Nomadic work
July 13, 2004 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I want to live a nomadic-ish lifestyle for a few years. What type of employment would you recommend? (more inside)

I have decided that I would like to travel around to different cities in the United States, setting up temporary residence for at least 6 months at each place. I am currently a graphic designer, but because of the nature of this business, it is not easy to pick up and leave a job to find a new one with the frequency I would like. What kind of jobs would you recommend? I don’t mind getting some training, but I am not sure what would be a readily available job in most cities. I do not like waiting tables. It is not beneath me, but I suck as a waiter, I have done it before and was asked to never do it again. I was thinking bartender. I’d like something where I could get more than minimum wage. Is this a crazy pipe dream? Has anyone else done this with success? Help, I am stagnating in the South and need to explore!
posted by studentbaker to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pizza delivery driver. With tips and commision you can make some good money. And if you have experience it's very easy to get hired anywhere at any time. And it's part time which leaves you free for contract graphics work.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2004

teacher. you might have to extend the 6 months to 9 or 10, but once you have credentials it would be rather easy to move from town to town. I think it would pay a bit more than pizza delivery, although I couldn't swear to that . Regular hours, weekends, nights, and holidays off to "see" the states.
posted by busboy789 at 9:03 AM on July 13, 2004

Get experience doing housing construction, especially roofing.

Then you can nomad your way around the US, following weather-induced mass damage. You could spend 6 months post-hurricane re-roofing houses, for example.

It would be an ideal job for me, to follow natural disasters around the country, doing various construction type jobs, as a contractor, while living in an RV. But there are problems with intra-state building contracting, so you're better off as an employee of the big guys than going independent.
posted by yesster at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2004

Housing might be a bit tricky, as most landlords will want a year lease, and sublets suck (err, IMHO, of course).

...but pizza delivery strikes me as a good idea. If you want different hours, lots of cities have small courier agencies that need people with cars -- running things from the suburbs into the city, and vice-versa, usually during business hours.
posted by aramaic at 9:09 AM on July 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Two suggestions here: canvassing and bike messengering.
Both are hard as hell, but if you wander in to any city of reasonable size, you can get a job doing either with hardly an interview. And sometimes you can work out ways to get paid under the table, especially with as a messenger.

And if you ever need some quick dough, there's always medical reseach...
posted by kaibutsu at 9:16 AM on July 13, 2004

There are enough Borders and Barnes & Noble stores in the country that with any bookstore experience you could get a job fairly easily anywhere. I did it for a while.
posted by mookieproof at 9:17 AM on July 13, 2004

Wonder if you could get Ford to partially sponsor a hybrid car for you... it'd be a real fuel-saver in a pizza delivery job, and Ford would get great advertising out of it.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:17 AM on July 13, 2004

Yeah, housing can be tough.

If you're planning to do six months at a time, you might be able to find a place that gives month-to-month leasing. Your neighbors will be wierd and sometimes scary, but at least it's a roof...

If you're only in a town for a few weks, you can try jumping between hostels. And if you ever need a roof in Eugene for a night or two, just drop me a line. I'm always up for helping out a fellow vagrant.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:19 AM on July 13, 2004

Masseuse, reflexologist, yoga instructor, etc. Moderately involved training, good money, not the toughest job in the world, and usually good working environments. Of course, you do have to touch people...
posted by gottabefunky at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2004

The problem with being a courier/pizza delivery guy is that most need to know the roads really well. I'm guessing without a GPS system, you won't do too well getting around.
posted by geoff. at 9:31 AM on July 13, 2004

i met someone in a hostel in australia years ago who made architectural models - scale versions of buildings, from plans. he claimed it was a great job for this kind of thing, because he could find work in any major city. apparently people are employed for a particular model, rather than permanently.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2004

Roofing is brutal. Shingles are heavy and roofs are HOT. I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't planning on hating each city you're travelling to, or if you're over say 25. Most other types of contracting work aren't that bad, though.
posted by furiousthought at 9:47 AM on July 13, 2004

An alternative to anything I see here would be some medical/convolescent care position. Also accounting or clerical skills, working for a good temp agency.

For delivery type jobs you face the problem of not knowing the area that well. I suggest you pick up a Garmin IQue portable GPS for that. Also great for seeing places by programming to avoid the interstate.

Once upon a time, long long ago, when I was a teenager, the best thing of all was called "short-order cook". No matter where I was, I saw ads for that. Not sure if you find call for that much anymore. I did my nomad thing before I was old enough to be employed cooking.

Some people will give you a ration of shit, simply because you're a "drifter". Some folks will give you a good time, simply because you're a "drifter". Learn to find the latter, and let the former alone.
posted by Goofyy at 9:48 AM on July 13, 2004

Another vote for construction, demo, gardening, landscaping, etc., depending on season. You do need to be reasonably physically fit, and probably under about 35 years; or rather, fit enough that you will not damage yourself doing it when you start - for instance, can you lift 50 lbs/20 kg relatively easily? Crews are always looking for reliable/enthusiastic people who can do grunt work, and you will be able to pick up all sorts of skills as you progress. I found in the past that one of my biggest qualifications here, besides knowing which end of a sledge-hammer to hold, was my ability to turn up for work every day at 8. It's amazing how unreliable many of your coworkers can be.

If you do this I would invest in cheapo safety boots, and also work gloves, before you show up the first time. Also wear old/tough jeans/t-shirts, i.e. clothing you do not mind being destroyed. Then you can start on the spot, if need be.
posted by carter at 9:49 AM on July 13, 2004

I've known nurses and ESL teachers to do this, but most of the nomads I've met work as servers, waiters, or such.
posted by bonehead at 9:58 AM on July 13, 2004

Construction type jobs typically pay well-above what a pizza delivery driver gets. Like more than 2x.

Also, do anything required - grunt work - on your first couple of jobs. You'll get experience and exposure sufficient to bluff your way into better pay on the next job. Do this for 2 years, and you can be a crew foreman, which means you get to hire the drifters and deal with drunk employees, etc.
posted by yesster at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2004

Yes construction can pay pretty well. Also, out of the temp jobs I've done (kitchen, factory, packing, etc.), you seem to meet the most interesting characters in construction.
posted by carter at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2004

Highly recommend this zine on being a nomad. Send them $10 for back issues and you'll get more super fine print ideas of nomadic living then you could read in a year. Really great stuff people doing exactly what your talking about and shareing ideas. Sounds great hope it works out well.
posted by stbalbach at 11:35 AM on July 13, 2004

Teacher? uh, no, sorry. Once you've established a pattern of leaving a school after one academic year no one is going to hire you. (Schools actually do check references/ backgrounds.) Not to mention that certification to teach in one state does not guarantee certification to teach in another state, if you are even certified to begin with.
posted by archimago at 11:49 AM on July 13, 2004

Hmm. I know of folks who travel frequently to setup museum and art exhibits - they're contracted by the exhibit's owners, though don't stay in a city nearly as long as 6 months... it's more like an extended business trip. Doing regular work for any sort of traveling business (trade shows, entertainment) might get you into various cities for an extended period of time, plus you have a regular employer.

I know in some entertainment tours, there are clerical, relations, electrician, etc. people who travel with the group. Some tour stops can be in terms of months. However, as someone who is on stage, rather than behind it, I can't really say what sort of entry level positions are avaiable and the connections required.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:43 PM on July 13, 2004

ESL teacher would be the ideal occupation for this lifestyle. In my experience, most ESL teachers are fairly nomadic anyway and it is pretty much considered the norm in the industry that these teachers don't hang around long in any one place, so there would be no stigma attached to moving around a lot.
posted by dg at 4:35 PM on July 13, 2004

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