You are 58 years old and you get laid off from your accounting job that you’ve been doing for the past 25 years. Truth be told, you never really liked that field that much any way so you certainly don’t want to find a new job doing the same thing. Now what do you do?
That is exactly where Laura Close found herself ten years ago. Depressed, she went to visit her son who lived in Alaska. She fell in love with the history and the scenery of this northern wilderness. But she didn’t care much for the long, freezing winters. So Laura found a compromise: Keep Oregon as her home base and work part-time in Alaska during the tourist season from Mid-April to the end of September. It is a balance she has come to love.
Describe your venture: I am a Rail Car Tour Guide for Holland America Princess.
What skills/talents do you have that compliment your venture? I love trains, Alaska, and to travel. I have a background in customer service which has come in handy in dealing with people.
What fears did you have getting started? Starting a new career at age 58 without any real direction. I knew I did not want to go back in the accounting field and I was worried that I wouldn’t find anything worthwhile.
What was involved in getting started? A lot of memorizing. I read lots of books on Alaska, I followed the train ride guides, and I ate a lot of Alaska blueberries!!!
What was your start up costs? What are your ongoing costs? There was no out of pocket expense starting out. Getting to Alaska each April takes some time and money. I drive 2,622 miles in four days, spending 12 hours a day in the car. I have food, lodging, and of course, gas expenses. I love the drive, especially going through Canada. To keep me company, I listen to two books-on-tape each day. When I get to Alaska, I rent an apartment for the season and have a roommate to help share costs. My roommate this season is 60 years old and is working on her masters degree in clinical psychology during the “off-season.”
How much do you make? Is it worth the time and effort? For five months of work in Alaska, I earn between $14,000 and $16,000 plus tips. This, added to my Social Security, is enough for me to meet my obligations back home in Oregon for the rest of the year.
How much time during the week do you spend on your venture? That depends on how many tours I am assigned. One train excursion is nine hours long, from Anchorage to Denali National Park.
What do you like best about your venture? The people I meet and work with. I get to associate with people from all over the world. It is an adventure every day.
What do you see for you and your venture in the future? I have been doing this job for ten years and while I love it, I am considering doing something else. Maybe I will look into selling tours on cruise ships.