Wednesday, February 25, 2015

10 TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR NEXT WORKAMPING JOB

We have been workamping for several years now and with each job we have made a an entertaining list of the "Top 10 Things We Learned At ...."  It includes some important lessons learned but it also includes some silly memories for my husband and I. Some examples include - Everything is better with Gin! Doug doesn't like office work! Snow is beautiful...on the mountains! Be nice = big bonus!

It is always amusing as we reflect back on our past jobs, but this Top 10 List is much more serious. It is our Top 10 Tips to help you get the most out of your workamping experience!

 

Our shoes peeking over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon!


    1.  Do your homework before you accept a job.  

    Research the area you in which you would like to work and also the campground or business where you would like to work. Check out online reviews, forums, Facebook and other social networks, maps, attractions, etc. As I was researching on Facebook for one of our workamping jobs, I came across someone who had previously worked at the place we were looking into. I took a chance and sent her a personal message and she did reply back to me with info on their experience.  Also find out as much as you can about what is expected of the job, hours, campsite, etc. during the interview process. (Coming soon! More info on interviewing and a worksheet to print out of questions to ask during the interview.) Be honest about your needs and expectations to find the best fit. Also check out the surrounding area to find out the closest grocery store, gas station, propane, medical facilities, and cost of living.



    2.  Arrive at your job a few days before you start work if possible. 

    Some employers will give you a free site for a few days before you actually start working. You will want to get the lay of the land, meet the managers, and other workampers. When you get to your site for the first time, check to see that it has everything you need - you will be there a while so might as well get comfy right away! It is easier to get things straightened out early on before you start working. Ask about your schedule and the timetable for your training.




    3.  Enjoy the honeymoon period! 

    Usually at the beginning of of your work assignment you have a training period and are not as busy as you will be at the height of the "season." Also everyone is very friendly and helpful! Take this time to get to know people and know your way around the area. Find the grocery stores, gas stations, etc.  and explore the area so you know exactly what you want to do when you have your days off. Usually when you get busy you will be working longer hours and on your days off you will really be ready to get 'out of the bubble.'  At the end of the season again it will slow down and you may be working shorter hours - take advantage of this time also!

     

      Sunset at Key West


      4.  Your attitude will make all the difference! 

      Only you can choose your attitude each day and you apparently chose this lifestyle for a reason. Hopefully the reasons were something like living a simpler  lifestyle, exploring new places, and meeting new people. This one thing can make such a big difference. Hang out with other people that have a good attitude and don't complain about every little thing. We are always learning something new - either a new computer program or a new piece of equipment. All of this adds up to a better all around experience for you now and in the future. Of course there will be days when things don't go so great but try to be ready to start over the next day. Make the most of each situation even it it isn't ideal. It isn't forever!



      5.  This is not your business, you are just a temporary worker.   

      Each employer has their own way of running their business and more than likely they have done it for a long time, so you need to listen up and do things as instructed. I have heard people say "if I ran this business, I would..."  But that is the key, you don't run this business. There are usually very good reasons for work policies and it is our job to respect them and our employer. Actually there have been several times we were asked our opinion about new ways to do things or how the training was going. Many employers recognize the significant experience of workampers and do ask about their previous employment, campgrounds, opinions, etc. It really made us feel like valued members of the team!



      6.  Work hard and be nice! 

      You were hired to do a job and no matter what it is - management, greeting guests, mowing lawn, or cleaning the bathroom - you should do the best possible job you can! In the jobs we have had most people we come in contact with are on vacation, so trying to make their time there special is important. You also want your employer's business to succeed. It will make your time there special as well, as you will have the opportunity to connect with all these people!  Also some of the positions provide a bonus upon completion. We always want to genuinely maximize this as much as we can!


        7.  Don't get involved in the politics of the business and workers.  

        Avoid the rumors and gossip at all cost and don't get caught in the middle of it. We have been in several situations where some of the workers were related to each other, or at the very least they have worked together a long time, so that makes this even more important. There are always workers that may have a different work ethic than you do and it can make for a very uncomfortable situation. We always try to do our best no matter what anyone else is doing because at the end of the day, you are responsible only for yourself and your work. Another good policy - the Golden Rule!



        Bryce Canyon Hike - Unbelievable!

          8.  Connect with other Workampers!   

          This has been one of the best perks of workamping. We have met so many amazing friends working, living, and playing side by side. Every place we have worked there has been one or two couples that we have really connected with and we still keep in touch. It seems like you make friends very quickly because you have such a short amount of time to build a relationship and you spend a lot of time together. Also other workampers are easy to connect with because they understand your lifestyle choices, since they have made similar choices. Unlike your friends and relatives that maybe felt you were a little crazy when you decided to give it all up and travel! I always love hearing other workampers stories about why they chose this lifestyle and to hear of their experiences. 


              9.  Get out and explore the area - that's why you are there, right?  

              Talk to your coworkers and the locals to find the places they like to go. They probably have a favorite hiking or fishing spot that not everyone knows about. Or favorite restaurant or local hangout.  Make your list and go visit all those special places - beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes, hikes, etc. No matter if we are at a location for 3  months or 6 months, the time always goes by so fast and there are things we didn't get to see.


                10.  If a problem does arise, talk to the Manager or Owner. 

                Don't discuss your issues with everyone else, go right to the manager or owner and see if there can be a resolution to the problem. We had an issue at one of our jobs and did talk to our manager. We tried to make it work as long as we felt comfortable but we did end up leaving a few weeks before the end of the season. However, we felt we had done the best job we could and had communicated to the appropriate people. 




                Beautiful Aspen trees in Colorado



                Workamping and traveling full-time are definitely learn-as-you go experiences! No two experiences are ever going to be the same. But I guess that is part of the reason we are on the road, right! I always hope that all these changes and new learning experiences keep our brains active as we get older! As you can see in the photos there are  so many amazing places to see and people to experience - we try to get the most out of every day!




                Do you have any further suggestions to add for your fellow workampers on how to make the most of your workamping jobs? I would love to hear from you!






                  Wednesday, February 4, 2015

                  Amazon Camperforce - It's All About Attitude! (And Comfy Shoes)

                  We worked at Amazon in Coffeyville, Kansas, from late September to December 23rd. "Work Hard, Have Fun and Make History!"


                  Coffeyville is a great little town that had pretty much everything we needed - Walmart, gas stations, laundry, and wine stores. :)  Unfortunately, the second day we worked they announced that this Amazon facility would be closing. We were shocked and felt so bad for all the employees and the town. It will definitely make an impact. We stayed at a very nice city park that included water, sewer, and electric. Our campsite was provided by Amazon along with an hourly wage including overtime. Also in town was a large oil refinery. When we would leave work at 4 in the morning it would be all lit up and looked like a very large city from the outskirts of town. Sometimes they would have a fire burning with a big flume that would be at least 20 feet in the air. As our new friend, Jack would say - It looks like we are entering Oz! (Because we were in Kansas, right!) I  tried on several occasions to get a good picture of it but apparently I don't have the proper equipment, but still I was very fascinated with all the lights!


                  This turned out kind of shaky but I still think it looks pretty cool!

                  Our shift at Amazon was the "donut" shift working Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We had Wednesday, Saturday and Sundays off. It was nice to have the Wednesday break after 10 hour days! The night shift was 5:30 p.m. to 4:00  a.m. We weren't really too worried about working nights as we are both more night people than morning people. We couldn't imagine trying to be up and at work at 6:30 a.m! The first week we worked 5 hours a day to get trained and get used to the hours. We worked in Inbound and were trained as stowers putting product in the bins. It isn't such a physical job as picking. Basically you find an empty bin, scan it, scan the product and put it in the bin. Easy right - unless there isn't room in the bins - then it gets frustrating! About 6 weeks into stowing they also trained us in receiving - opening boxes and putting the products on carts so they are ready to stow. However, we only did this job a few days.

                  Approximately the last month we were moved to Outbound to be "pickers." There was soon to be more product going out than coming in with Black Friday coming soon! This job was a nice change at the beginning. It didn't seem quite as difficult as stowing in that the scanner told you which bin to go to and which product to pick. However, after walking 10 to 14 miles a day it really starts to take a toll after a while! This is where building up your stamina comes into play.

                  One of the things that really helps is the breaks - two 15 minute breaks and a half hour lunch break. In my previous jobs before workamping, there were many times that I really didn't get to take the 15 minute breaks, mainly we just had a lunch break. We were usually too busy with meetings, deadlines, etc. Sometimes I felt a little bitter about this and thought I deserved a break. Not! Now this job you definitely need a break! Stopping for just 15 minutes really makes a difference to be able to sit down and relax your body for a bit. When the shift begins and after the lunch break they have what they call "stand up." It is short meeting to let you know where you will be working, etc. This also includes stretching exercises and this definitely helps also!


                  Walter Johnson Campground at Sunset

                  Tips for surviving Amazon Camperforce!  
                  Depending on the job you do at Amazon you could be walking 10 to 15 miles every day you work!  So you need to plan ahead and train to do such a physical job. Both of our sons run marathons! Yeah - I know - you are wondering where they got that from because their Dad and I are definitely not runners, nor have we ever been into any kind of sports, unless we are watching football from the couch! Go Huskers! 

                  My point is they plan months ahead to run a half or a full marathon. A half marathon is 13.1 miles! So basically you are walking part of a half marathon every day! The job we had previous to our Amazon job was very physical - cleaning hotel rooms - so we felt we were in very good shape going in. If you are not working a physical job, I suggest you start 6 months before and get on a walking program every day.  It would also help to build up your strength, maybe calisthenics or weight lifting? Also while you are there you definitely need to make sure you eat healthy foods and sleep well to keep your energy up. Caffeine and comfy shoes help too! Investing in a great pair of shoes or insoles is well worth the money. It's all about taking care of yourself!

                  At first it appears to be all physical - just keep in shape and you will be fine.  However, I believe in order to survive the final stretch it is also mental and emotional. Sure there are always things to complain about - as in every job. But if you can adopt the "go with the flow" attitude and find the silver lining in every day issues, you will do much better. Our silver lining was definitely the people that you meet every day! There will always be changes and things that you cannot control. You need to let that go and remember why you are doing this job. If you are like most people, its all about the money! We wanted to work hard for a few months so that we could take several months off and relax at the beach!































                  One of the best boosts for me mentally was a Thanksgiving potluck that was coordinated by some of the workampers. It was spectacular! Lots of great food, karaoke along with a western singer direct from New Zealand, new friends, and a little wine made for a memorable afternoon! It was really great to be able to sit down and discover the hopes and dreams of some of our fellow workampers. Particularly, the entertainment was superb!
































                  About the first week of December I felt like I was missing Christmas! I love Christmas and all that goes with it! Decorating with sparkly lights, baking my kids' favorites, finding the perfect gift or making the perfect gift, Christmas parties and Cathedral concerts, making plans to get together with family. We were working so much that basically all we were doing was eating, sleeping and working - and missing all the fun! I remember one day specifically going to WalMart for groceries and there was Christmas music playing, lights and decorations. Oh ya - its Christmas! I was like a little kid in awe of everything! After I left the store I felt a little let down and that this Christmas was going to pass me by. I really didn't have any energy left after working 50 hours to do the fun stuff. I was wishing I would have planned ahead and had my lights up already, some baking supplies on hand, and shopping done. But then I went to church and realized I wasn't missing Christmas at all! It was right there in front of me. We were preparing for Jesus to be born. Of course, the reason for the season! That is what I really needed - to be present in church, singing Christmas hymns, and thanking God for all the gifts in our lives.  Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm.

                  Next time! Yeah, I'm still not sure about that - someone said working there is kind of like having a baby! Going through labor is so difficult but it is so worth it after the baby comes! I am already starting to feel that way as we sit on the beach, go out for lunch, and visit out son. All in all we met some great people and participated in the excitement of the Amazon experience. But, if there is a next time, I will definitely plan ahead:


                  ~ Get in shape as far as walking and strengthening exercises. Get ready for the marathon!

                  ~ Plan healthy meals ahead including fruits and veggies.

                  ~ Have baking supplies on hand (with more exercise you can eat more!)

                  ~ Plan gifts ahead - shop Amazon!

                  ~ Put up Christmas lights in September!

                  ~ Thank God for all our blessings!



                  It looks like next year they are also offering Amazon jobs in Texas.....Hmmm maybe a little warmer climate would help? Or I hear the other 3 facilities are also great locations to work. Check out Amazon Camperforce! Guess we will see, I think I need to have another margarita and soak my toes in the sand a little longer before I can make a firm decision!





                  Work Hard, Have Fun and Make History! A good motto every day of our lives!