The Appalachian Trail in the Pochuck Valley. (Photo: Miguel Vieira/flickr)

So you have a job. Congrats! But is that enough?

Chances are, your job is seriously lacking in turtles, fresh air and glaciers. You probably don’t clock in at a castle, a lighthouse or Jack Kerouac’s former cottage.

But you could! Opportunities to plunge into jobs that take you miles away from your everyday life abound. We’ve collected just a few of them here, with one big caveat: While some of these are paying jobs, many of them are volunteer jobs with varying degrees of compensation (usually free housing). And some of them you are even required to pay for, although at least one organization is willing to give houses away to the right applicants. So do your homework before you hit the road. 

Work as an Alaskan State Park caretaker and have views like this. (Photo: David McSpadden/flickr)

Go For a Hike

1. USDA Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management Jobs, United States
The Forest Service needs everyone from scientists to computer technicians to firefighters to help them protect the land, and they offer seasonal and year-round employment. But this is not a lark—these jobs often require you to use your body as much as your wits, and can be arduous and dangerous. Firefighters must be in “top physical condition”.

2. Appalachian Trail Volunteers, United States
All along the roughly 2,180 miles of this famous hiking trail, volunteers do everything from building bridges to removing invasive species. You can even join a Trail Crew for a week (or longer) sojourn onto the trail to carry out more involved duties. Close living quarters, tough physical labor, and a bug bite (or several) are just some of the conditions you should expect (and weather with a grin). 

3. Alaska State Park caretaker, Alaska
Your backyard could be thousands of miles of pristine Alaska wilderness, peppered with hemlock trees , hot springs, historic buildings and more. Most Alaska State Park caretaker positions offer gratis accommodation in a cabin. In exchange for free housing, caretakers perform a range of duties from helping out park guests to cleaning restrooms or shoveling snow. A minimum of an eight week commitment is common, and often several months are required.

The moon over McMurdo Station in the Antarctic in June. (Photo: Andrew Smith/National Science Foundation)

Hang Out With Polar Bears 

4. Antarctic Artists & Writers, the Antarctic
For those willing to go to the ends of the earth for their art, the Antarctic Artists & Writers Program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, may be the most fitting residency. Chosen applicants receive economy round-trip airfare to the coldest place on Earth, where they can work on an Arctic-themed project. Past projects include a mystery novel, sculptures, musical works and underwater photography.

5. Arctic Circle Residency, Svalbard
This opportunity is equal parts art and expedition– chosen artists, scientists, architects, and other innovators board a tall ship(with plenty of room for creativity and privacy, according to their website) to sail through the frozen landscape. In addition to fostering artistic expression, the program hopes to bolster “the explorers spirit.”

6. Work at McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Not an artist? No problem, you can still go to the Arctic. Jobs at McMurdo Station, the research center located on Ross Island off the coast of Antarctica, include sous chefs, mountaineers, human resources coordinators, carpenters and more.

The National Parks Artist-In-Residence program. (Photo: NPS Photo)

Make Art 

7. Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Poland
Art professionals of all kinds (from makers to curators) can apply for this one month residency in Warsaw, Poland, sponsored by a museum in an actual castle. Royal wannabes take note – only two of the artists will land accommodations inside the castle. The five remaining residences are located elsewhere on the grounds.

8. Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN Residency, Switzerland
This artists’ residency comes with a mentorship from a world class scientists and a two-month stint at The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, home of the Large Hadron Collider. It’s a partnership with Ars Electronica, as Austria-based arts and culture organization devoted to new media and the residency is for digital artists. 

9. Chinati Foundation residency, Marfa, Texas
Want to live in Marfa, the most famous tiny Texas town devoted to minimalist art? Artists chosen to participate receive a furnished apartment on the grounds of the Chinati Foundation contemporary art museum, unlimited access to the museum’s collection and archive, and assistance from the museum staff and interns. A stipend of $1,000 is provided, and artists are cautioned (or promised, depending on your love of solitude) that they may spend quite a lot of time alone.

10. National Park Service Artist in Residence, United States and Canada
The glacial valleys of Denail National Preserve and Park in Alaska, sunrise at the Grand Canyon, and active volcanoes in Hawaii are some of the inspirations artist have to chose from as part of this program that places creative folks in over 50 locations. Housing is provided by most, and stays are usually between 2 and 4 weeks.

11. Colorado Art Ranch residency, various locations in Colorado
This “nomadic” arts organization roams from town to town in Colorado, establishing temporary centers in places like Durango, Salida, and Steamboat Springs. A collaboration between artists and scientists, the organization focuses on land and social issues. Chosen artists receive one-month free accommodation in whatever rural, breathtaking locale the ranch has recently rolled into. 

12. Sanskriti Foundation residency, New Delhi, India
The Sankskriti Foundation promotes traditional Indian arts and culture and maintains the Museum of Everyday Arts of India, Museum of Indian Terracotta and the Museum of Indian Textiles. Artists and scholars are welcome to apply, and group projects are encouraged. Participants pay for their housing at the center and travel costs. Artists receive meals and the use of the facilities including a research center, amphitheatre, ceramics center and gallery.

Volunteers monitor fish at the Turtle Island Restoration Project. (Photo: Courtesy Turtle Island Restoration Network)

Help the Planet

13. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, Worldwide
For those who want to get their hands dirty, a WOOF trip might be the ticket. Volunteers travel to a dizzying selection of destinations around the world in order to help farmers run their operations—you might care for animals, help plant, cook,  fix things—or any combination of those tasks plus more. Every farm provides different levels of accommodation, so be sure to do your homework before you take the plunge. 

14. Conservacion Patagonia, Chile
Want to help build a national park in Patagonia? Conservacion Patagonia needs volunteers to help achieve its goal of creating Patagonia National Park, 650,000 acres of protected land in the wilderness of Chile, home to foxes, furry armadillos, guanacos (a relative of the llama that is equally adorable), deer and other wildlife. Surrounded by wet jungles and arid grasslands, volunteers can apply to perform three week stints of manual labor to help restore the ecosystem or work in the organic garden being built to feed workers and visitors. The program costs $600, and travel expenses are the responsibility of the volunteer.

15. Turtle Island Restoration Project, California and Texas
Turtles are in the name, but the Turtle island Restoration Project spearheads initiatives to protect sharks, salmon and other aquatic life. California volunteers can put their green thumbs to use helping to grow native plants for restoring salmon habitats. In Texas, volunteers are needed to patrol turtle nesting grounds and work at the Turtle Action Center. Volunteers must secure their own accommodations. 

16. Conservation Volunteers, Australia and New Zealand
Plucking invasive weeds from sandy beaches, surveying bird populations, and tree planting are just a few of the projects that over 10,000 volunteers a year carry out for this organization. Volunteers pay to participate; check the individual programs for cost.

17. The Conservation Volunteers, United Kingdom
With roots stretching back to the ‘50s, The Conservation Volunteers have a long track record of reclaiming and preserving green spaces in England, including walking paths, gardens and playgrounds. Volunteers do everything from tree planting, to path creation and repair, to pond construction and more.

Jack Kerouac’s cottage in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Maksim/ Wiki Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

Write Something

18. Write a House, Detroit, Michigan
Are you a low or medium income writer who is willing to not only live in Detroit, but actively contribute to its literary community? Then this unique organization might give you a house. Founded in 2012, Write a House is refurbishing empty homes in Detroit and awarding them to select applicants. (The program is limited to United States citizens.)

19. The Kerouac Project, Orlando, Florida
Perhaps the iconoclastic ghost of Jack Kerouac will inspire you at this 1926 cottage where he once lived and wrote the Dharma Bums. The Kerouac Project, which owns the home, grants 4 writers’ residencies a year. Scribes live in the cottage, and utilities, food and a stipend of $800 are also provided.

A beach on Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin, where you could work as a lighthouse keeper. (Photo: Tim Wilson/flickr


20. Working Couples, United States
Co-dependant but adventurous types can use this website to rustle up jobs big enough. Common types of job openings include ranch managers, campground caretakers and innkeeping. 

21. Lighthouse Keeper, Wisconsin
If rustic island living sounds appealing to you, consider becoming a volunteer lighthouse keeper on the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. Lighthouse keepers spend several weeks at a time either living in their lighthouse or nearby accommodations and giving tours and helping out guests. Accommodations are charming but can be spare: one electricity-free spot requires you to bring your own battery-powered lanterns, another an outhouse.

22. Skateistan, Afghanistan and international
Want to travel abroad, do good, and skateboard? Skateistan is an NGO based out of Afghanistan that uses skateboarding to promote education and youth leadership. The organization operates two skateboarding facilities in Afghanistan, in Kabul and Mazar-e-sharif, with a particular focus on getting girls interested in the sport. The organization teaches its students how to ride like pros, but also offers educational programs on everything from nutrition to mapping. Skateistan has gone international, with programs in Cambodia and South Africa and offices around the world. The organization seeks volunteers who can help teach skateboarding—but indoor types are also welcome. They also need people who can do legal, administrative and design work.