One question I’m asked a lot is, “I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck, can I afford to be a vandweller? “ And my answer is “How can you afford NOT be a vandweller?” The important part of that question isn’t the money, it’s the “living.” The great majority of Americans just barely have enough money to scrimp by and most of their paycheck goes into paying for their housing. After they pay the rent (or mortgage) and utilities virtually all the rest goes for food or other essentials leaving very little to actually live and enjoy life with–they’re just surviving until the next paycheck.
If the quality and success of your life is measured by how much you are thriving, then most of us are getting F’s and are total failures at it.
Add up in your mind how much you’ve paid for housing in the last 5 years–how much better would your life be if you could have kept that money? By moving into a van you can take all the money you used to pay for housing and start paying it to yourself instead. Then you can use that money to do the things you love to do, like travel. What we need is a job that we can get while we are traveling and that will also pay for our campsite at the same time. Fortunately, jobs like that are pretty easy to come by and in this post we’re going to look at an overview of seven of the most common ones (and one you probably never heard of before) that allow you to travel and get a free or very cheap campsite. I made a video where I talked to a friend who has been a workcamper and worked at the sugar beet harvest you can see it here:
If you can’t see the video, click or cut and paste this into your browser:
These are the two main websites for finding workcamping jobs:
Fortunately the timing of these jobs is such that you can work them consecutively—when you’re done with one, you leave it and go to the next. That means just when you’re getting sick and tired of the same old grind, you’re done with it and move on to something new and very different. It’s possible you could save $9,000 cash and then take 6 months to a year off without working. Now that’s making the best possible use of the limited time we have here. I’d give you an A+ for that way of life!
1) Campground Host:
There is a lot of confusion about hosting because it comes in different varieties and some of them are very poor in terms of making money. I wouldn’t even consider being a host at an RV Park but I’ve been a host at a National Forest campground and loved it. Let’s look at them all.
- Host in a Private RV Park. These jobs nearly always trade time worked for your RV site with full hook ups and then you get paid for the rest of the time you work. As a boondocker that’s something I would never consider doing because it’s so easy to camp for free. If you do the math, many of these jobs pay much less than minimum wage.
- Host in a City/State Park or National Wildlife Refuge: These aren’t really jobs, they are volunteer positions where you trade a certain amount of time worked for your free site with full hook-ups. Because you’re a volunteer, there is usually less pressure and you are treated pretty well. I would at least consider this because it allows you to be in a place that you want to be in but it’s difficult to be there otherwise. For example, if you are an avid birder who doesn’t need an income it would be incredible to spend a winter at some of our National Wildlife Refuges and this would be a wonderful position for you. Or, if you’re a fisherman, you can volunteer at a State Park near world-class fishing and spend your summer doing what you love.
- Host at a National Forest Campground. I did this job for 4 years and it’s what I recommend you do. Its biggest advantage is that you get a free campsite and you get paid for every hour you work. The wages are usually minimum wage of the state you’re in but sometimes they pay a little more. So working in California, Oregon or Washington will pay better than most other states. Find the minimum wage for all the states here: http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx. Most of them require you to be there from Memorial Day to Labor Day easily leaving you time to get to the Sugar Beet Harvest. I’ll give you the details of this job in my next post. To get an idea of jobs available, this is the employment page of CLM, the company I worked for: http://www.clm-services.com/employment/job-openings
This is a fall job in late September or October in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. It pays very well for just a few weeks work, normally three weeks. Typically you’ll get a free campsite and make $12 an hour, work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for the entire time, except during bad weather. Like all jobs it pays overtime for anything over 8 hours a day, but it also pays time and a half on the entire 6th day and double time on the 7th day. Most people make about $3600 for three weeks work—not bad at all!
You’re probably thinking that sounds good, but there’s no way you’re going to work like a farmhand picking crops. The good news is you don’t have to, you’ll have nothing to do with harvesting the beets. Instead, you’re going to work for the sugar factory who receives the beets from the farmers. The beets are trucked into a central place and stacked up into enormous piles by a machine called a Piler. Your job will be directing trucks, picking up beets that fall off the conveyer belt, testing the beets and keeping the piling process moving smoothly. If you can drive a truck (no CDL required, it’s considered agriculture), operate a Bobcat or learn to run the Piler, you can make a lot more money than the base rate. Get more info on the job here: http://www.sugarbeetharvest.com/index.cfm?content=jobs
3) Amazon Warehouse for the Holidays:
Because of the huge Christmas rush of gift giving, many retailers hire extra employees in the three months before Christmas. Several Amazon Distribution Centers are in rural areas and they don’t have enough of a labor force around to draw from, so they hire RVers to work for them; they call them the Camper Force. They pay very well and provide you a free campsite in an RV Park. Get more info here: http://www.amazonfulfillmentcareers.com/opportunities/camper-force/
Amazon has a reputation of being a tough employer, but that’s for its permanent employees, they treat the CamperForce very well because they need them to come back the next year. But it’s still a hard job just because you’re on your feet 10 hours a day and there is mandatory overtime. One unexpected problem many older RVers have run into is wrist and elbow problems from having a hand-held computer in their hand all day. Amazon will have a booth at the Big Tent show during the RTR and you can get the job application process started there or do it on-line.
4) Tourist Towns:
All over the country there are towns that attract a huge number of visitors seasonally. The season depends on what they offer. In ski areas the season is winter when there is snow; in Florida, Arizona and California it’s also winter when people are escaping the winter cold and going to places like Disneyland with the family. Around most of the National Parks in northern areas the season is summer when people come literally from around the world to visit them. Whatever the season, all those towns get a flood of visitors and must hire a huge number of seasonal workers to handle the rush. Because there aren’t enough locals for the jobs, they hire people from around the country.
Let’s look at one example, Yellowstone NP. There are five entrances into Yellowstone and at each of them are small towns that explode with tourists in the summer season. The permanent population base of the town can’t possibly provide enough people to fill all the jobs so they must bring in people from outside to work. That means it’s a workers market, there are more employers than there are employees so they have to compete to get enough people. The result is wages are higher and people get treated better. I’ve spent time in Jackson Wyoming (the south entrance to both Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP) and the permanent population of the town is 10,000 but in the summer they hire another 10,000 people to handle the summer tourist rush. All of those people have to be brought in from out of town so they have to be enticed to come. Every time I’ve been there, there was a “Help Wanted” sign on virtually every business in town. You’re almost guaranteed a good-paying job if you show up.
That story is repeated in nearly every small, popular tourist town in the country, especially in the mountains—where most of us want to spend our summer anyway because it’s cooler. The best part of all is that these are in incredibly beautiful areas that people fly in from all around the world to see–and you get paid to be there!
5) National Parks Concessionaire:
Inside all the National Parks are numerous businesses that hire seasonal help every year. Businesses like lodges, stores, gas stations and others. Generally they are all operated by one concessionaire that is a large national company who does all the hiring for that Park, an example of a big one is Xantera. Every year they hire thousands of employees to work in the National Parks and the need is so great the chances are good you can get a job there. They generally pay pretty well but their one disadvantage is usually you have to pay some amount for your housing. It’s generally a very reasonable amount and for many people it’s well worth it just to be in a National Park for the summer. One other disadvantage is that usually you are pretty remote from other cities and you’ll end up paying a lot more for food. Again, for many people, being in the National Park is more than worth the slightly higher cost of food. For information on jobs with Xanera, click here: http://www.xanterra.com/who-we-are/careers/
6) Seasonal Sales at a Christmas Tree, Pumpkin or Fireworks Lot.
There is a lot of variation in these jobs so it’s hard to generalize, but most of them are hiring a couple in an RV. You’re paid extremely well and given full hook-ups, but one of you is expected to be on site at all times. You can leave, but only one at a time. But they all have different requirements so never hesitate to look into one.
7) Gate-guard or Security at an oil field, construction site or storage unit.
You don’t really do any security here, you’re just expected to open the gate and report any problems, in exchange you are paid well and given full-hook-ups. Generally they want a couple and one of you needs to be on site at all times.
8) Poker Dealer
Some of you may have moral objections to this but if not it’s something to seriously consider. All across the country there are Poker Tournaments that need to hire many trained poker dealers but there aren’t enough qualified locals to hire. So there is a great job available as a traveling poker dealer going from Tournament to Tournament. The pay works out to be about $30-35 an hour and most people can do the job. One example is the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas where they hire 1500 dealers for a 7 week tournament. It’s entirely possible to make $10,000 in that 7 weeks. You can take reasonably priced courses to get trained and certified. I’ve written a post with all the details you need here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/nomadic-poker-dealer/
So there you have it, a broad over-view of the most common jobs for Nomads. In my next post we’ll look at the details of how to get these jobs and take a closer look at Campground Hosting.
I’m making Videos on my good friends James and Kyndal’s YouTube Channel. See them here:
You can see my video on workpcaming here: youtu.be/HNXsGPO9MaA
Hi Bob !
Great information for D’ nomadic bunch !
Hope you continue to have @ wonderful time next to Cody & nomadic friends.
No doubt things have changed since 1974, but I worked as a cook in the lodge at Bryce Canyon part of that summer. We got minimum wage plus room and board.
In 1980 I travelled west from Chicago in a vw bug. I was in Yellowstone in mid august and fell in love with the geyser basins. I was camping in Norris campground and running out of money but wanted to stay and somebody suggested I apply for a job at the concessionaire. Turns out that they start running low on staff at the end of summer because some employees leave early. They hired me to work n the kitchen at th old faithful inn. Dream job. Employee dorms are right behind the inn. I worked my at up from pot washer to deli. I ate out of the kitchen mostly and spent all my free time in the geyser basins. I stayed until the inn closed at the end of October. That was my first experience of following my heart instead of any kind of career path. Now I am doing it again. Look forward to my second Rtr.
Great story Nancy! You’ve gone full circle!
Looking forward to seeing you again!
Great info. I had heard that “singles” often have a hard time finding camp hosting jobs but it looks like that isn’t any hard & fast rule. I’m guessing that to get started, you take what you can get to “establish” yourself and find your “niche”?
Cathy, there are times when being a single makes it harder–I’ll tell you about that in my next post. But there often times when it has no impact or may make it easier.
The good thing about it is once you establish a track record workcamping, you won’t have any trouble finding jobs and finding the one you like the most.
I am single like Nancy and look forward to your advice. I have dogs and goats so would like to go where all would be welcome.
Great post, Bob. Looking forward to part II.
And thanks for sharing, Jody.
Craigslist says it all!
I would have flown as a vandweller straight off the bat had CL existed when I got out of the Navy 34 years ago!
I believe CL is the single most best way to stay up and on the road nationwide while living a remarkable life. CL has everything a serious vandweller needs for sale on it, but most importantly to the vandweller it has labor and other gigs up for the getting. A serious way to stash some cash while remaining under the radar!
My wife and I use it when we are bored or feeling helpful. We can do many things, but our favorite is gardening jobs. Seeing that we can’t plant our garden while on the road we sure do love taking care of others’ plants. And they even pay us!! What an amazing way to make money! Heck, it really ain’t even work when you enjoy it so much! We feel that way about gardening.
Craigslist is just the bomb for local community resources and happenings. Whoever developed CL God Bless You!
For those who don’t know, he was the founder of Craigslist.
I agree 100% Marshall.
interesting post and video Bob, do you know of any Canadian people who do this some of the time?
Looking forward to seeing the post on how your Christmas in the desert was.
Ming, it very complicated for a Canadian to work in the US, so I don not know any that work here. If you are asking about Canadian employers I’m sorry but that’s something I know nothing about.
Hello Bob … not the answer I was hoping for! lol
I’ll have to do some more digging for info on this. I am very interested in travelling & working in your fine country. I am a trained massage therapist but willing to work at just about anything!
I stumbled upon your Youtube channel when I was researching van conversions. Thank you very much for all of the videos & useful information provided by you & other van dwellers. You’ve given me inspiration & a kick in the pants to follow my passion!
Tanya, there are lots of jobs for workcampers so I’m sure you can find one. But you should try to keep working as a massage therapist since that’s your passion. You’ll just have to do research on licensing and how to get customers once your mobile.
Don’t give up on your dreams!!
It’s so funny to open this blog and see a picture of my CLM boss at the top! I’ve been (single-woman) camp hosting since May of this year. My RV needed repairs that I still couldn’t quite afford after the summer season was over, so CLM has allowed me to Winter there, and given me enough hours between my campground, and the Day Use facility, to support my financial needs in exchange for agreeing to work next summer, too. CLM really is a great company to work for and I have a lot of respect for the people I’ve met who work for them. Since the summer ended (the location I was in was a bit rough during the summer, especially for my first time), I’ve really enjoyed my location, taken an online bookkeeping certificate course, and written and illustrated my first children’s book. I’m currently working on the second and third books in the series. I’m learning to paint, and loving it. I’ve got a library card at the local library and am catching up on all the books and movies I haven’t had time for in the past several years. And of course, the scenery is spectacular!
There’s a lot to recommend about this lifestyle. Room to breath, and figure out who you might be, and talents you never knew you had, are just a few of them.
Thanks again, Bob!!
Tammi, thanks for sharing that, it great to get confirmation like that! I’m very, very glad things are going to see well for you!
And if you look like Bob, you can play Santa for some extra cash
I’ve heard that guys with a real look can make good money. My have to look into that one day!
A lot of good comments of success, great post. And you are doing really well on the videos. Of course Jody was a really easy interview, she has it together.
Thanks Bruce! She sure does!
Great post as always! Very informative. Except the link you provided for your workcamping video is actually an Oxyclean advertisement. 🙂
I’ll check that out Ann, thanks for letting me know.
I just found you through the YouTube channel. I’m a young (22) year old guy who will be setting out on the travelers life for the second time soon due to economic reasons and a natural love for the lifestyle that i found back in 2012.
As someone who is single and will be dwelling in a car instead of a van or RV, would i still have a considerable chance working as a host or for a national park in any way? My only experiences are extended amounts of retail/customer service, web design, and screen printing which might not be too helpful.
Love the information and positive energy you’re putting out there. Thanks again!
Micheal the chances are reduced, but you still have a very good chance. The National Parks often provide housing (at a small cost for you) so your retail experience will really help there–that should work for you, I would apply at the national Parks for sure!
Call a National Park,and say you would like to work there this summer, ask who you should contact for employment and they will tell you.
With campground hosting most places want you to have a van or RV, but a few will let you stay in a tent. Nothing to do but start calling and ask around. Any tourist town hires a huge amount of people in the summer. Just go to one and start knocking on doors and you will find a job.
Hi Bob, Thanks for telling the truth. Our society has problems. It started when the world bankers took over our government starting before and during the Great Depression. They bought control over governments and use psychiatry to control people. The problem with that is there are some evil people involved who are sick in the head. Their are good people and their are evil people. The good news is the majority of people are good, it is only a few percentage of people, say 2 or 3 out of 100 people who are evil and do more harm than good. Real good people do more good than harm. If we good people faced up to these few evil people we would make life better for us all. For example the evil mad man Hitler and a few of his evil friends took control of Germany and it was these few evil mad men who set about trying to take over the world and destroy the people they did not like. Had the good German people faced up to Hitler and his evil group they could have been able to stop the destruction of their country by Hitler and his evil group. Today their are again some evil people who want to destroy other people who are good. If we the good people faced up to these evil people who do more harm than good we could make life better for everybody.
Here is my take on it.
It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. ~~J. Krishnamurti
Q. How could we possibly have allowed that to happen to us?
A. We did not face up to the evil people who want to control us. We were not educated to understand that evil people like Hitler can come and go. Hitler was an insane mad man who took over control of Germany and he got his evil friends to help him start murdering people he did not like. He used psychiatrist to kill the homosexuals, this is new information.
Here are some of the main ways they control us:
1. Fear for our old age is one of their primary weapons. They want your old age to be risky and dangerous so you have to obey them. They make sure that without them, it will be miserable!
You are right the evil people want to keep us afraid and in fear so they can keep us down so they can control us.
2. They (evil people) also use lifelong propaganda (mainly schools and the media) to instill an extremely deep fear into you that you can’t possibly survive without them. You need them so much that no matter how unpleasant your life is with them, don’t even think about trying to break away!! It will be far worse by yourself!!!
True they are using evil psychiatry and evil people in the CIA, FBI, NSA to name a few of the evil people to wage psychological warfare against the free thinkers and non conformist.
3. They’ve (evil people) made our society so specialized that we can’t solve hardly any of our own problems and meet any of our own basic needs. We are so dependent on others we will certainly die without them to provide for, care for and protect us.
Evil people want to keep you stupid so they can control you.
4. They (evil people) have passed so many laws that trying to live any other way but the way they demand you live is either illegal or so difficult it’s impractical.
This is how evil people keep you down and squashed so they can control you.
IT’S ALL A LIE!! (it is true there are many lies today) Get out, as soon as you can!
Let me tell you the only debt you really OWE–You owe it to yourself to live a happy life!!
We the good people need to spread the word and help each other raise up and work with other good people to make life better.
Keep telling the truth and keep spreading the word so that one day we can all have a better world to live in.
Thanks, very interesting ideas! Bob
My first time reading your blog. On job side of things do they hire people with class B CDL with passenger endorsements? Where would be a good place to start?