by Deanna Tolliver
Have you stayed in a campground like this?
When you pulled in around 3 p.m., you thought the campground looked full, but there were few vehicles in sight. A few hours later, a parade of pickups and cars arrived. That lasted a few minutes, then all was quiet. Starting around 5 a.m., you’re wakened by the sound of diesel pickups and other vehicles driving through the campground. That lasts for a few minutes, then again, all is quiet.
Your neighbors are worker bees!
They’re all over the country. Most of the time, campgrounds cater to everyone, but if there is a big construction project or nearby pipeline in the works, the majority of RVers there will be workers.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s a growing movement. Here’s why:
• Short-term apartment leases may be hard to come by.
• Motel living for several weeks is not appealing to everyone.
• RV living can be less expensive.
• Your home goes with you to the next job.
Many companies provide a monthly housing stipend to pay for rent, and employees find that their RV payment is less than the stipend so they can pocket a little extra. Often the RVs are sold to another worker when the job is finished.
And many campgrounds are catering to these RVers. A campground in Alabama has this statement on their website: “Lake Early RV Park is the perfect RV Park location for steel and construction workers to rest, relax and enjoy a day out fishing.”
I stayed at a campground this spring in Oklahoma where about 80% of the sites were occupied by long-term oil company workers. It was a well-kept park with owners who were strict about the appearance of the sites.
Not all workers are employees of the oil/construction businesses. Retail giant Amazon hired 120,000 seasonal employees last fall to help with the Christmas shopping rush, at various locations around the country. Most were RVers, and many were “seniors.” The work can be physically demanding, and the hours are long. Many have to travel 30 minutes or more to get to work because all the closer campgrounds are full.
When the holidays are over, some of these workers take a brief vacation, and in early spring they report to their work camping jobs at state/federal and private campgrounds. Jessica Bruder wrote an eye-opening book, “Nomadland,” where she documented the lives of many of these workers. (You can buy a copy here on … where else … Amazon).
“Meet the CamperForce, Amazon’s Nomadic Retiree Army,” also by Ms. Bruder, focuses on the lives of a couple looking forward to RVing after retirement. Chuck Stout retired from an upper level corporate job with McDonalds, then started his own tour business. He had prepared well for retirement. But the crash in 2008 left him with no savings, and the tour business took a hit, as well. He filed for bankruptcy. His story is riveting, and mirrors that of thousands of Baby Boomers. Read the full story here.
Traveling nurses make up another growing group of RVers. These health professionals provide care to areas with shortages of trained staff. Traveling nurses have been around for several years, but more are now opting for an RV as opposed to an apartment or motel. It’s not unusual to meet a travel nurse at a campground these days.
And we’ve all met work campers at campgrounds. Most of them are full timers, and many go from one work camping job to another. Others work during the summer and take off in the winter. Some work camp because they get their site free or discounted; others, because they worked all their lives and find retirement a little boring. Part of the appeal is to get to know an area really well if you live and work there for a few months.
Another growing segment of RVers is made up of those who work online. This can include IT jobs, accounting, web design, and writing, among others. Having good wifi in a campground is not just desirable for this group, it’s a necessity.
Yes, we are all RVers, but these days, your campground neighbor could be a worker bee and not a retiree, or a seasonal, or a family out on the weekend. All of these workers have just as much right to be in a campground as anyone. But there are more of us than ever out here, and the future of more campgrounds to hold us all is not looking bright.