July 12th: I love this job. Here’s my backyard for the summer:
It’s been another couple of weeks, two weeks and three days since my last report. Please excuse the delay my loyal blog followers!…Hanna la Exploradora has been doing just that…exploring. Activities falling under the “exploring” umbrella include, but are not limited to, dining amidst lake Yellowstone, creating gourmet picnic lunches in parking lots at 6:30 am, learning the differences between steam vents, fumaroles, mud pots and geysers, pretending to care about all the different wild flower species, singing musicals out loud on solo hikes for hours to keep away bears (a large deer today did not appreciate my rendition of the Sound of Music soundtrack), but above everything, all this exploring makes me realize how much this job really is for me!
Winding back to my last post, post-Salt Lake City training. I rapidly became this weird nostalgic night owl for two days, adjusting to eastern standard time, repeatedly wondering why two hours makes such an impact on travel and sleep, all while watching slide show after slide show of photos on my computer, knowing I should’ve gone to bed hours ago. No less than 8 hours later, I was grading finals, filling in teachers on how training went in Utah, cleaning up my classroom, saying good bye to my classroom (thank you to Alison for helping me clean it out on a 90 degree day), reading legendary and comical emails from my students, and then I probably went home and watched another slide show of life photos pass by on my computer screen accompanied by some sort of mellow music. “Yikes, it’s 3 am! Time to sleep another night in this barren, off white room I called home for three years.”
Part of me wished I had just started leading trips immediately after training, but the friend and family time, and my memorable last night out in Boston, conveniently coinciding with my 26th birthday made me think twice about getting on that plane at 7 am the next morning. Although I have to admit, in the moment, walking to the car to head to Logan Airport, with my two bags of life in rolling luggage on each side of me, I was a bit too hung over to process anything and realize that this time I really was leaving. Cue “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, Eva Cassidy cover.
In between training and bidding adieu to city life as I knew it, I experienced a two week period that I have frozen in a special little memory box of my brain, hoping it will come out in dreams when I’m far away from home surrounded by unfamiliarity. A week in Popham with family with no infamous Maine fog to be seen, complete with incredible dinners and a new lobster hat that my parents saw fit for my lobster talk I gave at training, was the best way to bounce back from that nostalgic space I spiraled into while packing up my apartment. If that wasn’t enough, a wild 2nd annual 4th of July weekend in Camden with absolute fire cracker (pun intended) girlfriends followed my heavenly family vacation. We went lobstering off the island of Matinicus, the eastern most inhabited island in the Atlantic, learned new “Mainah phrases” *Ayuh*, danced, did the worm in a white collared shirt on a filthy dance floor (thank you Andrea Manners), and mostly laughed at nothing.
My final couple of days were spent catching up with friends over each meal in between packing and buying last minute things (head lamp! Fancy sun glasses!), and celebrated an early birthday/going away BBQ on the roof of an apartment in Somerville by the best hosts known to the greater Boston area, and for the grand finale, finished by birthday with a night at the Top of the Hub with Alison and Steph, soaking up my city by sunset, polished with jazz, champagne, organic cucumber vodka drinks, and surprise birthday desserts. There may have also been another stop at Eastern Standard, to finish the night with a dozen oysters, rosé, and Pisco sours, my favorite drink from Peru. Our waiter was Andres, who I stayed with in Madrid last summer and it was great to say “Hola y Adios” to another crazy connection that has spider webbed its way into Beantown. The above list paired with a nauseating hangover bombarded me as I departed on my flight to Wyoming. I will forever be thankful for all my friends and family who made it so hard to say good bye on Friday morning. Thank you for my delicious birthday cake Mom
Here’s an idea on how my start as a Backroads Trip leader has been in less than a week:
Within 24 hours of leaving Boston, I exchanged:
- Taxis and my Camry for large white Backroads vans.
- My own room with a comfortable bed for a room with 4 beds, bunk bed style, no mirror, no dresser, or bedside reading lamps (upgraded new headlamp: smart investment).
- A kitchen I know where everything is for one with a carpet and labels for personal food cabinets vs. communal food, and fridges with the same indicators.
- The streets of Allston and Brookline for a gated 200 storage unit area with a leader house watching over a field and those 200 storage units.
- My apartment for two, for a leader house that I spent one night in before leaving for Yellowstone. I dub this new residence as a hybrid of a hostel and college dorm.
- City mice and rats for bison, coyote, elk, and quite possibly bear…
- Thus, my Chanel perfume, for bear spray
- Buying groceries to eating at national park hotels for five days straight. Huckleberry Ice Cream anyone? Alaskan Halibut with pistachio pesto?
- An annual salary for cash tips
- Buying teaching supplies and materials with all my own money, for a company credit card…really? I can swipe this? That’s legal? (I still get nervous using it!)
- A summer teaching schedule sans alarm clock for 5:45 am wake up calls. So far each day has been more than worth the early rising.
Holy transitions! And that’s the tip of the ice berg! The only striking similarity between my teaching profession and being a Backroads leader: two professions where a whole day can go by and there’s barely any time to go to the bathroom! I may have left my mark on some greenery behind Old Faithful yesterday. Gotta go, gotta go!
I am on day three of a walking and hiking trip, as a shadow, which means exactly that: I shadow two expert leaders and try as much as I can to stay behind the scenes. I am extremely lucky to watch a trip from beginning to end, as many other new leaders only have a few days of familiarization in a new area. The guests are a bit confused about my role, and continue to ask my questions when I have explained that I know as much as them at this point, but overall it has been day after day of hiking all over Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons (Mountain range). Today I hiked 9.5 miles and all I did was think of my cousin Dan who hikes 20 and 30 mile days on the Appalachian Trail. I talk about Dan to all the guests and all the neat quirks and vocabulary I have learned by reading his blog and trying to understand AT speech. I have been hiking all week, maximum 10 miles, tomorrow will be a 14 mile day, and I can’t imagine doing that day after day for 4 months, somewhat solo. I hike and have hotel breakfast, picnic lunches, water/Gatorade refills, and a suitcase waiting in my next hotel room so I can put on something clean. Go Dan, go! I have already been duct taping my heels and the bottoms of my feet are really starting to feel it!
Remember that Christmas like feeling I described in a previous post about the sheer anticipation of receiving a new schedule assignment? On July 1st, after stalking my computer hourly, I found out I will be leading biking/inn trips for the fall season in MAINE! I will be picking guests up in Portland and leading in Bar Harbor and Camden until mid October, when I then drive a van and trailer from Maine to the Salt Lake City warehouse for 5 days!
I am exhausted and fighting off the inklings of a cold and sore throat. I finish shadowing on Thursday and head out for my first real trip (re: cash tips), on Sunday. Going back to where I began (I wrote this over two nights), this shadowing process has mostly been a confidence booster in how this job is really going to work for me. In training we never worked with real guests and things all just kind of fell in to place after day 1 of the shadow. I am happy to observe how much my teaching skills will be used day in and day out of this job and that even if I am tired in the morning, I seem to find bursts of energy from the outdoors and in conversations with guests. I knew this job was for me ever since I laid eyes on the job description, but I had yet to feel it. I can assure you I can go to bed tonight 100% feelin’ it.
Peace and Love from middle America. Enjoy the extra pics below!