Workamping and it’s struggles

I’ve been considering whether or not to talk about this topic for some time now, and I feel that this is actually a pretty important thing to talk about. Especially for those of you who have little experience trading work for a site, and more importantly, those of you who are trading work for a site, but your resume tells the campground something less than you are.

We have been doing what the owner of the resort we are at calls a “work exchange”. Basically, we work on the resort a certain number of hours to pay for our full hookup site. Fulltime RV’ers know it as “Work Camping”

When we first got here, I was very under-utilized. Megan was doing all of the work, and I was given almost nothing, despite the fact that the owner and I had discussed that it would be me working for the resort, in order to allow Megan to work on her business.

In the past two months, I have fought to prove my worth. Today, I was validated. The owner had made an assumption about me that she admits she was wrong about, based on the fact that I have spent the past 18 years working in IT, in front of a computer screen. She believed I didn’t have any skills that would be useful to her, despite the fact that I had assured her that I had multiple skills outside of technology.

To date, I have shown her that I am capable of not only landscaping, but plumbing, electrical, laundry, carpentry, and a host of other things.

Today, the owner said to me that I was the best they had, and that felt amazing.

Transitioning from a “normal” career into a resort lifestyle is hard. You don’t exactly have a resume to display everything you can do. This can make things very difficult, but you need to make sure that you are persistent in talking about the things you can do for a resort.

You need to give ideas, even if they are shot down. You need to talk about your experiences. The doors really opened for me when the owner discovered that I have extensive experience working with horses, and on farms. It was at that point that I started to get more work. I think the fact that working with horses and cattle was something she could relate to, and knew the extra skills needed outside of just animals that may have opened a door for me, but now, I get to work more often than Megan does, which is fantastic.

Today, the owner and I were chatting about it, and she admitted that she didn’t think I had any skills that could help her on the resort. This was completely based on the resume that she requested. I can’t blame her at all. That resume is 100% IT based, which is something that this resort is not concerned about.

I have loved putting in full days of manual labour over the past week. I have missed that since I first started to sit in front of a computer screen. IT pays well, but I would rather be physically exhausted, than mentally.

To date, I have laid tile, re-modeled bathrooms, reworked plumbing, swapped out fixtures, mirrors, cabinets, etc, painted, mowed, scrubbed cabins, and even the main sign. The main sign has a big, hand-crafted bear on it. I got up on a ladder and scrubbed that bear by hand.

I’ve suggested doing things a certain way, and when shortcuts were preferred by certain staff, I did it properly, rather than cheap and lazy. This has earned me the respect and extra responsibility I now have.

What I have learned is that as long as you have certain skills that are not on your real resume, focus on those skills in your letter or phone conversation. If you don’t have experience in something they need, listen, and follow directions. Sometimes, you will need to listen and follow directions, even if you do have the experience (I literally listened while being told how to do tile, after doing two different rooms better (and cleaner) than the person telling me how to do it).

Resorts have a plethora of work campers who come trough looking for a free stay, and are stupid. Do not take offence to being treated like you may be stupid when you first get there. You have previous campers to blame. Previous campers who are most likely young, and prefer smoking pot and singing around a campfire, rather than bathing; let alone working. (This may be a Tofino, BC thing)

Once you do get that respect, responsibility, and further. Make sure to get a letter of reference when/just before you leave. Don’t wait until you’ve left to get an email. These resorts are busy, and it’ll be forgotten. Get it right away. References are great, but as time goes on, memories may fade, staff change, and everything becomes for naught. Ask for a letter of reference. This should include what they think of you, what they were impressed with, your capabilities the witnessed, etc, and a method of contact. Preferably, it should be on resort letterhead as well, which contains all the pertinent contact information.

You can do this. You just need to showcase you skills. I wish I had something good to show you, but obviously, my letter needs work. It didn’t convey the message we needed, and took over a month to get me trusted to do the job.

I’ll post it here anyways, and perhaps we can build off each other in order to make a great letter for you and for us.

Here it is. Tell us what you think of it, knowing what you know now. Where is there improvement? We were given advice on making it personal, ad talkig about who we are. I hope this letter, and the comments below help you build your own letter and land those amazing work camping jobs that are out there. Especially if you are just starting out, as we are.

Good Luck!


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