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The weather outside is frightful!
The weather outside is frightful!

This week we were planning several site-seeing trips in this region, unfortunately we find ourselves in a Winter Storm Watch for the next two days. Apparently Mother Nature says that  South Texas isn’t south enough to escape her winter grasp! 😉

The temperature has already started to drop and the wind gusts are rustling the slide awnings. So we’ve set the propane furnace, turned on a little ceramic heater and declared it a stay-indoors day!

Meanwhile our  camping neighbors are quickly trying to pack and head home. They weren’t prepared for such weather and decided they would spend their vacation in a warm house. The propane truck can be heard a few campsites down. Several of the Winter Texans staying here are in need of propane and with the weather changing, an empty tank is not advised. I imagine as the wind gust escalate, we’ll find more Campers pulling in to hunker down for a day or two. It is difficult to drive a RV during windy and stormy conditions.

Only those who have a purpose to be in this weather are outside. The rest of us are sitting in our RVs and catching up on projects, reading or watching television. We are all just making the most of the situation.

I’ve been updating state photos on THE MODERN NOMAD and scouting for places to visit on our journey eastward in a few weeks. It also makes me wonder where we will be at this time next year.

Last year at this time we were staying on the North Olympic Peninsula, and if I recall, on this very date, we were cold and wet. 😉 Pretty much a typical Washington winter!

Last year on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Last year on the North Olympic Peninsula.

 Location is a topic that we dwell on, especially at the holidays. I can tell you where I was at various holidays the last several years. Although don’t ask me what I had a breakfast yesterday!

But I am often reminded about the quotes prompting us to reflect on the road of life. They encourage us to remember that life is about the journey and not the destination.

And then I think of all the places we have been. All those rough roads and detours. Funny thing about the rough roads, they make you appreciate the smooth ones even more. And I don’t mind detours anymore (unless we have to back our rig out of one in the dark!) because we often found ourselves in a direction we never would have been. If you spend the journey weaving in-and-out of traffic or speeding along in the fast lane, you miss a great deal.

So who knows where we will be at this time next year. It doesn’t matter much though. What does matter is where we’ve been together. Although if I’m wet and cold, I may grumble a bit. 😉 

We have a sheet of questions to ask each work camp employer either before or during the interview process. These questions  not only aid us in our decision, but also alerts us to what we will encounter during our new work camp position.

Type or neatly write a list that pertains to you and have copies made of it. Keep the copies on file with your resumes so that they are always handy.

If a phone interview has been arranged, take out your questionnaire and fill in the information you have already learned (from the advertisement or perhaps emails or calls already from the employer). This way when you are on the phone you can say, “As stated in your ad, you have laundry privileges. Does that include free laundry or a laundry allowance?

Here is our questionnaire for a sample. Items in italics are our “reminders”. Remember to keep enough space between each question for you to write the answers provided.

EMPLOYER NAME:

CONTACT NAME:

CONTACT’S POSITION:

PHONE NUMBER:

INTERVIEW DATE / TIME:

—————————————————————————————-

Arrival / Start / Departure Dates?

Full-Hookups?

— Electric (30 or 50 AMP; metered; allowance)?

— Adequate Site Size? ( 4 slides – 1 room doubles )

Position(s)?

— Duties(s)?

— Work Schedule / Hours?

— Wage / Salary?

— Hours for Site (If applicable)?

— Uniforms / Dress Code?

Benefits / Perks?

— Laundry (free; allowance)?

— Propane (allowance; discount)?

— Cable TV or SATV (free; discounted)?

— WiFi (free; discounted; park-coverage; speed)?

— Store / Cafe (discounted?)

— Seasonal Bonus?

— Travel Allowance?

— Others?

Contract?

If we applied to an employer through an advertisement (or if they contacted us and we are aware of their ad), I tape the ad to the bottom of the questionnaire for exact wording.

Another thing to remember is key words used in employers ads and on their website. You may learn you receive free laundry as a benefit, but the ad may read “limited” laundry. Yet “limited” could be anything. It could mean there is only one washer and one dryer for several work campers. It could mean that it is the business laundry area and that it is only available to work campers at scheduled times. Or something you may not even think of. We recently experienced a “limited” laundry. The employers used this term since the washer had no hot water – it was a cold-wash only. Indeed, it was limited!

Most employers will discuss these things prior to the phone interview, so you should be able to fill in most of your questions. If you do have a concern about something, it is best to bring that up before you get to deep into the interview. There is no sense wasting your time or the employer’s if you feel this isn’t the right position for you.

If you have limited skills, disabilities or prefer not to do certain tasks – make sure you add those to your questionnaire. If the job calls for working in the camp store and the ad state it involves some “cleaning” and you can’t lift over 10 lbs. or refuse to clean toilets, then you need to find out if the employer means sweeping the store and cleaning the windows or something else more physically demanding. There is nothing worse for an employer to have an employee say “I won’t or can’t do that” and it is equally frustrating for the work camper finding themselves in a situation they can’t or don’t want to do – especially if they drove a couple thousands miles for the job.

Take a few minutes and create your own work camp employer questionnaire. These questions  will not only help your decision, but will also let you know what you’re getting into. Our motto is “know before you go!”

Campers placed hot coals in a garbage barrel
Campers placed hot coals in a garbage barrel

Anyone who has workamped will admit that there are pros and cons to this type of work-lifestyle. 

Most workamp positions often include free (or reduced fee) campsite and or some sort of housing (i.e. park model, villa, cabin) either on-site or nearby. Usually this includes water, electric (or an electric allowance), sewer, garbage and amenities. 

One of the obvious pros would be the affordable living and the location to work. No need to spend time commuting to work when it’s right there! Yet a downfall is you are living at your workplace, most often, with your boss and coworkers. There is no way to “escape” from them. You need to be a professional at all times.

Some workampers may disagree with this and may feel that after they are off the clock, they can do what every they want. It may be okay to kick back a few brews with your coworkers, but keep in mind that you need to keep work and your social life separate. If this isn’t balanced carefully, you’ll find yourself at odds with your friends and coworkers for the season. This can really make a good workamp experience go bad quickly. A good rule to have is not to say or do anything you don’t want getting back to your employer or shared with your coworkers. So if you think your boss is a jerk and a coworker is fat, keep it to yourself!

If you are workamping at a campground or resort, you will be surrounded by guests. With every new arrival you find new “stories” and experiences to share. Yet once some guests know you work and live there, they may bother you on your time off. I have spoken to other workampers who have had serious problems with this. One said he received a knock on the motorhome door at 11 PM from a guest declaring that he had to open the camp store so they could buy some marshmallows to roast that evening!

As with your boss and coworkers, you should remain professional around the guests. Again, this can be a pro and con. If the guests staying near you break the rules and you are the one to call them out on it, it may cause additional problems. Most people are apologectic in situations like this, but a handful can make life difficult.

 Like any job you will have good days and bad days, especially if you are dealing with the public.

Most workamp positions are seasonal or temporary. For those who like short-term work and moving on to other locations, this is ideal. It also means that you have to constantly search for another position and set aside funds for traveling to it.

Usually workampers who apply for jobs have never been to that location or area. They rely on information from others, the employer and the internet. You may ask questions during the employer’s phone interview, but the answers may not be as detailed as needed. And, quite frankly, some business websites tend to be misleading.

For example, you may tell the employer you do have a big fifth-wheel or travel trailer and need a larger site. They may say that there is no problem, they can accommodate any size rig. Months later you arrive at the job to find not only does your rig barely fit, you have to park your tow vehicle a mile away in an a visitor parking area. A series of “little” things can add up quickly, making you dread your decision to work at that location. Although you may arrive to find that not only the site is big enough, but that your boss neglected to mention you had the best site in the park!

My advice on this is to create a list (and copy it off for each job) of what to ask employers during or before the phone interview. And review their website, especially if it is a campground. The amenities page and site map may generate more questions. Ask questions! This can help prevent a lot of problems.

Another possible problem with workamp positions is the lack of work. You may drive several days for a position only to get there and find they didn’t need your help or a change in management happened after you were hired and they immediately say “Who are you?” It is best to get a written (and signed) contract or agreement that outlines the important information. Having a contract is also a plus because even if business is slow, they must keep you on until the end date stated in the contract.

There are many more pros and cons of workamping; however, these are probably the most important ones. As with any job, you will have good and bad work experiences.

With rising costs and the economy in a slump, many folks have been  inquiring about becoming Full-Time RVers. It makes a great deal of sense not having to worry about a large mortgage and all the extras burdens that come with maintaining a house.

And this slump also has Full-Timers and Seasonal RVers who normally do not work (because of pension, social security or savings) looking for positions that pay and/or provide a free site space to help stretch their income.

Workamping can be any type of job and any type of position – paid or volunteer. You do not have to travel around to workamp and it does not have to be an outdoor hospitality job. Yet most prefer an outdoor hospitality (i.e. campgrounds, RV parks, RV resorts, etc…) positions because they usually provide a minimum of a free site (with hookups).

Although most of these types of jobs require no or limited experience, there are are many that do (especially computer skills if working in an office). Applications and resumes for campgrounds and RV parks are generally submitted online or by standard mail. Employers usually arrange for phone interviews for those who they feel are qualified. When a decision has been made and both parties agree, often an agreement or contract is made. This covers what the workamper receives (full hookups, Cable TV, etc…), commitment dates, job or position details and any other pertinent information. A signed agreement protects both parties as it assures the workampers that a job will be there when they arrive and the employers will feel confident knowing they have help during the commitment period.

Having worked with other campground workampers and being around them as a campground/RV resort guest, I know that workamping in an outdoor hospitality setting is not for everyone. 

If you are looking for a position in a campground or related venue, then you must realize that you may be called to work at different areas or positions during your commitment period. If someone is sick or does not show up, the public restrooms still need cleaned and the garbage still needs picked it up. When you work at a campground you must be a team player.

Unfortunately, we have arrived at many jobs, only to find our coworkers either padded their resume or puffed themselves up at the interview and would not or could not handle the positions they were given. If you do not want to clean restrooms, if you cannot lift propane tanks, if you cannot operate a computer, etc… then do not apply for a position that may require it! You may think “Oh, I got the job. They won’t care what I can’t or won’t do when I get there.” Well, you are wrong! It is not only frustrating for the employer to find you have limitations or falsified your abilities, but it is a generally a nightmare for your fellow workampers. Be honest!

One of the main problems I have encountered with workampers is the refusal to work the office and / or a computer. A RV park we worked at had a very basic computer program. If you could send an email, you could take reservations. Very basic, very simple. We had one workamper that was deathly afraid of it and had nightmares about it. Her husband said she was having anxiety attacks over it and that after a few days they decided to leave. It turned out that her husband was fine on the computer and she took over his duties (housekeeping and maintenance), while he did hers (office and store). Ironically, she had put on her resume that she was computer savy and had office experience!  So if you do not like computers or are uncomfortable handling money, tell the potential employer you prefer not to work these areas. And if you can work a computer but are very slow, explain that to the employer. I spoke to one employer who said she had one woman who took 45 minutes to check in a Camper! She said she did it correctly, but the speed of the transaction was just not acceptable. The office is a crucial position in a campground and employers need workampers who are comfortable in this area.

We worked with one set who thought they were above working period. They said they knew how to do everything (yet really did not know anything) and quite openly did not want to do anything. They just wanted to sit in their motorhome all day. This meant work not getting done during an already busy camping season. This added more work to the rest of us and finally seeing how this was dragging us all down, they were fired (and given very short notice to leave the property).

Although the campground office may close at 8 PM, that does not mean that things will stop happening! An emergency may occur or other problems after hours. You have to remember that not only are you temporarily employed there, you and your coworkers also live there. If there is an emergency going on, do not hide in your RV and say “I’m off the clock”. It is unfair to the others who work there. You need to be flexible and help keep things run smoothly.

We were working as Camp Hosts and were managing a RV park for 72 hour shifts. We would work the standard office hours and be on-call after hours. If there was an emergency or a serious situation going on, we would come to the aid of our fellow Hosts and they would come to ours. Again, you are not only coworkers, you are neighbors!

Another thing to keep in mind is that you must deal with the public. You may think working as maintenance or housekeeping are jobs were you can “hide” from the public and not have direct contact such as the  campground store or office, but that is not the case. Chances are you will have just as much, if not more contact with the camp guests and visitors.

If you are not a people person then you should give careful consideration to an outdoor hospitality job. It is probably not for you!  And believe me, some people should not be dealing with the public. I worked with one man who insulted a first-time guest at check-in. The workamper told him he thought his Class A was recalled and that he should have bought a better one! How he got through that without a broken nose is still beyond me!

For those that do enjoy working with the public, there are many options. Age restricted or 55+ parks or resorts are great for those who enjoy interacting with older folks. These parks often offer classes and schedule activities. If you enjoy being around families, especially those with young children, consider a family campground or RV park. These campgrounds usually have regularly childrens’ activities and family events. Some RV parks and resorts are more inclined to nightly visitors, while others are more for extended stays. If you like to get to know folks, consider applying at one with seasonal or annual residents. 

 If you are interested in workamping at an outdoor hospitality venue, you should consider whether or not you can be a team player, flexible, honest about your abilities and limitations and deal with the public. If you cannot deal with any one of these things, then working a campground may not be for you.

NOTE: This prompted me to outline the pros and cons of workamping. So look for that being posted soon.

When we first started Full-Timing over the road we found ourselves quickly frustrated at our first new “home town”. We were unfamiliar with the stores (mostly different chains) and found ourselves struggling with directions. The entire town consisted of one-way streets or detours. We would ask locals for information, but mostly it was wrong or too confusing.

Often we found ourselves there by sheer dumb luck! Only we weren’t really sure how we got there and had just as much trouble finding the place the next time. This made our short stay (two months) rather chaotic.

So I decided to create a journal for our next “home town”. That worked so well for us that I do it for each area that we will have an extended stay (two or more months).

Whenever we decide our next route and where we would like to stay, I purchase a blank journal. If I have limited information on the region, I visit the local visitor’s center or chamber of commerce’s website  for information, brochures and maps. I print out important information (such as medical clinics, banks, post offices, favorite stores, RV supply stores, etc…) and then cut and paste it in the journal.  I make sure to include special directions, phone numbers and business hours in the journal.

If there are unfamiliar stores and restaurants listed at their websites, I quickly research them online. Most stores, especially grocery stores, have their weekly sale flyers posted online (by zip code or state) and it is a great way to learn the store’s product selection and prices. I put notes in the journal about these stores so that we have some background on them when we arrive (ie. need a frequent shopper card at this store, this store open 24 hours, etc…).

I do the same for local attractions and areas of interests. I also make a note of any special events the attraction or community is having.

After I have this information included in the journal, I then either print out a map of the area (if available online) or I contact the local chamber of commerce for one through the mail. When I have the map, I note where stores our in location to our campground. This way we have something to start us off with.

Many campgrounds and RV resorts provide maps, but often these are only a few miles and contain stores and companies that paid to be sponsors of the map.

When we arrive at our location and we pick up brochures and found other places of interest, I add them to the journal. If we find short-cuts or better routes, I make sure to include the directions. 

We make sure to stop in at the local visitor’s center within our first week. That way we can obtain additional information on the area. If we are staying in the area for longer than three months, we try to obtain a free phone book or business directory. When we are ready to move on, we just leave the phone book or directory in the campground laundry area (or at the office) for other Full-Timers to use during their stay.

When we leave for the day, our journal comes with us. It has been a life saver! Currently we are in Texas and we are not use to the never-ending frontage roads, turnabouts, FMs and RMs! The journal has gotten us around our new “home town” and safely back to our home (the fifth-wheel) several times. Without it, I am sure we would be on I-10 circling Houston for the millionth time right now!

I save each journal so that if we do return to that particular area we already have the information. This is also great for Full-Timers we met on the road, who are headed in those areas. I have pulled out the journal and told them what exit number a mall was on or the best place in town to order pizza (very important information for Full-Timers). 😉

It does take a great deal of research, but it is well worth the time and effort. Now when we pull into a new area, we quickly find ourselves at home!

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

In My Sites
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DYING TO WORK CAMP (Book #3)

Dying to Work Camp
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THE PROPANE GAME (Book #2)

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A ‘CLASS A’ STASH (Book #1)

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