10 of the best possible “worst case scenarios.”

What’s your absolute worst case scenario?

Your alternate destiny, once Plan A, B (and C-Z) crash and burn?

Could you survive it? Learn from it? Laugh through it? Make art out of it?

No matter how “secure” or “successful” I become, I’m always humbled by the fact that nothing is certain or permanent.

Anything could happen — a bad business decision, an unexpected illness, a freak accident, a shocking plot twist — and I might find myself slinging cheap beer in a grungy dive bar, subsisting on Saltine crackers and packets of free ketchup, digging through garbage for a second-hand brassiere. Y’know. Living inside a Dolly Parton song.

Not ideal. But I could survive it. And in a twisted way, my worst case scenario might provide so many gifts — plenty of free time, lack of intense responsibilities, deeper empathy for my fellow human beings, or the inspiration for my next book or project. Who knows?

Once we make peace with the notion of things Not Going As Planned, we can find beauty and bravery in all of The Alternatives.

So, if everything you’re working so diligently to create falls apart — in one horrific tsunami of unthinkable chaos — don’t worry!

You’ve got options. Beautiful ones.

You can always…


WWOOF stands for “Willing Workers on Organic Farms,” and it’s an international network of farms that you can live on (for free!) in exchange for picking strawberries, tilling the fields, gathering eggs, mending fences and other pastoral pursuits.

No farmhand experience required — just a willing mind and body. More, here: wwoofinternational.org


A monthly living and housing allowance. Full medical and dental coverage. 48 paid vacation days. YES.

Promoting “world peace and friendship” sounds like the best gig in all eternity. More, here: peacecorps.gov


Craving a life of service and spiritual nourishment? Don’t mind waking up the crack of dawn? Many monasteries and nunneries have work / stay programs.

The Rogue Priest has the low-down on what it’s really like. Search for monk-tastic opportunities, here: volunteermatch.org


While tromping through New Zealand several years ago, I spent a few happy nights at a hostel near Picton Harbor.

It had a hot tub surrounded by fragrant pine trees, a chocolate pudding bar (!) and freshly baked bread every morning. In other words: heaven on earth.

When I learned that they allow travelers to work in exchange for lodging, I was tempted to stay, indefinitely. If my student visa hadn’t run out, I might still be there, today!

Lots of gigs, here: hosteljobs.net


Got a college degree? Then you can apply to teach English to kids and grownups around the world. You can get placed at a private school, public school, even a refugee camp — and most gigs include housing as part of your compensation.

My friend Sarah traveled to multiple continents as an ESL teacher, and it was an experience that forever changed the course of her life. Interested in pursuing this? More info here: teachaway.com


If you love spending time with kids and teens, you can become a “houseparent” — a paid supervisor and live-in mentor — at a summer camp, foster care home, crisis center, treatment center, or even a private home or dormitory.

Bring a big heart and archived issues of Sassy magazine. More, here: houseparent.net


Love noodling around with WordPress? Obsessed with social media nerdery? Got an eagle-eye for proofreading and a knack for mastering new techie tools, with ease?

PLEASE become a Virtual Assistant, because I have approximately 300 past and current clients who desperately want to hire you. This is not a joke. More, here: ivaa.org and here: assistu.com and here: virtualgalfriday.com


Prefer redwood trees to RSS feeds? Got an urge to clear some brush? You can apply for a seasonal or year-round position in a treasured forest — say, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

You’ll share a dormitory with your fellow rangers and park employees, and you probably won’t have cell phone service. Which sounds pretty swell. More, here: yellowstonejobs.com


Many years ago, while I was ferociously building my freelance writing portfolio, I (very briefly) worked as a magazine delivery driver to make some extra cash. (Hey, it’s still the “publishing industry,” right?)

Insider tip: wear thick gloves, or the plastic twine will cut into your hands. Fun. But seriously, think of the stories for your memoirs! More, here: wikihow.com/Get-a-Paper-Route-in-Your-Local-Community


$450 a month for room and board plus daily meditation sessions and yoga classes at YogaVille, an ashram nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

And ding ding ding! We have a winner for the award of BEST worst cast scenario, ever. More, here: yogaville.org/residential-programs/ashram-yogi-program/finances-ay/

Here’s to failure, reinvention, unexpected options, and the knowledge that you will survive… no matter what.