Working in the 21st century has truly become a rat race, and more and more people are feeling suffocated by their 9 to 5 than ever before. And why shouldn’t they feel that way? Traditional fixed employment is a raw deal if you think about it: you spend your own money to drive your own vehicle to and from a set location daily.
At this fixed location, you do your best to accomplish meaningful work in an 8 hour time span on somebody else’s clock, and you get a short break to wolf down a meal before getting right back to work. At the end of the mandated work day, you drive back to your home to spend a few brief hours with family or friends before you go to sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. If you don’t get sick. Or laid off. Or fired. There’s always the weekend thought…right?
If you’ve ever felt there must be a better way to earn a living and live your life, you are correct: it’s called “workamping”.
What is Workamping?
In the simplest of terms, the term “workamping” is a portmanteau (“work”+”camping”) referring to singles, couples, and families of all ages who work full or part-time while making an RV or tent their mobile primary residence. Workamping combines seeking seasonal or short term part-time and full-time employment wherever the jobs are.
Those who workamp travel around the country looking for work that pays wages or compensates them in the form of a free RV parking spot and utility hookups. With the downturn in job creation in the past decade, many workers find workamping offers an equitable solution to staying employed and keeping a roof over their head, albeit a roof on wheels.
There are sacrifices to be made of course: never staying in one place for long, no medical benefits or retirement, and having no permanent home base to operate from. Workampers who don’t travel with their families find they get to see them less and less as time goes by, and holidays are often spent working seasonal jobs in retail, at Christmas tree lots, or autumn harvest farms in the fall.
Living a nomadic life isn’t easy for everyone, and some may find it is not the best fit for them and the life they want for themselves or their family. For many though, workamping is that missing puzzle piece they didn’t know was gone. It can be a rewarding lifestyle for those with the right temperament.
Who Chooses the Workamping Life?
People from all walks of life take up workamping all the time. Single professionals unable to find employment where they live, retirees looking to supplement retirement income and social security, or families displaced by a rapidly changing job market who want to stay agile so they can maintain a steady income.
Many who take up workamping are simply fed up with working a 9 to 5 job and want to break out of the endless cycle of working punctuated by brief periods of rest and the occasional vacation. Some don’t want to stay tied to one place for the rest of their lives, while others want to live some place beautiful and scenic without having to worry about the associated housing expenses.
Anyone who wants to workamp needs only two things: a willingness to travel, and an immunity to doing without creature comforts from time to time. You can make any transportation and mobile accommodations work if you at least possess those two fundamentally important traits.
Where Does Workamping Take You?
Here’s what makes workamping an adventure: you never know where the next job will take you. You are not limited to searching for jobs in any one specific area, so you can apply for work virtually anywhere and head out to take the job once you are reasonably certain you’ve got it. As for where those jobs can be found, it changes constantly; however, there are some types of locations and jobs that will always be around for workampers. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Many RV parks are willing to hire RV workampers as hosts during the busy season, and even year round in some areas. In exchange for free utilities and parking, workampers collect fees from campers and are often paid a small part-time wage in addition to their rent-free/mortgage free existence. More skilled and able workampers often find employment as maintenance workers or groundskeepers at RV parks, too.
The National Park Service hires people annually to act as hosts for their RV parks and campgrounds in exchange for free parking, utilities, and sometimes an hourly wage. In addition to hosting, there are many other seasonal job openings each year that eager workampers can take advantage of too, and these offer better compensation than just a rent-free berth and free utilities. Many workampers take on a position as a host and then find other work in and around the national park to supplement their income.
In busy resort towns there is no shortage of need for help in keeping the many facilities and rooms in a hotel in prime condition. Many workampers find decent hourly work in beautiful locations where they can also park their RV for free and connect to free utilities.
Major distribution centers for online retailers like Amazon.com hires additional labor during the winter holiday season due to the massive increase in order volume. Many Amazon facilities actually have adjacent RV facilities and connections specifically for workampers who are there to help out during the busy season.
Amazon and other distributors also prefer to hire seniors or older laborers for the warehouse. Experience demonstrates that more senior employees cause fewer problems, are more reliable, and work smarter than younger workers. Younger laborers may be more physically capable, but too many lack the work ethic and maturity of their senior coworkers.
Many big box stores and even smaller boutique franchise locations find that hiring workampers during the holiday season provides a more skilled and capable workforce, especially when they come back year after year to work the busy season.
Why Choose Workamping?
There are a multitude of reasons to take up workamping, but most people fall into a few specific categories.
Retirees looking to travel throughout their Golden Years find workamping to be an excellent lifestyle option for them. It also allows them to supplement their retirement income and reduce living expenses Many seniors often take up workamping when they are ready to pull up stakes and live that nomad life they’ve always dreamed about.
Second, young professionals looking to establish themselves without putting down roots often take up workamping as an alternative to more traditional employment. Those “regular jobs” can be difficult to acquire, especially if you don’t have much practical work experience. Workamping is also a good way to build up a resume and develop useful job skills rather than working unpaid internships or struggling to find an entry-level position.
Finally, there are many families looking for gainful employment who are simply wandering from city to city in search of steady work that pays the bills, even if its seasonal or short term. If a job ends or work dries up, all they need to do is pull up stakes and head out towards the next likely opportunity.
Workamping is an ideal choice of life for those who wish to stay on the go and keep never have to worry about becoming too dependent on any one place for their income and shelter.
How Do You Start Workamping?
To start your workamping journey, you need a plan, reliable transportation, a form of mobile accommodations, and some basic job search skills. Ideally, workampers have access to or own an RV, though some workampers live in massive tents or even traditional mobile dwellings called yurts that are as comfortable as some small houses.
As far as a plan goes, you need to travel to places with seasonal employment opportunities, and then change locations when the season ends and head to wherever the next season is beginning. Many RV workampers set up shop in the north or the mountains in the summer, then head to the southwest in the winter time for warmer weather and better seasonal job opportunities.
Bottom line, all you need to start workamping is a growth mindset that allows you to continually seek new opportunities and learn new jobs and trades to keep you and yours housed and fed. If you can do that, you can make workamping the lifestyle for you.
Choosing the workamping life takes significant personal courage and a special type of fearlessness born of a faith that things always work out in the long run. It’s a little bit of faith, some hard work, and learning to do without to live the life you want instead of the life that you feel has been thrust upon you. If you’ve got reliable transportation and mobile accommodations, and if you don’t mind following the work with the change of seasons, workamping may just be the most rewarding means of earning a living you’ll ever experience.