You may have noticed, or read a few articles, about how difficult it is to find a monthly RV space on short notice these days. I say “short notice” because that is how we roll. I wouldn’t call it procrastination, but more of a learned behavior.
It never fails. If we make plans more than two months in advance, the plans always change. This is mainly because we are not retired and the nature of our work requires us to be somewhere at least a week before we know it is worth sticking around.
But the past couple of years have added a new set of rules.
Sites are hard to find. Is work camping a solution?
A couple of years ago we were evacuated from a wildfire in southeast Oregon. We left our great camp spot and headed up towards the Columbia River near The Dalles. It was the end of summer, near Labor Day, and empty spots were hard to find.
We ended up in a state-managed campground but had to move the trailer every two or three days to stay any length of time.
The host at that campground told the story of how she wanted to be in the area because her daughter and grandkids were nearby, and there were no available campsites in the area. So, she took this volunteer camp host position through Oregon State Parks to have somewhere to park for the summer and be near her family.
Then wildfires started in the Columbia River Gorge, and we were evacuated again. As we traveled, we noticed refugees from all over the region, who were lucky enough to have an RV, were filling up any available spots out of harm’s way.
We decided to keep rolling until we hit southern Utah for the winter. We lucked out and got the last spot normally reserved by snowbirds.
You can begin to see why reservations do not work for us.
Work camping positions lead to much more than just a place to park
This year we found ourselves taking on work camping positions to find not just a spot to park, but to be in a great spot to spend the summer. One was in the Northern Cascades of Washington, another on the Oregon Coast. When we work camp, we are basically working two jobs because we still do our freelance work.
We wanted to winter over in Oregon, but with all the wildfires in the West there were no sites available by the month anywhere along the I-5 corridor. California was still on fire, so we did not want to consider anything there.
RV park waitlists were hovering around 100, so we decided to head toward southern Arizona. They also have great rates for snowbirds in the fall and it was easy to get another work camping gig, mainly because the temps were still over 100° well into October.
Not all work camp positions are created equal
Volunteer positions for government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Reclamation can provide a variety of experiences. They are usually situated in beautiful settings with large sites, but many may not accommodate all larger rigs. And since these are mostly located in remote areas, there is usually no cell service or internet. Since we are not retired, those two requirements are important. When you volunteer, you are basically working to pay for your spot.
For federal volunteer opportunities, you can go to a single website: Vounteer.gov.
Many work camp positions require you to work 12 – 24 hours a week in exchange for your campsite without additional pay. Others offer minimum wage on hours worked above the cost of the campsite. If you are lucky, you can find a free campsite and get paid for all hours worked.
Be aware that some of these positions are 40 hours of strenuous work. Not quite what we were looking for…
Volunteering for nonprofit organizations
If you want to spend time helping others while getting a place to park, there are a few options. This is just a small sampling:
- Habitat for Humanity offers a program called RV Care-A-Vanners where you assist those in need in building a place they can call home. They also have a program that helps rebuild communities affected by a disaster.
- The American Red Cross has the DOVE (Disaster Operations Volunteer Escapees) program, which is a subgroup of the Escapees RV Club. Since 2003 they have recruited highly qualified Red Cross volunteers, with an RV, to help respond to disasters.
- Servants On Wheels Ever Ready (S.O.W.E.R) is a non-denominational working ministry. They work with a select group of non-profit Christian ministries.
As you can see, the opportunities are as varied as the needs of the full-timer.
With natural disasters increasing in size and regularity, combined with the increase of nomad workers entering the RV world, this issue can only be getting worse. But I still hold onto hope that there is a better way for us to stay out on the road and enjoy the life we love.