Becky Schade (Interstellar Orchard)

Age:31

Travels: Full-time

Traveling Since: September 2012

Blog: www.interstellarorchard.com

Occupation: Work-camper, Writer

Here is Their Story

The Income

Right now, about 70% of my income comes from work-camping at national parks in the summer and Amazon’s CamperForce program in the fall. The other 30% comes remotely from e-book sales and affiliate advertising on my blog. The first year I was a full-timer my entire income was from work-camping, the online income has been growing slowly since then.

Getting on the Road

Before hitting the road I worked as a veterinary technician, but I was burning out from the stress and it isn’t a travel-friendly job anyway. I knew I’d have to change careers when I started full-timing which is scary enough before throwing in the simultaneous lifestyle change.

While I’d always enjoyed writing, I had no professional experience or formal training and knew it would take time to start earning money from it. I had no other special skills that would lend themselves to working remotely, so I looked into work-camping and discovered sites like Cool Works, Workamper News, and Workers on Wheels.

Cool Works is where I find my national park summer jobs, it’s not an RVer specific page but is free and opportunities that will take RVers have a little RV symbol near them so they’re easy to pick out. Workamper News has an annual fee, but everything listed there is RVer friendly. Besides Amazon, they also list a lot of park hosting opportunities.

The Fears

Over and over again I wondered if it was possible to earn a living entirely from work-camping jobs which are usually at or near minimum wage. There weren’t many pre-retirement full-timers yet when I was researching and those I could find either worked remotely and had their business in place already when they started, or they had additional income from other sources besides just work-camping.

Overcoming the fear was part leap-of-faith that I could handle whatever problems cropped up, part having a contingency plan in place to catch me if I fell. I had an emergency fund big enough to cover my expenses for a few months if I had trouble finding a job, or if it turned out I couldn’t earn enough on the road and needed to move back into an apartment. To this day I keep my veterinary technician license active just in case. I did line my first work-camping job (with Amazon) up before I hit the road, which made me feel a lot better.

My first year as a full-timer I earned $16,000 working 9.5 months out of the year (I worked at Lowe’s in the winter that first year in addition to the summer and fall jobs) and my cost of living was right around $15,000. It worked out.

The Awesome Side

At my summer gigs I get to live inside a national park for several months which is a really great experience (first year was Badlands, second was Zion, third was Yellowstone). I get to know the park much better than someone traveling through and can go hiking and sightseeing before or after my shift on workdays without a long drive. I’ve also met amazing people from all walks of life and from all around the world, some of which I keep in touch with regularly.

All of the places I go, people I meet, jobs I try, and things I learn have allowed me to fulfill one of my life goals of being a writer. It may not pay all the bills, but it’s work that doesn’t feel like work because I love doing it so much.

Challenges

As a solo traveler, having to do everything myself can get overwhelming at times. I need to be the driver, navigator, cook, trip coordinator, motivator, mechanic, cleaner, and budget planner.

In addition to all that, because I’m work-camping I also have to update my resume, job search, and attend interviews multiple times a year (oh, and work 40+ hours a week when I’m actually at a job). Then because I’m growing my writing business, I also need to find time to update my blog and answer reader questions and e-mails as well as write, edit, and market e-books, and do record keeping.

Juggling all of the responsibilities of traveling, working, and living and still having time off to actually enjoy the places I’m visiting requires some serious planning and the ability to stay on task, two skills I have improved at immensely since hitting the road.

For the Aspiring

I could write a whole book about this topic. Actually, I already have.

First off, I’d say you don’t need to be rich, have a business, or have a partner to go full-timing. You do need to know yourself and your needs, balance work and play, and be flexible.

Fear and uncertainty kill more dreams of full-timing than anything else. To combat it, think about the worst that could happen, and then put a plan in place to handle that situation. Also find other RVers/RVer hopefuls to give you a boost when you need one and answer questions you have.

Understand that full-time RVing won’t be happily-ever-after and requires more work and effort than living stationary, but if you’re willing to deal with that it can be a very fulfilling and rewarding way to live.

In the End am I Happy?

Becoming a nomad was, without a doubt, the best decision I have ever made. I have grown as a person, learned a lot about the world, gained new skills, and made new friends. When people ask me how long I intend to go RVing, I tell them “until I find something else I want to do more”, and I know that when that day comes, I’ll be much better prepared from all the lessons I learned on the road.