The Nomad Cycle: How To Spend A Full Year Working Your Way Around The United States

It’s perfectly possible to work your way around the country with nothing special in the way of education, experience or credentials.

Of course, if you have those things, there’s an even greater world of possibility open to you.

The jobs discussed below form a basic bedrock for full-time travelers and are accessible to just about anyone.

The Nomad Cycle

The Nomad Cycle Chart USA Year Round Gypsy Work

SPRING Nomad Work in the USA

The Harvest Seasons

There are jobs in Florida picking citrus fruits all year, but the really big season in which lots of temporary hands are needed is in the spring.

The hiring process generally begins in February for work starting in March and lasting for about three months.

Agricultural harvest work isn’t as rich in spring as it will be in summer and fall, but there’s at least one other big opportunity for those on the opposite end of the country — strawberries.

California produces most of the country’s strawberries and they are grown there all year, but the prime season begins in spring and carries on well into summer.

Harvest Seasons

Home Improvement

Spring is far and away the biggest season for home improvement projects.

Major retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot will add tens of thousands of employees to their workforce just for the spring season.

This temporary hiring blitz also extends to a lesser extent to general retail chains like Walmart that have lawn and garden departments.

Landscaping & Gardening

As with home improvement, spring is also the time in which gardening activity is at its peak.

Landscaping companies look for seasonal help not just out in the field but also in their offices.

SUMMER Work Options

The general theme of looking for temporary work in the summer is in going to where all the tourists are headed during the high travel season between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

One area where opportunities are plentiful is in parks and wildlife refuges.

For national parks, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are the best places to start.

National parks are the prime choice, as they offer decent hourly pay as well as often providing a place to camp or park an RV.

These positions exist at the state and city level as well, but these parks often only offer non-paid volunteer positions that come with only a place to camp or park as a perk. Jobs through private concessionaires are also available in these parks.

Cities and towns that are located next to the major parks see a corresponding rise in business, and therefore a need for temporary workers.

One prime example is the towns at the five entrance gates to Yellowstone National Park.

These gates span the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana in regions where there is not enough of a year-round labor force to support the summer rush.

Snake Bend Colorado River National Park USA

Summer Camps

Private summer camps for youth also offer a range of opportunities for temporary workers, from camp counselor to chef.

Summer Harvesting

If you’re interested in harvest work during the summer, the first big crop is the cherry harvest which begins in June.

This mostly happens in the states along the West Coast, but there’s a significant amount of cherry farms in Michigan and Wisconsin as well.

August brings both the blueberry and apple harvests.

Both harvests generally last into October.

They’re also both found mostly in the extreme northern corners of the country — Maine and New Hampshire in the east, and Washington in the west.

Alaska Fishing

Summer fishing season in Alaska brings a great need for both workers on fishing vessels and workers manning the canning factories.

There’s such a regular and predictable need for this huge labor force that companies will pay for round-trip airfare for those who will commit to working the entire season.

Cannery workers are also put up in dorms and fed three meals a day, but the hours are long and the job involves standing for 12 hours surrounded by stinky fish guts.

The pay is better than most temporary labor jobs, however, with workers who stick out the summer often coming back with the better part of $10,000 in their pockets.

Las Vegas POKER DEALERS

Las Vegas hosts the World Series of Poker from the beginning of June to early July every year.

About 1500 dealers are needed for this massive tournament, and the majority come from outside the area.

Pay is in the range of $20 to $30 per hour. You need some prior experience as a dealer for this job, but not a whole lot; it may be possible to land a job with nothing more than a solid training course completed recently.

You don’t have to worry about the notorious stink of cigarette smoke that plagues the dealer’s profession either; smoking is not allowed in the table area during the tournament.

Poker Dealer Las Vegas, NV

Festival Work

You can find temporary festival work here and there all over the country all year long, but summer is the prime season.

You shouldn’t have to go too far to find a major music festival, renaissance fair or similar event that runs for at least several days and needs a small army of temporary staff to set up, run concessions, clean up and take everything down.

FALL Digital Nomad

Fall Harvest Time

There are two major harvests that require thousands of temporary workers in the fall: sugar beets in the northwest, and cranberries in the northeast.

Montana is the center of the sugar beet world, while Cape Cod is an excellent starting point for cranberry work.

Sugar beet work is particularly attractive as it doesn’t involve actual picking of the beets. Workers instead work for one of the major sugar companies, who receive the beets from the individual farms that harvest them.

At the lowest level, workers sort and process the beets.

There are even more lucrative positions available for those who know how to drive a large truck, operate machinery like loaders and forklifts, or are trained in the use of the specialized processing equipment.

Cranberry picking starts in September, while the beet harvest work begins in early October. If you’re stuck elsewhere in the country, you may find sporadic opportunities at pumpkin patches.

Retail Holiday Season Rush

The hiring crunch for the Christmas season begins in the early fall.

Just about anywhere in the country, you’ll be able to get on with retail stores, shopping mall kiosk companies or package delivery services.

Amazon’s fulfillment centers make a strong effort each year to attract temporary workers for the Christmas season, especially those who live out of RVs.

These centers can be found in over half of the states in the country, with the largest number of them in Arizona, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Texas.

The Postal Service also hires thousands of extra workers at their mail sorting facilities throughout the country for the months of November and December. The application process for this generally begins in September and ends in early October.

Christmas Tree Lots

Christmas tree lots generally open up just after Thanksgiving. They’ll be looking for temporary help until the holiday arrives.

Christmas Tree Sales November December USA

WINTER Nomad Christmas

Ski Resorts

As parks are rich in opportunities for temporary jobs in summer, ski resorts are rich in winter.

The mountain areas of California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are the central places to look for these jobs.

Resorts & Temp Agencies

The winter months are the toughest times for nomads, due to the combined lack of agricultural and tourist industry work.

Resorts in warmer climes may see something of an uptick in visitation during this time, in particular those along the Gulf Coast.

Many nomads ride out the winter simply by finding a place to settle in and working through a temp agency.

Not matter the shifts in the economy, there’s enough work out there for anyone to stay occupied all year if they are flexible enough.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from working in some digital moneymaking ideas as well!

More Nomadology

 

Getting Ready For the Backpacking Season

When the call of the wild is hitting you hard, you need to start thinking about your camping gear and the supplies you need to make backpacking a great experience.

It is time to check your tent, pack, sleeping bag, and emergency supplies to make sure the key components for your camping comfort and safety are in order.

Your Tent

Camping Tent

Your tent serves more than a way to keep the rain off your head (or snow, if you are a winter camper).

If properly sealed, your tent will not only be waterproof, but will also help contain your body heat.

Tent Checklist

  • Make sure your vents, fly, and entry are all cleaned and tear-free.
  • Use a mild mix of bath soap (unscented) to wash off any dirt or debris on the fabric, and
  • Use clear water under mild pressure to clear any dirt, debris, or sand in your zippers.
  • Never use any harsh chemicals – the man-made fibers can be damaged by any chlorinated cleaners.

Anything in the zippers will cause them to wear out faster as a natural course of using them, so keeping them clean is critical.

Winter Camping

For winter camping, you want those zippers to close snugly to keep out the cold and blowing snow – and in the summer you want them to open all the way so the moisture and heat released from your body while you’re sleeping can escape.

Check the siding material of your tent to make sure they are free of tears or other openings. You can usually patch most man-made fibers with kits readily available from a variety of sources.

It is a good idea to apply a coat of sealant to the exterior of the seams of your tent and fly with the sealant appropriate for your tent’s material.

ONLY apply the sealant in a warm dry place, making sure you give it plenty of time to dry properly.

In order to apply the sealant, it is best to pitch your tent with all sides taut, which will help ensure the sealant gets into the nooks and crannies.

Lastly, check that all of your supplies – poles, straps, and stakes – are intact, then set up the tent completely one time before packing it and going out into the wild.

Your Sleeping Bag

Sleeping Bag Example

Your sleeping bag and ground pad should be relatively maintenance free, other than the same cleaning of the surfaces and zippers for the bag apply.

You need to clean your bag inside and out, but not get the insulation wet. You also want to make sure the skin of your bag is clean and free of any oils or greasy substances.

Check the insulation. If it is becoming bunched, or lumpy, it may be time to replace your sleeping bag.

Ground Pads

Ground pads come in a variety of materials and comfort levels.

Their primary function is to insulate, to keep your body heat from being radiated into the ground through your sleeping bag. Your ground pad is also your last defense from ground water getting to the skin of your sleeping bag, drenching you.

Both situations can lead to hypothermia, a dangerous condition in which your core body temperature drops below 93 degrees.

A self-inflating ground pad offers a great combination of comfort and protection.

These foam-core pads are a relatively new development, are very light-weight, and compress for easy attachment to your backpack.

Your Backpack

Taking Care of Your Backpack

Your backpack is your greatest asset for wilderness camping, and maintaining it so it will withstand several kinds of constant abuse is critical.

1. Check that there are no threads hanging or tears in the liner.

Snags and tears can quickly spread, dumping your supplies into a creek at an inopportune moment, or the entire bag coming undone if you are using it to suspend your food supplies for safekeeping during the night.

Clip any snagged threads, and patch any tears. You also need to make sure you keep your pack water-tight. Seal the seams, and if the material permits, coat the entire bag.

2. Check all the grommets and clips on the straps.

If you are using pack with an external frame, make sure the clips holding the bag to the frame are secure.

Make sure there are no rips or tears in any of the straps, and that the fastening clips that hold the shoulder straps and waist strap in place are free of chips or cracks.

Readjust the straps to fit your body as it is today.

Let’s face it, we all tend to gain a little weight over the winter, and an improperly balanced backpack can overbalance you, or chafe in very uncomfortable ways.

Your tent and bag came with stuff bags. Use them – but make sure the bags are clean and dry before stowing away your equipment.

TIP: Packing Your Tent

When loading your tent, put in the fly, then the poles, then the tent itself.

This is the reverse order in which you will need them, and the proper order when you unpack it.

You should never store the stakes with the tent, even if they are in their own ripstop bag, the edges could puncture the tent skin, forcing an emergency repair out in the field.

Emergency Supplies

Emergency Preparations

Duct Tape

One of the backpacker’s best friends is duct tape.

It is strong, water-proof, and multi-functional. You can use it to make temporary fixes to any torn material, and if you combine it with the extra tube sections that came with your tent, you can even temporarily fix the poles on your tent.

You can also use duct tape for emergency first aid, because it makes a great way to tightly secure bandaging material or splints.

Gallon Zipper Sealed Plastic Bags

Bring along a few gallon-sized zipper-sealed plastic bags.

You can use them for a variety of purposes, from collecting specimens to storing your wet socks until you can set up camp and get them dry.

Keeping your supplies (and feet!) dry is critical. In a pinch, you can use them to catch and store water.

First Aid Supplies

Check all of your first aid supplies, and make sure you still have a proper assortment of bandaging materials, disinfectants, scissors, and other supplies.

Toss out the antibiotic ointment you have in your first aid kit from last year and replace it. It has lost its efficacy. If you carry hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant, it needs replaced as well.

You can find the components of a good “do it yourself” first aid kit by checking with the Boy Scouts or the Red Cross.

Water Purification System

Check your water purification supplies, and make sure the iodine and/or filters are ready for use.

Make sure that your purification kit’s components are free of cracks. Get your canteen, waterpack, bladder, or insulated water bottle cleaned and ready for use, too.

Signaling Devices – Mirror & Whistle

No backpack is complete without two signaling devices – a mirror and a whistle.

Obviously a mirror only works when there’s a light source, but if you become disabled and a search party is looking for you, the reflection from the mirror gives you better odds of being spotted from a great distance.

The whistle is a vital signaling device. You can only yell for help for a few minutes at a time, while you can blow a whistle for hours.

GPS Locator

Another signaling device becoming more common in our high-tech world are GPS emergency locators.

Many are solar-powered, some are coming with Farraday generators, or they come with batteries.

No matter how they are powered, they only work if there is a satellite overhead, and a means of triangulating on your position. When you intend on going into extreme wilderness, rugged terrain, or into mountainous areas, you may want to invest in one of these gadgets.

Do NOT rely on this as your sole signaling device. If you’re breathing, you can still use a whistle. If the batteries go dead on the GPS unit – you could be as well shortly after.

Miscellaneous

Other stuff

Matches

Always have at least two different means of starting a fire in your pack.

Waterproof matches and a “permanent match” are easy to stow away, and work in a wide variety of weather conditions.

Knife

Always have a knife. A good multi-tool with a knife blade and other gadgets, can be found in most hardware and sporting goods stores, and can be handy.

Patch Kit

An emergency patch kit for your tent and backpack could also prove handy – but keep in mind for every ounce you add, you are losing food!

You have duct tape (featured above), which is a great permanent patch.


There are a wide assortment of other supplies you might consider bringing along for your camping expedition, but these suggestions cover most contingencies, in lightweight materials suitable for backpacking.

The best preparation if you’re a novice is to pick up any of the various books available for backpacking in the type of environment you plan on trekking in, or to pick up a copy of the Boy Scout manual on camping.

More Backpacking Season Tips