How to Start Workamping
If you like working from anywhere, getting outdoors more, and experiencing new destinations, then you might want to look into workamping. Everyone from young digital nomads embracing #vanlife to older RVers volunteering in state and national parks are discovering this very unique lifestyle that is rich with opportunities. Some major employers have even built HR programs to serve this specific mobile demographic.
Freedom, flexibility, and travel may sound amazing, but there is a big leap from renting a rig for the weekend to purging your possessions and hitting the road. The call of the wild is inescapable, and if you hear it calling you, then workamping might be worth looking into.
Is workamping right for you?
Workamping is a broad category covering any full- or part-time work done while living in an RV. Everything from remote, salaried positions requiring high-speed Internet access and a mobile office in your RV to working in state and federal parks are ideal workamping jobs. Salaried positions function much like an on-site office job, requiring screen time and conference calls, while jobs in parks and on public lands can include any number of duties. Amazon hires seasonal warehouse workampers, many Christmas tree lots and pumpkin patches hire mobile workers, and private campgrounds are often looking for hosts, maintenance, and activity directors.
If you love America’s wildlands, hate ruts and routines, and like to learn new things and meet new people, working in America’s public parks may be a perfect fit for you. Jobs vary by state and park, from taking reservations, customer service, and retail to housekeeping and maintenance.
The real beauty of location freedom is that you can apply for jobs based on where you’d like to park your home. Workamper News is the primary clearinghouse for job listings, with thousands of positions rotating through their database each season. You can set up a free account to get a taste for what’s out there, but to make workamping your way of life you’ll want a paid membership. You’ll be able to post your resume, read employer reviews, and tap into their collection of job search resources.
Once you start digging, the number of workamping options will make your head spin. State park systems, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, and the National Parks all hire workampers as docents, campground managers, and more. Once you narrow it down to your top destinations, you can weed out jobs that don’t match your skills or schedule and start applying online.
Qualifications and skills
A positive attitude and commitment are all you need for some workamping jobs, but you’ll quickly find that the best jobs in the most desirable locations are highly competitive. Polish your resume to highlight your most applicable experience. Consider including testimonials and references, especially if you have workamping experience. In-demand skills include hospitality industry and retail background, as well as experience with campground reservation systems. There may be physical requirements for maintenance, housekeeping, and education/programming jobs.
Schedule, compensation & perks
Most workamping gigs require 24 to 32 hours a week in exchange for your RV site and full hookups. Some employers add in stipends for food or fuel, free propane fill-ups, access to laundry facilities, hourly wages, and bonuses. You can expect to work a minimum of three to four months, with some employers looking for a six to 12-month commitment. If you want to try it out without a lengthy commitment, be flexible about your destination and look for parks that need someone to fill in last minute for a month or two.
Perks you won’t necessarily find listed in the job description include access to public lands and facilities before and after hours when the crowds go home, being first to register for park programs like sunset paddles and wilderness hikes, and sometimes even being able to assist rangers with field research.
Your first job
You’ve applied, had a phone interview, and are finally ready to launch your workamping career. Each job will be different (again, flexibility is key) but you’ll most likely have a day or two to orient yourself before you’re asked to attend training. Expect to cover safety, uniforms, equipment and procedures, work schedules, and emergency protocol. Take it seriously. You may be called a volunteer, but compensation in the form of free RV site fees can add up to thousands in savings, depending on where you’re volunteering.
Establish connections with other workampers to benefit from their experience. Your peers are a great source of information about the best workamping sites and how to set up your RV for a long term stay. Assess your progress along the way. Do you like being a nomad? Does the lifestyle work for everyone in your family? Expect some trial and error, especially during the first year.
If you love it — and we know you will — you’ll want to start lining up positions six to 12 months out to have the best selection of jobs and destinations. As you build your resume, you can work your way into top parks like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Acadia. Once you do, you may just want to go back every year.