Once you retire you finally have at least one resource in abundance: free time. For many, the first instinct is to fill the hours with the leisure activities that always seemed too hard to fit into the schedule: golf matches, brunch with friends, travel… you get the idea. But what if you found ways to use that free time to have experiences that would expand your horizons in ways that weren’t possible when you had other commitments? Here are some options. Added bonus? None of them are expensive.

Volunteering Gigs with Perks

Woman leads museum tour groupOne of the easiest ways to get behind-the-scenes access to your favorite interests is to volunteer at a local tourist attraction that you love. Whether it’s a zoo, sports facility, museum, or even a community center, volunteers are almost always needed. Many of these establishments seek retirees as docents or part-time employees, who can hang around and educate people about the things they enjoy. In addition to the social benefits — who doesn’t love sharing their interests with other like-minded people? — these positions often include free membership (or at least a waiving of attendance fees), as well as hands-on experiences and educational opportunities not open to the general public. These positions can also include other perks like discounts in the gift shop and restaurants as well, which is great for those trying to adhere to a budget.

music festival signAnother more temporary volunteer gig that comes with a ton of perks is to volunteer for film or music festivals. These roles often require very little effort and yet include complimentary admission, access to screenings, backstage events, and other experiences. Conventions and conferences have similar benefits for volunteers who help hand out swag bags or take tickets at the door. To find opportunities like this, inquire at local convention centers and arenas, or check out websites like MusicFestivaljunkies.com to track events that interest you.

The Path Less Traveled

As it turns out, a wide variety of fascinating opportunities are open to people who have flexibility and a nose for adventure. Seasonal work in places like ski resorts, fishing lodges, and National Parks can be uniquely rewarding in a lot of cool ways. 

Sea turtle laying eggs on the beachFor example, Cape Hatteras National Seashore recently posted a volunteer job that includes housing on Ocracoke Island (a popular vacation destination in North Carolina’s Outer Banks) for two months to an individual willing to walk the beaches to watch for hatching sea turtles. That’s right: if selected, this person will get free housing for the summer, in a beautiful location, in return for spending a certain number of hours walking on the beach. (We’re pretty sure that’s basically like someone paying you to take a beach vacation.)

Many National Parks offer subsidized dormitory-style housing and meals in return for working during peak seasons. In addition to needing people to work as clerks in the gift shop and other retail positions, they are often looking for skilled workers to help maintain facilities as well. Seasonal workers typically enjoy free or steeply discounted tickets to area attractions in addition to discounts at the employer’s restaurants and gift shops. 

If you’re interested in something like this, the best place to find job postings is at USAjobs.gov, or Coolworks.com, a website designed specifically for people looking for unique opportunities.

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