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You can't take it all with you!

You cannot take it all!

No matter what anyone tells you, you can’t take it all with you. If we could, you’d see a line of U-Hauls at the cemetery during every funeral service!

If you have a stick-house, it’s no problem, you just keep shoving the stuff in the attic, garage, basement and spare closets. When you run out of room, you buy a bigger house or find a storage unit to rent.

Of course, most people only keep important stuff right? Like my friends who moved into a bigger stick-house 4 years ago… who still haven’t unpacked half of their boxes. I’m sure this stuff they “just had” to keep was very important, so important they have left it packed for their next move to an even bigger house. ūüėČ

Face it, we are a society of pack rats! I have mentioned before that downsizing is not that difficult once you reach that “letting-go plateau”.

One thing Full-Time RVers learn very quickly is that you can’t take it all with you. Most smaller motorhomes and travel trailers have very limited storage space. Larger motorhomes and fifth-wheels usually do have adequate storage, but extra items (such as a washer and dryer) take away from this valuable space.

You can’t live in a RV and own 40 pairs of shoes. Oh you could, but you wouldn’t be taking any food or supplies with you! Full-Time RVers have found the delicate balance of living with the basic needs of life and their personal wants.

We learn to simplify our needs and reduce our wants. You may need a skillet to cook your eggs in the morning, but do you need 6 different sizes? Only if you are a traveling chef! Full-Timers think about items that will be used the most often or items that offer multiple uses. If we don’t use it, we don’t need it!

Reducing your wants is a little more difficult for some folks and RVers are no exception. Temptation is all around us – buy this, buy that. We can’t help ourselves. Fortunately for RVers, “home” keeps us a little more grounded. We can only buy what will fit in our RV!

And we also have to live by the unwritten law of “In-Out-In”. If we want to bring more items in our RV, we must eventually move some out¬† to allow room for more to come in.

Most campgrounds and RV resorts have yard sale days or trader shelves (usually books, games, puzzles, maps, craft supplies) where we can unload some of the extra stuff we have picked up. Many of the Full-Timers I know donate their items to local charity thrift shops or use services such as Freecycle, BookCrossing and BookMooch.

After you simplify your life it just makes sense – this is how life should be. I think back at the days we when had all this stuff (see photo) and shake my head in disbelief. Don’t let material items weigh you down. Lighten your¬†life and allow yourself more time to simply live.

There is a long definition of what makes someone a workamper, but it basically states that if you live in a RV and work, you are a workamper.

You do not need to travel vast distances to work – your RV can be sitting on a pad in a campground somewhere indefinately – and if you get up in the morning to do some sort of work (for pay or trade) or a have a volunteer job, you are a workamper. So if your grandma in South Florida lives in a travel trailer at a 55+ park and works at the local fabric store part-time, she’s a workamper!

Although most Full-Time RVers are retirees with pensions and/or Social Security, there are many who are not. In fact, this number is on the rise. Singles (or “solos”), young couples and families are discovering that you can not only make a living from this lifestyle, but you can also have more free time.

Work-campers are a varied bunch – from twenty-somethings to ninety year olds; from those with GEDs to those with PhDs. Each work-camper offers diversity to the workplace or their community. Work-campers are usually very flexible. And they offer something that folks stuck with a house does not – mobility.

There are countless seasonal jobs in this country – from working NASCAR races and amusement parks to campgrounds and resorts to casinos and ranches to Christmas tree lots and fruit and vegetable harvests. Seasons vary as well as the duration of each position. NASCAR races maybe just two-three days a week for a number of weeks, but a resort position may be year-round. Salary benefits vary depending on the position. Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government, corporate and sales positions available to work-campers.

The first thing you need to do is research what types of jobs are available. If you are a “Wannabe” (what Full-Timers call those folks who want to try this lifestyle, yet are not ready) then you have time to discover what is available when and where and for how much.

Most books on Full-Time RVing contain a section on finding work or at the very least, Camp Hosting. There is one book devoted to the subject that I recommend and that is Support Your RV Lifestyle by Jaimie Hall. This book cites many places to seek additional information and it is a great reference book to keep (even after you have secured a position and think you know what you are doing).

The next step is to subscribe to a work-camper-related publication, such as The Workamper News or The Caretaker Gazette. Read all the listings, learn the terminology and see where the work is, when it is and the benefits that come with it. Some jobs only provide a free campsite with utilities, other may include a long list of benefits (as well as salary) such as laundry, propane, store or cafe discounts, Cable or SAT TV, WiFi, phone service, golf cart usage, etc… It may not seem like much, but if you start adding up your site costs and the extras, you may find that you are saving several hundred to over a thousand dollars a month from your own pocket! And longer term positions even offer medical and health benefits to their work-camp employees.

When it is time to pull-up stakes and make that transition to a Full-Timer you will have a better understanding of what is available. Begin applying for the upcoming season at least three months prior and do not limit yourself to one position! If you want to stay in a region for a period of time, then apply to all those that interest you and you believe you are qualified for in that region. If you wait on just one place to call, you may find yourself waiting a long time!

If you know when you will be available, advertise yourself. Many work-camper employers do not place ads. They either rely on repeat work-campers or “position wanted” ads. Many places online offer free ads, as well as subscribers for various publications, including The Workamper News.

And once you secure a position – especially if it is only a couple months – start seeking another one. The more you work-camp, you find this actually becomes much easier. And many work-campers prefer to work the same regions or even positions, season-after-season. They like the familiarity of the work and area and return each season.

If you are one of those already on the road or in a RV and find that your monthly income is not stretching as far as it was before the economy went South for the winter, then there are some things you can do immediately to start searching for a job.

The first one is to put yourself online. Advertise, advertise, advertise! There are several websites where you can post information.

If you just cannot get that money to stretch as far and the campground fees are eating your pension, then consider contacting your state’s website for information on being a Camp Host (usually termed “Campground Host program”). Other places to seek this type of work are from the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Corp of Engineers. You can conveniently find their opportunities at http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/ under the “Volunteer Opportunities” section (by state and job). Some of these Camp Host positions may offer a small daily or monthly stipend.

Rangers and park officials will call you if they have an opening, as well as you being able to call them to see if they need hosts for whatever period of time you are interested in. These are wonderful programs to get involved in, especially if you have no or very limited hosting experience. Several states even have yearly rallies for their Camp Hosts.

Another option is that many smaller campgrounds cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff and rely on work-campers to volunteer – a “work for site” deal. The campground you are staying in right now may need your help.

Camp Hosts live free, most often with full-hookups and perks, for a minimum number of hours each week or day. Hosting positions can vary from one month to six months and possibly more. This can help you save money immediately.

And as previously stated, you do not have to even move your RV. If you want to find a position in the local community and work a regular 9-to-5 job, you can! That is another perk of the work-camp lifestyle.

Every day thousands of people go to work and return “home” to their RV. The only difference for a work-camper is where home is parked!

I don't sleep on a bench, but I am homeless.

I do not sleep on a bench, but I am homeless.

I had the most interesting conversation recently.¬†I was asked how long I had lived in the area and I explained that I wasn’t from the area, that I was just passing through. I then went on to explain that I was a full-time RVer.

“So, you’re homeless?” she questioned.

I explained a little more about the RV lifestyle in hopes that she would have a better understanding of Full-Timing.

When I¬†arrived “home” to the RV, I found myself curious as to the definition of “homeless”.¬† Because we do not have a stick-house (what Full-Timers call a wood house), I always considered us “houseless”, but not “homeless”, as we do have a place to call¬†home (which just happens to have wheels). Naturally I went online to see what I could find on the subject.

According to Wikipedia, homelessness is:

Homelessness is the condition and social category of people who lack housing, because they cannot afford, or are otherwise unable to maintain, regular, safe, and adequate shelter…. A small number of people choose to be homeless nomads…. www.wikipedia.org¬†(Homelessness)

I also found various nomadic subcultures of interest and began to widen my search. Those who practice the nomadic lifestyle are undergoing “planned mobility rather than forced mobility” [www.wikipedia.org (Homelessness, “Voluntary homelessness in nomadic cultures”)]. Unlike¬†those¬†who have financial troubles (eviction, disaster…) or other¬†problems (illness)¬†and cannot have or maintain shelter, nomadic cultures have reasons to be homeless. They move seasonally to where there is food and/or to work or trade.

In a sense, those of us who are full-time RVers have our own subculture – we truly are “modern nomads”! Yet we are not homeless by financial means, we are homeless by a lifestyle choice. And most move seasonally for work or trade opportunities in other areas.

And apparently, when I said I was a RVer, she was thinking of the classic stereotype.

There is a stereotype that people who live in RVs¬†full-time do so because they are poor and cannot afford more conventional housing. However, an increasing number of people are opting to sell their homes and live in their RVs, which can cost as much as their home did. www.wikipedia.org (Recreational Vehicles, “Features”)

So yes, according to what I have read, I am homeless. I am not homeless by financial means, I am homeless by a lifestyle choice.

I am nomad.

I am a modern nomad!

A popular place to boondock is Quartzsite, Arizona.

Last month before the winter “snowbirds” began to arrive, we made a trip to Quartzsite to see exactly what the area looked like and what it had to offer.

It pretty much looks like this for about one hundred miles. Quartzsite does have some small businesses and several campgrounds (that do offer full-hookups and some amenities).  The closest Walmart is in Yuma, which is about 90 miles (one-way) south of Quartzsite. Lake Havasu which is just north of Quartzsite does have many chains and franchises, as well as Blythe (California) directly to the west.Off the road in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Boondocking is an option that many regular RVers try (even for a short while). It is affordable and it is a great way to test your independence. There are many books and articles written on the topic and if you are interested, you should do your research. If you know someone who has had experience boondocking, you should also pick their brain on tips and advice on this type of living.

One of the biggest concerns when contemplating the Full-Time RVers lifestyle is – how do I make a living? For those with an already stretched pension or Social Security check, campgrounds and resorts can eat up a great deal of money. $300 to $1200 a month for full hookups and extras. And for those who are relying on a part-time or even full-time job – what do you do to make ends meet?

If you live in a RV and work or volunteer from it – you are a work-camper. It does not just apply to those working in campgrounds, RV parks or resorts. If you work as a florist and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you are a volunteer at the local library and live in a RV – you are a work-camper. If you work 12 hours a week at a campground to pay for your campsite and you live in your RV – you are a work-camper. If you sell on eBay and live in a RV – you are a work-camper.

Work-campers should not be stereotyped (although I know some readers will still be thinking of old trailers and shady characters in a trailer park). Work-campers are a varied bunch – from singles to couples to families with children; from twenty-somethings to ninety year olds; from those with GEDs to those with PhDs. Each work-camper offers diversity to the workplace or their community.

If you have some income and just want to live free, consider volunteering at a local state or national park. Camp Hosts live free, most often with full-hookups and perks, for a minimum number of hours each week or day. Hosting positions can vary from one month to six months and possibly more. This would mean hundreds to thousands of dollars being saved for you with free site and utilities! Most states have Campground Host programs РGoogle the state you are interested in to sign up for their program. Rangers and park officials will call you if they have an opening, as well as you being able to call them to see if they need hosts for whatever period of time you are interested in.  Many smaller campgrounds that cannot afford an on-site manager or large staff also look for volunteer hosts and work-campers.

If you do not have an income, you can easily find outdoor hospitality jobs that would include full hookups (Although some Southern states where the temperatures require constant air-conditioning, often make you pay metered electric. Some¬†campgrounds do offer electric “allowances” for their work-campers to reduce their monthly bill.) In addition, you would want one that paid to make your monthly expenses. Remember, some areas are only seasonal – so if you require a steady paycheck, you need to find something reliable.

If you are Full-Timing with a spouse or travel companion, one of you could work/volunteer just for your campsite, while the other found a regular job nearby. This would¬†guarantee free living, while generating another income. Most volunteer or “work for site” situations do not require many hours (usually under 20 if you are getting full hookups and perhaps a Cable or SAT TV service) and the extra person could work a paying job if needed.

If you find a volunteer or “work for site” job that requires more than 20 hours, you should get some additional perks, such as free laundry, propane allowance, store discount (if they have a camp or general store) and any other services they offer such as free WiFi and Cable TV. If not, you should get a breakdown of the hours and site costs. Some campgrounds have been known to take advantage of “work for site” folks. I know of one campground owner in Arizona that actually has the nerve to take a $500 deposit from it’s “workers” in case they leave suddenly. This is not right as you are working weekly for your site and should be working in accordance to your stay.

The best thing you can do when you find a position, even if it is as a Camp Host, is to ask for a Work-camper Agreement or some sort of contract that states what your arrival and departure dates are, what you receive (full hookups, etc…) and what the hours and job duties involve. If you are told you only need to work 10 hours a week for your site handing out camp brochures, then that is what the contract should read. Some places will try to take advantage of work-campers as they “have them” and most people will not be able to just pack up and leave. So protect yourself with some sort of contract.

There are many places to look online for a job, especially Full-Timers. The most popular is Workamper News. The have a daily job hotline emailed to you and a bimonthly magazine. However, there are many other publications, such as The Caretaker’s Gazette,¬† where employers seek out work-campers. You can also place an ad offering your own skills and have employers seek you out. Several websites offer free ads (maximum word count) or free ads with a subscription to their site or publication.

Word-of-mouth or recommendations from other work-campers works just as well. If you are interested in working outdoor hospitality, you should try to work a Camp Host position first, to give you an idea if this is for you. Working with the public can be…well, it can be a pain in the behind! So if you are able to volunteer for a month or so as a Host, that would be ideal. That way you won’t find yourself locked in a position at a campground or RV resort for¬†6 months and hating it.

There are many options out there and the more you do your homework and speak to other Full-Timers, the better off you will be. You will be surprised to find how varied work-camper positions are! From working NASCAR races and Amazon.com to casinos and ranches to amusement parks and apple harvest pickers!

Another growing area for work-campers is security or caretaking properties. Not much (or any) experience required, yet you are provide with a free place to stay and life for a minimum number of hours.

Some of these jobs pay incredible wages, in addition to full or partial benefits. And, surprisingly, there are even government jobs available to work-campers. There are a number of businesses who specifically want work-campers because these folks offer a diverse workforce and are often very flexible. Being a modern nomad is a good thing!

If you don’t need an additional income and don’t want to volunteer, then you may consider boondocking. Although this is something you should really discuss with other Full-Timers, especially those who have boondocking experience. Boondocking is just that – living in the¬† middle of nowhere (usually!) with no or partial hook-ups. You must live independently with your own batteries, generators, propane, solar and whatever else you can. You’ll require regular visits from a honey wagon (pumps your holding tanks) or must have your own tote tank¬†and nearby sewer dump station to do it yourself.

We recently visited Quartzsite, Arizona which is the boondockers¬†hangout in Western Arizona, about 90 miles north of Yuma. You can get a space in the desert¬† with a cheap permit from the BLM. The drawback to this type of lifestyle is most areas that are open to regular boondockers¬†are very far from modern amenities. So if you only shopped at Walmart and it was a 90 mile drive (one-way, as in the case of Quartzsite), you may find yourself limiting your trips or suffering from the isolation. Yet again, it’s free (practically) living.

There are websites online that tell you places you can camp or stay free as well. Most are short-term, but it’s money saved! So you can live free, or close to it by either work-camping or boondocking.

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

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THE PROPANE GAME (Book #2)

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