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Getting started from square negative 3  RSS feed

 
Curtis Budka
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Location: Southern NH zone 5b
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Hey folks, I'm 17; a senior in high school. Over the past 6 years, I've gone from wanting to be an environmentalist, to a computer programmer, to a forester, to an organic farmer/homesteader, to a carpenter/homesteader, to a professional timber framer/homesteader, to someone who just wants to get some land and make it the bestest land ever for nature and everyone else. I'm basically a conglomerate fan of permaculture, blacksmithing, homesteading, self sustaining communities, winter, sepp holzer, plants, rocks, and....mostly everything (except the government).

My question is where do I start? I'm surrounded by people who are too busy even converse with me about what I want to do with my life that I just tell them I want to be a carpenter. It satisfies them, whatever. Ill let them go do their college thing. A few people somewhat understand where I'm going, but they keep telling me that I have to continue my education. Yes, I need money to accomplish anything. Yes, that probably means some sort of career....or does it? Anyways, these few seem to be satisfied with the concept of continuing my education by doing a farm internship. That's all fine and dandy, but what if the farm isn't going in the direction that I want to go? I've also learned to not fully trust someone else's information until you test it out yourself or experiment and make your own personal discoveries. Yeah, I couldn't exactly go out and get myself a cow and expect to be able to experiment with different ways of caring for this cow right off the bat, because I would intend to keep my new cow for a good while.

What it comes down to is that I have 3 chickens, I can play with dirt and seeds so they can make growies, and I can build some things. What are my options and which one is likely the best? (PDC, WWOOFing, internship)

And don't yell at me if this is in the wrong thread thingy, I am deeply sorry.
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Hi, Curtis and welcome to permies! I think you've found the perfect place to converse with like minded folks...........Sounds as though you are giving this a lot of thought and working at accomplishing what you can for your situation. Many of us here enjoy this forum as a place to discuss all of those things that are important to us that our real life community doesn't always 'get'.

and also, here is a thread of teenagers looking for others into permaculture http://www.permies.com/t/18544/md/teens-permaculture
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome Curtis
You show an interest in trades/skills like building and smithing
and if hands-on work is your thing, I'd really look into getting education in that direction.
Over here, good carpenters make very good incomes-
especially those who focus on non-standard areas that need specific skills
For example, my brother's a plumber who specialises in solar hot water heating.
He has more work than he can manage, and you should see the setup he did at my parents' new house!
 
Mike Cantrell
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Location: Mid-Michigan
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Hi Curtis!

Well done, for having a very respectable degree of self-awareness for age 17! Most folks have zero.

I'd like to give two pieces of direction here that will be useful no matter where you end up going. (Then, I'll take a cue from Reddit and note what's my basis for saying so.)

1. You can't decide yet. I mean 'can't' in the sense of, you're not able to. Don't have the ability. Almost nobody has enough information at age seventeen to decide what to do with themselves, because some of the information you need is information about yourself. You need to try a whole lot of things and see how they work out. And not just for six weeks each. You've got to give a couple of years to it before you can say, "Nope, I'm an introvert, extremely independent, and demand a lot from myself. I'm not cut out for leadership, because leading people involves a lot of dealing with people, and a lot of being responsible for their mistakes." That's an example from my own life. Yours will obviously be different.
You've got to do some stuff before you can decide what to do.

2. You'll always need some money. Some of your friends and acquaintances are probably on the "career" track at school. Get good grades, go to college and major in something lucrative, graduate and get a job in that lucrative field. Some of your other friends are probably on the "purpose" track. They're trying to get into a college to major in art or women's studies or something so they can graduate and go make a difference in the world. (The rest of your friends are just thinking about sex and can't formulate any plans, but they don't matter here.) I'm here to tell you that both of them, both "career" and "purpose" are doing it wrong. The laser-focus on one lucrative career is brittle. If something goes wrong, the whole damn plan blows up. You borrow $300k and go to med school, then the lawnmower squashes your eyeball with a rock. Pfft. Can't do surgery without depth perception. You got a prestigious engineering degree to design engines... in 2008? Pfft. See what I'm saying? If you hang everything on one plan, you're liable to regret it. Life is unpredictable. On the flip side, there's a stereotype about starving artists, because that's based in facts. It happens. A lot. Those folks who "don't need" any money... they're just wrong. Ask them if they "don't need" running water and wi-fi. "Yeah, but that doesn't cost THAT much." It'll cost your whole income, if you plan on only having a tiny income! A plan to borrow money to major in art is a plan to have a tiny income. So. Get good at making money starting now, preferably in a lot of different ways. Being able to say, "Ok, $15 for a sack of vermiculite to insulate my heat riser is no big deal" gives you access to a lot more permaculture than lacking it. Read what Paul Wheaton's written here in this thread about income streams; it's enlightening.


Ok, there's the two things. Try some stuff so you can find out what you're good at, and practice making money. Your odds of ending up someplace good are very high.

Source: I got a BA in Philosophy. Now I'm 30. I have a wife and three kids, a respectable salary at a "city job," and a paid-for homestead. I'm pleased with things, but if I had high school and college to do over again, I'd do them differently.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Heck, I'm not done yet.

BONUS: WHAT'S THE BEST CAREER?

The best career is SALES. Here's 6 reasons why.

1. Sales is one of two careers that will always train you with no experience. (The other is the military.) If you've got NO qualifications beyond the ability to smile, you can get a sales job. I did.

2. Sales is one of the two most transferable skills. (The other is management.) If you can show somebody you successfully sold culverts, you can get a job selling transformers.

3. Sales is eminently self-employable. If you want complete freedom, just go buy something and sell it to somebody, no boss needed. Hot dog cart, reclaimed bricks, whatever.

4. Sales is everywhere. If you decide you want to move to Missoula and hang out near wheaton labs, there's absolutely, positively some businesses in Missoula that need salesmen. You don't know whether it's billboards, extruded aluminum, or dog collars, but somebody needs a salesman.

5. Sales is lucrative. Successful salesmen make boatloads of money. I sold life insurance a little while (that one's tough, right up there with used cars). The "big hitters", the guys who had been at it a while, they made more money than doctors and took three months off each year. And half their "work" involved taking people to dinner and ballgames. That's an extreme example, but it's a firsthand example.

6. Sales is flexible. Lots of times you can arrange a job where you can swap time and money as you please. Want a lot of free time and less money? Fine. Want a lot of money and less free time? Also fine. That's not possible in most fields. (I, for example, get a specified amount of money per year, and I get free time according to how much work is assigned to me. Naturally, the company assigns to me either a) as much work as there is, or b) as much work as they think they can get away with. ) But in sales, you can get that if you want it.



Not everybody can make it in sales. I couldn't. Too shy. Very, very afraid of rejection. But if you CAN make it in sales, it's the best career.

Edit to add:
Notable sales job with a misleading title: Director of Advancement. That's the salesman who sells an institution, such as a museum, university, camp, or charity, to donors. These positions come with all of the money of other sales jobs, PLUS a generous helping of prestige.


Also, there's this:
http://thisisindexed.com/2014/09/commodity/
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Mike's point of view is one way to look at things .
I do agree that you don't need to worry about choosing a skill path at 17....I think just staying open to possibilities can head you in the right direction. Sometimes we can only see the things that we don't want to do and that, I think, can sometimes guide us, push us.....in the direction we were meant to go. I am a believer in serendipity and holding an open mind to what might pop up right in front of me that I didn't even know existed.
At 18 I was the art major Mike mentioned, but without debt. At 20 I was hitch hiking all over and a couple years later had landed with some like minded folks and spent years learning and building some homesteading skills. I think that for me, if I had made earning money the number one event I would not be as satisfied with my life as I am. six grandkids, a 40 year marriage and no debt...and a life that I don't think I could have made a plan for thirty years ago. I agree with Mike that you do need a certain amount of money but I don't think it has to be the driving force behind what you choose to do.
I think you are so lucky to have a community of like minded folks available at your fingertips and a world (literally) of possibilities to chose from for where to head next.
Try to get through highschool as best you can....for many of us it was not the best years of our lives.
 
Dan Grubbs
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Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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Curtis … dude, you rock!

Like Mike I give you mad props for this investigation into what you want and who you are. Though I think Mike’s two points in his first message are generally true for young people, there are a few rare individuals who know who they are and what they want to be at a very young age. I would not have had that belief until my own daughter who at the age of 10 made up her mind she wanted to be an opera singer. She did what she needed to do for the following eight years and ended up being accepted at and getting her undergraduate degree from Juilliard and then was accepted at and achieved her master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. I say all this to make the point that there are some generalizations and there are exceptions. Through the process that Mike is discussing above in his first post, I know you will find out if you are like most of us and really could not know what we should be doing in our adult life, or are you one of the rare few who are as convinced of who they are at an early age as much as they are convinced that they are alive.

Now, for my own life, I agree 100% with what Mike outlined. In fact, I have to continue to assess and reassess and have come to realize that I should not have be someone who picked one thing to do in life and do that the rest of my life (it ate away at my soul until I found alternative agriculture). I’m built to want to do several things and I don’t see anything wrong with that for anyone else. Society is always evolving and beginning to accept alternative ways of living. For example, people are being celebrated by living in an 8’ X 12’ tiny house. That would have been viewed as failure not more than 10 years ago. It’s still viewed as failure by my extended family.

I know there are ways to gain first-hand experience – this forum is filled with connections to those opportunities.

But, I think there is some value in helping your immediate family understand regenerative agriculture and permaculture and why you think it is important, along with the development of skilling yourself with self-sustaining practices. You may never get your family to agree with what you believe about these things, but at least they may gain some understanding. Share some family time together and show them some well-produced videos about permaculture or any of the videos about Polyface farms (here’s one I like and it’s only nine minutes: http://vimeo.com/81468461 ). Also, go to YouTube and look up the three-part video series titled The Birth of a Tool I, II, and III. Those are videos any family member can enjoy.

Source: I got a BA in English. I’m 52, married 30 years with two adult children out on their own. I also have a city job that provides a comfortable income that is paying for our new homestead of 10 acres. And like Mike, if I had to do things over again, I would do them differently. For me, I worried way too much what my in-laws would think of me. That affected me way too much in our decision making.
 
Curtis Budka
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Mike Cantrell wrote:Hi Curtis!

Well done, for having a very respectable degree of self-awareness for age 17! Most folks have zero.

I'd like to give two pieces of direction here that will be useful no matter where you end up going. (Then, I'll take a cue from Reddit and note what's my basis for saying so.)

1. You can't decide yet. I mean 'can't' in the sense of, you're not able to. Don't have the ability. Almost nobody has enough information at age seventeen to decide what to do with themselves, because some of the information you need is information about yourself. You need to try a whole lot of things and see how they work out. And not just for six weeks each. You've got to give a couple of years to it before you can say, "Nope, I'm an introvert, extremely independent, and demand a lot from myself. I'm not cut out for leadership, because leading people involves a lot of dealing with people, and a lot of being responsible for their mistakes." That's an example from my own life. Yours will obviously be different.
You've got to do some stuff before you can decide what to do.

2. You'll always need some money. Some of your friends and acquaintances are probably on the "career" track at school. Get good grades, go to college and major in something lucrative, graduate and get a job in that lucrative field. Some of your other friends are probably on the "purpose" track. They're trying to get into a college to major in art or women's studies or something so they can graduate and go make a difference in the world. (The rest of your friends are just thinking about sex and can't formulate any plans, but they don't matter here.) I'm here to tell you that both of them, both "career" and "purpose" are doing it wrong. The laser-focus on one lucrative career is brittle. If something goes wrong, the whole damn plan blows up. You borrow $300k and go to med school, then the lawnmower squashes your eyeball with a rock. Pfft. Can't do surgery without depth perception. You got a prestigious engineering degree to design engines... in 2008? Pfft. See what I'm saying? If you hang everything on one plan, you're liable to regret it. Life is unpredictable. On the flip side, there's a stereotype about starving artists, because that's based in facts. It happens. A lot. Those folks who "don't need" any money... they're just wrong. Ask them if they "don't need" running water and wi-fi. "Yeah, but that doesn't cost THAT much." It'll cost your whole income, if you plan on only having a tiny income! A plan to borrow money to major in art is a plan to have a tiny income. So. Get good at making money starting now, preferably in a lot of different ways. Being able to say, "Ok, $15 for a sack of vermiculite to insulate my heat riser is no big deal" gives you access to a lot more permaculture than lacking it. Read what Paul Wheaton's written here in this thread about income streams; it's enlightening.


Ok, there's the two things. Try some stuff so you can find out what you're good at, and practice making money. Your odds of ending up someplace good are very high.

Source: I got a BA in Philosophy. Now I'm 30. I have a wife and three kids, a respectable salary at a "city job," and a paid-for homestead. I'm pleased with things, but if I had high school and college to do over again, I'd do them differently.


Thanks Mike. I currently work at a supermarket. Yes, its retail experience, but I hate it because I'm always working the same shift during the week thanks to school. Its also ironic because I do everything I can to get away from processed and factory food. I've considered things like restoring old fashioned tools and reselling on eBay to a few other things.
 
Curtis Budka
Lab Ant
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Dan, thanks.
About the links and the videos, it would be hard to find a video or documentary about Salatin, homesteading, permaculture, etc. that I haven't seen. I've made a few of my family members watch a couple documentaries about everything from tiny houses to the FDA raiding organic farms for no reason. They understand the consensus that there is a lot wrong in the world, especially with the government and how they treat the food system. BUT, they still feel like we need chemical fertilizers to make things grow for us. They still want their lawn and the uncared for perennial flower bushes around the house that supposedly add to the value of the house. And I'm also not allowed to cut down birch trees (even where the forest is simply too dense) because they look pretty. I see some of my family trying to loose weight and all they are doing is counting calories and buying the weight watchers products. I want to scream, but, all that would come out is an in-cohesive blurb.

Every single person I know outside the internet consistently fails to see the bigger picture. The only way I can see to convert any of them is to create a prime example of why what I'm blabbering about actually works.
 
Michael Newby
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One thing that I would add is to invest your time and money in building your skill-set. Learn as many different skills as you can and your more likely to find the few that you are actually naturally good at and that you enjoy doing. The more skills you have the more likely you are to be able to say "I can do that" when someone says they need something done and usually when you use a skill of yours for someone else you'll get something in return, whether it be money, barter or community growth. Multiple skills also allow for security - you'll hear things like "we don't need any framers right now but if you knew electrical we could give you a position"

Be willing to apprentice. Most real professionals are very proud of their skill set and understand the value of those skills. It's very off-putting to have some young unskilled punk expect you to teach him your valuable skills and pay you to learn them. If you go to a timberwright (or most any other skilled contractor) and ask him hat-in-hand if he'll let you clean up his shop in exchange for lessons when he has time he's much more likely to figure out some way to keep you busy, even if he doesn't actually have the work for you. Go in there talking about how much you want to learn and how much you want to earn and he's not going to try too hard unless he's really pressed for workers.
 
Will Meginley
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Mike Cantrell wrote:1. Sales is one of two careers that will always train you with no experience. (The other is the military.)


Make that 3: wildland firefighting. Slightly safer than dodging bullets and far less mind-numbing than dealing with idiots all day.

It's also highly transferable into permaculture.

1) If you were afraid of hard physical labor you won't be any more.

2) When you spend all summer sleeping on the ground (often in the open air) and living out of a 3 ft^3 rucksack you learn how little you truly NEED, and learn to appreciate what you have a lot more.

3) You get a lot of experience operating chainsaws and falling trees - typically one of the more dangerous tasks a homesteader might face on a regular basis. And unlike most homesteaders, you'll also get training in how to REPAIR chainsaws when they break. (Which saves you a ton of money and opens up a possible new income stream.)

4) You'll often spend a lot of down time doing general carpentry, vehicle repair, welding/fabricating, and home improvement-type stuff around the place that you work. Great opportunities to pick up new skills and make your mistakes on SOMEONE ELSE's property.

5) You get introduced to - and gain practical experience using - prescribed fire. In many landscapes, including most of the US, prescribed fire can be an excellent and relatively inexpensive multi-purpose tool to have in your kit when you're managing land.

6) And perhaps most importantly, you spend a lot of time traveling around being introduced to and learning about different biomes - and figuring out which ones you click with and where you'd want to put down roots some day.

Some other pluses:

Even if you don't want to make a career of it (and most people don't) it's a great way to work your way through college. Although you typically only work 5 or 6 months per year anyway, many locations will work with students - allowing them to arrive a couple weeks late and/or leave early to go back to school. I almost made it all the way through 5 1/2 years of school without having to take out any student loans. (I had to take loans the last year because I came home from studying abroad in Finland too late into the previous summer to get a job that year.)

Great way to accumulate money fast. If you worked in a high fire area and lived frugally you could easily save up the down payment for a house or a nice chunk of land in one or two summers. I once had a coworker who took a season's worth of earnings and paid cash for a brand new truck. And unless you're in school nothing's stopping you from getting another job and working the other 6-7 months of the year. (Or working on getting your own place up and running.)

Some cons:

As much as 75% of your pay comes from working overtime, so unless you work in an area that gets few wildfires you'll be overworked and have no life during the summer. And if you do work in an area with few fires you won't make much money.

Also, you'll probably be traveling a lot during the summer - which can be hard on relationships, livestock, and annual vegetables...

In summary:

I think I happened on a pretty sweet gig, though admittedly it isn't for everyone. If sleeping in the dirt and playing with fire sounds like something that might interest you I'd be happy to provide more detailed information. You'll have to turn 18 before you can use it, though.






And now for something completely different:

Although people like to rag on how overblown college education can be - and not without reason - not all college educations are created equal. It might not be such a bad idea to reconsider your interest in forestry. Training in horticulture, forestry, range management (livestock pasture management), soil science, ecology, hydrology, wildlife biology, or any other similar field comes in quite handy for permaculture. Starting pay for most of those fields ain't too shabby either if you want to go the 9 to 5 route. Tip: If you can find a school that offers a degree in forestry with the option to specialize in agroforestry that's pretty much the closest thing to a permaculture degree that you can get from the mainstream educational system.


Source: a 31 year old wildland firefighter with forestry and resource conservation degrees.
 
Tom Harner
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Curtis, I envy your position.

I remember that it feels like you are at "negative 3" in your position... (and how infuriating it is when people talk down to you.) That is why I am currently at negative ~$70,000. I made decisions in life that I thought would improve my station in this current system (read: more income). I found permaculture (and better options) while finishing up an expensive associates degree that I no longer wish to use and shortly after rehabing a house I no longer wish to live in because of my long term permaculture goals. My point is that you could be in a much worse position (and so could I).

One bit of advice that I wish had been expressed to me at your age is financial advice. There are 2 financial "experts" that I have learned a lot from: Dave Ramsey and jacob lund fisker. Both work best (for you) if applied BEFORE you get into money troubles. I took a Ramsey class a few years ago and I learned A LOT about debt, money, and how to control money (opposed to allowing it to control me). The Dave Ramsey class is like an idiots guide to money compared to Jacob Lund Fisker's Early Retirement Extreme book. As an aspiring permaculturist, you will love this book. Much of the advice in the above comments is articulated and expounded upon in ERE.

I'm here to tell you that both of them, both "career" and "purpose" are doing it wrong. The laser-focus on one lucrative career is brittle. If something goes wrong, the whole damn plan blows up. You borrow $300k and go to med school, then the lawnmower squashes your eyeball with a rock. Pfft. Can't do surgery without depth perception. You got a prestigious engineering degree to design engines... in 2008? Pfft. See what I'm saying? If you hang everything on one plan, you're liable to regret it. Life is unpredictable. On the flip side, there's a stereotype about starving artists, because that's based in facts. It happens. A lot. Those folks who "don't need" any money... they're just wrong. Ask them if they "don't need" running water and wi-fi. "Yeah, but that doesn't cost THAT much." It'll cost your whole income, if you plan on only having a tiny income! A plan to borrow money to major in art is a plan to have a tiny income. So. Get good at making money starting now, preferably in a lot of different ways. Being able to say, "Ok, $15 for a sack of vermiculite to insulate my heat riser is no big deal" gives you access to a lot more permaculture than lacking it.


This type of thinking is the primary premise of ERE. A single career, is fragile. You should develop no less than 5 careers: 2 fulltime, 1 parttime, and 2 sometimes

As for the people in your life that don't get it... some of them never will, some just need you to explain it to them, some need you to show them (and explain it), some need you to patiently but steadfastly proclaim the truth without "bible-thumping" them with it. I have won over more stubborn people by being more stubborn, rght, and polite than them. It may take years, but never give up on them.

 
David Livingston
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Hi Curtis
I wish I had asked these sort of questions when I was your age .
All I would say is
1 that there is no "right" answer it depends
2 you will make mistakes we all do any one who says they dont is telling lies . Its how we cope with the changes that makes us what we are
3 try to define succsess before you do something for instance I know someone who worked happily for twenty years on his house but then he had to sell it due to illness he told me he was a failure I said not to me you built a wonderful house for peanuts ! he was not convinced because he thought everything is forever it isnt
4 most important HAVE FUN!

David
 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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Lots of good advice here!

Almost nobody in the last 20 years hasn't changed careers a time or two so don't worry about that. In fact, the pace of career change is accelerating and that isn't just for office jobs so don't worry about that yet.

College is a great deal if you can do it cheap, even if you don't know what you want to do but going into massive debt to do it is often an albatross around your neck and no longer guarantees a lucrative income. People who do timber frame houses is a career many want, few have the sales and networking skills to get actual paid gigs doing it (see that sales thing in there again) and that is the hard part, not doing the framing or knowing the skills. Plumbers and electricians with good work ethics and brains almost always have more work than they can do.

At your age, there is a HORRIBLE job that is a GREAT skill. Go get a crappy door to door selling job, marketing something like solar energy or new heater etc. WHY? It will teach you one of the most valuable skills you can get, two actually. The ability to talk to and find common ground with anyone but more importantly, that no matter HOW outragious your request, ask enough people and someone will say yes. I just got given a virtually free lease PLUS financial support to develop a 40 acre plot with water! Took me a few years of asking around but I did it, chances are I may even end up being given favorable terms to buy it as well. Want scrap wood for building? Ask enough people and someone will let you come get it, ask enough people and you can get them to put it on pallets, get REALLY good and you can find someone to deliver it, I have done it!

Something I had NO idea of when I was your age, is that it is possible to BUY property, as in its realistic. I took a glance on Zillow and found a few small lots with houses for under $50k. Rent out a room to another permie, make it pretty and rent it out on airbnb, and flip it down the road to buy an even bigger and better property.

Sure you can volunteer on other peoples places, makes sense to do so to get some real world experience in actually doing this which is VASTLY different than doing it on the internet but there is nothing as fun as doing it on your own place.
 
John Master
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I like mike Cantrells suggestion of sales. "Everything is sales and everything is selling". Being able to influence someone elses opinion is a highly valuable skill no matter what you are doing (one skill that I take for granted having learned). Working in sales in some capacity when you are young will pay off no matter what you choose to do.

Zig Ziglar is an author you would find interesting on the topic of sales but also on the topic of getting the most out of life.
 
Tell me how it all turns out. Here is a tiny ad:
2017 Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Jamboree - 15 workshops in one event
https://permies.com/wiki/63312/permaculture-projects/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Workshop-Jamboree
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