Travel Jobs: Promoting Conventions

January 26, 2010

This weekend in Reno I did the following:

– Talked to two models, who happened to enjoy late night blackjack almost as much as me (one of whom posed for Playboy).
– Had a meaningful discussion with Chuck Yeager, the man to first break the sound barrier
– Watched Tom Selleck buy an Alaskan hunting knife, while his bodyguards warded off potential photographers
– Woke up to snowy morning runs
– Worked 12-hour shifts for five days with no breaks for lunch… or anything else
– Got paid a considerable amount, with lodging, meals, and travel included in expense

“Sands Convention Center @ CES 2008”, TigerDirect.com
Sands Convention Center @ CES 2008, TigerDirect.com

How exactly did this happen? Well, as many of you know, I am now back stateside after my travels in New Zealand looking for work. I was staying with the family for a few days after the holidays ended, doing my typical web searches in favor of writing travel articles for Vagabondish, Matador, and Iloho (yeah, I really should play catchup; I have about ten unfinished files just sitting on my desktop): Craigslist gigs in Dallas, Craigslist jobs in Austin, and Gaijinpot jobs in Japan. The usual gigs popped up: tutoring opportunities, moving jobs, and one ad written in all caps, requesting labor to help set up a booth at the Dallas Safari Club convention. Surprisingly, there was no email address, just a contact number. Half expecting it to be a scam, I called the number on Skype, left a message, and didn’t hear from them for a week.

Long story short, I was called the day before to pick someone up at the airport, set up a jewelry booth at the Dallas Convention Center, worked sales at the event for three days, broke down the booth, and was called to fly into LA, drive their supplies to Reno, and stay in a casino hotel for a week for one of the biggest conventions in the country, the Safari Club International.

Jobs like these, that allow one to travel from show to show, are not exactly rare, but usually restricted to certain kinds of people: women who are attractive enough to work as tradeshow models, the businesses themselves, and local talent (which usually means no traveling). The fact that I’ve been lucky enough to land a position and see the western US on someone else’s dime is pretty sweet, but I have to admit, I’m feeling that I’m working harder, not smarter…

The pay is decent ($1200 last show, about $15/hr with meals, lodging and gas included), but I was working incredibly hard and not moving around as much as I’d have liked. As strange as it sounds, I’d rather have a little less money for a lot more activity, so I don’t feel so full of pent up energy at the end of a workday. Running before and afterwards helps, but it’s just not enough. I bet I’m still gaining weight (enough to keep me out of the league of those Playboy models :P), and to top it off, my boss is walking a fine line between obsessive and pure evil.

Still, these shows are an interesting choice for the traveler looking to rake in a little dough. As I’ve discovered, you can pocket a bit more if the company advances you for lodging and you choose to stay with Couchsurfers.

Off to Tucson for a big gem show, then back to Texas for a bit. Peace.

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