Less than 48 hours ago, I sold my bed, gave away my dresser, and re-homed my IKEA Expedit shelving unit. Six large boxes full of clothes, linens, art, summer adventure gear, automotive care and various odds and ends were dropped off at their temporary home in a friend’s mostly vacant basement. My mother won the kitchen gadget lottery. Her cabinets are packed with my beloved cast iron collection, nearly daily used blender, well-loved rice cooker and a hodge-podge of items I consider to be essential. I spent the evening sorting through whatever was left into 4 piles: stuff I want to have handy for the next month or so, stuff I’ll need in Naknek, stuff I’ll want when I have a home again and stuff I can live without ever seeing again.
So, what the hell is going on in my world? It’s a doozy. A good one, though. Ready?
I’ve been a cabbie in Portland, OR since December 2012. This has been my favorite job I have ever had, but the transportation networking companies (TNC’s) have been crushing the industry with their marketing strategies, better functioning apps and unregulated fare pricing. They weren’t allowed to operate in Portland until a few weeks ago. I knew the taxi gig would dry up as soon as the TNC’s would be allowed to operate in Portland, so I started working on an exit strategy in December.
I created a listing on MindMyHouse.com to become an in-house pet sitter in Portland so I could continue to drive a cab and either make some extra cash or temporarily live somewhere for free. I shared it on facebook. A rad gal I had met a few times through a local vintage motorcycle enthusiast facebook group contacted me because she was planning to take a month long trip to India in late spring and needed someone to stay at her house and look after her old dog. (He’s hogging up the bed beside me now.)
A friend who helped me ditch the 9-5 rat race for the more social and stimulating work environment of a cab has also been working every summer in the office at a cannery in Naknek, Alaska for several years. She loves it. She thinks I will, too. “We’ll be salmon sisters!”
I ventured up to Seattle to celebrate her birthday and to meet some of her summer colleagues. We ate. We drank. We danced in the streets. We picked our drunk friends up off the ground. We dropped by the apartment of another seasonal colleague, and I departed before I could do anything too embarrassing.
In February, the cannery posted a listing for the office clerk position the Salmon Sister recommended I apply for. I completed the application process and started gathering items for my barge box. Two barges loaded with employee and fishermen freight leave Seattle a month apart to arrive in Naknek a few weeks before and just in time for the Salmon fishing season which begins in June. The cannery provides employees a twin size bed with sheets, a towel, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I’m on my own for everything else. I packed a 17 gallon Rubbermaid container with items I believe I’ll find useful and comforting for 6 weeks with minimal access to commerce: dark chocolate, a blanket and pillow, nuts and dried fruit, cold medicine, tampons, etc. I’ll bring clothes, books and a few other necessities in my luggage when I fly to Alaska.
The hiring manager finally called me for a phone interview at the end of March. Pending a drug screen, health review and background check, I had the job! I drove my barge box up to Seattle in April, dropped it off at the boatyard, and waited for all of the screenings to clear before making any grand announcements.
As of right now, I expect to arrive in Naknek sometime in mid-June and work until the beginning of August. I won’t know my exact date of departure until maybe a week or two before. From my understanding, I have to wait for the salmon to start running before I have any work to do, and I don’t get paid just for being there.
What happens after the salmon season ends? Well… I’ve sold all of my furniture. I gave up my long term residence. After I return to the lower 48 with buckets of money and nowhere to live, I’m planning to ride my motorcycle from Portland, OR to NYC, down to Atlanta, into Austin, stopping for a while in Southern California and the Bay Area, and maybe even returning to Portland in November. If I get a job I love along the way, I might stay somewhere for a while longer. The holiday months have historically been profitable for cab driving. If Portland figures out how to regulate TNC’s or deregulate cabs, it may be a solid back-up plan.