Television news is full of reports about people across America who are losing their jobs. But not all of the employment news is bleak. Arkansans Lee and Arline Smith are workampers, which means they work while living in their RV (motorhome or travel trailer). Last fall, they took a late-season assignment at a canoe and kayak rental in Bar Harbor, Maine. Arline worked behind the counter renting bicycles and scooters, while Lee worked in canoe/kayak rental and repair. Half of the rent on their full hookup campsite in a nearby community was compensated, plus they received hourly wages. Campsite rental can range anywhere from $300-$700 per month and up.
The Smiths have just entered their seventies, and they have taken a hit in the stock market, so this job helped to keep them from having to tap into their IRAs. It also gave them a way to keep traveling and not have to park their motorhome. With the high gas prices last fall, they barely paid their way to Maine and back, but Arline said Maine was on her "bucket list," and workamping made it a reality.
When Arline and Lee left Maine the end of October, they traveled to Coffeyville, Kansas, where they worked in a distribution warehouse for Amazon.com until December 23rd, fulfilling Christmas orders for both Amazon.com and Target.com. They received a campsite with full hookups, plus hourly wages. The work was very hard - eleven hour days, and even some optional overtime - but the wages were fairly high ($10/hour and up).
Two summers ago, the couple workamped at an Opera camp in the Ozarks near Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Arline worked in food service - Lee worked in maintenance. They were given a campsite with full hookups for their motorhome, plus salary and admission to as many professional opera performances as they wanted! They saw all three summer productions more than once. They will return this summer - the pay is good, and it is only a little over three hours from their home base in north-central Arkansas.
There are people who have sold their houses - and in some cases lost the home to foreclosure - who are living in an RV because it is cheaper than a conventional home. Thousands of people are doing this, and they can go wherever the work is. The added benefit is that it is fun! People need to be flexible and think outside the box - and be open to the possibility of a new adventure - and workamping can definitely be an adventure!
The uncertainty of the economy has affected a lot of people - from retirees who are worried about stretching their pensions to those who have just been handed a pink slip. There may be employers who don't know how they are going to keep the doors open because they can't afford to pay big wages. Workampers might be the solution - if the employer can arrange for a campsite and full hookups or housing to accompany lower pay. Workamping may be their ticket to a job and putting food on the table - or preserving a retirement nest egg - and seeing the country in the bargain.
There ARE jobs available. The workamping lifestyle has helped the Smiths - and hundreds of their new-found friends on the road - stay afloat and weather this economic storm, and this can work for countless others.