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I received a rather amusing email from a Full-Timing friend who has been workamping for several years. Her main grip was “everyone wants to be a vagabond now!”

Lately everywhere you turn there is an article popping up either online, in the print newspaper or even on the TV news, regarding living the RV or caretaker life. The reporters interview a few of us “houseless” folks and then manage to piece a story together on how their faithful readers or viewers can just give up everything and “live free” too.

These pieces promise that you too can be a vagabond. Honestly, I’ve been finding it rather amusing! ūüėČ

One article I read said that there was no need to buy a new RV because they depreciate like cars. Okay, that is true… but did she mention that most campgrounds and RV resorts require newer models? Most places want workampers who have models no older than 8 to 10 years. I have heard of places even saying six years or newer. So before you rush out and buy that 1980s Trek motorhome that the guy “down the road” has for sale in his mother-in-law’s barn, you better do your homework on what types of workamping jobs you hope to get and what most employers require.

Another article I read said that this lifestyle was only for retirees. ¬†Hmm… I’m not retired (or even close to it for another 30+ years!) and several of our Full-Timing and/or workamping friends are either too young to retiree or still have families of their own (who live the lifestyle with them). There is a growing number of younger folks and families who live this way and get along quite nicely. So don’t rule it out Full-Timing or workamping if you are younger than 65.

This same piece mentioned that the jobs were rather easy and required no effort. Well… I would love to drag this writer to a campground or RV resort and put them to work for a day. Yes, it takes no skill to handle 100+ check-ins on a Friday night during the summer or on a holiday. (Insert me rolling my eyes here!) Or how about cleaning several bathouses a day and operating a Kiavac machine. No skill? No effort? Okay, well then how about mowing several acres of lawn around¬†a hundred RVs in 90 degree temps? No sweat! Yes, there are some easier jobs out there, but in outdoor hospitality – anything goes! So even a light Camp Host position may find you having to haul firewood, clean restrooms or help evacuate the campground during an emergency.

I could go on and on, as there have been so many “be a vagabond” stories lately. With recent economic changes and many people struggling to keep their home or in need of a new career, these articles and news casts offer hope and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, it can and it does for many, but before you make that leap you should do some research and speak to those who have (or are on) that road!

Everyone may want to be a vagabond, but not just anyone can be a vagabond and be happy with it.

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With the economy the way it is, many folks are looking for jobs or ways to make additional income to make ends meet.

Recently the spotlight has been aimed at workamping. Even CNN ran a piece on workamping jobs ( Lots of Jobs for Workampers ).  Online searches for jobs and information on the RV lifestyle have increased. Many people are looking for options for working and living without a towering mortgage payment and other associated-bills.

Unfortunately, this has provided scammers more innocent folks to target. For those who use free work camp posting sites, they find themselves open to false “job opportunity” emails and phone calls. So how do you know what is legit and what isn’t?

If you have received an offer in your spam folder chances are that’s exactly where it belongs. Yet sometimes workamp employers do send out multiple emails and this could be sorted into your spam folder. So you’ll want to check to see what the email address is. Legitimate employers usually have an email address that makes sense (not some jumbled numbers and letters) and have their name or business name associated with the email. The email should provide (at the very minimum) basic information about the position(s). If you receive a phone call, the employer should identify themselves and provide you information on the position.

Genuine employers should not ask you for any personal information other than a standard resume and references. Do not give out your social security number, bank information or anything else. And do not even send your resume or personal information to employers who do not give you some information first. Anyone can send you an email stating “I have a job offer, send me your resume and personal information”. If they haven’t explained enough about the position and you feel uncomfortable, tell them you need more information about the position¬†before you “formally apply”. A real employer will understand this and respect it.

And remember – no¬†good job offer will ask you to pay money or put down some sort of deposit for the position. Now, there is one campground in Arizona that¬†wants workampers to put down a $500 deposit so they don’t leave prior to their contracted end-date. This is absolutely ridiculous. If you are working a trade-for-site position you are already working weekly work hours for your site (week-by-week). They have no right to charge you $500 if you leave earlier. They are taking money from you from hours you already worked and were “owed” anyway. Yet some people have ended up putting the money on their credit card thinking this is how you get a workamp job. It’s not and you shouldn’t have to pay to work. If this employer has a problem keeping people, then that is a reflection on management and/or work conditions.

Some employers may ask for a deposit on equipment (such as radios or cell phones) used during the contract period. If this is the case, make sure you have something in writing to show what you were given and the condition it was in when given to you. Keep a copy of the check or deposit receipt to show the money to be returned to you when you return the equipment. Also make sure you get something in writing to show it was returned. If possible, take a photo of the equipment after it was received and right before it was return. Make sure your deposit (if taken) is returned promptly.

If you are looking for a workamp position without the hassle of scams, I recommend subscribing to the Workamper News¬†and upgrading to “Workamper Plus”. This way only legitimate employers will have access to your information and if you have any serious problems with any advertised or subscribing employers, you can contact the Workamper News with your concerns. They also have a great forums and a community area to stay in touch with other workampers.

Another thing I would like to mention is upcoming changes to KOA’s (Kampgrounds of America) Workamper Program. As of April 30, 2009, to be a part of this program, you must pay an annual fee of $35. With this you can post your resume on their website and search for jobs at KOA campgrounds. Before this was absolutely free. Being a “member” of their new KOA Workamper Membership (as it is now called) includes a 10% discount at all KOAs. This is something you can get with the standard KOA card (only $24 annually) and if you work with KOA you are given travel vouchers between KOA jobs. So having to pay to receive a discount (which you shouldn’t need anyway!) and to apply¬†for a position with them is rather ridiculous. Having participated in this program before, I have found that many KOAs do not update their job listings or respond to applicants. Save yourself the $35 fee and just subscribe to Workamper News. Many KOAs advertise through Workamper News anyway!

If you are searching for a work camp job, be wary of scams. Do your homework! Don’t send out personal information and never pay for a job. And if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is!

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Support Your RV Lifestyle by Jaimie Hall

 

 

It’s a beautiful Sunday in Texas and we thought we would sit outside in our lawn chairs and read. A few of our fellow Full-Timers came over and started up a conversation that went from books to favorite flavors of ICEEs. Just a relaxing Sunday…so we thought.

We had been talking a few minutes when a woman walked up to the group and said, “How long are you folks staying?” We all replied a few more weeks. The woman said mumbled something about it must be nice to be on vacation that long, when one of the group members explained we were Full-Timers.

Now, imagine our surprise when she said, “Oh, well you’re trash from where I come from.” Then she walked away with disgust.

We were absolutely shocked. We all watched her walk away. No one said a thing. In fact, the only thing you could hear at the time was our jaws dropping.

Personally I thought that it was a joke. I looked around for cameras – surely someone was filming a hidden-camera show and we were the next skit? No, no cameras. The woman was for real.

She knew nothing about any of us, yet she blatantly called us trash. No, excuse me, she said we were trash.

I’m not a confrontational person, but this was rather upsetting to me that someone would make such a bold judgment and not even allow a response. I was curious and decided to see where this woman was from.

I saw her several sites down by a fifth-wheel – she was sitting on a lawn chair and drinking a can of soda. I never said anything to her but glanced at the pickup truck beside the rig and saw it had Texas license plates and several Austin stickers on the tailgate.

The group was still gathered near our site and several other Full-Timers had emerged to listen to the tale of the hit-and-run trash-talker.

I mentioned what I saw and one person said, “Oh, well, if they’re from Austin, that explains it.”

Well, I don’t quite understand what that means and find myself not really caring. I mean, why should I fall into the stereotype trap as this trash-talker?

As a Full-Timer I feel that we are a benefit to society. We bring money to local communities. From buying local produce and eating at local restaurants to visiting local attractions and attending local events – Full-timers are adding revenue to each area they visit.

They also help promote communities – they either tell other travelers or share their photos and stories online about the areas attractions and help increase tourism.

When staying in an area for an extended stay, many Full-Timers contribute to the community by volunteering their time or donating money or goods to local charities. I personally have over 350 hours of volunteer time – from the State of Florida to the State of Washington.

We are big on community. People in stick-houses go years (or decades) without knowing their neighbors. Full-Timers know their neighbors, be it for a day, a week¬†or¬†a year. We are there for our neighbors – we don’t ask for anything out of it. It’s just something we do to help¬†our fellow RVers.

Full-Timers may not have stick-houses, but we do pay taxes. From Federal taxes to local sales taxes to toll road fees, we are paying our share to help keep the country running.

You will find that most Full-Timers are in support of parks and environmental-related causes. We help maintain our national and state parks by purchasing annual park passes and volunteering at them.  We contribute to eco-charities and causes and encourage others to do the same. Many of us pay fees or buy permits to hike, camp or fish areas Рwith the money going back into preserving these areas.

We have much smaller carbon footprints than those in stick-homes. Yes, we may put more mileage on, but we also take better care of our vehicles. Most Full-Timers are aware of their vehicles needs and constantly make sure they run as efficiently as possible. Those of us who need trucks to tow our fifth-wheels and travel trailers have newer diesels that run on bio-fuels. Those who have tow vehicles (“toads”) for their motorhomes or motorcoaches have hybrids or vehicles with a better gas mileage than standard vehicles.

Full-Timers live by the code – recycle, reduce, reuse. We recycle everything we can because if we can’t recycle it back into society it’s trash. We don’t like trash! Rarely will you see a Full-Timer with more than a tiny bag of trash. Reducing is automatic for us. Needless packaging and extra “stuff” is just a waste of space and energy to us. And we reuse like you wouldn’t believe! If we can’t reuse it ourselves, we’ll find a good home for it (often sharing it with other RVers or passing it on to a local charity).

Chevy Silverado

Chevy Silverado

We also buy American-made RVs and vehicles. Drive through any campground and you’ll see the overwhelming majority of fifth-wheels and travel trailers are being towed by GMCs, Chevys and Ford trucks. Toads vary, but favorites include Saturns, Jeeps and hybrids. We take great pride in our rigs and you can usually spot a Full-Timer by the blinding glare of polish on their RV. (Currently ours has 3 coats!)

And then there are those Full-Timers who rebuild or renovate RVs. These conversions are the ultimate in recycling, reducing and reusing! These folks use their know-how to take an older RV or bus and convert into something amazing. They buy local products and use local services to achieve their custom dream.

This is just a few of the many ways Full-Timers benefit American society. You can talk-trash me, but I really don’t care. I’m proud to be a Full-Time RVer!

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!

If you have decided to give up the stick-house and become a Full-Timer, the first thing you may experience is a mix of relief and doubt. Do not worry! The stress that comes with a house is gone. You are indeed houseless – but you aren’t homeless! Your RV is now home and home will always be where you park it!

And just because your home is on wheels does not mean you must constantly move it. Many campgrounds, RV parks and resorts accept “residents” – folks who live there either seasonally (usually six months) or yearly. Many Full-Timers start out this way to get used to the RV lifestyle and get a better understanding of the RV community.

If you decide after a period of time you cannot live without a stick-house,  newer RV-Home communities have townhouses or duplexes that have RV garages beside them for those who travel regularly or seasonally and want a stick-house for the remainder of the year.  Many RV parks and storage facilities have areas where they store RVs. If the RV lifestyle is agreeable and you decide to just be Seasonal RVers you may find that a RV park with annual rates is ideal for you. Annual rates usually (each RV park has different rules) include six months of living in the RV (in the RV park with full-hookups) and six months of closed storage (no utilities). You do not move your RV, it stays on the same site. The only thing you do is close it up for six months. This is an option for those who like the same area and intend to go back without the hassle of having to take the RV.

If you have a larger motorhome, fifth-wheel or travel trailer, having a secure RV park to “store” it in is ideal if you do not want to drive it far or enjoy a particular area. It will allow you to maintain your tow vehicle and in the case of a motorhome, have a tow vehicle.

It is a big step to give up your stick-house, yet it can be emotionally and financially rewarding. In today’s society, having a stick-house is not the investment it was years ago. Having a home-on-wheels provides you the essentials and an opportunity to experience other “neighborhoods”.

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