How I Landed a Job Living and Working in Grand Canyon National Park

Well, it’s been quite a while since publishing anything here but I’m back and ready to tell you all what I’ve been up to for the last few years and man, do I have a lot of travels to catch you up on!

First things first, I’ve spent a lot of my time in these last few years living and working in Grand Canyon National Park. Yes, you read that right! I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived in one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World! How amazing, even now after having been there for some time, it still staggers me to be able to say. And yes, it’s just as amazing as it sounds. Waking up every morning next to such a vastly glorious place and having access to its beauty at your fingertips is like nothing else.

You may be asking yourself now just how I managed to be able to live in such an incredible place and I don’t blame you. Honestly, it’s quite an interesting story and one I’m very eager to tell.

It all started back in 2016. My best friend and I decided to take a big leap together and were planning a move to Australia. We spent an entire year planning and saving and had everything in place. We even had a place to live that was ready and waiting for us. We departed for the great Down Under in 2017, ready as we’d ever be. The connecting flight was short but felt like a lifetime. We were so ready to finally embark on this adventure together and we couldn’t get there fast enough. We spent the flight reading silently to ourselves, both silently ecstatic that this time had finally come. When the pilot finally announced that we were about to land at LAX, we couldn’t wait to get off and get to that gate that not only would lead us to our plane but lead us to our future life in Aus, waiting for us with eager anticipation and promises of beaches, desert and new friends to be made.

We had a little bit of time between our flights so we decided to have dinner in the airport somewhere and get some drinks to calm our nerves. The time flew by and before we knew it, it was time to head to our gate and finally begin our Australian adventure. Walking excitedly to the gate together, I stepped up to the attendant first with my passport proudly outstretched and ready. It was at this exact moment that I heard a quiet and terrified call of my name. I turned around to see my best friend’s face covered in shock and terror. Something was wrong and I knew I wasn’t going to like what came out of her mouth next.

Her passport was missing.

That’s right, missing.

I stepped out of the line at the gate and asked if she was sure, wasn’t it just buried somewhere in her bag? She replied that she’d looked all through her bag already and that it was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, she looked at me with what I could only guess to be the shock of realization and she told me to hold the bag. The next thing I knew, she was darting down one of the hallways of LAX, back to where we’d just come from. I realized after a moment that she was running all the way back to the restaurant where we’d just been. It had to be there right? I just stood there silently praying that someone hadn’t already taken it for themselves. I stood there in my own shock and terror, slowly feeling the promise of Australia fade away from my dreams. I was lost in my own mind thinking about my world crashing down when I caught a glimpse of her sprinting back toward the gate and at me from afar. When she finally arrived in front of me, short of breath, I could see from the look on her face that her trek back had been to no avail. There was no passport in her hand, there was no smile on her face. I felt myself losing my breath and my knees start to tremble.

What happened? How could a passport have just vanished when she’d had it just mere moments ago? We sat together at the gate and both frantically had a go at looking through her bag again. And then again. And again. By the last time we each searched her bag, we were full of anger, disbelief and a sense of utter failure. She decided once more to run back to the restaurant to look for the missing passport. As she took off, one of the gate attendants slowly turned to me. The attendants had all been watching this mess unfold and from the look on their faces, there was nothing more they wanted than to offer us a helping hand, all the while knowing there was nothing any of them could do. Nothing we could do. Nothing I could do.

As one of the attendants turned to me, he had a look on his face of sadness but also hope. He knew my friend was gone, looking for the missing passport and that she wouldn’t make it back in time for the gate closing, passport or no passport. His face read mine and slowly offered up a solution. If I grabbed my own bags now, I could still make it to the plane before it took off. He asked if I wanted to go through and told me that this was my last chance. If I wanted to go to Australia, I had to leave now.

I was in shock, how could he ask me this when my best friend isn’t even here to say goodbye to? She isn’t even here to hear that I would be leaving without her. How could he lay this chance at my feet and expect me to take it? I was angry at him for even offering but then I felt my mind wander…wander to Australia and to the promise of a new world. My heart leapt in my chest. But only for a moment. I blinked and was brought back to reality. I could never do that. We had planned this move together, if one of us couldn’t go, neither of us would go.

I politely declined with tears in my eyes, burning as I struggled not to let a drop fall down my cheek. I turned away and heard them close the gate behind my back. It was at this moment that I caught a glimpse of her running back to me. I couldn’t hold back anymore, I let the tears stream down my face and she broke down too. We sat there in the airport terminal crying together in silence. I can’t remember how long it was but it felt like days before either of us spoke again.

We looked at each other, now with determination in our eyes. Australia had been stripped from us for some reason we couldn’t understand, nor wanted to. That was that. Now it was time to come up with a new plan. What were we going to do now that we had no future in Australia and no reason to go home?

We decided to go on a different adventure. An adventure right here in our backyard. A good old fashioned road trip throughout the Western U.S. We both love the outdoors more than most things on this planet so we headed off to buy a tent, camping supplies and food. If we couldn’t go to Australia, then we’d at least go somewhere and enjoy every second of it.

Together, we came up with a plan to travel all over the West and to see as many National Parks as we could on our way. We had no real timeline and nowhere to be so we could do whatever we wanted. I have a strong passion for our National Parks and protected lands and had previous park experience so I decided to apply to every park that I could along the way. I already had resumes ready and printed up for when we arrived in Australia, so I decided to just use those to apply to parks on the road trip instead.

The first park we decided to visit was the Grand Canyon. She had been there before and it was her favorite National Park she’d been to yet, so we took off. I had never been and was extremely excited. Even though I’m more of a forests and mountains and rivers sort of girl, I was intrigued by the exotic desolation of the desert and couldn’t wait to see this gorgeous place that everyone I knew who’d visited before had said had changed them.

We arrived late at night when the sky was black, yet speckled with millions of tiny white dots. It was quiet and nothing within the park was really moving. It was like time stood still there. I was eerily excited. We knew we wanted to see the Canyon itself in the daylight and specifically at sunrise, so we got a place to stay and decided to get a few hours’ rest before waking up at 5am to catch sunrise.

I remember waking up groggy and heavy lidded, even with the prospect of sunrise at the Grand Canyon. I guess that’s what happens when your entire world is uprooted a day before and your entire life shifts in the span of a few moments’ time. Despite my weary eyes, I tumbled out of bed and got dressed. She drove us to the edge of the Canyon, specifically to Mather Point (yes, the most touristy spot there is) while I slowly woke up, the pace of which was quickened by the unfolding beauty before me. By the time we actually got to the parking lot, I jumped out of the car, so eager to see this amazing place, not even really noticing the freezing temperature that had suddenly overwhelmed my body. We quickly grabbed a few more layers, threw them on and then walked the last few paces to the Canyon herself.

My, oh my, was she spectacular. I’d never seen anything so magical in my life and I feel that magic still to this day. We watched the sun slowly peek over the rim of the Canyon and come into full view, simultaneously setting the Canyon ablaze with the colors of the morning. As I stood there, holding the weight of all that had just happened to us, all the burden of what I couldn’t control, and seeing this indescribable beauty before my eyes, I silently wept. I felt all of the weight lift off my shoulders with that sunrise and felt a new fire grow within me. I somehow needed to be here, I needed to be outside, seeing the majesty of the nature around me unfold every day. I yearned for it in a way I’d never yearned for anything in my life before. This was where I belonged. I knew it then and can still feel it today.

We spent some time standing there together in silence, just feeling the presence of the Earth around us and feeling our spirits renew within us. It was a beautiful moment that I will treasure until the day I die. That time and that moment shaped me into who I am today and helped me grow more than I ever had before. I feel that beauty still.

After a while, we headed back to the rental car and grabbed our hiking packs. We were going to hike into the Grand Canyon and I was so ready. And scared. But mostly ready. Ready all except for not having had coffee yet. Although, honestly you could definitely call watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon a cup of coffee for a lifetime. But still, I wanted coffee. So, we headed to the little café off the edge of the rim. We walked in and were immediately greeted by happy smiling faces and jolly laughs. It was a place that makes you happy when you walk into it. I liked this place.

It was then that I noticed that this wasn’t just a café, it was also a cycling tour company and bike shop. I was invigorated with new purpose. I needed my resume. I quickly placed my order, grabbed my coffee and told my best friend to wait. I ran back to the car, coffee in hand, hiking pack on my back and grabbed my resume. I speed walked/slightly ran back to the café/bike shop and walked to the bike side. I was greeted by a young, wild-haired guy with a smile. I smiled back and told him I was interested in seeking a job with their company. He smiled bigger and turned to the back of the shop where I couldn’t see. He walked out of view and then came back with another wild-haired man who was smiling wide. He told me he was in charge and actually was hiring! My mind was blown! What were the chances that such a cool company in such an amazing place happened to be hiring at the exact moment my life had crumbled into a thousand pieces and was slowly being rebuilt again? I was ecstatic beyond belief. I told him my story, my whole story. I told him about Australia and how just the day before everything had fallen apart. I told him I was supposed to be there right now and that’s why my resume had a different address. I told him about my past experience in parks and how much I loved the outdoors. He listened intently and with a smile on his face the whole time. When I finished my story, he gave me a few details about the job and told me he had other resumes to look at as well but he thanked me for my time and wished me well.

I felt good. Things were coming together and I had hope.

We went on our hike and eventually left the Canyon for another park. And then another. And another. We traveled on the road for weeks seeing as much of the Western half of the U.S. as we could. Then, almost two weeks after leaving the Grand Canyon and hoping for the best, I got a phone call.

It was the manager of the bike shop at the Grand Canyon and he wanted to offer me a tour guiding position! I was over the moon! After everything we’d been through, after our failed attempt at moving to Australia and having to accept that I wasn’t going to be where I originally wanted to be, here was hope! I’d actually gotten the job!

We set a date for me to arrive back at the Canyon to start and the rest is history! We finished our amazing life changing road trip and I headed home to gather some things before heading out West again.

I left home a stronger woman than when I’d originally left for Australia. I’d watched my dreams crumble before me and I’d picked the pieces back up and turned them into a new dream. I had grown and I had been made stronger because of what had happened.

Nothing was going to get me down, I was moving to the Grand Canyon!

Published by MeganSuddarth

"Not all those who wander are lost." -Tolkien

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