|I was recently honored by an interview for a feature article on RV Journeys by the folks at PTC Challenge magazine. The following write-up appears in the magazine’s August 2012 issue which is available at Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers across the country (or online at ptcchallenge.com). They have kindly granted me permission to reprint the article in Tin Can Traveler.
WORK CAMPING – by: Robert Nason
Back in 2007, Annie Marouchoc was looking for some adventure. Having lived her entire life near the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania, she wanted to start traveling, see the Rocky Mountains and put her toes in the Pacific Ocean. So after careful thought, she quit her job as a middle-school teacher and counselor, sold her home and most of her possessions, and hit the road in her new RV. She admits now that jumping so quickly into the unknown was scary but, five years later, as Marouchoc travels the country in her “little tin can cottage,” she can’t imagine life any other way.
Marouchoc is a work camper, one of thousands that have embraced a new and exciting lifestyle on America’s open roads. According to Steve Anderson, president of Workamper News, there’s a simple definition of a work camper.
“People often ask me, ‘How do I know if I’m a work camper?’ he says. “So I ask two questions: Are you living in an RV, and are you working?” If the answer is yes to both, then you’re a work camper.
Work camping originated at the national and state campgrounds. RVers would manage the campgrounds in return for free camping and, in some instances, wages. It was mostly retirees taking advantage of seasonal work as they explored the U.S. in their recreational vehicles.
Now, many people nowhere near retirement are making a living as work campers in jobs ranging from tour guides to grocery clerks to waitresses to workers at distribution centers.
“I always wanted to go to different places and stay for a while,” Marouchoc says. “And work camping allows me to stay somewhere and really get a feel for the place. I can go to a rainforest in Northern California or the desert in New Mexico – it’s neat to be able to experience all that and get paid.”
For Anderson, the growth of his company reflects the popularity of this new lifestyle. “Our largest client, Amazon.com, hired 2,400 work campers last year to work in three locations as Santa’s helpers,” says Anderson. “They’re looking to double that number this year and into the next and add more facilities for work campers.”
Anderson’s company, Workamper News, is a bimonthly magazine that includes a large job placement directory and helpful articles for work campers. Since its first newsletter was published nearly 30 years ago, the company has expanded its services to meet the growing demands of the industry. It now offers a comprehensive online resource center (workamper.com), a daily email bulletin, online forums, resume assistance and workshops to help veteran work campers and “dreamers,” those thinking about joining the work camper force, plan for the work camper experience.
Once you begin the work camper journey, Marouchoc advises to always have a “plan A, plan B and plan C.” She had to learn the hard way.
“I quit [my teaching] job and was driving west within a matter of a week, working at a job,” she says. But when she arrived in Colorado, the promises by her employer over the phone were not the reality.
“I got out and asked about the hook-ups,” Marouchoc wrote in her blog at tincantraveler.com. “He threw an extension cord down from his deck for my electric plug-in. Next, I asked where my hook-ups were for water and sewer. With a big smile he said not to worry, ‘I’ll leave the front door unlocked and you can just come on in and use the bathroom anytime you want. And, you’ll be eating with the family and helping prepare the meals.'”
Needless to say, Marouchoc didn’t stick around at that job for long, but it also didn’t sour her on the work camper experience.
“The nice thing is my home has wheels,” she says. Since then, she’s visited 30 states, working in 15 of them, and has had 21 jobs. Whether as a waitress in Arizona, a store clerk in northern California or a volunteer in Florida, Marouchoc says the people and places continue to amaze her.
“There are just awesome people and awesome places everywhere I go,” she says. “Three thousand miles, at one time, felt like I was going halfway around the world, but not any more. It’s truly an adventurous life.”
The better it gets; the better it gets!