Recently, the NBC Today Show aired a segment on trends for retirees. At the end of their feature, Workamping received a nominal mention—linked to the phrase “…working in campgrounds.” An audience unfamiliar with RVing probably did not even pick up on the word “Workamping.” The host himself likely has no idea that Workamping or Workamper has a registered definition that would look a bit like this in a dictionary:
Workampers – wor·kampers ’wer-kam-persn – adventuresome individuals and couples who have chosen a wonderful lifestyle that combines all kinds of full or part-time work with RV camping.
While many Workampers do fill roles in campgrounds and resorts, the options for volunteer positions, hourly wage jobs, or businesses on the road are limited only by an RVer’s ingenuity, imagination, or personal interests. Since 1987, I have traveled the United States, Canada, and Mexico seeking out these adventuresome individuals and writing about their various experiences. In seminars, such as the Workamper Rendezvous, an event happening semi-annually at the Heber Springs (Arkansas) Community Center, Lee and I put the faces of many Workampers and the places to find them on a big screen. My stories about their jobs and how they attained them have filled two books: Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure and Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide. I’ve discovered a diverse group of people from varied backgrounds offering numerous skills for the Workamping lifestyle. Their reasons for Workamping are equally different. Some want to be productive in retirement. Others need income to sustain their lifestyle on the road. And yet another group simply seeks new and different experiences. All in all, for those who love to travel, Workamping keeps minds alert and bodies busy.
Some jobs, such as the one we tried at a bicycle rental and kayak tour shop in Bar Harbor, Maine, required 40 hours a week. A volunteer stint we did on the Oregon Coast asked for only 20 hours a week in exchange for a site just over a sand dune from the Pacific Ocean. One category of jobs, such as temporary help at amazon.com or the sugar beet harvest, offer the opportunity to earn a princely sum of money in a short time, but the hours are long and the work is hard. Still other jobs, perhaps interpreting history at a lighthouse, acting in an entertainment venue, or doing crowd control in a theme park, require Workampers to dress in costume.
Jobs are out there in retail, food services, security, shuttle driving, housekeeping, and landscaping. Federal and state parks use volunteers to man visitor centers or campground entrances. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes monetary bids for gatekeepers, hosts, and maintenance crews in their numerous campgrounds. National Wildlife Refuges welcome volunteers to paint, landscape, develops programs for youngsters, and band wildlife. Christmas tree and pumpkin farms hire Workampers to sell their bounty in the fall and winter; firecracker companies seek workers to work in their tents during the summertime.
Some campgrounds and resorts hire Workamers to serve as activity directors, planning parties and outings, and often actually shopping and purchasing the supplies for social events. Others work in campgrounds to check in guests and escort them to their sites. Larger campgrounds hire Workampers as security persons–a physical presence who mans a gate or surveys the premises during nighttime hours. Workamping is not for everyone. But for those who love to travel, meet new people, and pocket a little cash, the lifestyle is the ultimate adventure—and one of several trends for the healthy, active retiree.
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