One Year with No Corporate Money

If you have been reading from the beginning, you know I had serious doubts about whether this lifestyle was financially viable for us.  Pretty early on I saw lots of examples of people who live full-time on very limited incomes. In fact, I just met a guy last week who lives on $2500 a month and boondocks 90% of the time. I was pretty honest about what our requirements and goals were, and I just wasn’t sure it was viable.  One year ago I received my last corporate check and I am pleased, and a little surprised, to report that we lived on what we made, and actually had $2500 to spare. Not bad.

And that year was full of travel.  We saw amazing things in Canada and Alaska, and our last few weeks have been full of adventures in the Arizona area.  The year was also full of work to keep things going and it was often strenuous work.  We worked 40 days at the Beet Harvest with just a couple of days off.  We worked 6 weeks straight selling Christmas trees with only Thanksgiving and Christmas days off, and 79 days straight gate guarding.  Not only did we work numerous days we also worked long shifts.  Twelve hour days at beets, 10-12 hours at Trees, and 24/7 during gate guarding.  The jobs were often physically demanding, and almost always outside in the weather, but they also had an element of challenge to them, and mostly I was rarely bored.  That’s no small thing. But as you have seen, those jobs were pretty much all encompassing (camp hosting aside) and allowed little time or energy for anything else.  That would be OK if we made enough at the jobs to cover our costs for some free time before and after, but most of our free time was spent primarily getting to the next job.  Not that there weren’t things to see along the way, but there is a big difference between taking your time getting to an area and driving relatively long hours every day because of the schedule.

This five weeks is the longest break we have had in a year, and despite efforts to keep costs down, money is flying out the window.  When you work this much it’s tempting to go a little crazy on your off time, and that time starts to feel more like a traditional vacation, albeit a pretty long one.  So basically the last year has not looked much like our original goal of work a little, play a little.  Not that it has been bad by any means, but there has been much more work and much less play.  It still holds up favorably to our life prior to going on the road though.  There is less financial pressure, generally less work stress, and a certain level of relaxation and freedom that we did not experience before. (My view is that we worked for a year, and got a five week vacation. Most people don’t get five weeks of vacation in a year. – Lee) 

All that being said, the question of whether this is sustainable long term for us is still open.  We have absolutely proven to ourselves that we can earn enough to live on the road indefinitely, but there isn’t enough extra money to cover capital expenses.  If we need a major repair, want to take a vacation, give money to our kids, or take extensive time off, that is coming out of our savings.  And although we are proud of the fact we haven’t dipped into savings as of yet, this week in Vegas, our upcoming Mor-Ryde upgrade, and a trip we are planning for Lee’s birthday will all come from there.  We have $40K in money set aside for both shortfalls in our annual budgets and capital expenditures and at this rate we can make that money last a very long time, but it is incredibly unlikely we can make it stretch for 17 years until I am eligible for social security.

So where does that leave us?  We have two major options.  One is that we can significantly change the way we live to reduce costs even further. Some people purchase property to have a “home base” of sorts to sit in once in a while to keep costs down.  Others have found jobs that work for them and return to the same places year after year.  Still others boondock the majority of the time and live as financially austere a life as they can manage.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of those choices, and we have watched with great interest as friends have explored those choices.  It also really makes sense for people who are close to retirement age and just need to bridge a couple of years until their retirement funds are available.  For us, at 48 and 50, I tend to take a longer view.  Since I can’t even imagine transitioning back into a sticks and bricks life at this point, we need to find a way to earn enough income long-term and because the number one thing I like about this lifestyle is the travel, we need to find a way to support that.

Luckily both of us bring pretty varied skill sets to the equation.  We both spent many years becoming educated in our particular fields and those skills don’t just go away.  Yes, there is a concern that allowing too much time to pass without using those skills with cause some atrophy, but hopefully to a certain extent it will be like riding a bike.  The larger concern for both of us is how quickly technology and techniques change.  It’s important to “keep a hand in” and stay up to date on what is happening in our fields, so those options always remain open for us.   I guess my point here is if you are younger and plan on doing this, as tempting as it is to want to completely walk away from your former profession, I wouldn’t recommend it.  You never know when you might need a chunk of cash and workamping jobs are not really a sure fire way to get there.  Part of the problem is many of them are 1099 jobs, so a higher tax burden is called for.  Others have variable seasons and most importantly the overtime (where the real money is) can vary from year to year.

A great example of that is what is happening at Amazon.  Last year the supply of workampers was so high that overtime was significantly reduced from previous seasons.  This year they have eliminated the Texas location altogether, so many folks who relied on that infusion of cash need to find alternative work.  Gate guarding prices dropped from $300 a day a few years ago to $125 a day when oil prices went down and the beet harvest varies every single year based on weather and the amount of crop. (Gate guarding rates are definitely going back up as oil prices rise, however. I see postings for immediate positions every day that pay $200-250 per day. – Lee)   None of these relatively high paying workamper jobs are a sure thing, which works fine if you are simply looking to supplement outside income, but not so great if that makes up a significant portion of your income each year.  There are other choices of course, and we will continue exploring them, but I think it’s fair to say that no workamping job is going to come close to what we can make in our previous professions.

So the question is for everyone, what do you want? And it’s a great question to be able to have some choice in answering.  Most of us in our old lives rarely got to decide what we wanted because our sticks and bricks lifestyle was driven by necessity more than choice. It’s wonderful having so many choices, it really is, and it makes the idea on reentering the professional work force much more palatable.  Because we have proven to ourselves we can live this way, now it is a matter of what do we want.  It’s still complicated of course.  Logistics, timing, Lee’s priorities versus mine, all come into play, but we can take our time and modify how we are living in a way that makes sense for us.  Nothing is an emergency, and that is a really, really good feeling. In a nutshell, this last year has honestly gone better than I ever imagined it would.  I am calmer, more centered, and way more comfortable with our ability to support ourselves in this lifestyle.  Working all these unusual jobs has proven what I am capable of in a completely different way than my career progression did. And it’s a good thing. I don’t regret one single minute of it, not even the Christmas trees, because I learned so much about myself.  With that foundation I am ready to make my next set of choices and I really hope that journey continues to be of interest to everyone.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

What Am I Doing With My Life?

Over the past several weeks I have given the impression to many readers that this is the perfect job for me.   It isn’t, and knowing there was a misconception has weighed heavily on me as I have tried to figure out how to write about how I have been feeling, without being disrespectful to my employer.  I’ve never felt it was appropriate to write on social media about problems with a job, and since in this case that job is also tied up with completely personal feelings about my life changes it’s even more difficult to sort it all out.  Since I have been here a month, I am going to give this a try though, for two main reasons.  First, I have always written this blog with the goal of providing information.  I write the blog I wish I could have read.  Second, I use it as a form of self therapy.  When I am struggling I share what I am feeling, because the process of writing it down helps me to clarify where I am emotionally, and when I am lucky it helps me figure out what to do about it. I have always been somewhat cautious about writing about work aspects, trying to stay on the positive side, and hoping folks could read between the lines on the more negative aspects. Striking that balance was easier to some extent when I had a corporate job on the road because that was a huge and largely faceless corporation.  It is much more difficult in these circumstances.  All that being said I have come to the point where I feel I need to give this a try.  Partly because of comments I have received about previous posts and partly out of concern that the beautiful pictures from our days off will completely skew the readers perspective on this experience.

First of all, it’s a perfectly nice campground and Alaska in general is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  I have limited experience working in a campground, but I think the environment here is typical of what we will find in campgrounds in general (with the notable exception being we don’t have any seasonal campers here which I have seen does change things).  Most campgrounds are small businesses. They have limited funds, are designed to maximize profit in a relatively short period of time, and use the work kamper force to fill a temporary labor need.   The work is generally divided into male/female roles, with the man doing maintenance work and the woman doing office work and/or cleaning. For Lee this has been great.  He is given a list of projects, and allowed a large amount of freedom throughout the day to complete those tasks.  Once he proved to them that he knew what he was doing, they have largely left him alone and have been very generous in their praise for what he has accomplished.  It’s well deserved as he really has a terrific skill set for this type of work, and largely it is a good fit for his personality, although I should mention that if you are a guy and not mechanically inclined by nature this could definitely be a struggle.  My job, on the other hand, is helping guests, administrative tasks, and baking for the three “free dessert nights” each week.  After the initial training and reorganizing this involves a significant amount of downtime.  I really enjoy helping the guests, and since they tend to come in batches throughout the day those busy moments come the closest to how I used to feel in my previous professional position. The downtime however has been more difficult.  I have tried to fill this time with small maintenance tasks outside that are located near the office, but to do anything more complicated requires someone else watch the office which negates my primary function.  The office tasks can easily be done by either of the owners (not all maintenance tasks could be), so the value I provide is primarily relieving them of the need to do it themselves.  Lee on the other hand routinely saves them money by performing tasks that they would need to hire an expensive outside professional to perform.  So in a nutshell I am performing a task of low value with lots of downtime.  Historically not a great combination for me.

I have never been a person who just punched a clock.  Whether I was pumping gas when I was 18, or running multi-million dollar projects in my 40’s, I rarely phoned it in.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m human and certainly had my slacker days, but I can honestly say almost every day of my life I have felt that I have given more than I received in a work environment and I liked it that way. Add to that I was mostly lucky enough to work jobs that I felt passionate about, and my jobs ended up being a huge part of my feelings of accomplishment in life. Between working, raising three kids, and completing my education, I always had plenty of activities that both kept me busy and made me feel good about myself.  Looking back on that period, I feel almost exhausted by the pace of it all, but as exhausting as it often was I rarely felt adrift.  As a massive overachiever I put myself in positions where I knew my value and felt confident in what I was contributing, both personally and professionally.  It’s as if I was working from an invisible “success” checklist and I was checking all the boxes.   Occasionally during a brief “down” period I might start to feel restless, and then  I would amp up my workload in one of the three pillars of my life.  Take extra classes, volunteer for an assignment at work, or get more involved in my kids’ lives (which I am sure in retrospect they were thrilled about) and I would feel like I was back in the “win” column.  This also had the dual benefit of reducing the amount of time I had for self- reflection (which I have no doubt was subconsciously intentional) and my personal equilibrium such as it was would be restored.

What’s truly interesting to me is how when I wasn’t working at all how this was largely a non-issue.   I was very close to being content and we filled our time with lots of travel, friends, and personal hobbies to the point where those things in a way became my job.  I loved blogging more frequently and the experiences that fed into the content were very precious to me.  Plus the travel pace we  set for ourselves certainly kept me very distracted.  Now, with lots of time in one place, and lots of time to think,  I am evaluating what I am doing with my life. Lee says that is a pretty dramatic way to put it, and maybe it is, but that is the question that pops into my mind at least once a day.  The mental tone of that question varies depending on my feelings in the moment (sometimes derogatory, sometimes merely quizzical), but the core of it remains the same and it needs to be answered.

I do have this vague list of things that I wanted to get to someday;  write a book, travel, learn to do something artistic, and in the past that list was mostly placed on hold to deal with the more immediate needs.  But now there is no immediate need, and the only thing standing in the way is my fear.  It’s ironic that here I am with more time (and to some extent resources) than I have had in my entire adult life, and I am struggling.  All that choice is somewhat scary, and actually trying things opens yourself up to the possibility of failing at them. For all of my hard work, to be honest I never was what I could consider a brave and adventurous person. Diving into something I knew little about was always extremely intimidating and somewhat painful.  There were some moments of bravery of course, but these were almost always attached to a necessary step in my career path, marriage, or parenthood. Even this lifestyle, which is arguably one of the bravest things I have ever done, was directly related in my mind to my maintaining my marriage.  I could look ahead and see what our marriage might look like long-term if we didn’t make a major change, and this lifestyle seemed like a good next step.  I have said many times, and absolutely know it to be true, that left to my own devices I would never have had the courage or frankly the imagination to do something like this. But Lee did, the timing worked out well, and here we are.

The last couple of years has been a flurry of activity.  Keeping my existing job and then leaving that job, adjusting to and learning how to live in this life, and dealing with both “empty nest” and learning how to manage family relationships from afar has kept me pretty busy.  Add to that some wonderful new friendships and at times what felt like an unrelenting pace, and there wasn’t much time to sit back and really think about what I was doing.  Well, that’s not exactly fair, I spent tons of time reflecting, you’ve all been privy to some of those thoughts through posts and my friends have been privy to so much more, but the reflecting was largely about dealing with the moment or near future.  Overall, I know the last two years have been very good for me in so many ways. I have grown as a person, expanded my awareness of the world around me, and had experiences I could never have dreamed of. All of that made answering the question “What am I doing with my life?” pretty easy.  It was self evident.

Now things are different.  For the summer at least, we have settled in and settled down, except those feelings of being settled are mainly making me feel unsettled.  I’ve always been contrary like that.  The job is largely fine, but certainly not enough for me to completely throw myself into. At least one day off a week is pretty amazing, and the fact that we managed to make it to Alaska at all is still pretty amazing, although the realities of limited services, small town living, and being held to one place do mitigate that some.  And of course there is just day-to day living; cooking, cleaning, sleeping, shopping, all take some time.  This is where it gets interesting.  I recognize that many, many people would be perfectly content, maybe even most people.  Life is just life, and those rare and small moments of absolute wonder are more than they need to feel content.  That has just never been who I am, and apparently the full time lifestyle has not really changed that.

I thought maybe at first that I was out of practice on how to relax.  Then I thought I needed constant activity, sort of like a junky needs their next fix, and over time that would change.  Maybe both of those things were true to a certain extent, but I have definitely learned how to just “be” in the last two years.  Not that I don’t still stray into the melodramatic and high strung areas on occasion, I haven’t changed that much, but I truly do know how to just exist, and I have made huge strides in learning to live in the moment. And having experienced those things I can truly say, at least for right now, that it isn’t enough for me.  I’ve met plenty of people who it is more than enough for, to the point where I thought maybe I wasn’t doing it right, but after a ton of thought that’s just not who I am and never has been.  That may change as I get older or do this longer, but for right now I really need to own where I am and who I am.  Actually, what has made me feel OK about that is my relationship with the Xscapers group.  They are a group of RVrs who are largely Gen X and Millennials and their approach to this lifestyle is very different than those who are retired.  Almost all of them know they have to generate revenue of some sort, and most are finding a way to do that on their terms.  I admire that. I don’t always get it, to be honest, but I admire it. But I definitely feel that that is where I ultimately need to end up, if I am capable of it.

As a person who is on the very top of the Gen X age range it is easy to look at the younger generation and think “Wait until life teaches them different.”  I know I have certainly been guilty of that. But the more I experience this lifestyle, the more I think they have some things right.  They seem to take more risks, and in general accept failure as a natural consequence of doing so.   Money isn’t the main driving factor, something I share in philosophy, but they also don’t seem to allow fear of not having money drive the bulk of their choices.  This is an area I have been sorely lacking in, although I am coming to this mindset later in life. Plus, there is just this quirky, fun outlook that I really appreciate.  Nowhere is this more evident than a Facebook group I am involved in called RV Interiors.  The page is largely a group of younger people who have bought old, old rigs and are gutting them, and recreating them in their own image.  The before and after pictures are striking, and what’s even more impressive to me is that many people are living in these rigs. They decided what they wanted, worked within their financial means, and created something really beautiful and unique.  They didn’t seem to spend tons of time creating the perfect circumstance to pursue their dreams, they just jumped in and figured it out.  There is a lot for me to learn in that.

So to get back to the original point, “What am I doing with my life?”, well I know it needs to be something more.  I need to work at something that has intrinsic value to me, and if I am lucky that thing will also generate some revenue.  To achieve that I have to take risks, and most importantly, I have to learn to accept failure with grace.

Choose a thing, be prepared to fail, and try another, and hopefully along the way discover my passion. At almost 50 I would say its about time.

To end on a positive note, I have been waiting a month to receive some sort of customer review for our work here, and here is the first one we have seen, on Trip Advisor.  Definitely worth the wait, and I was glad to see that despite my personal turmoil we are getting it done and having a positive impact on the guest experience.

Camphost Review1

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links as they support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here


 

First Time Without a Steady Paycheck

This morning I received my last payment from my former employer, and for the first time in my adult life neither of us will have a steady paycheck coming in.  It is the moment I was absolutely terrified of two years ago, and it marks the start of what I consider the third phase of our full timing life, so I think it’s worth stopping for a moment and writing about it.

The first phase of full timing for us was when I had my corporate job on the road.  In retrospect I am extremely grateful for my job the first year because it gave me continuity during a period of extreme change.  We were also able to focus on adapting to the lifestyle without the additional complication of needing to make money immediately.  Not that money wasn’t a huge part of what we discussed that year.  I couldn’t be comfortable without knowing the life was sustainable and obviously money is a huge part of that.  Still the conversations, although intense, were largely academic as I kept plugging along in my regular job.  Plus it proved to me that the life was absolutely possible for us.  We worked through so many things, how we traveled, where we traveled, who we saw when we traveled.  The list is endless and throughout it all I had this solid foundation which I will always be grateful for.

But, it was limiting.  I had to be near an airport.  I had to have almost constant cell and data coverage.  All of our exploration had to be done on weekends or vacation days.  So when the opportunity came along to accept a buy-out, I held my breath and we entered phase two.  The second phase has been the last five months of travel with a steady paycheck coming in, and volunteering or short jobs to supplement.  And despite my concerns about being bored or constantly worried,  the last five months have been fantastic.  If you have been following along, you have seen the pictures of the places we have been and heard about what we have done and it really has been spectacular.  So the second phase proved to me that we could definitely live this lifestyle with a fixed income and supplement with volunteering or work on the road.

As fun as that was though, fixed income is not our reality, so the third phase will be about proving to ourselves that we can live life on the road and make money as we go.  We have done a ton of research and put together plans, and yes, there are corporate/consulting jobs available for me, but those would require a significant amount of travel or time in one place, and at this point we are not quite ready to settle back into that.  It’s good to know it is an option, and may very well be our phase four, but for right now we would like to continue to move around and make money as we go from place to place.

What does that look like?  Well, that’s a great question, and to help people who are trying to do something similar, I am going to lay the finances out for everyone.  Although this is my life, it is also an experiment of sorts to see if/how long we can live under these circumstances.  It is very important to view this information in the context that it is specific to Lee and Tracy.  If there is one thing I have learned along the way, it’s that truly every couple is different, especially when it comes to what they choose to spend their money on, and what they are willing to do to make money.  So why bother sharing the specifics then if we are all so different?  Mainly because I wish I could have read it from someone else before we started.  Although everyone’s experience is unique, hopefully there will be takeaways from the information that will help other people. Plus I have found my readers to be a pretty kind bunch.  I don’t get a lot of “Monday morning quarterbacking” from folks, for which I am really grateful.  So basically I think I can trust you all enough to share the specifics of this next phase and you will continue to be kind as we make our almost certain mistakes along the way.

So let me lay it out.  We have $33,746 in “operating income” to start the next phase.  I call it operating income, because we decided early on in the planning stages to not hold ourselves accountable to making what we spent every month but to work off a fund which would go up and down as income and expenses occurred.  In addition to this money we have $10K in an “emergency contingency” fund and we have agreed if/when we hit that amount we will stop and get some kind of regular steady income until the funds are replenished.  Based on our 1-1/2 years of budget tracking we have a rough idea of how long that will last us, but it is very rough because this next phase is going to look very different.  Our full timing lives to this point  have largely been about going where we wanted when we wanted and that is going to change.  Our travels will be centered around where we can live cheaply and/or make money and our day-to-day existence will probably look somewhat different because of that.

Our plan as of this moment is for Lee to do some video work at the RV-Dreams rally the first week of May, then we immediately head to Alaska for a 5 month work kamping stint in Glenallen. The work kamping will be 40 hours a week for both of us (It was our choice to work a full work week as opposed to the typically much shorter work week associated with work kamping gigs, to make the trip there and back affordable) and will hopefully also involve RV Tech work for Lee and a second job in the evenings for me. This will be the first time for us on the road that we have been in a place for five months and it will look very different from the frequent traveling we have done in the past.  After Alaska we have tentatively signed up for the Sugar Beet Harvest and we will be working 3-6 weeks (7 days a week, 12 hour days) depending on the weather.  I haven’t stood on my feet for 12 hours a day since I was in my early 20’s, but the money is great and our health is good and it is a surefire way to replenish our resources if Alaska is more costly than we think it will be.  Our plans for the winter are tentative, but the current front-runner is a stint in Las Vegas or Phoenix where Lee can do production work and I can hopefully find a short contract in my field. The post-Alaska plan is definitely a rough one, and will be replaced with other opportunities if they arise, but I wanted everyone to know we do have a plan and are certainly not just winging it and hoping for the best.  That is really not in my nature!

After that things get really vague, and I am learning to live with that.  Part of the advantage of this next lifestyle phase is freedom and flexibility and Lee is not in any big hurry to give those advantages away.  Fair enough.  I need to learn to live with more ambiguity to give this a fair chance. The question isn’t “Is it possible?”, by the way.  There are enough people full timing this way that I know it can be done.  The question is “Are we willing to live like that?”  At this point I have absolutely no idea, but am willing to give it a fair shot.  I am also surprisingly sanguine about trying it and moving on to Phase four if necessary.

When we first started the lifestyle, I was so far out of my comfort zone that my competitive nature kicked in as a defense mechanism.  I wanted to “win” full timing.  Not to be better than anyone else, but to make myself feel better.  Silly really, but understandable in retrospect.  I took all the things I learned from other people’s lives and cobbled together my perfect picture of full timing.  I then attacked achieving that with all of my energy and intensity.  Somewhere along the line I had a moment where I realized that the image I had created wasn’t realistic.  I’d love to say I took responsibility for creating the image in the first place with grace, but that would be a lie.  I was angry.  Really angry, that after all the research and all the hard work I still couldn’t create that perfect image.  As my very good friend Dave said so eloquently, “Once you truly accept that full timing is real life and not a continuous vacation, which is a bitter pill to swallow, you can move forward into something real.”

That was so very true and I think everyone comes to that moment at different times and in different ways.  Once I accepted it though, I could stop trying to win and instead try to live my life to the fullest.  What does that look like in phase three?  I don’t really know, but I promise I will be as honest about the journey as I can, and as always thanks so much for listening and caring.  We have a lot of people rooting for us and we are truly grateful for that!

(Personally I think it will all end in tears. – Lee)

———————————————————————————————————————————

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links as they support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here

Re-establishing the Work/Life Balance

These thoughts have been rattling around in my head for a couple of days, and since it’s another early morning I am going to try to write them out. You would think that now that I don’t have a corporate job and a Monday-Friday schedule establishing work/life balance would be easy.  I certainly envisioned that a life without that schedule would be much easier to manage.  In some respects it certainly is; the travel days are so much easier, I don’t have the constant pressure of needing a cell connection absolutely all the time, and we don’t have to cram all the fun stuff we want to do into just the weekends.  But, as someone who is used to a rigorous schedule it is a bit of an adjustment, because here we are in this beautiful place and there is still work to do.  So we have to figure out when. And it is complicated by having another person to work through it with.  It’s no surprise that I like a more formal schedule than Lee does.  I want to look at every day and say “Let’s work until X time and then go see things” and  Lee would rather work until he is ready to stop and then decide what to do. I understand rationally that his approach makes perfect sense, but it offends my Midwestern sensibilities somehow. But I am not the boss of him and although sometimes I get itchy with the desire to project manage his day, it’s incredibly important that I don’t. The reasons for that one should be obvious.

I need to take my own advice here and sort myself out first, so here is what I have been doing with my time.  Finding work is work as anyone who has ever looked for a job knows, and a few hours every day need to be applied to that task.  First, I spent  a considerable amount of time working on foundation items to start our three businesses (business cards, resumes, websites, etc) and now I am working on marketing and job searching.  Since I haven’t done a ton of job research over the years this has required some education on my part.  For example Career.com was the place to go the last time I seriously was looking and now it’s Indeed.com, which didn’t even exist the last time I job searched. Unfortunately,  these job sites’ search engines aren’t very helpful when looking for contract, temporary, or freelance work.  Finally, after some research, I broke down and paid $50 for a yearly subscription to FlexJobs.com. Basically for $50 a year they sort through all the ads and weed out any company that is not reputable plus provide a search engine specifically designed for folks looking for short-term work.  If you are a master of internet searching, you certainly won’t need this site, but I breathed a sigh of relief when I found it, because it is saving me a ton of time.

Simultaneously I am researching consulting firms and sending out my resume.  Many companies hire contract workers though larger firms and they have databases of resumes and will search for skill set matches to meet their clients’ needs.  Many specialize in certain types of work so finding reputable ones that need skills sets like yours can be a little tricky.  I reached out to my professional network for these companies and also looked for jobs that were interesting, and then backtracked to the firms managing those positions and put my resume on their site.  In the notes section, I made it clear I was looking for short term assignments and completely mobile because they will use my Florida address and think I am only available for jobs in Florida, which is obviously not the case.  I also have set up my consulting business and Lee’s video business on two freelance sites, Guru.com and Upworks.com. These sites are particularly designed for freelancers who bid on smaller projects and initially seem like a great way to get “filler” work.  It takes a significant amount of time to build a portfolio on these site, however, and since I was doing it for two businesses the work was double.  Once that is done you have to look very carefully at what folks want, the descriptions are often vague, and then put together a proposal.  In Lee’s case in particular I need to be extremely careful when writing bids to not inadvertently commit his time for too little money as the time it takes to edit can vary greatly based on the amount of raw footage.  So, I am proceeding VERY cautiously with these two sites, but I do think they are an important part of our overall strategy. Finally, I read the Work Kamper news bulletins religiously. Combining outside work with a work kamping job is absolutely the most cost effective strategy, but it requires some luck and major coordination.  Thus far we have let the work kamping jobs and family commitments drive where we have stayed, but going forward that will probably flip and the work opportunities will drive the itinerary with work kamping jobs being picked up wherever possible to reduce costs.

Sound unpleasant?  Well, it can be, especially when you are trying to figure out a website that is not particularly user friendly and to add to that I have never been great at marketing, and it’s been a bit of a struggle.  Also, don’t forget we have regular life as well.  Meals to cook, dishes to wash, and Lee has been working on several home projects that simply need to be done before we hit Quartzsite.  (He added several new outlets yesterday, including a 12 volt outlet for my fan in the bedroom so I can get to sleep when we’re boondocking).  We need to plan travel days and research travel day campgrounds.  Although we have gotten better at managing those tasks, they still can take a chunk of time, in particular when we are driving through challenging terrain.  Along with regular life stuff,  I’ve also been working on this website,  trying to clean up some of the pages.

Which brings me to monetizing this website.  All along folks have talked to me about the possibility of monetizing the website.  I steadfastly said I wouldn’t even think about it until my first year was done.  Well, here we are at the end of the first year and I had to keep that promise to myself.  First of all I don’t generate the type of traffic that could make this site a significant revenue stream (over 500 unique visitors a month or 10,000 hits) and even if I did, I am not sure how I would feel about it.  As I have said in the past, I write this blog to help people.  I write the blog I wish I could have read when I started.  I am in no way an expert in this lifestyle, actually the opposite, which is kind of the whole point, so if anything I think of myself as a story teller.  I tell my story and if it helps, great, if not, well at least it helps me just by writing it. So I thought about adding a “Tip Jar” thinking I could put one out there just like I was playing guitar on the street and folks could “virtually” throw in a dollar or two.  Before doing something like that though I wanted to get the VOC (Voice of the Customer, or reader, in this case) and asked a close friend, Lee, and a reader who doesn’t know me personally at all for their feedback.  It was very negative from all three and all three said it could “turn people off.”  Since that is absolutely last thing I would want to do, I started to look into banner ads.  It turns out that since I use WordPress, which I like very much because of the ease of formatting and excellent Spam filter,  the only banner advertising they allow is their own.  I would only consider banner advertising if it was a product I personally approved and a reputable company, so that was completely out.  I do own my website domain and if I wanted to I could leave Word Press but that would be a ton of work and again I really am comfortable with the Word Press format.  So that leaves me with being an Amazon AssociateCamper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

As a side note  I also found a few recipes and Lessons Learned I never put on their respective pages along the way and fixed that and made sure the campground reviews and major milestones pages were completely up to date.  Hey if you are going to re-look at every single post, might as well double check everything!!  It took a day and a half, but I am glad it is all done!!)

So at this point you are probably thinking “why is she writing about all of this?” First and foremost I write about my life and this decision was a big deal to me.  Many things in my life are different now and this blog and writing about my experiences helps keep me grounded.    Plus it does take a chunk of my time.  I spent hours on the yearly updates and updating all the links took over 8 hours.  Since time is a precious commodity I needed to think about whether this time was well spent.  I never want to be a person that just writes about life and doesn’t live it, so I need to balance this time with revenue generating time and living life time.  Finally, I think many people feel they will write a blog and make enough money to supplement the lifestyle. There are lots of blogs out there and the ones that generate money in the RVing world are a small subset of the total.   From what I am seeing the people that make some income from a blog also have something  special and unique to offer.  Technomadia has their internet and cell phone expertise, Paul and Nina from Wheeling It offer financial management support and detailed campground reviews, Kyle Hensen offers RVer insurance information, and Howard and Linda from RV-Dreams  offer budgets and all around support for people who are interested in the lifestyle.  All  of them have spent years on the road and massive amounts of time building the knowledge and materials required for their particular expertise.  They provide a valuable service and deserve to be compensated for it.  If you want to read a great blog post on the pros and cons of blogging check out Nina’s post on the subject here When I look at myself I think,   I am new at the lifestyle, have no particular area of expertise, and really, I am just telling a story as truthfully as I can.  I hope its a good story and who knows where it will ultimately lead, but for right now I am thrilled that people read at all and are so wonderfully supportive in their comments. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be happy if people click on a link and buy something we recommended, but if that never happens that’s ok too.  Alright back to the important stuff.

I have listed all the things I am working on mainly to show it’s a lot of stuff for someone who isn’t working a full time job anymore.  Add into that our work kamper hours, and hours spent actually working on jobs, and if we weren’t careful we could fill every day.  But the whole point of this is to see and experience things.  That’s why we travel and stay in beautiful places.  So on the other side of the equation is the amazing nature we are surrounded by.  It’s tough to stay inside and work when it’s all right outside the door. It is a constant balancing act and one we are still trying to get good at. And you may be thinking “boohoo, you have it so tough”.  And that would be fair.   The me from a year ago may have thought the same thing.  But let me show you in pictures what is a few miles down the road so you maybe you can understand why establishing a balance is a struggle.  With

views like these it can be hard to strike a balance!Y114Y125Y124Y168Y133Y123Y074

Y090

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Time without a “Regular” Job

Monday was my last day of working at a job I truly loved and had for 16 years.  I grew up professionally in the company, and a large portion of my adult life was devoted to my career there.  A year ago when we decided to go on the road I thought for sure I would have to quit.  Traveling in an RV was an unusual choice and although much of my work was done remotely, or with fly-in business trips, I thought it was too “outside of the box” for my then boss to approve.  I was grateful and surprised though when he said I could travel anywhere on the east coast, as long as I was near an airport, had cell coverage, and internet access.  So, unlike many people, I had the opportunity to try this lifestyle while at the same time keeping my current job.  I am extremely grateful for that opportunity, because dealing with all of the change over the last year has been much easier with the consistency of a job I was comfortable in.  And striking a balance on the east coast was relatively easy, because we have many field offices there and finding cool places to stay while still being within a reasonable drive to an airport was not that difficult.   Lee and I both knew, however, that things would get much tougher when we headed out west.  There are longer travel days, more places with minimal or no cell coverage, and staying close to an airport can be much harder.  Shortly after we hit the road, I got a new boss, and he didn’t care where I was, as long as I could get to an airport, and still had cell and internet. That worked out just fine, and we were always able to meet those requirements without too much difficulty. We managed to make it work until we hit Glacier and it became clear to me that something had to give.

Just to be clear, many people travel and work corporate jobs very successfully in the West.  I know two people very well, who have struck a good balance and manage to see great things and still work.  For me though, the constant pressure of balancing enjoying the life and fully contributing to my job was coming to a head.  The nature of my job required me to be in constant contact via cell phone which ruled out many of the more remote locations that Lee wanted to experience.  I also never really felt like I was “off work” and  weekends and vacation were often full of work concerns. Lee, to his credit, allowed me plenty of time to work this out.  He never put pressure on me to choose, but he also wasn’t shy about talking about what he ultimately wanted this life to look like.  As a good partner,  he understood though that I would get there eventually and forcing the issue would only result in resentment on my part.

Simultaneously, I was thinking more and more about starting my own consulting company and what that would look like in this lifestyle.  I had toyed with the idea for many years, but with a mortgage and three kids in the house, I never had the courage to take that leap.  Now things were different.  We had minimal debt, it was just Lee and I, and one of the major drawbacks of consulting (the weekly travel to a location) could be somewhat mitigated by our ability to move our house to wherever the work was. I was under no illusions that consulting would solve everything.  I knew I would still need internet and cell, but it would give me more flexibility in my scheduling.  Plus, I was very excited about the opportunity to do the work I loved for other companies and in other industries. One of the best parts of my job is when I get to help people’s lives be a little better.  In a corporate job, those moments happen, but always on someone else’s terms.  Consulting would allow me to focus on work that could be meaningful.

In many people’s minds the decision would be a no brainer, but for me it was really difficult to walk away from a “perfectly good job”.  I was raised with a Midwestern work ethic and in that environment you don’t leave a job unless you have a really good reason.  Plus, I am risk averse by nature, and to be honest, super comfortable with the environment I was in.  I knew the rules, I had long term relationships, and a solid reputation as a person who gets things done.  To walk away from all that was difficult, no matter how attractive the alternative was.  So that’s where the situation stood until God/Universe opened a path for me.  The company offered a Voluntary Separation Package that provided salary and health insurance for a specific amount of time, along with a separation bonus.  The deal was the perfect amount, and came at the perfect time, so the choice seemed very clear to me.  That doesn’t mean it was easy to make the choice, but there was not a doubt in my mind that it was the right thing to do. So I signed the papers, and the last few weeks have been about saying goodbye.

That has been brutal, by the way.  You know when you leave a job that many of the people you have had daily contact with simply won’t be part of your life going forward, and because I was there for so long some of those people felt like family to me.  There definitely is a grieving process and feelings of loss. Loss of relationships, loss of identity, loss of security. It is not a small thing. I am very grateful for my support system, however.  People have been checking in with me and been great about acknowledging that this is a big deal and encouraging me to take my time dealing with it.  So that’s what I am trying to do, deal with it.

So here’s my approach, and I am  sharing this not because I think it will work for everyone, but in the hopes it might help someone.  First, I am not treating this time as a vacation.  Many people do, and that’s perfectly fine, but for me it’s important to spend some time every day working on my new life and business.  I am being very careful to strike a balance here and not overdue it, because that could easily turn into feelings of being panicked.  In my head, I know we will be fine. We are smart, driven people who work hard.  As Lee says, we have been through much tougher situations than this, with less skills.  Emotionally though, it’s hard not to give in to the fear.  It’s not rational fear, it’s not rooted in anything that’s real, but wow, is it powerful.  Knowing where it comes from, doesn’t really seem to help lessen its effect and as much as I would like to just move past it, I know it will take some time.   So in the interim I completed my consulting website,  www.tsperkinsconsulting.com,  if you are curious.  I updated my resume (thanks so much Cori for helping), I changed my Linked In profile, and I am reaching out to my professional network to let them know I am consulting now. Finally, I am writing this blog.  Saying things out loud lessens their power over you.  Knowing everyone goes through this experience sooner or later helps.  Knowing that people truly care helps.  Having Lee be so completely supportive helps. But ultimately, I understand that I have to work through this. I have to believe in myself.  I have to put my big girl panties on and own my choice.

Thanks for listening,

Trace

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here