By Sam Suva
We have been work camping in many situations for a very long time. We have camped in fields and worked in a residence, we have been in corporate parks and small fishing communities. We have also commuter camped, working outside the campground. We have even worked as carnival staff!
During our “tenure” we have come across not-so-flattering situations. If I’m being honest, personality clashes are to be expected, and it is really our job to overlook and to forget when a situation gets heated and when statements are made that neither party really want to say. Those situations happen, but this article is about when deceptive or simply opportunistic people try to take advantage of “loop holes” – errors made by inexperienced work campers.
Travel to an area and then look for work
We were so in love with the work camping industry that when our first job was done, we literally packed up and headed to another state some 900 miles away and then decided to look for work! We were in the Deep South and looking for work in the winter season! Work with pay, that is! SMH – That was definitely a beginner move!
The campground that finally did hire us with pay was a very measly amount (we did agree to it) and then added way more than the original agreement (read “Work without a contract” next). We struggled in a commuter park with the general manager stealing, getting fired then re-hired! It was a crazy learning experience for us.
Lesson? Always get a job first. In fact, get several interested campgrounds if we are able to and let them know the intention to make a decision once we are in the area. Then get there in a few days, take the interviews, get the offers, LEAVE …, compare the offers and decide.
Work without a contract
It sounds so good: money and a site compensated for working a few hours a week! STOP! Without a contract, the owner or manager has no obligation to hire us! Even if they do hire us, it is up to them to set the hours, the rate of pay, if any, and the amount of compensation because when we are in their park, it’s their rules unless we have a contract.
We worked 50 hours a week with a small stipend and compensated site and electric for months before trying to renegotiate for the next season. We ended up leaving when the owner hired staff that made the same mistake we did! (That work camper ended up leaving as we did.)
Lesson? Today, a contract can be signed and dated across the many miles electronically. We now take the time to get the campground to sign and date a contract.
Get our money straight first
Working at a campground is not going to get a work camper rich, by any means, but it can provide a comfortable living. We have worked for site and found it to be very rewarding as long as the hours and the work were similar to the compensation. We have also worked for pay and site and ended up leaving after years.
Lesson? We tend to be attracted to compensation for site and pay for part-time work. We need to have that agreed upon before accepting, traveling or arriving at a park. Leaving that to chance, well, you have heard “the house always wins”? It’s like that.
This is Part 1 of the two-part series “The five things we did wrong.” I hope relating our mistakes will help you to have a peaceful and calm work camping experience in your full-time life!
See you down the road,
Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled.