Every one with commitment issues or wanderlust are always looking for the best travel job or location independent career, (I know I always am.) Here’s one that I never thought of until I started doing it myself.
What? My office is Coachella? And then next month it’s Bonnaroo? And the month after that it’s Electric Forest? Yes please!
During the summer of 2014 I went to volunteer at Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Illinois with a company called Peace Love Tacos. I went via the recommendation of someone who was then my acquaintance and is now one of my best friends and main travel partners, shoutout blog post to her and the value of a good travel partner, here.
With Peace Love Tacos during 2014, we had three tiers of workers:
- Taco slingers aka volunteers who would work 4 hours per day on the assembly line in exchange for their festival ticket and food for the weekend.
- Taco ninjas aka paid staff who would work 8 hours per day on the line, prepping food, doing inventory, etc. during the festival plus a few hours for set up and tear down the day before and after the festival at $10/hour plus food for the weekend and a ticket into the festival.
- Taco samurais aka managers. At that time, this consisted of the owner and one other beautiful soul who was somewhat of a salary employee. They did whatever they had to do to keep the boat afloat.
Anyway, I fell in love with the crew this first weekend. Luckily, I had plans to volunteer for a few more festivals and even more luckily, that was enough time for the owner to invite me on to the paid crew. I couldn’t have been more excited for my first travel job.
*From taco slinger to taco ninja, a story of finding the perfect travel job*
What is my life? Every day felt like a bit of a fairy tale. I even usually woke up covered in glitter and/or face paint.
Allow me to just paint a picture of a solid work day on the Peace Love Tacos food truck. Firstly, everyone is handsome as hell. Just gorgeous people everywhere. There would either be live music on a stage nearby or we’d be bumping whatever would get us moving. The truck was constantly bouncing from gorgeous people dancing, nonstop. Who doesn’t want to visit that taco truck?
Our food was quality too. No, not all locally sourced or organic, it’s a work in progress being a mobile food vendor. But still, we got whole foods where we could and tried our hardest to keep quality at the top of our list. Constantly, there was the smell of meat being cooked fresh on the grill with a taco ninja or samurai standing over it glistening and maybe wearing a cowboy hat or a taco suit.
We were also the only vegan and dairy free option a lot of times at festivals which meant we were some people’s only option (not that anyone would complain about that.) So, day to day, we’d be explaining to people that we didn’t have cheese or sour cream but that we did have kale salad. That is not a common trade off. And it took a lot of convincing sometimes to get people to try something new, but it was something that we all became passionate about. You could feel the positivity just oozing out of our taco cart. It was really something else.
There was plenty to fuel us during our work days, but it definitely got exhausting. During your work week of 8+ hour days, do you usually wake up for yoga, break for dance parties and/or your favorite musicians, venture out to see the amazing art installations that are probably present, and then go party with your best friends late into the night? True. Those are our choices, but what would you do? (:
And eventually, our workloads got bigger and our workdays grew longer. By 2015, we had four co-managers, myself included, all working 12 hour shifts while still stopping by during our off time to make sure everything was going smoothly. The truck was our baby after all.
My first festival as a manager was Coachella Music and Arts Festival 2015. I had worked on the grill before but usually with a partner. On this day, it was my job to prepare all the meat and the other managers would take the same shift on the other days. Coachella is in the desert in California. It was over 100 degrees and over a hot hot grill cooking and then chopping forty pounds of meat at a time is where I stood for 8 hours. I couldn’t drink water as fast as I could sweat it out.
Our company was in it’s third year and people knew about us. We had loyal customers at multiple festivals, people loved us. So, we got busier, and sometimes our team of Taco Samurais would each work 16 hour shifts a day. There would be times where we’d tear down at one festival and drive straight to the next one ten hours away to set up, leaving no time for laundry, showers, or a moment to breathe.
Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Life on the road got like this for a lot of festival workers. We worked hard and we played hard. The kind of person doing this job isn’t going to be all work and no play, if anything, we skipped on sleep. And skipping on sleep, I know I did plenty of.
For the most part, it was amazing and I definitely plan on picking up festival work as a travel job again. But I know the next time that I do it, I am going to have to set some boundaries for myself to keep my health at the top of my own priorities. Because when you’re running on no sleep and you’ve just gotten done with your overtime shift and your favorite artist is playing, there’s no time for a power nap.
How to get this awesome travel job?
To work with an actual food vendor, it just comes down to connecting with one. My story is one of connections. That worked perfect for me and most others on our crew, but a few of our solid PLT family had even just answered to ads on Craigslist. I know Craigslist has been used by many other food vendors as well. It’s sometimes a bit difficult to find a team of people willing to chase you and your event catering company all over the country. (:
- So if a festival is coming up that you want to go to, check Craigslist to see if any vendors are looking for help.
- Also, most festivals have an allotted number of tickets for volunteers. People to do basic jobs like assisting with parking, checking cars, security, pick up trash, etc. Those jobs are usually a little less exciting but are also intended to give you maximum festival time which to some people is ideal.
- One of my favorite companies that take volunteers and have a paid staff is Clean Vibes. They are a company hired by a festival to manage the recycling and garbage at a festival which as you can imagine is a HUGE job. The amount of garbage and campsites full of cheap broken junk at the end of bigger festivals is enough to bring some people to tears.
Otherwise, when you go to music festivals, talk to vendors. Ask them if they need a traveling worker, or maybe even just connect for the potential to work with them the following year if you both plan to attend that festival.