Making the Most of an Extended Work-camping Stay

A lodge in the Tetons

A lodge in the Tetons

Sometimes I get customers at my checkout line who think working at Yellowstone National Park must be about the neatest thing ever, but sometimes their comments are at the other end of the spectrum – how sad it must be to live in a park but have to work all the time.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. Given the choice I wouldn’t work full-time while I travel, but it’s so much better than working full-time while living in an apartment like I use to. There’s no way I could afford even a month inside a national park if I wasn’t working there given how expensive the campgrounds are, so for me the pros outweigh the cons. Those of us who spend a whole summer in a park will get to know it in a way that vacationers never will.

And one really great thing about my current employer, it’s not full-time. It’s a 30 hour week, and you’d be surprised how much of a difference those ten extra hours a week make.

But it is true that about this time of the summer (12 weeks in) that the travel itch sets in. Having close to three years of full-timing experience under my belt I’ve come to the conclusion that for a work-camping job, three months is about the ideal maximum stay for me.

Unfortunately, summer national park jobs run longer than three months. Ah well, it could be a lot worse. If you’re working a 40 hour week or a longer season than you would prefer, there are things you can do to keep it feeling like a working vacation instead of just another full-time job.

West Thumb geyser basin

West Thumb geyser basin

Make a list of things you want to see and do in the area during your stay. It’s easy when you’ve been in a place for a while to lose interest in exploring as the day in-day out humdrum of everyday living sets in. Don’t lose that spark, ask the locals for advice on things to see and do in the area and spread your list out through the season to keep things fresh.

Organize your week so that you have plenty of time off for fun. When I’m working full-time, I make sure I get my chores done on weekdays whenever possible, so that my weekend is completely open to get out and see the sights. You may prefer to do all of your chores on the weekend so that you have some time every day for shorter trips closer to your home base, it’s a matter of preference. The big thing is, don’t spend it just parked in front of the TV or surfing online.

On top of Mount Washburn

On top of Mount Washburn

Do something small regularly that reminds you of why you started traveling in the first place. Even on busy work days it’s usually possible to squeeze in a half-hour or so to set up my chair outdoors and enjoy reading my kindle while soaking in the sights of Yellowstone around my camp. It may not be a grand adventure, but it’s something that really drew me to RVing. Other ideas include taking a walk around the campground, a quick campfire, or visiting other campers in the club house.

Hold on to Spontaneity. One of the big benefits of full-time RVing is the degree of flexibility and spontaneity this lifestyle allows for, and one good way to keep an extended stay from feeling like you’re back in the rat race is to refrain from trying to schedule every hour of your day. Leave some breathing room for opportunities that may pop up. For instance, trips with coworkers, picking a random restaurant to eat at, or getting in your vehicle and driving without a destination in mind.

So when customers ask me what it’s like to work seasonally I tell them the truth: It’s a heck of a lot more fun than I had working stationary! Do any of you work-campers have tips you’d like to add? Do any of you dreamers have questions you’d like to ask?

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Double rainbow over the employee complex

Double rainbow over the employee complex

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