RVing and the Work/Life Balance

One of the big things that had me searching for something better than the typical 9-5 job until retirement was the work/life imbalance.

I hated that work dominated 5 out of 7 days of my week. I’d come home and have some time before I needed to go to bed, yeah, but I’d be so drained from work and pressured to get all the chores that built up done that I wouldn’t find the energy to get out and do anything that really excited me. I was in a rut. My whole life revolved around that job. On my weekends I’d try to cram in as much fun as I could, to try to forget that come Monday (well, Tuesday was the start of my work week actually) I’d be doomed to go back in, a slave to the routine.

Working at Amazon might not be glamorous, but I love it so much more than any of the other jobs I’ve held since I became a ‘grown up’. The best part is it’s impermanence. There’s no need to try to impress anyone or burn myself out going above and beyond, I’m only there for a short time after all.

RVing has given me the freedom to work when I want to. I’m going home for Christmas this year for the first time in four years, all the standard full-time jobs I’ve held would not have allowed it – who got to take vacation during the prime times of the year was based on seniority, something I didn’t have.

There are draw backs to having to work while you’re on the road. I think the reason why most people stick with the 9-5 tedium is because it feels safe and comfortable. As long as you go in to work, the pay check will be there, week after week. As long as the company doesn’t tank and you get let go that is. There’s also the issue of finding the willpower to work when there’s so much new stuff around you to see and do.

Finding seasonal gigs while you travel takes more effort, and there is more uncertainty. What if you can’t find something before you run out of money? Well I’ve already written about ways to combat the fear, but there are some common sense things you can do. Build up a safety net, and start looking for work before you get low. Remember that you’re mobile now, and you have a much larger area in which you can look for work. In fact, as I start peeking around for my next gig I’m having a hard time nailing down where to start, there are so many places and options.

Now some folks will probably look at what I’m doing here at Amazon – 10 hour days, and planning to pick up as much overtime as I can, as hardly a balance between work and life, but let me explain my take on it.

My idea of a good work/life balance has me working hard in spurts for a time, and then having an extended period of time (like last September) where I don’t work at all and travel around and see stuff. In a traditional job, you get vacation time that serves the same purpose, but only as much as your employer sees fit to give you. Two weeks just wasn’t enough for me.

Since I’m overall working less than I did in my old life (so far anyway), I am making less money. I looked long and hard before I started RVing at what I wanted to do once I was on the road and came to the realization that hiking, sightseeing, reading a book down by a crystal clear stream, and watching the sun set don’t really cost a lot to do. I just avoided the touristy things while I was getting to Kansas that require more money. If you love the touristy things or eating out every night, etc., you’ll need to find a way to bring in more money, simple as that.

For others, the ideal work/life balance while on the road might be less hours per week but more weeks spent working per year. If this sounds like more your thing, there are many workamping jobs that revolve more around campground hosting work in this manner. You’d be working for the price of your site, and usually not much more, but it does mean less hours worked in a week. If you have income coming in another way this can be a great way to pay for your site and earn a little extra spending money.

If you’re able to work remotely or for yourself, you might find you have even more freedom in determining your work schedule. I really do intend to write more on remote income some point, when I’ve had more time to explore it fully. In the meantime for anyone looking for more information, Chris and Cherie over at Technomadia have a good post about more working on the road options. It is a great resource for aspiring full-timers.

What does your ideal work/life balance look like? Do you prefer working hard in spurts and then having some free time or would you rather work steadily and play steadily in equal measure?

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Cherie @ Technomadia on November 8, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Fantastic look at the work/life balance that can be made on the road. We so much love taking very intense gigs that have us pulling non-stop 12-15 hr days for several weeks.. then taking chill time. It’s so wonderful, and suits our personalities quite well.

    And the variety you can have is also awesome.. it’s so much easier to go into a gig like Amazon knowing it’s only for a couple months. I actually rather enjoyed it, it was nice to do something where I didn’t have to think much and be responsible for the big picture (I’m a software project manager in my daily life.)

    And thanks for the link love shout out 🙂 So glad you’re rocking the Casita life.
    Cherie @ Technomadia recently posted..Chapter 11: Tackling the Overwhelm of Preparing for Full Time TravelMy Profile

    • Becky on November 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      You’re very welcome Cherie, you guys have the best write up I’ve seen on the subject, it’s a very handy resource.

      Amazon won’t let us pull 12 hour days (it’s 11 max), but 55-60 hours a week is still quite a bit. The variety thing is a good point too – I’ve been tentatively thinking about working at a park next summer, the bonus would be a fun place to explore on my days off.

  2. Kim and Jerry Portelli on November 6, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Jerry and I were hoping for lots of overtime, but I don’t think that will happen this year at Amazon. Returning work campers talk about this year being quite different from previous years. I hope it isn’t the case, but I kind of think we will be lucky to get our 40 hours in. What are you hearing in Outbound?
    Kim and Jerry Portelli recently posted..Wanted: Label ScrapersMy Profile

    • Becky on November 8, 2012 at 2:16 am

      Hearing in Inbound you mean? Rumors, none of which I’d put much faith in because a lot of them have already been proven wrong. During one of our stand ups it was made to look like overtime usually only happens the last 4 weeks that us Workampers are there, from the day after Thanksgiving on. So we really won’t know if the overtime is coming until then, but traditionally Inbound is less busy than Outbound during that time – just another reason why I wanted to be a picker. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

      It depends on the site too, I think the year before last a lot of Fernley workampers didn’t get their hours in, accounts seem to vary so much from year to year, the workamper program just hasn’t been standardized very well yet I think, making it hard to predict.

    • Cherie @ Technomadia on November 8, 2012 at 11:22 am

      When we worked Amazon back in 2009, that’s pretty much how it was. Up until around Thanksgiving, folks were barely getting their 40 hrs a week. But after T-day? Boom.. you could have 55-60 hrs a week if you wanted it. Enjoy the calm now.
      Cherie @ Technomadia recently posted..Life In The Fast Lane – 4G Will Make You Lose Your MindMy Profile

      • Becky on November 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm

        Thanks for the tip Cherie. I really think we won’t know until the day after Thanksgiving. Hurricane Sandy has lead to less work than expected, but there are just so many variables.

  3. Gary on November 6, 2012 at 3:51 am

    Amen, Becky. I work for a major greeting card production facility in Topeka. We were informed that our facility will be closing in a few months. Big blow to the economy here. But to tell you the truth, I am burned out on it (for all the reasons you described above). Plus the fact that I work graveyard shift makes it even worse. Don’t sleep well during the day, always tired, no time to do the things that are fun for me, limited vacation, working with Zombies. Everyone is depressed here about the shutdown. I, on the other hand, am almost grateful. I’ve been contemplating the rv lifestyle for a while now and this may be my opportunity. When I talk about living in an rv, everyone thinks I’m crazy…but I look at their “normal” lifestyle as being insane.

    • Becky on November 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm

      Gary. I’ve spoken to and read accounts of several people who have said that losing their mainstream job was the best thing that ever happened to them for the reason you just described – it gave them the opportunity to then go and do what they really wanted to do guilt free.

      Good for you for seeing the positive side of it unlike your coworkers, who will probably just move on to the next steady paycheck and continue living in the fog of the every-day ordinary.

      Of course I don’t know what your situation looks like right now, but I hope you do take advantage of this unfortunate blow and look more into full-timing if it’s something you really want to do. I can always be reached by e-mail if you have questions.

  4. Lynn on November 5, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    I did the corporate scene for many years and there are lots of benefits to sticking it out for a certain period of time but now I want to do my own thing and I have a business which I work hard at but I work from my home and when I want time off, I just take it. I think I have the best setup now for me and what I want to do in the future. I took a week off in August and will take two weeks off in February and another 3 weeks off in October. I enjoy my work so not ready to throw in the towel yet but I can definitely see myself taking a month here and there to go travel. I have always been very disciplined about not letting work interfere with the other things in my life. Nobody tells me what to do but me. :)))
    Lynn recently posted..A Slow Boat To BaliMy Profile

    • Becky on November 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Good for you Lynn! The best kind of work is the kind that doesn’t feel like work at all because you enjoy it. I’m glad you’ve found a balance between that two that meets the needs of your well-being and your bank account.

  5. Tricia (Geeky Explorers) on November 5, 2012 at 9:43 am

    Great post & exactly why after 5 months on the road and on a work break we thought could last years, we are ready to leave again after 6 months. We will continue to seek out contract positions when we need the money, as 2 weeks a year isn’t enough for us either. Congrats on breaking out!
    Tricia (Geeky Explorers) recently posted..November NostalgiaMy Profile

    • Becky on November 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      Hiya Tricia, welcome to IO and thanks for commenting. 🙂

      I’m still not sure if I’ll have enough saved up after Amazon to be able to spend some time down in Quartzsite enjoying the scene there for a while, but we’ll see! I’m making a serious attempt at it anyway.

      Nice blog! I especially like your 5K in 50 states goal, I started jogging in August of 2011 and really need to get back into it again, it’s hard while working at Amazon because the days are long and exhausting and there isn’t anywhere to go jogging at the campground.

  6. Brian on November 5, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Hi Becky. I like the ‘work a lot and then take a break’ plan. I would like to work during the winter months and then spend June through September hiking and camping in Colorado and the Pacific northwest. My current work schedule is pretty sweet, I work 4 ten hour days and then have 3 days off. The extra 52 days off each year is great, just too bad I can’t get them all at one time. I also get three weeks of vacation each year. My current ‘work/life balance’ isn’t too bad.

    Have a great week at Amazon, and again, thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

    • Becky on November 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Your welcome Brian, thanks for commenting. Like you at Amazon I’m currently 10 hour days 4 days a week, that’s suppose to change starting the day after thanksgiving though when the big rush hits, that’s when I’ll be 10-11 hour days 5 days a week.

      This is the first time I’ve worked that kind of schedule and I love it compared to 8 hour days 5 days a week, I can get more done with that extra day off instead of having 2 more hours every week day.

      Sounds like you have a pretty nice plan worked out there. The Pacific northwest is on my list of places to see as well.