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?
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 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.
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.