I run nature excursions for a luxury hotel in Rhode Island. Here’s how I turned my love of being outdoors into a full-time job.

  • Teddy Beahm, 33, is a naturalist and director of recreation at the Weekapaug Inn in Rhode Island.
  • He doesn’t think you need a formal education in the sciences or hospitality experience for his role.
  • Here’s what his job is like and how he got there, as told to writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Theodore “Teddy” H. Beahm III, a 33-year-old naturalist and director of recreation for a luxury hotel in Westerly, Rhode Island. It has been edited for length and clarity.

My current role is a culmination of my entire life: I grew up playing and exploring outside no matter the season, was naturally curious, and always sought out information — these are all qualities of a naturalist. My responsibilities include creating and executing all activities for the Relais & Chateaux Weekapaug Inn.

I have a captain’s certification, I’m a certified lifeguard and member of the United States Lifesaving Association, and I have advanced first-aid training. I enrolled in the Community College of Rhode Island’s oceanography program and landed an internship in South Africa, where I studied sharks and learned how to safely tag them. I ultimately graduated with an associate’s degree in business administration and management.

I began my career with the United States Marine Corps, where I was deployed overseas from 2006 to 2010. After serving, I moved back home for a short time, where I worked for the City of Newport as a lifeguard captain. From there, I moved to California and ran a boat-rental company while working as a location scout in Hollywood. After spending time in California, my now wife and I took a leap of faith and moved to Maui, Hawaii, without jobs or friends and family there. 

On Maui, I worked as a managing captain for luxury boats with Blue Water Rafting. Then I worked in golf operations at Makena, a 1,700-acre private club. From October 2019 to September 2020, I worked in security at the Grand Wailea resort.

My son was born in February 2020 — one month before the pandemic hit Maui 

While I was fortunate enough to remain employed, my wife and I found raising a child 5,000 miles away from home during a pandemic to be incredibly challenging. We decided to move back to Rhode Island in August 2020, after the Ocean House Collection called my wife regarding a job opportunity. During the interview, they inquired about what I did for a living, and they offered me the role of in-house naturalist and director of recreation. 

In a way, the pandemic is the reason I landed this role. If it weren’t for the pandemic, my family and I may have never left Maui.

Many call me the ‘director of fun,’ which is a title I’m proud to take on 

My day usually starts with taking guests on a morning beach walk, where I tell them about Rhode Island’s glacial formation. We’ll then stroll past the foundation of the original inn that was built on the barrier beach in 1899, and by the end of the walk, the sun is high in the sky and guests will take kayaks, paddleboards, and sailboats out to explore the pond. After the morning walk and paddle, I invite guests to stop by the boat house for a craft-making experience. 

In the summer, we may collect seashells from the beach to paint or turn into jewelry. In the fall, we offer leaf-printing and pinecone art, and in the winter, we offer a variety of holiday-themed workshops. I typically wrap up my day by taking guests on a scenic sunset Jeep safari along Westerly’s beaches. As an alternative, I’ll take guests on a sunset cocktail cruise aboard the Quonnie Queen, our all-electric boat.

A big part of the experience is getting up close and personal with the inn’s natural surroundings. We have a three-mile-long tidal lagoon right behind the hotel, which offers many exploration paths. Wanting to leverage the surrounding area to offer more intimate guest experiences, we offer private beach picnics in the warmer months, which include a boat ride out to a secluded beach.

The most special part of my job is being able to share the area I grew up in with guests

Now that I’ve been at Weekapaug Inn for a number of seasons, I’m starting to see return guests whose families I’ve come to know and love. It’s great to see them experience the hotel’s magic all year round.

I had a couple in their early 60’s who had two sons in the military book a sunset picnic last summer. Naturally, we bonded over that.

The couple was enjoying their experience so much that they asked me to pack everything up on the beach and return in an hour to take them back to the hotel. When I returned to pick them up, it was quite dark. I ended up sitting with them for an additional hour. They shared details on their recent travels, visiting 19 countries in the last two years. The wife turned out to be a professional photographer who captured some of the most amazing images of the pond and property that night. We keep in touch to this day.

Often, kids check in with their smartphones or iPads glued to their hands. By day two, they (usually) leave their devices in the room and opt for an interactive experience in nature — that transformation is powerful and one of the main reasons this job means the world to me.

Most of the property’s activities are available at no additional cost. Nightly rates for base rooms start at $505 and the luxe suites start at $1,965. 

Any activity can be booked as a private experience for an additional cost. In the off-season, I offer a 90-minute private naturalist excursion completely tailored to guests’ specific interests. 

For example, for a family with a three-year-old and 10-year-old, I’ll talk to their parents to find out each child’s specific interests (perhaps one child is obsessed with history and the other wants to learn about lighthouses). I’ll take the Jeep and drive them down the sand trail for a history tour with a custom Bento box-style lunch, followed by a tour of the destination’s historic lighthouses. 

The craziest request I ever got, which ultimately never came to fruition, was when a guest requested I take her family on a private tour of Yellowstone National Park, leaving from Weekapaug Inn. They wanted me to curate this experience within 24 hours, plane and all.

The best advice I could offer to people looking to break into this field would be to drop the smartphone and get outside

There are so many local conservation groups focusing on several important initiatives — do your research and get involved. 

For instance, I’m a member of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. I regularly participate in road, pond, and beach clean-ups all around Weekapaug. My in-laws are members of the Audubon Society of Massachusetts, and I often join them on turtle rescues. I’m also a member of the Salt Pond Coalition, which manages all of Southwestern Rhode Island’s salt ponds.

You need to have the urge to learn everything about an area and its history. You have to be okay with getting outside and getting dirty. Majoring in a nature-based science in college and/or gaining hospitality experience isn’t necessary. The biggest prerequisite is dedicating the time to learn. My wife often jokes that I’ve gotten to where I am today by dedicating my entire life to the natural world.

Do you have an interesting job and want to share your story with Insider? Email Lauryn Haas at lhaas@insider.com.

Source: Einnews

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