The terms, Work Camping and Work Camper both loosely refer to short-term and, in some cases, long-term employment for people who live full-time in an RV.
Now we’re getting to the good stuff: earning your way through life and living your full-time RVing dream by work camping. Here’s where working while you travel gets to be great.
If you are a flexible, open-minded person, you will practically never go without a job. There’s little glamor in most of the work camping jobs you will be involved in, but that’s not the point anyway.
Also, keep in mind that this section about work camping is written for the asset-poor RV’er who doesn’t have a supplemental source of income and has to provide 100% of their cash needs by working. If you have a supplemental source of income, your life on the road will be far easier and work camping may not be necessary.
Here’s the deal. Yes, you can “work camp” in the sense that you work and live in a campground. Typically you’ll find that work camper wages are quite low for campground jobs and many full-timers opt for more traditional employment away from the RV Park. There are always exceptions, of course, and you will always want to check on every opportunity that sparks your interest.
Here is a small sample of the occupations we’ve had while traveling:
•Hotel office work
•Preparing income tax returns during tax season
•Managing a video store
We were once offered a job as “strippers”. Now before you go and get the wrong idea, it’s not what you think. A hotel in Wyoming offered us a work camper job stripping the linen from beds and taking them to the laundry. We were about to go when other matters came up and prevented us from taking the job.
About now, you’re probably thinking that a work camping job sounds a little crummy. Perhaps it would’ve been, but here is what else you have to consider: An hourly wage paid for 40 hours a week and a bonus at the end of the season, a deeply discounted price for our RV site, free propane, free cable TV, free laundry and plenty of time to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. If we had worked through the entire season, the RV site would have been free. Not a bad deal at all for work camping when you add everything up.
Your work camper experience on the road is probably going to be dictated by your personality. Are you an outgoing, never met a stranger, type person? You’ll probably excel with commission sales jobs, product demonstrations at fairs and trade shows, or as a vendor at a flea market. If you’re not the extroverted type, you may be involved in maintenance, clerical work, cleaning, transportation, construction, or other occupations. Most of us are somewhere in between and able to work a wide range of work camping occupations we never dreamed we would attempt.
A View From The Road – Yellowstone National Park
Here is a sample of the potential work camping opportunities you will find available when you hit the road:
•Campground office work
•Corps of Engineers gate attendant
•Flea market vendor
•Craft show vendor
•Manufacturers sales rep
•Christmas tree lot attendant
•Pumpkin lot attendant
•Fireworks stand vendor
•Covered wagon guide
•Stocking in retail stores
•Product demonstration in retail stores
•House sitter or property caretaker
•Seasonal income tax return preparer
•Selling campground memberships
•Freelance consultant work
So, just where do you find all these jobs? Actually, there are several methods. A good place to start is to check the Work Camping Jobs page, and the Earning Money While You Travel page, on this website and see if there is anything that interests you. Be sure and go there for much more specific information on particular jobs. There is also information about self-employment ideas.
You likely own a computer otherwise you would not be reading this. One way to research jobs is to use the Internet to find online newspapers for the area you want to move to. The Internet Public Library is a good starting point for your research. Go to http://www.ipl.org/div/news/index.html and select the state you are interested in. Then simply look for that newspaper’s classified advertising section and find the help wanted ads.
Another surprising source of local information is the National Thrifty Nickel classified ads by going to http://www.thriftynickelads.com/ and select the city and state you’re interested in. When a specific city comes up, select the employment listings. With the Thrifty Nickel, you’ll have to sift through lots of junk advertising to find some of the local help wanted ads, but after all, it’s a free source.
Another way to search the Internet for local online newspapers is to go to a search engine like www.google.com and make a query. Let’s say you want to see if there is a newspaper for Casper, Wyoming. Simply type in something like this – Casper Wyoming newspaper. You will find that not all newspapers are online, but there are enough to give you some serious leads.
When all else fails, simply go to the area you are interested in visiting and see if you can find work. Just keep in mind that jobs in very small towns may be difficult to find when you get there. But what you will usually find are some great prices for parking your RV. One place where we parked in upstate New York was only a block away from Lake Ontario. We were only paying $150 monthly for rent, including cable TV and all hookups. It was an easy walk to watch the sunset over this fresh-water ocean every evening, and at night the honking of Canadian geese flying over would lull us asleep. The pay in an area like this may be low, but so are the costs of living.
Here is the key to work camping and surviving financially on the road: Keep living expenses to a minimum. With limited storage space in your RV, you’ll find that the lifestyle lends itself well to frugality. The best way to do this is to eliminate any and all debt. It is easier to find work camping employment that will pay your way if you don’t have to crack a large cash-flow nut every month. When your cash needs are excessive you will have to stay parked at a location much longer, and you’ll soon grow frustrated, and may decide you would have been better off not RV’ing. Nothing will kill your dream lifestyle faster than being stuck in one location for a very extended period of time.
If you don’t have a supplemental source of income, you’ll probably need to remain parked in one place for several months at a time to replenish your cash reserves. There are many advantages to this work camper approach. First, your traveling costs are reduced dramatically. In addition, you’ll get to know the area you’re living in more intimately, and if you are like we are, you’ll develop a network of friends across the United States. Some of those friends will be RV’ers, but most will be long-term residents of their community. You’ll also be able to find lower-cost monthly rates in RV parks.
If there are two of you on this RV’ing adventure, try to find work camping jobs where you can both work for the same company. Virtually every job we have held allowed us to work for the same employer. This eliminates transportation conflicts and saves on driving costs.
Plan your work camping location to be in an area that you want to explore and are interested in visiting anyway. Otherwise, after a few months, you’ll start feeling frustrated and trapped. If your cash flow requirements are large, you may not even have the luxury of working where you would enjoy living, and that is the real dream killer.
When you are traveling and sightseeing between work camping jobs, budget your time and money so that you get the maximum enjoyment. Make sure that you have ample funds to arrive at your next work camper employment destination and tide you over for a couple of months just in case work is difficult to find, or the work camping job you were promised doesn’t work out as advertised.
An excellent opportunity that you may want to consider if you’ve saved up enough money for several weeks, or months travel, or you have supplemental income, is to be a volunteer camp host. At any given time, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of campground host opportunities available.
You can work camp for weeks or months at a time by exchanging a few hours a week work for your campsite. To further extend your stay, you might consider getting part-time work in the local area. That way, instead of living somewhere just to earn money, you can pay your way while living where you want to be.
First, go to the Volunteer Camping section of the HappyVagabonds.com website. You’ll find links for Federal Government camp hosting opportunities, State Parks, County Parks, City Parks, and even Canadian Parks.
Next, make a list of several parks you will be interested in and then contact them to see if they have a need for a campground host when you are available. If so, then apply for the position. In fact, set up a schedule of positions in several places so you can move around a bit.
Again, please check out the Work Camping Jobs page on this website. You may find an idea that will work for you.
Next Chapter – Why you should consider testing the RV lifestyle before you commit.
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