AWESOME PERSON #18 – Meet John!
From pediatrician turned ski instructor turned locomotive engineer, John is truly on a thrilling seasonal adventure! Don’t miss out on this tale of overcoming obstacles and achieving major accomplishments all while continuing to work with a genuine goodness from the heart. John is a seasonal worker destined for greatness and I’m honored to be able to share his story.
Tell me about your story. What made you want to drop the life you had as a pediatrician and embark on a new adventure?
Well, I had always wanted to be a physician like my grandfather. He was a general practitioner that made house calls, had an office in his home, spent time with his patients, and just gave his all to his community. I knew medicine had changed a lot by the time I entered, but I figured I could do it his way. Although my story is a complicated one, it basically came down to modern healthcare taking its toll on me with the realization I couldn’t truly emulate my grandfather. I stayed afloat for the most part while practicing medicine, but then I had the craziest and worst year of my life. This left me a bit dejected and I went on sabbatical to reflect. Thankfully a few of my physician friends said while I did this, I should try jobs that I had always wanted to try. I had always wanted to work at a ski resort in Colorado and this led me to Keystone!
What made you pick being a ski instructor at Keystone Ski and Ride as your first seasonal job?
I actually always wanted to be a ski patroller, but I didn’t see any open positions when checking out the Vail Resorts Career page. Luckily I came across open ski instructor positions and that seemed like it would be incredibly fun. I applied not really thinking they’d take a guy from Florida seriously, but they did and I was hired by Keystone! They even let me ski around as Ripperoo (VR’s mascot) where I got into all kinds of trouble. What a wild and fun season that was…
What happened after you first seasonal gig?
My original plan was to return to medicine after ski season. I was filling out paperwork to return and started having consistent nightmares. It was weird, especially for someone who never had them before, even as a kid. I also wasn’t satisfied with my plan… It basically was just me plugging myself back into a system I was frustrated with. It didn’t feel right. This was the first time that I really just had no clue what to do. Being someone who always had a plan and now without one, was terrifying yet liberating.
I was driving to my new home in Boulder when I saw the Georgetown Loop Railroad (http://georgetownlooprr.com) on the way. When I was a kid, my answer to what I wanted to be when I grew up was always “locomotive engineer.” So, I took a shot at it. They hired me and taught me the ropes of railroading. The experience was so much fun and it was nice to work for such a great company, dedicated to preserving the history of Colorado rail (and as it turns out, Colorado itself). In my opinion, anyone visiting Colorado should check them out!
During my time there, I realized I wanted to work on the railroad full time and with their help, started applying to the Union Pacific Railroad. Eventually I was hired and I’m pretty stoked about my future in the railroad industry. A future that all resulted from seasonal living!
What are the common criticisms you hear of your lifestyle?
I mostly just get criticism from my family, which can be difficult. I think this is because I’m supposed to be a physician and based on my Facebook newsfeed, all I do is ski and play. This certainly is not true, but I definitely do wrestle with the fact that I’m not using my education as intended. Thankfully, there are physicians like Michael Crichton (author), Dorian Paskowitz (pro surfer), and Ken Jeong (actor/comedian) who pursued successful careers outside of medicine. When I evaluated my situation, I realized that I could make a significant impact by taking the path less travelled. Currently, I am using William Abraham Bell M.D. (Co-Founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Western RR… now owned by Union Pacific RR) for inspiration and am hoping to emulate his awesomeness in the future.
Does this lifestyle come with hardships? If so, what?
It all depends on your perspective. Adjusting to a lower income was my biggest challenge, but it also taught me how to budget and really make what money I have go further. Overall, this was definitely the right move for me and the challenges have been minimal.
Love and seasonal living…have you made this work and if so, how?
Most of my adult life, I’ve had to put dating on the back burner to other educational pursuits. With that said, I know seasonal living and love definitely mix. You have a population of like-minded individuals and locations that allows for incredible adventures. I’m pretty certain I’ll eventually get it right!
Do you have any regrets or things you would have changed while living seasonally?
No regrets here, but it would have been amazing to become a seasonal worker immediately after college. The people I’ve meet who live this lifestyle have such fascinating stories. For instance, my roommates traversed the Appalachian Trail after college. That sounds like a wicked adventure, which would have been easier to fit in at a younger age.
You’ve taken to a new career path and are utilizing your knowledge and skills to hopefully one day help others! What is the project you’re working on and what do you hope to accomplish by it?
Working for the railroad is part of a larger long-term plan. When I was a kid, I was pretty fortunate to be friends with Dave Thomas (the founder of Wendy’s). He taught me that anyone can make a difference in this world even if you are “just” a cook working for the Colonel (Sanders of KFC). Mr. Thomas illustrated goodness in his life, through major acts such as starting an adoption foundation, to the seemingly insignificant act of mentoring a young kid. It wasn’t until I started living seasonal did I realize that I might be able to do what he did.
The overall plan is complicated and will definitely take some time to be successful, but I can start now, by supporting causes I believe in. One of those causes is a small non-profit called Florida Diabetes Camp (http://www.floridadiabetescamp.org) that has suffered from funding losses through the years. Unfortunately, these funding losses can be devastating to a medical camp and are now reliant on personal donations to keep costs down for the kids. My goal is to one day have it so they can solely focus on doing what they do best, teaching kids with type 1 diabetes independence, while having an amazing time.
What would be the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far?
I think the greatest lesson is one we all know well, but that became real for me while working as a pediatrician. Simply put, life is short and it’s not about getting through it, but loving every minute of it. I often think about the children who had their lives cut short and realize how that could happen to any of us at any time. Knowing that, I try to make sure everyday is awesome and appreciate the small things each and every day.
Here’s your chance to hand out a piece of advice… what would you say to someone looking to embark on a seasonal adventure? Or better yet, for anyone stuck in a rut looking to make a change?
This path isn’t right for everyone and that’s the great thing about our diverse population. However, if you are considering it, definitely try it! I mean, as far as we know, you only get one life, so be happy! Let’s say you aren’t satisfied in your current situation, then definitely take a step back. It might be just what you need. Learn from those experiences and bring that knowledge back when/if you return. Just be careful, a year sabbatical may turn into a two-year sabbatical, or even an indefinite hiatus (not the Blink-182 kind, but the permanent kind).
*If you enjoyed John’s story and want to contribute, please visit the link to the Florida Diabetes Camp by clicking here —-> http://www.floridadiabetescamp.org
The Florida Diabetes Camp Mission is to provide a fun, safe, educational and diabetes friendly camp environment for children with type 1diabetes and their families where they can gain the confidence, skills and knowledge to achieve their full potential. It’s truly a great organization and would benefit greatly from your generous help.
If you know of someone with a seasonal story to share or perhaps you, yourself, are a seasonal worker and would like to be featured on Living Seasonal then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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