the next steps in the application process?

Note:  I should point out that many of them require a drug test.  I don’t know if I’d bring it up directly, as it could make you look flighty.  But if this is something that’s a concern for you, you may want to ask them to tell you about all that’s entailed in the application process.  If you ask it that way,  you look professional and they’ll likely tell you if there is such a requirement.  No point putting yourself through the application process if you won’t pass the drug test.  Save yourself some aggravation and find another place that doesn’t require it.

If this isn’t an option for you, there are plenty of jobs that have high-turnover.  I consider those “temporary” employment also, just by their nature.  Plus they don’t tend to ask questions like “where do you see yourself a year from now.”  They just want people to get the job done today.  Food service seems to be the one that has the most availability and doesn’t seem to have the drug test requirement.  Remember, this isn’t your career.  It’s just a job that’s serving a purpose.

I’m working right now on a temporary assignment using a spot-welding machine in a factory on 2nd shift.  My background is anything but that:  management, office work, computer work, project management, database work, process improvement.  But that really doesn’t matter, as it’s not what I’m aspiring to do right now.  So I haven’t even brought it up with them, and they haven’t asked.  It’s a win-win.  It’s giving me what I need right now – a paycheck.  And since it’s “temporary work,”  I’ll just give my notice two weeks ahead of time and leave with a clear conscience.

If you choose to go this route, it’s easy to gravitate to what’s comfortable and what you know already.  Makes sense, right!  But, you might also think about opening yourself to other possibilities that are outside the realm of what you’re used to.  It’s just temporary work, so it’s not like you’re committing to a lifetime of it.  Think of it as “test driving” a new occupation.

Also, for it to be practical, temporary work while travelling makes the most sense when you’re in one area for several weeks.  (It can take you a week or two just to get placed in a job).  You’ll have more options for temporary work in more populated areas.  The work you find will be a job with all the frustrations and expectations that come with a “job.”  But since it’s not your life-long career, you find it keeping up at night.  You won’t dream about it.  You wont’ think about it during every waking moment, like we tend to do with career jobs.  Besides, temp work can also give you some flexibility along with the quick income.  And, best of all, it is “temporary.”

If you need a quick influx of funds and you’re not going to be in the area long, check out day-labor options.  Once you fill out their initial application, you basically show up at their office at a rude hour of the morning.  They look through the list of people present and choose who’s going out on which jobs for the day. It’s hard physical work – like road construction, lifting boxes in a shipping center, etc.   Your fellow-employees tend to be a bit of  a rough crowd, and you’ll likely learn some creative uses for curse-words you’ve not heard before.  But, there’s no commitment other than the immediate work day and they tend to pay by the day.

Temp work, as a gap-filler, works for me.  I love learning new things and having new experiences.  This manufacturing job that I’m doing right now isn’t particularly easy.  It is long hours.  The training program is considerably less than what I’m used to.  I’m (thankfully) not in any physical danger, but occasionally my thumbs catch a molten metal splinter.  But I am enjoying the challenge of this new work adventure.  Additionally, it is definitely giving me a new appreciation for how much effort goes into even just the little parts that keep our modern life machines moving at their fast pace.

Gypsy Living – Not So Radical After All

I’ve always suspected that there are more people living like gypsies and nomads than is recognized.  It must be fairly common if the Wall Street Journal has it on Page 1 of their “Wealth Management” section in today’s paper:

In Praise of A Nomadic Life – Andrew Blackman

Hubby and I are now 7 months into our gypsy living adventure.  Like the author in the article above, we sold or donated nearly all of our earthly belongings.  We travel from seasonal job to seasonal job, picking places that we want to see.  In between jobs, we camp in our old van.  Andrew and his wife are a bit braver than we are… (so far).  They’re enjoying gypsy living in Europe.  We have our hands full just trying to figure out this gypsy lifestyle here in the States.

He’s right, in that like everything in life, there’s a trade-off.  We’re just starting this gypsy living journey, so I’m sure the list will change and grow.  But, here’s my list of pro’s and con’s so far (in no particular order):

Pros (Benefits) of Gypsy Living

  1. Sense of freedom
  2. Variety in scenery
  3. Variety in work
  4. Much less stressful (work and home)
  5. Helps you focus on the things that are important, without the noise of modern life interfering
  6. Less worry and more peace of mind
  7. Sense of independence
  8. Social – it’s a vey social lifestyle.  There are always new friends to meet and old friends and family to catch up with

Cons (Rather, I’d say “Challenges”) of Gypsy Living:

  1. Difficult to figure out how to mange things like how to vote, where to send your mail, how to manage healthcare across state lines, or even what state to call your residence.
  2. Financial uncertainty of not knowing how a new job (and living space) is going to work out (if you’re working seasonal employment with housing provided).*
  3. Possibly burning a bridge with your past career work, as you’re likely shooting holes in your resume (if you’re doing seasonal work).*
  4. Car trouble is doubly challenging, as it’s also your place to live.
  5. As you’re always moving, finding things that we often take for granted like good auto mechanics or hairstylists is a bit challenging.
  6. Even living small, it is still very easy to accumulate things.  This means that you’re always having to pick what stays and what goes.  There’s very limited space with this lifestyle, and it’s hard (but not impossible) to break the pattern of consumerism that we’re all used to.

*If you’re lucky enough to have either a guaranteed income (social security, pension, disability) or else employment that’s portable, you don’t have to worry about these challenges.  I suspect that your challenge then becomes how to  manage your travel schedule to meet your work deadlines.

All in all, it’s just nice to know that there are others out there trying to live the same way, and seeking similar goals.