Some people who full-time like to plan out their whole year in advance, and can tell you where they’ll be at any given date during the year. Others do very little planning at all, and might get on the road in the morning not knowing where they’ll end up that evening.
While I admire those who can do the later, I’ve found that since I rely on the income from the jobs I take throughout the year to be able to go RVing, I need to plan out where I’m going to be next at least one stop in advance. Last winter I didn’t, and it cost me dearly in savings as I spent three weeks sending out applications in January before I finally heard back from anywhere, never mind having a choice in which job I wanted to take.
Winter seems to be a difficult time to find seasonal work, and that difficulty increases when you’ve got a prior commitment for half of the winter season. For instance Forever Resorts, the company I worked for in the Badlands, also does concessions for Big Bend down in Texas. They would have been happy to take me for the winter season, but I would have had to show up right after Badlands was done, they wouldn’t take me for just half the season once Amazon was done.
I eventually broke down and paid for Workamper News to help me find something for after Amazon, lasting until the end of March when summer jobs start opening up again. In the end there still weren’t any paying gig options that met my needs, and I decided that I was just going to do volunteer work for those three months. Not the best for my pocketbook, but good for a new experience, and I do like those.
I had a couple viable volunteer options, but ended up choosing one in Florida. It’s at the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station (OSBS) just east of Gainesville, run by the University of Florida. It’s a 9,000 acre nature preserve that is closed to the public and used for research and teaching. This is the first time a work camper program is being offered, there are three full hookup sites on the station for RVers. Duties are light maintenance and landscaping in scope and include cutting grass, trimming trees and brush, picking up trash, using hand tools for habitat upkeep, pulling up invasive plant species, and occasional facilities cleaning. As I said before it is a volunteer position, and I’ll work 16 hours for my site as a single, couples work a total of 32 hours.
While I wouldn’t mind trying a more traditional park host volunteer position that seem to be all over Workamper News and most other RVer job sites sometime, this sounded like a more interesting opportunity to me so I jumped on it. When you look at an opening and think “Yes!” and get excited, I think you owe it to yourself to go for it, even if you think your chances of getting it are slim.
There is another reason for choosing Florida though. As some of you know, I’m big into renaissance festivals, and I’ve been trying for years to work at one with my best friend Julie whom I use to share an apartment with in South Carolina before hitting the road. The timing just never worked out, despite us making a serious attempt to do it every year since before I even started IO.
Things are coming together to make it a real possibility this coming spring. Auditions for the Georgia Renaissance Festival are going to be in Atlanta early in February, and back when I interviewed for the position at Ordway-Swisher I told them I’d need a weekend off around that time. We’re going to audition, and plans for what happens after the gig at OSBS ends depend on how it goes. I’ve been wanting to head farther west since I started RVing, and the thought of missing the chance to do this is the primary reason why I held back. Now I’m glad that I didn’t end up in Arizona this winter, because I would not have had this chance, and it sounds unlikely that the timing will work out this well again for quite a while.
In the meanwhile, the plan is to take a part time job on the side in Gainesville to help cover my other monthly living expenses this winter. In the current job market it seems to be a lot easier to find part time work than a full time job, the trick is going to be making sure that the hours don’t overlap. I don’t know what my hours are going to be at OSBS yet other than four days a week, so hunting down that job will have to wait a while, perhaps even until I get to Florida. (Note: I will not starve if by some crazy chance I can’t land a part time job, but then I’d be cutting into my emergency fund by the end of it which of course I’d rather not do.)
Then there’s the matter of all the miles between Kansas and Florida. Amazon gets over with on December 23rd, and OSBS starts on January 6th at the earliest. That gives me two weeks to get there, a pretty generous amount of time considering how I usually drive. I’m pondering dropping down into Texas to Rice where Casitas are made and having people who know what they’re doing do some maintenance stuff on Cas on the way. While there are a couple things that could use fixing none of it is essential or something that I couldn’t get done elsewhere, but I know there are routine things that should be getting done to keep him in tip top shape, and I don’t know how to do any of that stuff. It’d be nice to get a professional to look things over.
If I go from Coffeyville to Rice to Gainesville, the trip will be about 1,350 miles, about 19 hours at the speed I normally travel. Factoring an average gas rate of $3.80, the trip will cost me about $366 in gas. I’m budgeting $800 for those two weeks between gas, food, and monthly bills, and expecting to save up $1,700 at Amazon this season. Mostly I’m just writing these numbers down here so at the end of the year I can see how close to the mark I was. Having a grip on basic accounting and budgeting is crucial to making this lifestyle work.
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I think that’s about everything for now. Of course all of these plans (other than the fact that I’ll be at OSBS after this, that’s now a certain) are carved in jello. I just have had several people asking me more about what’s coming up after after Amazon so I thought I’d share. Today’s photo was taken last March at Hunting Island in SC, but it’s the closest I’ve got to what I think of when I think of Florida. It sounds like the OSBS is more pine woods and marsh than palm trees though, but that can be very pretty too in it’s own way, can’t wait to see!