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Fulltimers paid working vs. volunteering?


JCZ
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Getting ready to go full time next year and have read some posts and positions that actually trade site, hookups, etc. or a few hours a week for the couple, vs. others that actually have a small hourly pay vs. volunteering. Can somebody give me the thumbnail sketch of the pros and cons of each please?

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The biggest issue is taxes. Anytime you are working for a private business ( in this case a campground) you are at risk of generating taxable income. While much has been debated about the IRS and bartering work for a campsite there is always that risk.

No matter what a private business cqlls it (and some do call it volunteering)you are working for that site.

 

When you are volunteering for a state, federal or non profit you are not generating income. Federal agencies are all backing off of any paid stypends and the new volunteer policy for the USFWS is very specific about not paying them.

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Your best bet is a few months at Amazon Peak, pay, overtime over 40, compleation bonus, campsite included. a couple can earn 10,000 or more in 10-12 weeks.

 

You can make that if your willing to be on your feet for 11.5 hour days, with two 15 min. breaks and a half hour lunch! Your health had better be excellent and your physical stamina in tip top shape. I worked there at 59 Yrs. doing 50 hrs the first yr. and had to cut back to 40 the second yr. at 60. i was in Stow (stocking) and you cover a lot of the almost one million square ft, building retrieving and returning carts as well as a lot of lifting, stooping and bending and twisting! It's not easy but can be done!

 

Had the Widowmaker heart attack three months later and survived; so unfortunately no more physical work!!!

Edited by Pieere
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Your best bet is a few months at Amazon Peak, pay, overtime over 40, compleation bonus, campsite included. a couple can earn 10,000 or more in 10-12 weeks.

 

Definitely not the best bet for us. The physical part is not a problem, we just prefer to be outside as much as possible. We both have had to work inside most of our working lives and now that we have an option we will choose to be outside and meeting people. We "gate guarded" last summer which was a great deal "money wise" and loved being outdoors and seeing a totally different type of work. We definitely plan on doing it again along with camp hosting at a national park. Just love the freedom of being outside.

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A couple of other work options that we chose are the sugar beet harvest, driving trucks for the farmer and Christmas tree sales. Both jobs pay well and are short duration, 2 weeks and 4 weeks, so you don't get bored or burned out. Those 2 jobs pay for 6-7 months of our full time expenses.

Edit (Don't mean to understate the work involved, truck driving is 12 hour days, tree sales means loading and tying down 2-300 trees on car roofs.)

Greg

Edited by gjhunter01
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If you wish to stretch your budget by cutting expenses as well as adding some very interesting experiences to your RV life, then I suggest getting away from commercial RV parks completely and looking into things like wildlife refuges, historic sites, and even our national parks as a place that you can do some very interesting things and learn many new things, while providing a service that is much needed with agencies that have too little budget to accomplish their missions, and so they rely upon volunteers. We have done and seen many things which we could never have done in any other way. Check our our list of volunteer experiences at this link, and visit the pages with pictures and descriptions of the 20+ volunteer experiences!

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you wish to stretch your budget by cutting expenses as well as adding some very interesting experiences to your RV life, then I suggest getting away from commercial RV parks completely and looking into things like wildlife refuges, historic sites, and even our national parks as a place that you can do some very interesting things and learn many new things, while providing a service that is much needed with agencies that have too little budget to accomplish their missions, and so they rely upon volunteers. We have done and seen many things which we could never have done in any other way. Check our our list of volunteer experiences at this link, and visit the pages with pictures and descriptions of the 20+ volunteer experiences!

Thanks a bunch Kirk. Really appreciate the other options to consider.

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We are in agreement with Kirk. 9+ years of volunteering has been wonderful. While we don't have to have the site provided we actually have found that:

We love being active, involved in very interesting activities, and having a sense of giving back to something we believe in.

 

Being parked for a few months gives us a great sense of a community

 

Our days off ( usually 4) allows us plenty of time for household chores and still do long day trips

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  • 6 months later...

For a couple about to set off on full timing in a few months...is there a list of questions that we should be asking on the phone when considering a work camping or volunteer position?

Just don't want to get caught in a situation where we spent $$$ to get to another state and a week or two into a position we learned that the expectation isn't anything close to what we thought but we didn't have the experience to know to ask up front.

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While there may be lists around, I never used one. There were things that I always asked, such as the size of the site and all of the amenities offered and I always asked for as complete as possible a description of the duties required, but part of the process is also just a conversation with the volunteer coordinator to get a feeling for what it will be like. The process is really little different than that of interviewing for a job but with less pressure to accept it. You need to interview the person at the other end just as much as they interview you. Remember that you are volunteering for them, so your rights are important and you need to get a feel for how they appreciate their volunteers. Many say that you need a written list of duties but we never found that to be necessary since most of the positions we accepted the duties varied depending upon agency needs and our skill set. We always ask about opportunities to learn and to experience new things. We rarely go to the same place more than once because learning is part of the benefit we expect in return for our time. If what they need done does not sound like fun, we do not go as we are not looking for a job, we are volunteering to help.  I'm more than willing to do the work as long as I get something in return for my efforts. We did a lot of lawn care and maintenance work but also were involved in things like bird banding and wildlife related things, or we didn't go. Since we were usually putting in far more hours than needed to pay for the RV site, we expected other types of rewards such as new experiences and exposure to things not open to the visiting public. 

One of the more common rewards that aren't often mentioned was the location of our RV site. Very often you live in a place with views that are not available to most people. I'm thinking of where we watched a doe nurse her new fawn just feet from our RV window nearly every morning. I'm thinking of the place where we were awakened several fall mornings by a bull elk bugling for his harem just feet from our door.  And the time that we woke up in the night with the RV shaking due to a bear with an itch using the corner of the RV to scratch. And another time we watched the last flying Sopwith camel land on the grass airstrip next to our site. I could go on but this should make the point that these places give you the opportunity to experience things no other place has to offer. 

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Adventureland Amusement Park in Altoona (Des Moines) Iowa hires 300 plus work campers every season. Without the work campers the amusement park an water park could not operate. Check out the website and go to employment. You will be outside but you also need to like to be around and interact with people of all ages.

We will be doing the season again this year.

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On 4/23/2017 at 5:11 PM, JCZ said:

For a couple about to set off on full timing in a few months...is there a list of questions that we should be asking on the phone when considering a work camping or volunteer position?

Just don't want to get caught in a situation where we spent $$$ to get to another state and a week or two into a position we learned that the expectation isn't anything close to what we thought but we didn't have the experience to know to ask up front.

We don't have a formal list, but these are the types of questions that we ask:

With reference to the site itself:

- 30 or 50 amp? 50 is nice, especially if we expect to run the heat pump and/or A/C extensively. That being said, our last three gigs have been on 30 amps...

- Water at site, any issues? We've seen sites that had very high iron or other issues that made the water unpleasant or undrinkable. In South Texas the refuges provide RO purified water for drinking. Not that the tap water isn't potable, but it doesn't taste good. 

-Sewer at site?  I am surprised at the number of volunteer sites that don't include sewer.  Some folks don't mind using a tote tank or moving their RV to dump, but we won't volunteer at a site without sewer hookups. 

- Is there wi-fi provided? What is the availability of cellular and broadband carriers? We have both AT&TY and Verizon, so we ask specifically about those. Coverage maps help, but first-hand info is better. Some sites are so remote that there is no cellular or broadband available. Another deal-breaker for us. 

- Are there laundry facilities provided? How many washers/dryers? Not a deal-breaker for us, but a nice perk. 

- Is propane provided/reimbursed? Again, a nice perk, but rare in our experience. 

- Is the site in a public area, or "behind the gates"? Many places have separate private areas for volunteers, but some place you in areas that are accessible to the public, like beside parking lots or near trailheads. If you are a campground host you'll obviously be accessible to campers, but we prefer to be tucked away somewhere. I've looked into a couple of FWS gigs that utilize nearby state parks for their volunteer sites. In those cases you'll be right in the middle of the daily campers, and often not in a prime spot. 

With reference to the job:

- What are the expected number of hours each week, and how are they distributed? We've worked 24 hour jobs that required 3 days a week, and 20 hour jobs that required 5. If you want big blocks of time off to explore, you'd be looking for the former. If you want fewer hours each day, the latter. 

- Basically, what does the job entail? We've had some wonderful experiences where they didn't have a clue what we'd be doing until we got there. But we've also arrived to volunteer jobs having received a detailed job description that lays everything out. We stay pretty flexible on this, but like to have at least some idea of the job. For instance, we don't like Visitor Center work, so if that is clearly the job, we pass. For many folks the big issue is toilet/bathroom cleaning. Some won't do it no matter what, and if you fall into that category you'd better ask, and then ask again. We don't mind it as part of our duties, but won't accept a job that is primarily custodial. 

- How big is the volunteer program and how are the volunteers assigned/distributed tasks? For us, we prefer smaller programs or programs where we work on jobs independently. Many volunteers love a big social setting and working with others on teams. So knowing how large the program is, but more importantly how work is assigned is a plus for us. We've worked three different sites with 20+ volunteer couples, but we had specific assignments that allowed us to work independently so they were fine. This comes down to your personal preferences, and you may not know what you like until you get started!!

Overall, we work mostly off of the impression we get from the volunteer coordinator we speak to, and in some cases word of mouth from other volunteers. When we were starting out we frankly didn't know what to ask, and things turned out fine. As time goes on we've identified what we prefer to do, and more importantly what we don't care to do, so that has helped us going forward. 

Good luck, and enjoy!

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  • 1 year later...

any "jobs" where i would not have to talk or interact with people?  am not much of a people person. guess why i like driving?

i have been working hard for 50 years now, and still have eight to go. if i live long enough. but i do not want to work when i retire, it would be time to relax a bit. or at least learn how to slow down and relax.

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  • 2 months later...
On 3/5/2019 at 3:11 AM, packnrat said:

any "jobs" where i would not have to talk or interact with people?  am not much of a people person. guess why i like driving?

i have been working hard for 50 years now, and still have eight to go. if i live long enough. but i do not want to work when i retire, it would be time to relax a bit. or at least learn how to slow down and relax.

19 years as a Public servant and another 27 in a service industry I'd have the tendency to agree with Mark Twain, "The more I know about people, the better I like dogs."

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