Why We Quit a Camphosting Job

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Workcamping (working in exchange for an RV site) can be a great way to lower expenses while traveling. But sometimes the jobs just don’t work out. Our latest didn’t and here’s why.

It sounded idyllic.

Colorado in the summertime.

And not just anywhere in Colorado, but southwest Colorado. Mountains. Streams. Hiking. Gold mining history. Memories of favorite childhood trips.

We accepted a camphosting job at a private park in Durango, CO. We intended to stay the season - working from late April to early October. We ended up leaving a few days after the July 4th holiday.

What happened? I’ll get to that - but I want to paint a fair and complete picture.

Let’s talk about why we took this particular job and what went OK with it.

Why This Job?

Sites like:

are filled with workcamping and camphosting opportunities. What drew us to this job?

We took this particular job because:

  • We Knew the Park
    We stayed in this park during our first year of travel. We met the manager. It’s nicely set - just outside of town, on a scenic river, and filled with trees.
  • We Loved the Area
    I had vacations in SW Colorado as a child. We came back early in our marriage. It’s a gorgeous area that we wanted to explore more.
  • Miranda Could Work
    Not all camphosting positions can accomodate teens. This park had an ice-cream stand that Miranda could run for the summer.
  • The Committment Seemed Reasonable
    This park wanted 15 hours per week (with pay for extra hours worked) from Crissa and me in exchange for the site - less than other jobs we’ve done.
  • Our Finances Were Tight
    We had recently re-focused our business and were in the dip between projects - so camphosting offered a way to lower our bills for a time and make some spending money to boot.

What Went Well

This wasn’t totally an “OMG WHAT DID WE GET OURSELVES INTO!?” experience. Here’s what went well:

  • My Duties
    I liked what I was doing here moreso than any other workcamping we’ve done. I mostly took over the shop - fixing lawnmowers, pressure washers, and quadrunners.
  • The Location
    The location was nice. Nights were quiet and dark. The weather was way cooler than most of the region.
  • The Park
    The park IS nice. It isn’t “party central” even on holiday weekends. Campers mostly exit during the day to explore the area.
  • Miranda’s Job
    Yeah, she had a mishap or two, but overall the job of running the ice-cream stand went well. She earned tip money and showed responsibility in her work.
  • Park Wifi
    Early on, we gambled on the wifi and cancelled our aircard, using the park wifi instead. It was good enough for us to get by on. It got a little iffy our last week or so there (but in retropect I think it was my setup).
  • The Library
    The (beautiful) local library issued us cards and we enjoyed both checking out books and going into town for work and schooling sessions.
  • Our Fellow Camphosts
    We had a great crew of interesting, friendly, and hard-working camphosts. Getting to know them was a highlight of our stay.

What Went Wrong

The good wasn’t enough to overcome the bad, however. Here are the factors that ultimately led to us leaving the camphosting job before the end of the season:

  • MsBoyink’s Health
    Between allergies and the 7500’ elevation MsBoyink didn’t have great health here. She dealt with dizzy spells and vertigo. This was our primary reason for finally deciding to go.
  • The Schedule
    The work schedule was often not published until the day before it started - making it difficult for me to schedule business calls in advance. I was initially scheduled for way more than 15 hours per week. After correcting that I still got scheduled 9-2 on three weekdays per week - which cut into my “for-pay” work week too much. We requested to work weekends instead but it didn’t happen.
  • No Family Time
    Between the three of us, we were “on” 6 days a week - so had little time together as a family. There were so many places we wanted to daytrip to but never had the time.
  • The Paychecks
    I don’t think there was a single pay period where the paychecks were right. We constantly had to go back in to get them corrected (or issued at all, in Miranda’s case).
  • Park Drama
    With all these things going on, plus the drama from guests, the park started consuming our time even when we weren’t working. We had little brainspace left for our own projects.
  • Expensive Area
    Being able to make a paycheck from camphosting is great, but in this case that extra money was largely eaten up by more expensive groceries and supplies.

Not Our First Rodeo

We’ve camphosted at private RV parks before.

We stuck that job out because we wanted to teach our kids about making committments and keeping your word. We instead ended up teaching them how to remain in an unhealthy work situation for no ultimate benefit.

That experience soured us on ever revisiting the Olympic Penninsula. I love SW Colorado too much to have that happen again.

So We Quit

After a lot of conversation between us and fellow camphosts we decided to pull the plug.

We notified the campground managers a week before our departure, finished out our shifts, and got back on the road.

As it turned out, one other camphost couple left before we did, and a third couple left a week or so after we did.

Our Takeaway

This is our second experience camphosting at a private RV park. Both were not great. We’ve heard other experienced camphosts say “public parks only” and we’re inclined to agree with that. Camphosting is different for a commercial business than it is for a public utility.

But I think we’ll go one further and say we’re done camphosting at all. Our other non-campground workcamping experiences have simply suited us better than camphosting.

It largely boils down to schedule.

We prefer workcamping gigs where there are tasks to do but not a set schedule to do them on.

We’re happy to do a fair amount of work in exchange for a site (and even go beyond that if there’s a unique experience to be had), but we need to be the ones deciding when to work on our stuff vs. doing workcamping tasks.

Once you’ve owned your days it’s hard to sell them off again.

Have You Quit?

Have you been in a bad camphosting experience and quit early? What was the deciding factor for you?

You can also read more about our other camphosting and workcamping experiences.


7 Comments Why We Quit a Camphosting Job

  1. Picture of Celeste Bird Celeste Bird July 24, 2016

    Interested to know if you’ve done anymore with wwoofusa.
    What kinds of things did you include in your detailed description?
    What type of questions they did you askthe three prospective farms you had narrowed it down to?
    Also, what do you mean about not being typical wwoofers?
    Have youndone any other workamping types of jobs other than camp hosting that you all enjoyed and didn’t require too much of your time?
    I know, lots of questions, but I had read about wwoofusa and thought it sounded interesting, but are retiring and hitting the road next year and we just don’t want to work the hours we have for the last 40+ years. Don’t mind doing work, but want it to be good learning experiences & interesting but not consume most of our time.
    Thanks, and I do enjoy your take on things and you write some interesting articles!

  2. Picture of Marci G Marci G July 24, 2016

    Your last sentence says it all “Once you’ve owned your days, it’s hard to sell them off again “.  Especially true when you’re selling them off as a minimum wage employee, and don’t NEED to. We’re feeling a little of that, too, but sticking it out for the summer. I think volunteering is the way to go.

  3. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink July 25, 2016

    @celest - this wasn’t a WWOOFing gig.

    You can read about all of our workcamping experiences here on the site - look under Blog - Archive - Work.

    @marci - we did a *little* better than minimum - but not much! Miranda made more in the ice cream shop because she made tips..;)

  4. Picture of David Latil David Latil July 25, 2016

    Good insight.  Thanks for the honesty, was curious why you guys decided to move on.  For us, working for ‘the man’ was a big reason we decided to stop FT’ing, was stressful staying connected/having meetings etc… Glad you guys found ways to keep it working all this time.

  5. Picture of Danielle Danielle August 07, 2016

    Thank you for your perspective on camp hosting. We have toyed with the idea on and off but mostly work with Amazon Camperforce each Oct-Dec. We have run into some not so great camp hosts though that make it so we won’t come back to the park. So it has always made us a bit leery on committing ourselves to one park for so many months in case it were to be a ‘party park’

  6. Picture of Dawnya Sasse Dawnya Sasse March 30, 2017

    Thanks for your honesty in both work camping situations.  It encouraged me.  We had 3 bad experiences in a row and were super discouraged.  It takes a lot of energy to handle the drama and the often unreasonable expectations.  We took the winter off from work camping and are going to try one last time for a shortened 3 month summer season with a franchise.  I hate to say it but work camping is not a good deal for most of the people I have met.

  7. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink March 30, 2017

    Thanks Dawnya -

    We’ve found like 6 weeks is perfect for workcamping jobs. Just long enough that you can be productive, but not so long you fall into the drama.

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