In the 1980s, my son-in-law, Greg Robus, worked as a U.S. Corps of Engineers Park Ranger at Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Arkansas. My daughter, Debbie, taught kindergarten in the Russellville Public Schools.
Filling vacancies to host campgrounds in the Corps parks fell under Greg’s umbrella of duties. People often asked: “Is there a central source for RVers to find jobs and volunteer positions across our nation?” Thus, the seed for Workamper News took root. For two years, Greg and Debbie developed their idea of a publication listing such jobs. They registered the name: Workamper News, and trademarked the word “Workamper.” In a dictionary, the definition might look like this:
Workampers wor·kampers ’wer-kam-pers
adventuresome individuals and couples who have chosen a wonderful
lifestyle that combines all kinds of full or part-time work or volunteerism with RV camping.
Greg and Debbie moved to their hometown, Heber Springs, Arkansas, and established their new business. Little did I know that their venture would become my adventure. In the first issue, I began my “Workamper Journal,” profiling RVers out on the road holding down jobs and volunteer positions. Greg and Debbie sent me to trade shows to hand out brochures about the magazine and its services. For ten years, I gave seminars on finding jobs at the annual Life On Wheels Conference on the campus of the University of Idaho in Moscow. I spoke at Affinity’s “The Rally,” and gatherings for the Family Motorcoach Association (FMCA). I met fascinating people who would never have crossed my path in life by any other means.
I met Workampers in campgrounds, at national and state parks, in retail shops, and theme parks. I discovered folks who took their businesses on the road and some who made volunteerism a retirement career. In my seminars and the two books I wrote on the subject of finding jobs on the road, I focused on the faces of Workampers—real people out there doing a job. As I traveled around the country, interviewing and photographing folks who worked or volunteered, I realized that many Workampers have the privilege of living for a few months at a time on America’s prime property. No one else—not even a weekend camper—gets to actually live on some of the most scenic places in our land.
Over the years, the publication grew to a bi-monthly 60+-page color magazine. New subscriber services included a bookstore and a Hotline… first a daily phone message one could access, and later, an e-mail message arriving at a subscriber’s computer. The Hotline job listings typically are available immediately. A resume service gave Workampers the opportunity to file their skills and credentials in documents accessible to employers. Several job fairs brought Workampers and employers together in locations such as the Rio Grande Valley, Mesa and Quartzsite, Arizona, and Tampa, Florida. The publication started Featured Employer Pages in which potential Workampers can peruse a particular employer’s location and benefits.
In addition to writing a regular column for the magazine. Debbie’s dad and I often joined Greg’s parents in sticking labels on the mailing envelopes for the magazine. Indeed, Workamper News was a family affair—and remains so with new owners, Steve and KathyJo Anderson and their daughter and son-in-law, Jody and Luke Duquette. Greg and Debbie, ready for new experiences, released their growing business into the Andersons’ capable hands in November 2005. They laughingly remarked that their “baby had gone to college!”
The Robuses had known the Andersons since the early 1990s, when Steve, as Human Resources Director of Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa, had become one of the largest employers of Workampers. Each summer, he hired approximately 400 Workampers. Like many other employers, Steve discovered the strong work ethic among a retired—or semi-retired—workforce that travels about in RVs.
Bringing their daughter, Jody, on board as graphic designer and her husband, Luke as web support, the Andersons indeed took Workamper News to college. In the past six years, they have added forums, jobinars, webinars, and an interactive web page where Workampers post their viewpoints. Some ads are now “super-charged” with videos and graphics. Steve Anderson, President/ Director of Possibilities, pops up at www.workamper.com and on YouTube with thoughts about various aspects of Workamping.
What about me—Arline Chandler? My first book: Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure (revised) sold out. My next book, Road Work II, is still available at the Workamper Bookstore. I continue to write the “Workamper Journal” for each issue, featuring interesting couples and singles out there fulfilling the Workamper promise – “Helping RVers Explore America…One Job At a Time.”
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com