HEBER SPRINGS — Steve Anderson of Heber Springs told an audience at a Workamper Rendezvous that living in a motor home is a way to have a “phenomenal backyard.”
“Thousands of folks are out there doing it,” he said at the event on Oct. 23 in Heber Springs. “It’s the only way to see America.”
After at least a year of planning, Anderson and his wife sold their house made of “sticks and brick” to became full-time RVers in September. However, he was no novice to the lifestyle. He is president of Workamper News Inc., a publication that helps people who RV and want to find work while traveling. In making the lifestyle change, he said, he has turned over the day-to-day office operations to other family members in order to hit the road.
“We even let our 12-year-old, 19-pound cat be adopted by the people who bought the house,” he said. However, the cat and family relationship didn’t work out, and now the cat has become an office cat, he said.
License plates on the cars and motor homes in the lot at the Heber Springs Community Center where the rendezvous was being held reflected a U.S. map. The 135 or so attending were from Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina, as well as Wisconsin, Washington and Oregon.
Anderson, serving as one of nine guest speakers, gave a presentation titled Living Your RV Dream: The Lifestyle You Want.
“The majority of you are dreamers,” he said. RV-ing full time, he said, is not for everyone. To do it, one must have a “burning desire, an itch you keep scratching at, but it continues to itch.”
He suggested that at least a one-year planning period be
implemented prior to becoming a full-time RVer. If an RVer has a partner, the first step is to make sure both partners want the traveling lifestyle. Coordinate time to sit down together and talk, as well as explore helpful websites and attend online seminars, he said.
The second step, Anderson said, is to develop a timeline that includes an exit strategy just in case one is not conducive to the lifestyle or there is a health issue.
The third step is for people to figure out what they are going to do with all of their “stuff.” Many people, he said, must have time to deal with their separation anxiety, placing their items in storage. The cost of storage units, he said, can mount up. On that note, he talked with the audience about alternatives, such as giving family heirlooms to other family members. More than once he remarked, “It is just stuff.”
One man said he has a couple of automobiles that he didn’t want to part with, so he placed them on loan to a museum.
Anderson continued to address issues. If you have a house to sell, he said, seek out a good real estate agent. Begin work with financial advisers who support your dream. If they don’t, he said, “Find a new one.”
“Describe the lifestyle with such passion you have them drooling,” he said.
Also, he said, find a broker or agent “who understands the lifestyle.”
Research and find out what one should know before purchasing an RV. On that note, he said, never pay the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.
“Some may believe that it is unfair to negotiate, but that’s part of the fun, folks,” he said. It may tend to be stressful but is part of the process. There should be at least “10 volleys,” he said, jokingly, involved with every purchase.
When considering health insurance, make sure policy holders are covered out on the road, and make sure motor-home insurance is appropriate for the vehicle’s use.
He stressed that experience versus education can be costly in making the lifestyle change. RV-ing full time, he said, can be expensive, and some may need extra income. If that is the case, Anderson said, by the seventh month, marketing should begin. Learn how to market yourself, he said, conveying to an employer that “they don’t just need you. They are going to want you.”
That is where Workamper News comes in handy, he said. It provides information and assistance in matching workers with employers. Workampers, he said, are representative of all walks of life and contract for work while camping. Workampers combines part-time or full-time paid or volunteer work with RV camping. They generally receive compensation in the form of a free campsite, usually with free utilities and additional wages. Positions are at campgrounds, resorts, amusement parks and state parks, as well as U.S. Army Corps of Engineer locations, national monuments and more.
The hourly pay of a Workamper ranges from minimum wage to $12 per hour.
“You can’t expect to make six digits,” he said.
One key to finding a job that works, he said, is marketing. Part of that process, he said, is developing a resume — a process Workamper News also helps to develop.
He makes references to “furry friends.” Ninety percent of Workampers have pets, he said, yet not every employer or camp accepts pets, especially certain breeds.
“You’ve got to be clear and up-front here,” he said.
The interview process should be a two-fold process, Anderson said. The employer will ask questions, he said, but the worker should also interview the employer to see “if they are going to provide you with what you want.” Make a list and ask questions, he added.
“You don’t want to drive 1,800 miles across several states to find out your RV will not fit on the camper pad,” he said.
Linda McLain of Washington state, a retired postal employee with 23 years of service, was in the audience. She RVs full time, crossing the country in her 40-foot motor home while pulling a car behind it. This winter, she plans to work at an RV park in Louisiana.
With a year of the lifestyle under her belt, she said, one of the best pieces of advice she offers to anyone thinking about RV-ing is to plan ahead regarding every decision. She is already planning two years out for jobs. She said she has contracted for a job in 2015 in New Hampshire.
“I love it — that’s all I can say,” she said. “It’s the best thing I did for myself.”