Workamping & Volunteering As A Solo RVer
Pre-Post Note/ Thank you all for your comments, tips an encouragement in the last post! Polly is now 5-days post op and everything is looking good so far. I’ll be giving regular updates as we go along including what modifications we’ve made in the RV and what we’re doing about rehab. In the meantime here are the posts I meant to write last week.
Paul and I have been volunteering at State Parks in the Pacific Northwest (OR/WA) for over 4 years now. Our focus has always been interpretive hosting (i.e. positions that deal with education/tours/history via interaction with the public), and most of our jobs have been as tour guides at lighthouses. We looooove lighthouses, so it’s a fun pass-time that indulges our love of the history while allowing us to stay for free in beautiful state parks along the coast. We don’t host all year, but like to do it during the crazy summer months since that’s when campgrounds tend to fill up and booking/planning RV travel becomes tiresome. So, we get to “hang out” in a nice area for a while, give back to the community a little and save some $$ too. Basically it’s a win-win-win.
This year, because of everything we had going on I decided to seek out a solo volunteer job. So I figured I’d write a few posts about that. Now I should point out up front that I am by NO MEANS an expert on this, but I did work (solo) for many years before I met Paul and I’ve met/talked to many, many solo RV workampers on the road. So, I do have some experience. Here’s my take on it…
What Is Workamping?
Workamping is a term that was coined by the folks at workamper.com and it basically covers anyone who’s working for something of value (e.g. money, campsite, perks etc.) while camping (= work + camping). The work could be part-time or full-time, and the only real difference from a “regular” job is that you’re doing it while living in your RV!
There are tons of different types of workamping jobs out there from “traditional” RV-based jobs like camphosting, maintenance (at a campground) to “non-traditional” RV-based jobs like outdooor guides, oil field gate guards, property caretakers to special seasonal jobs like Christmas Tree sales, Pumpkin Patches, Sugar Beet Harvest, Amazon CamperForce etc. Some positions include a spot to park your RV, some don’t. Some are paid, some aren’t, but the possibilities are endless.
For more about workamping check out this excellent 7-part series from RV-Dreams.
What is Volunteering?
Volunteering is a type (sub-set) of workamping, the only difference being PAY. Volunteers work but don’t get paid any money, by definition. As a volunteer RVer the best you can expect is a free campsite which certainly saves some $$ (our budget usually drops by ~30-40% whenever we volunteer), but doesn’t give you any extra income.
So why would you ever volunteer?
There are many reasons including the ability to stay somewhere beautiful, to give back, to do something you’re passionate about, to learn something new, to be social, to have some fun etc. I’ve volunteered in some form or another since I was a kid (mostly with animals) and have always enjoyed it.
Many public park positions (e.g. camphosts at State Parks, National Parks, Forests etc.) are officially volunteer positions, although some (especially those run by concessionaires) do offer some pay. Most private park and non-traditional/seasonal positions are paid. Whether or not you need pay is something only you can decide. There are plenty of solo jobs for both options out there.
Related Blog Posts On Volunteering:
- Volunteering On the Road Part I – Why Do It?
- Volunteering On The Road Part II – Where To Look For Openings
- Volunteering On The Road Part III – 4 Steps To Securing Your Dream Job
Is It Harder To Find A Solo RV Job?
Almost everywhere you RV you’ll see couples doing traditional camphosting jobs. It’s an attractive proposition for the folks hiring since they’re essentially getting 2 people for the price of 1 RV site. So, if you’re a solo RVer you might wonder if there’s anything for you?
Well, I’m definitely not the first RV gal to do this…
Although traditional solo RV-based jobs are perhaps not quite as numerous as couple jobs, there are still plenty of them around. And if you look outside of traditional camphosting you’ll find even more opportunities. I know many gals & guys who’ve solo-volunteered or workamped for multiple years doing everything from volunteer camphosting to fully paid positions. Some of these folks even workamp fulltime!
For some good examples check out Travels With Emma (she volunteered at Wildlife Refuges for MANY years), our friend Interstellar Orchard (she’s worked at Amazon, National Parks, you-name-it), Gaelyn (she works as a paid seasonal ranger in the Grand Canyon), Lynne from Winnie Views (Wildlife Refuge volunteer), Ivan (he works as a paid seasonal fire-lookout in Canada) and Bob at Cheap RV Living (he worked as a camphost for many years). That’s not to mention the slew of solo RVers who make money in their RVs by non-traditional means (writing, editing, music, art etc.). There are TONS of possibilities out there!
Do You Have To Be Solo To Solo Workamp/Volunteer?
The short answer is NO! This may seem like an odd question, but there could be many reasons only one person (from a couple) would want to work. Perhaps you’re a travelling family with small kids and you want to be sure one person can stay home while the other works? Or, perhaps you’re in a couple where one of you is ill or physically can’t work? Or perhaps one of you already has a regular daytime job and only the other is free to work? Or maybe only one of you WANTS to work?!
If you’re a living together as a couple in your RV there is NO requirement that both of you have to offer to work. Just be upfront in your application that you’re seeking to work as a solo, and go about your job application as you would any other.
How Do You Apply For A Solo RV Job?
The research and application process for a solo RV job is exactly the same as it would be for any other job you’ve ever gotten in your entire life. Being solo (versus in a couple) does not change this process in any way whatsoever!
Depending on what you want to do you find the job by going through public park volunteer program sites, workamping sites (e.g. workamper.com, camphost.org, workersonwheels etc.), service industry sites (e.g. coolworks.com) or by directly contacting whatever place you’re interested in. Then it’s just a question of sending in your info and seeing if you get the position. If you want an edge, I also recommend trying to track down the hiring decision maker and calling to talk to them personally. Not only will that give you a chance to ask detailed questions about the job, but it’ll also give you a chance to get to know the people hiring & for them to get to know you. Phone-calls get you noticed!
Research, network, do what you can to make your application stand out, be persistent and go for it!
Are Solo RVers Treated Differently?
The jobs you can get as an RV solo are pretty much the exact same as ones you can get as a couple. Job duties, responsibilities and such are no different and are specific to the job, not the person who applies. But you may sometimes find subtle differences in hours and which jobs are open to you:
- Longer Hours -> Some jobs, especially traditional-type RV jobs require longer hours from a solo than a couple since, instead of getting 2 people working 20 hours each (say) the folks hiring you are only getting one person. So you may find positions that ask you for longer hours to make up for that difference. This is rare for volunteer position (e.g. State Parks etc.), but fairly common for paid camphosting jobs. The hours required (and what days you’ll have off) should always be one of the FIRST questions you ask about any job.
- No Solos Accepted -> Some RV-type positions simply won’t take any solos either because they want or need more than one person on-site to do the job. A good example is a 2-person tour-guide job that requires one person to man the register while another person conducts the tour (this is common in many lighthouses, for example). Another example is a private campground looking for help both at the registration desk and outdoors (e.g. in maintenance). With a couple they can cover both jobs with just a single RV site, whereas with a solo they have to hire two people and give up two RV sites.
If you find yourself being rejected in these circumstances don’t despair. There are PLENTY of solo jobs out there and if you’re persistent you WILL find your perfect match.
Do Solo RVers Have Special Needs?
When you’re applying for a job, whether as a solo or a couple, you should focus on the stuff that’s important to YOU.
- Do you need a full-hookup RV site? Or are you OK w/ partial hookups? Or perhaps you don’t need a site at all?
- Do you need internet/cellphone signal?
- Do you need a spot that’s dog-friendly?
- Do you want to be close to civilization? Or do you prefer the boonies?
- Are you OK with cleaning toilets? Or is that a no-no?
- Do you have physical limitations?
- Do you like interacting with people? Or do you prefer a non-people job?
Obviously if you’re solo and you chose a workamper job that’s out in the boonies somewhere (e.g. a small, remote national forest camphost), you’ll want to ask extra questions about safety and what happens if you’re injured or need help. As a solo you don’t have another partner to help you out, so getting clarification on this is important.
Also, as a solo it’s especially important to be crystal clear about hours required and how/when you’ll get time off. You don’t have anyone to share your household duties so you need free time to do “regular” stuff in your life like go to the laundromat, grocery shop etc. Not to mention you need the freedom to just relax, explore & have some time to yourself. So, having a job where you’re expected to be “on call” all the time doesn’t really work as a solo.
That’s about all I can think of for my solo RV intro post. Are you a solo workamper or volunteer? Do you have tips to share? DO feel free to comment below!
Coming next -> Details of my solo job at Cape D State Park. Stay tuned….