Would You Do It for a Living?

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Home Forums General Forums Philosophy & Technique Would You Do It for a Living?

Viewing 19 posts - 1 through 19 (of 19 total)
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    John Donewar
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Texas

    This thread leans more towards the philosophy and not so much the technique. ;-)

    I thoroughly enjoy hiking, camping and MYOG. I spend a small portion of each day on these forums. I treat it like my interactive newspaper and read and post with my morning coffee on the desk nearby.

    When I see staff by a members name I realize that it is a part time job. These staff members have other real day jobs. I also admit to being mildly interested in the "we're hiring notice" on the home page.

    My question is this. Would you do it for a living?

    Before you answer think about this, would your hobby that you enjoy in your free time be as enjoyable to you if it were your daily source of income and benefits for you and your family?

    Also if it was your everyday job that you were required to be at every workday how long would it take before it ceased being fun?

    What would your vacation activities be if hiking was your job?

    As much as I love it I often wonder if I could do it for a living.

    Party On,


    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    I love my real job. Hiking is what I do in my leisure time — it is not something I do to "get away" from the real world. I like the "real world."

    No, I would not want to hike as my real job.

    Lets look at Skurka. His real job is writing, public speaking, and guiding. It looks like the guiding does not take up the majority of his time. His hiking trips (the big ones), are just that. The majority of his job income seems to come from what he shares afterward from his book and his speaking engagements. His guiding also is a result from what he has learned from his big hiking trips.

    Being a full time guide would suck, IMO. I wouldn't want to be responsible for a bunch of other people.

    John Donewar
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Texas

    "I love my real job. Hiking is what I do in my leisure time — it is not something I do to "get away" from the real world. I like the "real world."


    I admit to seeing my hiking and camping as a "getaway". No, I would not want to do it as a living.

    My job on the other hand is what I do to make a living and provide for my family. It involves a good bit of trouble shooting and problem solving. I enjoy being able to search out and find the answers but I do not miss it when I am not on the job.

    FWIW I do not think that I would enjoy being self employed either. The boss would always be following you around! L O L ;-)

    Party On,



    "Being a full time guide would suck, IMO. I wouldn't want to be responsible for a bunch of other people."

    A big +1 A cardinal tenet of my life philosophy is to never spoil something I love by doing it for money.

    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member


    While it's a fun daydream, I can't imagine how guiding or backpacking for a living would allow me to simultaneously have a wife and children, be an artist, run, surf…

    The other me without all these things simply doesn't exist.

    a b


    Family are always telling me to write a book about my hiking experiences.
    God bless them but I honestly don't think i have anything new to say that has already not been said by others at this point.
    The idea of cashing in on the experiences just turns me off.

    Besides, i like to build things and solve problems.
    Plumbing has all that in spades.
    Hiking.. not so much.

    After 4 months of walking i am ready to get back to work.
    After 4 months of work i am ready to be hiking again but the bills gotta be paid so i keep working.
    The trail ain't going anywhere.. i will hike again.
    There will always be plumbing to do.. i will always have work again.
    Just gotta find the right balance and that is what i am struggling to do right now.

    John Donewar
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Texas

    a b,

    "Family are always telling me to write a book about my hiking experiences. God bless them but I honestly don't think I have anything new to say that has already not been said by others at this point."

    OK so there won't be any earth shattering revelations as per gear, philosophy or technique. But your family is telling you to share your hiking experiences not how to or technical gear reports but trip reports.

    We all do it from time to time whether or not we type them or just tell then verbally at the campfire. Just share the adventure of it all.

    There are a ton of people out there who want to hear how someone else got lost, found help, couldn't get a campfire going, had an encounter of the animal kind, missed their resupply or just met some really good people on the trail. The list of things to share goes on and on.

    It might not make you able to retire but you never know what may come down the pipe. ;-)

    Party On,


    Dena Kelley
    BPL Member


    Locale: Eagle River, Alaska

    My ideal jobs would involve hiking. Unfortunately I can't pay the bills with them. But if I were in a position to do it, I'd love to work for a State or National park or a search and rescue organization. In Alaska the parks hire people to go out to the remote cabins and restock the firewood, tp, do repairs, etc. Methods of getting to the cabins can be anything from hiking to boating. I always thought that would be one of the coolest jobs in the world. Sadly it doesn't pay squat. But what a life. :)

    I still have a goal of joining the local Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, a volunteer search and rescue organization that handles technical rescues. I'd love to have a supporting role in that organization. However they need people that can drop everything and go when a rescue is called for, and right now that's not an option for me with my job. But someday.

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    "Before you answer think about this, would your hobby that you enjoy in your free time be as enjoyable to you if it were your daily source of income and benefits for you and your family?"

    It would. I've guided professionally in several different disciplines and found it enjoyable, but not satisfying. To be blunt, for me working full-time in the outdoor industry would not be a sufficiently substantive contribution to society at large. I do enjoy the variety and break from my real job that this work provides.

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    As much as I enjoy the outdoors, I have a particular talent for physics, and it is clear I can make a bigger impact there then in any other field. That is, in the outdoor industry I'd be a poor-to-mediocre contributor, whereas in physics research I am more valuable.

    In other words, you should strive to do both what you enjoy AND what you are good at and where you can have the best impact. Just doing what you enjoy independent of impact could be considered somewhat self-serving (will I get in trouble for saying this!?).

    Of course, just going after money and nothing else is the ultimate in self-serving decisions. Not that level of compensation doesn't enter when you weigh your options, it has to, but it shouldn't be the overriding concern.

    M B
    BPL Member


    You need to do what makes you happy, as much as possible.
    Surround yourself with supportive people that care about you and encourage you.

    If you dont, you are wasting your precious, very short, life.

    Its not a contest. You dont win if you had the most notable career,or die with the most money, or largest house, or even (gasp) the most cuben fiber backpacking gear.

    Too many people are conditioned to think otherwise in our society.

    Paul Magnanti
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Plateau

    My wife is a German national.

    Whenever she hears of this discussion, her comment is that this is a very American way of thinking.

    Where our jobs define us as to what we do.

    In that spirit, and something I've done for a while even before I met Adrianna. is that I say "Do you mean what I do to pay the bills?" :)

    For a living I am avid outdoors person, enjoy cooking, love to read and enjoy a dark, rich cup of coffee. Black. No sugar.

    To pay the bills I work as an IT Monkey in the same way Dad did sheet metal: Something I found myself doing over the years, I am pretty good at it, pays well and lets me afford the thing I really enjoy doing. Frankly, exchanging time for money. Unlike Dad with his job, my profession has allowed more flexibility for time off in the recent past. Currently making plans so it allows the same flexibility in the -relatively-near future.

    BPL Member


    Doing what you love…

    If you happen to love your job, more power to you. I am retired now, but when I was working, I liked being a CPA, and I was fortunate in that respect.

    But to me, loving your job can be a very different thing from turning a passionate hobby into a job. I like hiking. But more than even hiking, I love world traveling. I cannot imagine turning this into any kind of job — with the baggage of setting business goals, meeting deadlines, changing to suit market needs, etc., etc. When traveling, I am happy when I find a good hostel at a great price. And depending on my mood du jour, I might then explore the town, or just take it easy and relax. I'd hate to "have to" spend the next couple of hours trudging the streets to find yet more hostels — good and bad — because I "need to" write up on them, against a tight deadline. Ditto for eateries, attractions, and just about everything else.

    But of course, something like this, it all ultimately boils down to YMMV.

    Max Dilthey



    I went on my first camping trip in February of this year. I did some research, and went with my college to Mount Moosilauke, NH. We hiked 3 miles up straight ice in snowshoes, and that trail was a double black diamond. I was a cyclist, and my thighs rewarded me with an easy and exhilarating climb and descent. I slept outside the first night.

    I became quotable, too; when asked why I wasn't sleeping in the cabins on the second night, I proclaimed "I've been sleeping in cabins my whole life!"

    I won't bore you, but what follows after that are 6 different mountains summited and a 1500 mile bike tour that was 95% camping, along with about 1,000 dollars earned and spent on camping gear by selling off old hobbies and working my butt off. I now have a fantastic 15lb extended hiking trip baseweight, full camera gear, and a thousand stories from 8 of the best months of my life.

    This semester, I'm running my campus's outdoors club (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) and I've executed a few very successful trips, with Moosilauke and Acadia, ME on the itinerary for the spring. So, essentially, hiking and camping is my job.

    I relish it. I spend weeks planning routes, food, backup dates, handing out gear, teaching people skills, and when the trips actually happen, I try to keep people inspired and having fun and I get everyone up the mountain. Involving others is enormously rewarding, and if I were to do this for a career (something I don't plan on doing) I would be lucky and fulfilled.

    My 2¢, thanks for reading!

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Locale: California

    This topic has occupied many campfire hours on whitewater raft trips. Sooner or later, someone brings up an old saying:

    First you do it for love,
    Then you do it for friends,
    Then you do it for money.

    I've known many people who were happy guiding whitewater raft trips for a living, so I'll echo an earlier comment: YMMV.

    If you can develop a passion for whatever you do, whether paid or not, you will be happier, and serve the world better.

    The secret to life is not "Follow your bliss". It's "Develop your bliss – often it's right in front of you".

    I've known and supervised lots of people who just want to pay the bills, and their bliss is outside of work, with family, sports, or hobbies, and they are happy, too.

    And sometimes your bliss changes.

    I stumbled into IT to pay the bills over 30 years ago, and really enjoyed most of those years. But the last couple of years was burnout.

    Last year, I made a significant career change. If you doubled my salary, I wouldn't go back to IT now, and I love my new, very challenging job.


    Develop your bliss – often it's right in front of you
    Don't be surprised if your bliss changes

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    I would not do it for a living. I will talk about it for a pot luck dinner, though.

    When I was long distance hiking I felt I was paid in wildflowers. I've earned more wildflowers than Oprah ever will. I'm the richest woman in the world that way.

    If I was a man, I'd do it for Rex's beard.

    Josh J
    BPL Member



    The secret to life is not “Follow your bliss”. It’s “Develop your bliss – often it’s right in front of you”.

    Develop your bliss – often it’s right in front of you
    Don’t be surprised if your bliss changes

    very wise!

    i’m often asking myself the same question a lot! currently i’m in a job i hate and have been for awhile. i work to live, not live to work. i don’t wake up every morning looking forward to going to work. work is a means to an end. it pays the bills, food, ect. my hobbies and passions wouldn’t pay the bills or afford me to have the life style i want (maybe) but i’m looking for a different job to be more content and happier at.

    if i could find the balance of doing what i love to support my self and my family and still love it for fun, the probably. it may not be hiking, for me it might be wood working and incorporate the rest into my life

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    I’ve done it for a living.  Working in a backpacking/ski store and leading backpacking trips in the summer and ski trips in the winter.  In my mid-20s, also taking lots of private outdoor trips and road trips and living at my parent’s when in town, it worked.  I enjoyed the time in the store and on the trail.  Afterwards, I continued to put together trips for friends, then when I returned to school for the UC Berkeley outing club, and now family trips with our kids.

    For the last 30 years, I’ve been doing environmental engineering – designing, installing and operating the systems that clean up contaminated soil and groundwater.  It pays a lot better and offers challenges, problems to solve and smart co-workers.  It doesn’t offer extended periods of reflection (unless I finagle a long road trip around a site visit) nor terribly thoughtful conversations like one has around a campfire in the mountains.

    While at the backpacking store, many of our customers (suburban professionals who’d choose to spend one of their two weeks of vacation each year backpacking) would encourage us to maintain that post-school / pre-professional existence for a while (what I call my “7-year itinerant bum phase”).  One guy commented that when he was young, he had the time to do things but lacked the money for equipment or travel.  Now he had the money, a shop full of nice tools, and a closet full of backpacking gear, but very little time to enjoy them.  He wished he’d delayed “adulthood” in the way we were during in our 20s.

    Living where the land is cheap, our home mortgage payment looks more like the electric bill.  That financial flexibility – not having to both work 60-hour weeks to support a Bay Area house – gives us the option of time off, family travel, and volunteering rather a lot.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    Our expensive Santa Barbara house is paid off but I only get 3 weeks vacation each year (and that’s more than most people) and it’s just not enough. I can do one big adventure per year if I save it all up. I got started saving it all up and then blowing it all in one big lump early on and now I seem trapped in that cycle because it’s so hard to save up the time when you have to forgo any trips for so long to start building a little bank of time.

    I have to work to fund my old age. I told myself after my PCT hike that I would work and save and try to be retired at age 60. I have no idea how much I really need to be retired. I always seem to shack up with someone who requires a higher standard of living than me, but at the same time, the low standard of living I’ve had living by myself, was a huge struggle. I need to get rid of my pets who have human lifespans and I love my pets and don’t want to get rid of them. They keep me chained to my house, chained to my job, too.

    I don’t mind going to work. I have a pleasant enough job. I just wish I could be two people. I wish I could be out there hiking and also at home working. I missed having a job when I hiked the PCT. I missed going to the park to play music with my friends or hiking in my own local back country. I missed my birds. I need to be two people so I can do two things at the same time.

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