Vocation vs Avocation

A vocation vs an avocation…and trying to do both.


There is a blog I read regularly, one whose author I suspect would not want the extra publicity, that wrote a recent blog post about work and the quality of life.

Two items that seemed esp poignant to me in his blog post:

  • Trying to sustain the work-long hike-work -long hike-work-long hike balance is hard to sustain unless you *only* want to do long hikes
  • If you are anxiously looking at the clock on a Sunday night and perhaps a bit depressed, time for a different job

In my twenties and early thirties, I was definitely in the first mode. I’d pick up a job, save money, and go hiking.  The jobs I ended up working were not your typical (for outdoors people) Outward Bound or similar type jobs. It ended up being IT jobs aka “computer stuff”.

Without realizing it, somehow these odd jobs became a career.  Answering phones for software questions became a desktop support job. A desktop support job became a Windows System Administrator.  And that job lead to me working in a development environment deploying software.

What does that have to do with the second item? It means I have a skill set that is portable, allows me find a new job relatively easily if I need (or want) to  and pays well enough to support my avocation: The outdoors.

Why not make my avocation my vocation?

At an earlier time, I wondered that myself. But to truly make a living (meaning a plausible retirement and not just getting by ) at the outdoors requires a bit of luck, some skills and another means of support many times.  I live in a town where there are many outdoor writers, guides, professional photographers, and so on.  When I scratched the surface, and became less naive, I realized many (not all) had some family support as their career was getting established. College was paid for, rents or a down payment on a house was made, car payments assisted with, knowing the right people to help out and be introduced to and so on.

So it goes.

I didn’t (don’t) have that outside means of support in my twenties and early thirties to establish an outdoor career of that type.

It has been a slow build up to even what I have now .

So I do some freelance writing, a little photography and the occasional guide job. It is a small way of earning money off my avocation.

In the mean time, my IT career has not only let me hike but has paid for the cameras I took photos with, the computer I write articles with, much of the gear I use, gas to get to and from the trail head, being able to afford to live in an area with great outdoor opportunities (and craft beer. Can’t forget the craft beer!) and so on.  While IT it is not my passion, it is a vocation I can enjoy on some level. And when I get  burnt out, as with my last job, I can find a job more enjoyable, challenging and enriching..and have the ability to have some time off in between jobs.  As my career progresses and my skill set increases, the ability to have more and more time off in between jobs, while still having an enjoyable career, is increasing.

.So will my avocation become a career? Perhaps not in the immediate future.  But my vocation is giving me the ability to enjoy my avocation quite a bit.

And, I really can’t complain too much about that.

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9 years ago

Wise. Nothing sucks the life out of an “Avocation” faster than making it your Job.
Larry (retired)

Jarrett Morgan
9 years ago

I would love a career field or job that would allow me to take time off for a long hike. It looks like I’ll be in retirement before I can do anything to long.

DJ Johnson
DJ Johnson
8 years ago

Hmm, this is interesting to read. I was really wondering how to balance life and hiking a few months ago. I’ve wanted to get out and do the big three, but I’ve never been in a position to have the time or money. I’m also at the start of a career in the IT industry and now I’m more focused on spending my time on shorter day or weekend hikes. Those long trails would be fun I think, but I don’t *need* to do them anymore. I love reading your articles and stuff, especially since I just moved out here… Read more »