Treeplanting to travel
Perhaps a rather unorthodox manner by which to travel, but often your job can be a good tool to get you to the most obscure places. Just think of airline stewardesses, who could find themselves bouncing around the planet like it was the flip of a coin. Or people working on cargo ships.
My life as a treeplanter started in Banff, Alberta (picture above), already a totally awesome place to visit if you love mountains and nature. I was paying off student loans and a friend of mine invited me to go with her treeplanting, citing that the money is good. I figured, why not?
I imagined I would be like a bunny rabbit, crawling along on my knees on a lawn of comfortable grass between strings propped up on sticks sticking out of the soil to help guide our way as we all planted alongside one another at our casual, bunny paces. What I instead discovered was utterly horrifying.
You might wake up at five in the morning, in your tent, after a freezing cold night, random clothes strewn atop your sleeping bag to help hold in some heat while the tip of your nose pokes out of the smallest gap, lest you let some of that freezing cold air into what little heat you have managed to generate inside your bag.
Under your sleeping bag and above your thin mattress you have your dirty day clothes, to keep them reasonably warm for when you make the mad scramble to change out of your night pajamas.
Then it is off to the tent outhouse, something you might have to help dig the hole for whenever you move to the next location and camp. There you try to release your burden as quickly as possible, frantically swatting mosquitoes all around you. Have you ever gotten bit on the rim of your butt hole? I can assure you it is extremely annoying and you will never forgive those pests again.
Then it is off to the mess tent, where you chow down after quickly preparing your sandwiches, granola bars and what not for lunch on the field. You cram yourself into a pickup truck or sturdy van with the other planters as you bounce along dirt roads to the planting site, that contract where you might be stationed for the next few weeks or even months.
You arrive to the “block”, the area cleared of trees by the loggers before you, by around 7am, or as early as possible, because it can get baking hot by the afternoon, and best to avoid that.
You scramble out of the truck and fill up your bags with seedlings as soon as you can, if you ever want to make any money that day, since you are paid by the tree. And after that, the real hell begins.
I must say this was by far the hardest job I ever did, but it was a major contributing force to building my character. After I survived this ordeal, I realised that suffering is more a mental exercise and that one can turn that receptor off to survive the most trying of times, while others with weaker minds might instead settle for insanity. I remember one “newbie”, a beginner planter, who after two weeks blurted out at the dinner table, “I think I’m going insane”. “Welcome to the club, my friend”, I responded aptly.
But setting that all aside, the people who do actually survive longer than the trial first two weeks turn out to be a resilient lot with colourful character. Almost everyone smokes dope, and a high percentage play some musical instrument, most of whom have brought one with them. Often at night around the campfire a good jam session can be enjoyed.
But from a travel perspective, I must say that, since most of my planting was in British Colombia, I have seen the most beautiful and raw nature in my life. Imagine being choppered into work because all the logging roads were washed away by severe rain, dropped off at the top of a mountain above the cloud cover, which slowly dissipates as the land warms up from the sun and reveals the majestic valley below.
I initially made this website (hardcoretreeplanters.com) because during one and my last, eighth year I was hired by one new company who wanted to hire me to help them with accounting. So I designed accounting software for them, but since they proved to be dishonest and shortchanged me, I decided I might as well try to sell it to other companies. I managed to sell some copies and earn some extra from advertising or help planters find work, but I’ve moved on to different pastures. As the Czechs say, “Life is change, change is life”, and this is one experience I particularly appreciate along the path that I have traveled.
Since I decided not to pursue this project as a source of income anymore, I migrated the site to my new endeavour and love, this Philippines island hopping site. Hope you enjoy the reading, and if you are looking for work as a treeplanter in Canada, I’d be happy to help you.
We are a family operation managing private custom boat tours in the beautiful Palawan area, and are happy to help travelers with their plans through the country, having traveled a lot of it ourselves and planning to visit it all. The pages in this section concern when I was treeplanting in Canada over eight summers.