When Greg Robus conceived the idea for Workamper News, a publication listing jobs and volunteer positions– a clearing house, so to speak, for RVers to find opportunities, he dreamed big. Yet, probably not as big as the concept of combining a bit of work with travel has become. In the beginning, mostly retirees with some fixed income picked up the Workamping idea and drove it onto America’s highways. But not all. And today, more and more younger individuals like Dwayne and Robyn Rhodes are choosing the fulltime RVing/ Workamping lifestyle.
With a college degree from Penn State in hand, Robyn sought adventure in Yellowstone National Park before entering the world’s “real” workforce. A moment—walking with eight co-workers to the dorm under Yellowstone’s nighttime sky—defined the direction of her adult life. “Working for concessioner Xanterra with people from around the world gave me courage to step into an environment totally different from my home state of Pennsylvania,” she says.
Robyn met her future husband in Florida’s Everglades. “I had worked for Sony Technologies for nine years,” Dwayne says. “After the tragedy of 9/11, my field declined, and I wanted to change pace. Robyn and I agreed that we wanted low-key jobs with the flexibility for adventure.”
On their first trip out west together, they stopped by Flagg Ranch nestled between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. On a whim, the couple left their resumes and filled out job applications at the resort.
“We were hired, Robyn for the front desk and me as grocery store manager,” Dwayne says. “The following year, the president of the company asked us to manage the resort. We were upfront, saying that we had no experience in running a resort and managing employees. They walked us through it. The company provided our house with a two-car garage and paid all our living expenses. We made good money and had nowhere to spend it.”
By the time the resort went up for sale, the Rhodes had formed a plan. For ten years, they had been on the employer’s side of Workamping, hiring RVers who wanted to combine work and travel. Most had completed careers—and sought jobs in different paths.
Long before a traditional retirement age, Robyn and Dwayne decided to live like the people they had been hiring. They reversed roles and became full-time RVers and Workampers. They had saved enough money to order their custom fifth-wheel, suited to their young adult tastes.
“Our home on wheels doesn’t feel like ‘grandma’s travel trailer,’” Robyn says, describing their rolling home’s contemporary style with four slides, a fireplace, and a washer-dryer.
“The only downside: we’re often told that we’re over-qualified,” Dwayne says. “Employers look at our resumes and think we want management positions. Honestly, we do not. We loved our two seasons in Big Bend National Park, working for Forever Resorts in the Rio Grande Store and RV Park. We worked five days, 40 hours a week. On days off, we played in the park.”
The Rhodes lived in an employee’s compound, a bicycle ride from their workplace. Sierra del Carmen Mountains in Mexico formed a backdrop of changing color throughout mild winter days. They managed a grocery store and registered RVers in the only concessioner-operated campground in Big Bend. The couple stocked shelves and cleaned the adjoining laundry.
“When we left in mid-April 2010, cacti were in bloom,” Dwayne says. “We walked around the desert for hours, not believing cacti we had walked past in January, suddenly bloomed in glorious colors. Big Bend is quiet and peaceful with a different kind of beauty.”
However, Robyn and Dwayne discover that every place has its own beauty. They traveled from winter to summer jobs in 2010 to Blair Hotels in Cody, Wyoming, and in 2011 to the Catskills of New York.
“We have little tests in this lifestyle,” Robyn adds. “We blew our first tire traveling to Big Bend. Then we got in a horrible storm. Powerful wind gusts rolled over a tractor trailer rig in front of us. A huge rock cracked our windshield.
“That was the day, I said, ‘I don’t know if I can do this!’ But we calm each other. Once we got through that rough patch, we said, ‘Let’s do it and enjoy it!’” We’re confident this is the perfect life for us while we are young and healthy.”
And so it is—the perfect life for thousands of RVers of all ages and backgrounds. Most of all, they, like Robyn and Dwayne discover that Workamping is a vehicle for dreams.
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