Friday, December 8, 2023


Retired wife wants new career; retired husband is opposed

RV Shrink

Dear RV Shrink:
My wife, Ruth, and I are both retired and started living half the year in our travel trailer in the warmer climates of the U.S. My wife has always been very active and loves our travels, but she found herself bored after a couple of years of sightseeing. We are not commercial park types; we like natural settings in the varied parklands of America.

Ruth started volunteering during the winter and now wants to start a new career with the Interior Department. She found a backcountry ranger position and wants to pursue it this summer. I am arguing against it. We still have a home to maintain, we have plenty of income and now I see myself spending my summers waiting for her to get off work. She volleys back that we will be living in a National Park.

Am I wrong in not wanting to get tied down to one location for several months a year while Ruth pursues her new occupation and I stay home alone? —Ranger Ruth’s Spouse in Randolph

Dear Lone Ranger:
Let me begin with the fact that you are not the Lone Ranger. Many people who retire and begin a traveling lifestyle as you did, find a new passion along the way. Many times that takes the form of a job. It is often not a financial necessity.

Your question does not surprise me. The National Park System and many state and local parks cannot survive without the ever-growing army of volunteers. These volunteer jobs often network into full-time paying positions. The flexibility of retired and semiretired RVers is a perfect match for the park service.

It sounds like you two have different ideas on how to divide your time between home and travel, work and play. This is something you will have to work out in your own personal relationship. After a good healthy debate, one of you must yield to the other’s wishes.

I would suggest you give it a shot for a year. If you enjoy the natural areas, perhaps you will find plenty to do once you settle into a given park and have ample time to explore it. Your wife may find a big difference between a flexible volunteer job and a time-consuming, often stressful, full-time ranger position. If you don’t let her give it a try she will always wonder.

Life is an adventure. You may discover this new arrangement suits you and expands your retirement horizon. You might compromise with agreeing to try it for a season or two and then reevaluating the decision. Don’t be ruthless or you could be be Ruth-less. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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Robbie (@guest_44385)
4 years ago

We have volunteered several times as campground hosts in National Parks, County Parks and BLM. Just a friendly warning; when you apply and get a copy of the responsibilities of your position, it all looks rosy. Remember that volunteering is just that, it gives you the ability to NOT be a volunteer at any time. We have heard so many horror stories where volunteers are trapped by not having the resources to move…..and are required to clean disgusting restrooms.
Best of luck.

Sue (@guest_44391)
4 years ago
Reply to  Robbie

When Jim and I volunteered at a TX state park (mentioned in comment below) we never had bathroom duty, fortunately. We love to hike and bike, so one of our main jobs was removing litter from trails. We got our exercise AND did our job! Other jobs involved painting routed letters on wooden signs and light construction work. They tried to fit the jobs to CG hosts’ interests and skills.

Sue (@guest_44314)
4 years ago

Another compromise this couple could consider, since they don’t need additional income, is for one or both of them to be campground hosts at a state or national park. That often doesn’t consume as much time as a paid position and they’d probably get their site “free.” Jim and I did that at a state park in TX for two months at a time in the spring for two different years just so we could stay at the park longer than the usual two-week maximum. We still had plenty of time after our 20 hours of work each week to do whatever we wanted. It was fun and we weren’t stuck in one spot for six months.

Sue (@guest_44300)
4 years ago

Depending on which national park is being considered, there could be plenty of interesting opportunities for the Mr. to occupy himself in the park or nearby. I’m 70 and would be happy in either position — working out in nature myself as a paid or unpaid ranger, or exploring the whole place hiking and taking photographs if my husband was the one working. I like the Shrink’s advice to try it for one or two seasons. That’s a very sensible compromise. I hope he writes again and lets us know what happens!

Tom Fitch (@guest_44359)
4 years ago
Reply to  Sue

I agree! What a great opportunity to get to learn about a new place. Hubby could split his time between the park and their home, or, stay the whole time at the park and enjoy all it has to offer. Very cool opportunity here that doesn’t come up for many people in their lifetimes.

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