As more and more businesses experience downsizing because of the present economy, even more people may be faced with a “retirement” they didn’t want – and were not prepared to experience. Often, retirees feel their income will not stretch far enough to cover the everyday cost of living, much less the expense of travel, hobbies, and even a trip to a nice restaurant once in awhile. It seems as if the only option is to sit on the porch and rock – and count the pension pennies!
Many have found retirement to be something other than what they imagined. They don’t want to sit on the porch and rock away the years. They want to be busy! More than one person who is approaching retirement age has uttered this phrase, or some version of it. While there are those who take to retirement with gusto – develop new hobbies or rekindle old ones, travel, cruise, visit family and friends and volunteer for various agencies – some find the slower pace and endless options overwhelming. Some are bored – others depressed – and still others just cannot cope with so much time and so little structure.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way to retire and keep working, and it is called Workamping. All across North America retirees, and those not yet retired, have switched gears, hitched up a recreational vehicle (RV) and taken to the road to become Workampers. A Workamper is someone who combines working with camping. Workampers come in all sizes, shapes, colors and ages. They do all sorts of jobs, from desk help, maintenance and cleaning at RV parks and campgrounds to volunteering for government agencies to taking tickets and food service in amusement parks. They may ship orders originating in a distribution warehouse for Amazon.com. Workampers are freelance writers and photographers, musicians, National Parks interpreters and guides, support staff at children’s camps, and diesel mechanics in Yellowstone. Workampers deliver RVs cross country and shuttle guests on trolleys and trains through the Grand Canyon and around theme parks like Disneyworld and Dollywood.
If you can dream it, a Workamper can do it! Retired lawyers have served meals at an employee cafeteria in Yellowstone. A virologist stirred kettle corn at an amusement park in Iowa, worked the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in Florida, and did a variety of jobs at a bed and breakfast in Mtn. View, Arkansas. A former teacher and freelance writer and her husband, once a minister, rented out canoes and kayaks in Bar Harbor, Maine, and helped in food service and maintenance in an opera camp, where they got to see professional operas every night of the week
What does Workamping pay? Compensation varies, but can include a campsite with partial to full RV hookups (water, sewer, electric, and possibly cable TV), salary or hourly wage, meals, uniforms, perks like tickets to area attractions, golfing, use of pools and other amenities, use of the laundry machines and more. Some Workamping positions are full-time, 40 hours per week, while others are part-time – 20 hours per week or less. Some jobs provide housing, so you do not have to own an RV, but quite often a site with some sort of hookups is included in the compensation package. Some jobs are permanent, year-round positions, while others are seasonal or temporary, lasting anywhere from two or three weeks to six or nine months.
How does one become a Workamper? The easiest way to find out about Workamping opportunities throughout North America is to subscribe to Workamper News, a bi-monthly magazine that lists job opportunities from coast to coast. Formatted like classified ads and listed by state from the East Coast to the West, these job listings generally tell where the position is located, what the job duties entail – and the hours required, what sort of compensation is offered, and how to contact the employer. For those who are computer savvy, a WorkamperPlus subscription is offered, which includes online services – access to private areas of the accompanying website and a Workamper Hotline, which is updated daily as new job listings are posted. The Hotline is also emailed to WorkamperPlus subscribers each day, apprising them of the latest available information about new employment opportunities. There is even a resume service – Awesome Applicants – which is offered to any WorkamperPlus subscriber as part of the package. This searchable database gives potential employers the ability to find suitable applicants for their job vacancies and contact them directly. A one-year subscription to WorkamperPlus is $42US – $37US for the “electronic-only” version, which includes everything except printed copies of the magazine (you can still read it online in PDF format).
Not all Workampers need – or want – pay. Some Workamp for the adventure, and many who do not want or need wages seek the volunteer Workamping positions. Most of these provide compensation in the form of help with hookups or housing, possibly meals, uniforms and other perks. Workampers have volunteered in state and federal parks, national forests and fisheries, county programs, charitable organizations such as YMCA camps and wildlife refuges, and more. Workamping has afforded thousands of people an opportunity to travel – and pay for it – pocket some spending money, gain new experiences, meet new friends, and feel as though they were making a difference. And now more than ever, Workamping represents a viable alternative to “retirement” as we know it.
For those who do not own an RV, great deals abound now, as some decide to leave the road (for a variety of reasons) and sell their rig. You don’t have to look very far to find some pretty good bargains on very nice RVs, and if you don’t go crazy and opt for something huge with tons of bells and whistles, you can get a nice rig that won’t break the bank, should gasoline prices soar as they did in 2008. This is another area where your Workamping compensation will come into play – and help you make ends meet in your new home on wheels!
The uncertainty of the economy has brought the word “retirement” to the forefront for many who had hoped they still had quite a few more years to work. Others just simply are not ready to face the day when they are handed their “gold watch.” Workamping can change this. The future is bright for Workampers – and the employers who hire them. So put away the rocking chair and get out the map. May your biggest dilemma be deciding where to go next!