I’ve lived here before from August until December 2017 and I’m going to endure another four months (from the beginning of March until end of June 2018). I arrived exactly one month ago and so much as happened since then. I figure now would be a good time to share not only my own experience working and living here, but other’s experiences as well.
I came here seeking to do something different – I wanted to work and make money – sure, but I also wanted to get the most out of a unique work experience and what better way to do that than to work, get free room and board, and meet lots of great, interesting people from all over the world?
I come from a place that’s warm, humid and next to the ocean. Right on the coast. It’s fantastic.
The Rocky Mountains of Colorado are polar opposite from my home- here it’s cold, windy and dry, and I’m in the mountains – duh.
So what’s it like living in the mountains at a place that’s kind of isolated from the city? A place where you live and work on property meeting people from all over the country or world?
For the most part, it’s a great experience, but it’s not for everyone. Definitely not for everyone.
Here are a few reasons that makes staying at the YMCA of the Rockies worth it:
#1: The Landscape (Mountains) are gorgeous!
If you’re a nature-lover and enjoy spending time outdoors doing activities like hiking or mountain biking, while being surrounded mountains, this is definitely a great place to stay and work at. Hiking is a very popular pass-time out here, and especially since it can be pretty isolating out here (there are small towns nearby, but to be in a bigger city like Boulder, it would be a good hour away by car), and if you don’t have your own car (like myself) and aren’t able to get into town as often as you’d like, it’s best to make the most of your time enjoying the nature and pretty views.
#2: You meet the most amazing people.
People from all over the country or world come to work and stay here. Some stay for a few weeks, others for several months. Sometimes a year. I’ve personally made friends from all over (mostly from Taiwan, China, Spain, Peru, Ecuador to name a few). You can get a culture exchange and learn about places or people who are different from yourself.
#3: There are many like-minded individuals like yourself.
As people here come from all kinds of backgrounds, I have met many people like myself, who are wanting the same things out of life and it’s so cool to exchange ideas and share experiences with individuals who value the same things in life.
#4: It’s a great area for making pictures.
If you love photography and making pictures (whether for fun or professionally) this is an ideal location to practice that skill. You can make the most beautiful all-year round during all the seasons. I can’t seem to take enough pictures of the mountains!
#5: There are lots of wildlife out here!
Elk, deer, rabbit, bear, moose, chipmunks, coyotes…
Colorado is full of wildlife.
Here at the YMCA there are often several groups of elk and deer that can be found grazing on the premises. Usually, they are even near or on the sidewalks and paths and, especially with deer, they don’t appear to be bothered as you’re passing by. I once got super close to a few deer as I was on my home from work – careful though! They are still wild animals and getting too close to elk can be dangerous.
Now for some of the more challenging things about working/living here at the Y.
#1: Getting around.
If you don’t have your own car it’s hard to get around and you may tend to feel isolated. While the Y still does its best to offer occasional shuttles into town or to the city, it may fall on a day that you work or the number of seats fill up fast. However, it is very likely you will befriend people who do have their own car and you’ll be able to get around with them. Not everyone who works here has flown in. Many drive here or are locals in town.
I think it’s worth it to invest in a bike, too! I love biking around on property and plan to go into town more with it when the weather warms up!
#2: Healthy eating.
It’s difficult to have a good healthy eating habit. The Y does its best to provide food for certain dietary concerns, but for somebody like me, who is trying to lead a healthy lifestyle it’s still not easy. I personally miss cooking certain foods for example (there is no kitchen available to cook here). Food here is produced to feed hundreds if not thousands of people. It’s best to order food online or make trips to the nearest grocery store if you’re wanting to maintain a certain eating lifestyle.. but be careful as this can cut into your budget.
#3: Phone calling can be hard.
It’s hard to get good cell phone service here up in the mountains. On property pretty much everyone is dependent on WiFi only. However, Estes Park is only a 10 minute drive should you need to make phone calls that need service. Another option is walking to the RA office and making phone calls from their landline instead.
With everyone living so close together it’s easy for everyone to know your business. It’s best to keep certain things to yourself – you have to use your own better judgement with knowing what to tell people. It’s like living on a college campus in a way. There’s a lot of fun with folks here, but the drama gets pretty exhausting.
All in all, I think working here at the Y while being in the midst of the Rocky Mountains is wonderful and offers a unique opportunity for individuals who want to try something different, take a break from their life back at home, meeting other like-minded people and having new adventures. It can be a challenge – but every place has its pros and cons. No place is perfect. It just depends on what you want and how you will be able to overcome the challenges if and when they do approach you. It’s not always easy, but most of the time, it’s well worth it.
Here is a vlog I made interviewing some people I know who share a bit of their personal experience working at the Y.