volunteering1For the next two and a half months, “home” is the OSBS, a conservation center and research station located about a half hour east of Gainesville, FL. The site sits on over 9,000 acres of land comprised of a variety of native Florida habitats, perhaps most notably the disappearing sandhill habitat of longleaf pines and native grasses that once covered large areas of the lightning prone southeast before wildfire suppression allowed other trees and plants to take over.

This is the first volunteer gig I have taken, but I always enjoy trying new things. It’s 16 hours a week in exchange for my site and hookups. The work is also different than any job I’ve held on the road thus far: outdoors manual labor sort of things. So far I’ve pulled invasive plants, help map out a planned fire using GPS, and taken down an old fence.

volunteering2It’s a beautiful and peaceful place, closed to the public and full of natural wonders. I’ve worked my first week and enjoyed it so far, but of course it’s too soon to give an in depth review. Things are a little unorganized and we’re all learning as we go in a way. I am a guinea pig you see, their very first “conservation camper”. I had my choice of the three brand new RV sites when I arrived last Monday, they finished graveling the road out to the little campground a couple days later.

volunteering3I can already start to understand why full-timers who don’t need to work would prefer to volunteer instead of bring in a few extra dollars with a paying job. The feel of volunteering is quite different from any other gig I’ve held so far.

The environment is more relaxed, there is less counting of minutes, less direct supervision, and more flexibility in my schedule. Or maybe it’s just the OSBS tends to be like this whether the position is paid or not. It’s clear to me that everyone I’ve worked with so far loves their job and wants to do well at it which makes such a huge difference in the feel of a workplace. The work itself even feels better when it’s volunteering, more rewarding somehow.

volunteering4I could have worked the more traditional four hour shifts for four days a week, but opted instead for two eight hour shifts. This will make it easier for me to pick up a part time job in Gainesville to help cover the rest of my living expenses, a task I was waiting until after this weekend to tackle.

volunteering5This weekend I was in Atlanta, crossing another thing off of my Dream List. My best friend Julie and I have wanted to perform at a renaissance festival together since we were in college. This year schedules finally aligned to make it possible, and it was uncertain if the chance would be there next year so it was clearly time to jump on it. The audition was on Sunday, I think it went well but it might be up to a week before we hear back yes or no. If it’s a yes, the festival starts mid April, two weeks after OSBS ends, and runs through the first week in June. If it’s a no, I’ll start searching for a summer park job and not be too sad, because even just auditioning was a worthwhile experience and next time we try we’ll be that much better for it.

So now that I have a list of generally what days rehearsals would fall on, it’s time to start job hunting in Gainesville. Those who were following IO this time last year might remember how hard it was picking up a temp job down this way on short notice, but I have one big advantage this time: I’m looking for part-time work, and those are much easier to find that full-time temp jobs. I’m also not losing as much money while I search, since rent and hookups are taken care of.

volunteering6Aside from that, I’m enjoying all the wildlife I’m seeing out here (I’m even keeping a count), liking the warmer weather, and hoping that the lack of WiFi at my site (I can get on the station’s WiFi at the conservation center building, about 20 minutes away) will mean I get more writing and editing done on that e-guide I’ve been working on. Next post I’m expecting to take a look at what my earnings were at Amazon this holiday season with my bonus check now in (as in my work in the warehouse), and perhaps briefly review 2013 and what I’m looking to do in 2014. Take care all!

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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. Eric on January 16, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you for all of the work you have been doing on your blog. I have been following your blog since Technomadia posted their video about you. I have gone back and read the entire blog and find myself rereading some posts. I think your sharing of your journey in starting full time rving is what has made your blog so good. I have wanted to be a full time rver for a few years and am planning with my family to make it happen this year. Your blog has really inspired me and has shown me that this is really possible for the “average guy”. I think you have inspired many other people in a similar way.

    If you could share some other blogs that have inspired you I would appreciate to hear about them. It is difficult to stay motivated this time of year in the cold, snowy northeast when living in an rv seems very foreign. I would like to read some other blogs that describe their journey to rving to keep my spirits up.

  2. Furry Gnome on January 15, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Hope you enjoy your time at the research station; sounds very interesting.

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks Gnome.

  3. Dawn on January 15, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    This looks like a great opportunity and a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. 8 hours of physical work might be a lot, especially at the beginning, but I can see the advantage to working two full days there and freeing up the rest of the week.

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Well, I’m in pretty good physical shape so it’s not a big hardship for me but yeah I can imagine the more typical full-timing crowd would be happier doing the 4 hour shifts which luckily are an option.

  4. David Michael on January 15, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    As a full-timer, we have been volunteering for the past several summers along the Oregon coast in the State Park system as well as Fish Hatcheries in the interior. I was amazed how much I enjoy the Interpretation work. As compared to working at Amazon (which we did this past season), we find volunteering so relaxing and meaningful. And the Rangers have been great. There seems to be endless possibilities in the USA for volunteering. Good luck on the part-time job search.
    David Michael recently posted..Eastern Sierra NevadaMy Profile

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 9:21 pm

      Oooh, everything I hear about Oregon paints such a pretty picture, it must be great volunteering out there. I think you’re right and that there are a lot of great opportunities for volunteering out there, but I’ll still keep going back to Amazon in the fall because sadly the world runs on money, haha. Still I’m grateful that I can do something like this every now and then. Thanks for the well wishes.

  5. PamelaP on January 15, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    I am THRILLED you auditioned for the Atlanta Ren Fair! I worked that Fair twice as my character Lady Marrywell. Rennies (what Fair performers and workers are called) are a fun, carefree bunch that I think you’ll enjoy so I am sending you good “hiring” karma!

    I can’t believe I lived in Florida nearly half my life and never heard of the place you are now volunteering. Florida has so many beautiful spots I hope you get a chance to do some traveling while you are there. Sanibel Island (other coast from you & south) is famous for it’s shells, St. Petersburg has a great Greek Festival every year, and of course, closer to you are the lures of the BIG mouse. I hope you enjoy your time there!

    I am headed for Quartzsite tomorrow as Amazon will have a booth there – we are also at the Tampa RV Show but though I would have LOVED to go to the Tampa one, I am needed in Quartzsite – maybe Florida next year…..

    Keep safe!

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      Wow, what a small world Pamela, haha. We’re auditioning to be musicians, well, vocalists mainly, we sing duets and have about 30 songs memorized that are ren fair appropriate. Thanks for the well wishes!

      I’m not too surprised that you’ve never heard of the OSBS, heck, a lot of places within the UF systems haven’t heard of it before and give me a blank face when I tell them what facet I’m volunteering at. I do definitely plan on doing some sightseeing and day trips while I’m down here, although a part-time job comes first of course. Thanks for the trip ideas.

      I’m a bit jealous. I want to see Quartzsite so bad, it sounds like such a neat place and it’s been forever since I’ve been to Arizona, but as you said it’ll wait – maybe next year…

  6. Roger in SoCal. on January 15, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Hi Becky,

    The volunteering sounds nice, especially when things are in a relaxed atmosphere. Just wanted to let you know that I got my new-to-me RV, and I starting looking for work. I am using CoolWorks, and I joined Workamper news. I created a resume on Workamper, and applied to a gig in the northern Sierra at an RV park by a river.

    Anyway, have fun and hope to see you on the road someday, and of course stay safe.


    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      Congrats Roger! You must be very excited, I remember what it was like the day I picked up Cas. Coolworks and Workamper News are both good resources, I found my Badlands job using the former and this volunteer gig using the later. The Sierras sound like such a neat place, I’ll cross my fingers that you get it. Safe travels and happy trails!

  7. Reine on January 15, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Hey folks,

    We can all give Becky the ability to volunteer more if we shop via her link to Amazon. I know I’m shopping more on Amazon than I used to and going through Becky’s link doesn’t cost me anything but a minute to remember to use it and provides her some additional income. Also, as I understand the Amazon deal, the MORE folks that buy through her link the higher her commission rate is so even if it’s a small purchase it will help.

    Her volunteering job gives her free hookups but it doesn’t pay for groceries, insurance, car/trailer repairs and those other ongoing things.

    Becky, we all really enjoy our blog and it’s fun to shop knowing we’re helping keep you and the blog going.

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Aww, thanks for the promo Reine, hehe. I do appreciate everyone who uses my Amazon links and it really does make a difference, but I also don’t want to make anyone feel like they should do more spending than they would have anyway just for my sake. I understand that not everyone who reads IO shops online and that’s just fine, even just commenting on posts and spreading the word about IO to other RVing circles helps in the long run. Thank you all for being so awesome. 🙂

  8. PamP on January 15, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Lucky me-lucky you! I just finished a resident volunteer position just west of where you are now. I was at Dudley Farm HSP. Yes, indeed its much nicer to be a volunteer if you can afford it. social security takes care of my bare necessities. Days might still be frosty, but days are warm. Winter is Floridas dry season making camping easy. Enjoying your posts.

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Oooh, sounds like fun Pam. I think the next three nights are suppose to touch freezing, but it’s all a walk in the park compared to Kansas last month. I agree with you though, I’m not sure I could last the summers down here when it’s raining every day and in the 90’s.

  9. Diane on January 15, 2014 at 6:13 am

    I enjoy following your posts, sounds awesome to follow your heart (and the weather) for your next location 🙂

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      It is awesome Diane, if you haven’t tried it yet I highly recommend it. 😉

      I fail a little with the following the nice weather thing, but that makes life more interesting too.

  10. Paul Dahl on January 14, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    We’re doing our first volunteer job at a COE area in SC. We do 20 hours total (10 each) a week for a beautiful FHU site right on the lake. We originally were going to do just 3 months, we’ve now extended to do six months and are coming back in Oct for 3 more months.

    It’s lots of fun, laid back and interesting work. Mostly little odd jobs, but it frees up the rangers to do more important work. :c)
    Paul Dahl recently posted..Drip DripMy Profile

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Sounds real nice Paul, lakeside spots can be so hard to get when you’re traveling but you’ll be spending more than half a year in one, that’s great! I do a lot of different jobs too, I like it that way because it keeps things from getting boring.

  11. Kim on January 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    This looks to be a wonderful experience for you. Good luck with the audition results!
    Kim recently posted..Homeward BoundMy Profile

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Thank you Kim! No word back yet.

  12. Ingrid on January 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Sounds like a fun relaxing gig. We’ve been spotting the endangered whooping crane here in Rockport TX…..very fun. Hope you see plenty of wildlife during your stay 🙂
    Ingrid recently posted..Stuck on AutoMy Profile

    • Becky on January 15, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Yes to fun and relaxing. Today I got to go out and take pictures for “work”, how much better can it get? We were getting pre-fire survey photos for a plot that’s going to be burned within the next month, right after the fire we’ll go back and take pictures in the same spots and see what changed.

      Cranes are such beautiful creatures, I bet that must be magical. I’ve seen lots of deer, squirrels, raccoon, turkeys, turkey vultures, hawks, and wake most mornings to bird song.

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