A Short Treatise on the Lifestyle of Seasonal Workers in Alaska
DENALI, ALASKA- Spending the last two months working a seasonal job in Alaska has taught me a lot about the itinerant youth of America. We live in a vast country filled with virtually every kind of natural environment you could conceivably want to visit, and surrounding all of these destinations are tourist havens that need people to staff them at virtually every level. From dishwashers to rafting guides, Alaska is powered almost exclusively by seasonal labor picked from across the country.
They come from everywhere—Baton Rouge, Oregon, Hawaii, New York, Colorado—restless young people that haven’t yet decided to settle down in a single spot and live their lives according to the tenets of a particular community. They spend their time roaming from exotic destination to exotic destination, arousing the gentle ire of pensioners that save their whole lives for a big trip, only to find a cadre of young people spending the formative years of their lives in these iconic destinations that they have literally dreamed of visiting all of their lives. They spend their days wrapped up in the hyper micro-reality of their day-to-day existences—concerned solely with what there is to do here, now. There is very little thought given to a long-term goal, since spending too much time worrying about the future detracts from the opportunity to enjoy the present to its fullest.
Moving around the country is not for everyone. Since most folks have come up here on their own, with their own agenda and goals they want to accomplish, they largely stick to an agenda that allows them to pursue those goals. This means that you end up forging many more friendships of convenience than friendships of meaning: if you have the afternoon off, you find someone that also has the afternoon off and you climb a mountain. Or you go kayaking. There is no waiting about for the people you want to spend time with, constantly planning and setting ideas into motion; there is only a get up and go mentality. If you have the chance to do something fun with your afternoon, you jump on it and get in the van.
It’s a very particular kind of individual that lives this life—someone who is adventurous, hyper-social, and OK with living largely in the moment. Upon moving to a small Creekside resort in the middle of interior Alaska, I had a broad array of ideas for how I intended to spend my time, but I’ve largely ignored all of them. There is simply too much to do, too much to experience right now. It’s a mindset that I’m not entirely comfortable with compared to many of the people that work here, but it is something that I’ve come to appreciate. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to spend a summer in Denali National Park, and I’ve gotten to see the mountain in virtually every kind of climate. It’s something that people quite literally save their whole lives to be able to come see, and for two or three days at most.
The people that live and work here make this experience and this land a part of the very fabric of their everyday lives, and while they might be concentrating only on what is in front of them for four months, it is an experience that will forever be imprinted on their souls and how they subsequently live their lives.