Welcome to the next edition of Not Your Average Traveler, where I interview people outside the travel blogging realm who have made travel a priority and live (or have lived) a significant portion of their life on the road.
For this edition, I chatted with Sean Aiken of The One Week Job Project – an inspiring journey across North America in which he worked 52 jobs in 52 weeks to find his passion. He trekked more than 55,000 miles, slept on 55 couches, raised over $20K for charity, and tried every job he could: Bungee Instructor, Dairy Farmer, Advertising Executive, Baker, NHL Mascot, Stock Trader, Firefighter, and more. He’s been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, Globe & Mail, on CNN, 20/20, The Rachael Ray Show, Good Morning America, MTV, CBC, CTV, and countless other media outlets around the world. His book, The One Week Job Project, is published by Random House USA and Penguin Books Canada.
He frequently speaks to students and companies about what he learned from his One Week Job experience and has developed an international program to empower others to discover their passion by taking on a series of “one week jobs”.
Making the Most Of A Visit
With only a limited amount of time in each city, I found the quicker I could connect with a local to give me the inside scoop, the more efficient I’d be with my time and the more enriching the experience would be. Most of the time I stayed with my employers or fans of the website who were living in the city. By far this is the best way to experience what a city has to offer. Although I was only in each town for about a week or so, I rarely felt like a tourist.
My transportation changed often – I’d be on the bus, plane, or hitch hiking. A couple of times I was stranded hitch hiking. At one point a police officer pulled over to inform me that hitch hiking wasn’t illegal, but that he’d have to take down my name in case I went missing. A great bode of confidence! He then paused, and looked closer at me, “Hey, are you the One Week Job guy?”. “Yes,” I replied, still wondering if he was going to give me a ticket. “You should make a sign that says, ‘One Week Job guy.’ You’re bound to get more people stopping that way.”
Sean’s Essential Travel Item
My laptop computer. Even though I rarely get work done while on the road, it makes me feel comfortable knowing that I could do work if I really wanted to.
Adapting to Mishaps While Traveling
I was in New York City. My first day as a Firefighter in Fort Walton Beach, Florida started in two days. I’ve always wanted to see what it was like to be a Firefighter. I woke up painfully early, shelled out the extra cash for a cab to get to the airport on time, only to realize when I approached the ticketing counter that I’d booked the flight for the wrong day. I didn’t have money to purchase a new flight so I lost the $200, and had to quickly find another job. A few hours later, I was on a bus to Cape Cod where I started the next day as a Pizza Maker.
Favorite Food City
My best food experiences were in New York City. With so much competition in Manhattan, if you’re going to survive in the restaurant business, you have to step up your game. The quality of the food benefits!
The Kindness of Strangers
The most incredible part of the journey was all of the amazing people I met. The kindness and willingness of complete strangers to go out of their way and help me. When traveling, we’re typically in a place that we’re not familiar, perhaps don’t know anyone – we place ourselves in a vulnerable situation and we often have to rely on the kindness of strangers to help us out. At these times, it becomes beautifully clear how many great people there are in this world.
I’d just finished an interview in Atlanta on CNN and headed to the buildings cafeteria for lunch. A guy who saw the interview approached me and sat down with me. We shared stories and connected over lunch, after which he reached into both of his pockets, pulled out all of his cash and coins and put it on the table totaling $30. “Here, this is to help you with your travels.” I said how kind it was, but that I couldn’t possibly take all of the money in his pocket. He wouldn’t take no for an answer.
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Thanks again to Sean for participating in this edition of Not Your Average Traveler. To find out more about Sean, his project, and his life on the road, check out his website, oneweekjob.com, follow him on twitter @seanaiken, or check out The One Week Job facebook page.