My kind of travel has so far almost always been tied to work. Not in the sense that I travel for my career. Instead, everywhere I’ve been, I’ve held various jobs in order to keep moving. When I first decided to travel abroad, I had this idea of settling in a foreign place long enough to make a new temporary home. Work was a way I could integrate into my new home more fully. Over the years that work has given me lasting connections to many different places through the people I’ve met, it’s broadened my experience by adding some truly interesting jobs to my resume, and, most practically, it’s allowed me to travel for longer.
Now in Scotland, I’ll be staying put in Glasgow for more time than I did in any one town on a working holiday visa. In fact, after four months, I’ve already hit that mark. Instead of flitting from job to job as a means of exploring my new country, I’m open to a longer-lasting routine. To my surprise, I found one quicker than I expected.
Let me backtrack here. I moved to Scotland in mid-October, and, while I knew I needed a month or so leeway to settle in after a manic exit from the States, I couldn’t afford much more time than that before I found work. Unsure of exactly what I was looking for, I adopted the approach that, if I could just find any kind of paying gig it would take the immediate pressure off, and, meanwhile, I could begin a more thoughtful job search. My big goal is and always has been to make writing my career, but I know that’s something I need to keep working away on while earning a full-time paycheck.
Just a few weeks earlier, back at the end of September, Richy and I had still been unsure what country we’d both be moving to. Now that that had swiftly been decided and I was suddenly a UK resident, we needed time to figure out a game plan. Should we stay in Glasgow? Move somewhere new right away? Move somewhere new in six months? The empty slate “I can do anything” situation, which can quickly warp into a downward spiral of indecision, is one I recognized from our beginnings in Australia.
In short, when it came time to find work I didn’t really know what I was looking for—or where. I applied for a couple off-the-cuff job ads I saw online that sounded really fun but that I was not qualified for. Some afternoons, I’d find myself typing words like ‘surfing’ or ‘wine’ into the indeed job search bar to see what came up. Not much, except in Cornwall—where they also have beaches regularly mistaken for somewhere in the tropics. Why weren’t we moving to Cornwall? But I digress.
We did want to stay in Scotland. And we also decided that, for now, we wanted to stay in Glasgow. With that somewhat settled, I began a more focused job search. I made a list of the categories of work I would be interested in and qualified for: waitressing, wine retail, writing or journalism, office admin-type work, travel or a hands-on outdoorsy job. (There is a good and bad side to having a CV that reads like excerpts from five different, totally unrelated novels. It can be hard to focus on any one field, and job searching in a new place can feel a little directionless. I also know I’m suitable for a wide range of work and have proven my ability to adapt to varied environments.)
I still scoured Indeed and Gumtree every day, more strategically now, but I also went the traditional route, marching out on Thanksgiving Day to paper every independent booze shop north of the River Clyde with my CV. This revived my lagging motivation and scored me a once-a-week gig at a funky little wine and beer shop in Glasgow’s West End. By this point, I’d also picked up a few temp jobs through my friend’s recruitment company, working several hours as a transcriptionist one week and filling in as a receptionist during a Christmas work party the next.
Then I found an online advertisement for a Glasgow-based adventure tour operator looking for admin support. I investigated and discovered that the company specialize in self-guided walking and cycling holidays in the UK, Europe, and worldwide, and that the business was built on a set of values that match near perfectly to the perspective that years of travel have given me. It sounded too good to be true.
I filled out an application immediately and followed up the next day with a phone call to the contact listed. I was assured by a real voice that my application had been received, and I’d hear from the managers later in the week if they wanted to interview me. I did, and they did.
Before the interview, I was asked to prepare in advance examples of how I had demonstrated each of the company’s values, including ‘be adventurous’, ‘stay active’, and ‘have fun’, along with specific qualifications for the role itself. It’s the first time my travel experience has been the primary reason I qualify for a job.
Inspiration hits when you walk through the door at Macs Headquarters
After the most encouraging interview I’ve had, where I learned more about the company and was given the chance to speak with a few of the employees about what they do and the office culture, I heard back later in the week that I got the job. Not only that, they were hiring me on as a Destination and Adventure Specialist. I would still start out in the admin position I had applied for for the first few months, supporting the sales and operations team to compile and send trip information out to clients, with the idea of growing into the D&A role.
After all the worry about what I was going to find in the job market when I moved to Scotland and that underlying doubt about whether I had it in me to start all over again, once again, things worked out in a way I could not have anticipated.
I’ve been working at Macs Adventure for over two months, now, starting in their brand new offices in central Glasgow a week before Christmas. Every Monday through Friday I get to go to work in a thoughtfully designed creative space with a group of friendly, encouraging people who share an interest in outdoor adventure. It’s an inspiring place to be, and I feel so lucky, if not surprised, by the sudden stability that a full-time salaried position offers.
Learning winter mountain skills in the Cairngorms. Photo by Matt at Lakeland Mountain Guides.
There have been a few moments where the constancy of a permanent position scares me. It’s something I’ve never had before, and the ‘real world’ structure and routine is one I’ve somehow avoided until the age of 29.
But with my previous unrestricted freedom and flexibility came other sacrifices, and I’ve been craving more balance for a while now. The reality of a steady job that also happens to compliment years of constant travel is something I’m fortunate to have found.
The other weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a winter mountaineering course in the Highlands through my job. It was a challenging experience in the elements that gave me the sort of exhilarating fulfilment that comes only through hard physical work out of doors. It reminded me of my time working on a mountain in New Zealand. Maybe this life isn’t so different from wandering, after all.