I have always admired people who take freedom to a whole other level. The older I get, the more I dream of leaving everything behind to wander the world aimlessly. Years ago, my favorite gypsy Kirsty Halliday did just that. She left her corporate job in Philly, for what she thought was a summer road trip in an RV. I watched her explore those parts of North America I always dreamed of seeing, like Yellowstone, Alaska, and then further and further into what I thought of as uninhabitable parts of the country. I kept asking her, When are you coming home? but it has been 4 years since I last saw her, and she “has no interest in being a regular person” again.
She recently took a job in the Arctic circle, to fulfill her dream of seeing the Northern Lights, where she is working in the hospitality industry hosting tourists during their brief stays. Among her first guests was a crew a documentary of a team of U.S. Army veterans who will ride motorcycles from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America, crossing the infamous Darien Gap in the process. Look out for Where the Road Ends on the Discovery Channel.
In her time in “the wilderness” or what some of us would call the real world, she has met some amazing people, worked odd jobs throughout the north west, woken up in parts unknown completely surrounded by bison, managed to have romantic relationships with other gypsies who crave freedom as much as she does, and learned to rely completely on herself. Periodically, as I gather courage to go on my own walkabout to nowhere, I check in with Kirsti for an update on her latest adventure. She has recently put her RV in storage, and settled into northern Alaska, just to check the Northern Lights off her bucket list. Here is what she is up to now.
Sherry: Your current position is drastically different from your job as an executive in Philly. So what does work at the Yukon River Camp entail?
Kirsty: Well, we were temporarily short handed, so I’ve just worked 5:30 am to 2pm for the last 12 days straight, which makes trying to keep my eyes open while the Northern Lights are visible 11pm to 3am, very difficult. I have hardly any time for any of the things I had planned like reading, editing photos, camera use, knitting, cross country skiing, yoga, yet severely hope that will change. The motorcycle guys had a crew of 9- all good guys. They showed up a day early when we already had two dinner tours booked, and were expecting 14 overnight guests, so I barely managed to squeeze them into the inn. My biggest worry that day was whether our temperamental generator would keep that many guests warm.
Sherry: This is not your first stint in the remote parts of the country. I have seen you RV, and spend extended periods of time in what looks like the middle of nowhere. How do you spend your time when you are not working?
Kirsty: I thought I might enjoy the slower pace up here, and looked forward to some down time, but I am definitely not disconnected up here. The tasks required of me don’t phase me, I am not above manual or physical labor. It makes me more appreciative of those in the hospitality industry whom I have previously taken for granted. I now have a new perspective, which is what all these seasonal jobs do for you.
Sherry: Do you ever think about returning to corporate life and being a regular person?
Kirsty: No, being a “regular person” does not appeal to me. I already miss the RV life. I am committed to return to m job in Oregon next summer where I will be managing a store, overseeing house-keeping, and the restaurant on the weekends. The owners like my former corporate background. They see me is as smart, energetic, and a responsible worker, so being promoted from server to salaried worker in one season was easy, if not entirely unwanted. I don’t really need to work, and so I’ll be doing some more driving and traveling after that summer job ends.
Sherry: Do you miss anything at all about living and working in Philadelphia?
Kirsty: I do feel like I am earning every penny these days, rather than when I was in corporate. I don’t miss the benefits and rely more upon my own ability to stay well, save money, and look after myself. I love that I got to experience the high-rise, downtown lifestyle in Philadelphia, and do miss all the people and connections I made, yet I meet a more diverse crowd these days. It is now possible to not be drawn into politics and all the negative affairs of the world, and instead learn about the lifestyles of others firsthand, deal with my own survival needs on a daily basis, and keep adding new strings to my bow, no matter how menial they may seem.
Sherry: Any advice for those of us who are still dreaming of leaving everything behind to do what you do?
Kirsty: If anybody ever wants to quit being a regular person, I can help get them started 🙂
I met Kristy Halliday at Eurocircle’s first event in 2008. This was only two days after she immigrated to USA from her native Scotland. Though I always enjoyed talking to her in person, I got to know her on a deeper level after I started following her intrepid travel adventures all over the world. She is one traveler I would never refer to as a tourist. She has done what I always thought of as unthinkable, like streaking around Philly on it’s first Naked Bike Ride. I’m still working up the courage to try that.