New book paints dark picture of “work campers”


By Chuck Woodbury
“Nomadland, Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” is not a feel-good book. If anything it’s a feel-bad book. It paints a very dark picture of RVers who work as they travel. In the world author Jessica Bruder portrays, these people are desperate and must work to survive. She does not discuss the tens of thousands of other “work campers” who work because they enjoy being productive and the extra income allows them to live a better life.

Still, the RVers Bruder profiles are real. I found the book fascinating, although disturbing. I know these people are out there, usually living in older RVs because it’s all they can afford, dependent on working for minimum wage to survive. I’ve seen them in my travels across America, holing up in back corners of cheap RV parks, barely affording the discounted monthly rates.

From the beet fields of North Dakota to Amazon’s CamperForce program, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans who bring their own “homes” with them to work sites, often filling local RV parks. With Social Security coming up short, they have taken to the road in motorhomes, trailers and vans, forming a growing community of migrant laborers.

Unfortunately, Bruder focuses on those at the bottom of the economic rung, leaving the reader with the impression that this is the way it is for most RVers who work. That’s not true.

On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Bruder profiles people from all walks of life who ended up poor in their senior years, dependent on extra income to survive. Her description of the back-breaking work at Amazon during the holiday season (for about $11.50 an hour) makes you realize how desperate some elderly Americans are for the money. It’s heartbreaking to hear some of their stories.

Bruder is an excellent writer and the book is a page-turner. But I think she presents a sensational picture of “work camping” that is not accurate. Still, it’s an eye-opener to the lives of some older Americans who really must work for their supper. “Nomadland” is available at


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Charles Yaker

Welcome to America . Government policy since Reagan has destroyed. What once was a thriving middle class. The Government was our friend now it’s been taken over by cannibals. There is a way back but it requires dispelling ignorance and adopting sound money policies


While I have not read the book it sounds like the author is looking at the “mobile” version of those folks who live in “cheap” apartments. Both groups are economically disadvantaged, but one has more mobility than the other group. The mobile group might not have strong family ties.


It seemed to me that Bruder really wasn’t writing about “Fulltime RV’ing” per se, but about the economic reality in this country for many persons approaching or in retirement, as well as for young people just starting out. Certainly, if one didn’t know about the many fulltimers who are doing well, I suppose one could get the impression that they’re all poor (although I recall that she did mention that there are those who simply choose the lifestyle out of interest). But she did make it clear that there are many who choose the lifestyle to cut costs, and there are a surprising number of older folk still needing to work in order to make ends meet after a lifetime of working. She also did a great job documenting the economic plight of young people today, many of whom are choosing to live out of vans. She also went over the history of nomadic life during the Depression. While the realities of life for her subjects might make for “feel bad” reading, I found myself inspired by the “can do” attitude of her subjects. It actually gave me hope. It was a great read (or listen, in my case).


An excellent read. I found it very interesting and enjoyed her writing.