Friday, 11 May 2018

Questions and Answers Part 2 (b) - Working on the Road

As promised, today's post is about some of the jobs people can do when living on the road and how to go about getting them.  Obviously I don't have ALL the answers, but if nothing else I hope it gets people's brains ticking as to some of the options and opportunities that are out there.  I know it might sound like I have it easy, being able to work from my van all the time, but honestly, I have found work opportunities of all kinds are so much more plentiful on the road.  We see them everywhere we go.  Sometimes I feel bad that I don't go out to work, as a lot of the jobs sound like a lot of fun and something I would love to do!  However, Gareth and I already work four or five jobs as it is, all from our little van.  We are busier now than we have ever been in our lives.  Which wasn't the plan when we set off in search of the 'easy life!'  But we love what we're doing so much, most of the time it doesn't even seem like work.

Job hunting on the road isn't the same as in conventional life.  When you live in a house, you are so much more limited.  On the whole, you look for work which will enable you to stay in the same house, in the same town, or at least pretty close to it.  Consequently your options are pretty few, especially when it comes to finding a job you actually like or are qualified or experienced in.  However when you live on the road, you can just go wherever the work is. Some people have a specific are in mind (e.g. a lot of people head to Central Otago in spring and summer as it has some of the highest temperatures in the country and there is so much work available in the orchards).  Others just find a job they like the sound of, hop behind the wheel and go wherever it may be!  It's no big drama when you already have your whole house with you.

We learned heaps about working on the road from our friends, Steve and Fiona!
When it comes to making new contacts and knowing where the work is, fellow travellers are worth their weight in gold and always happy to help.


So what sort of jobs can you do on the road?  Pretty much anything you like really.  That's not trying to be a fob off but think about it, your mobile home is just the same as a regular house in that you can lock it behind you when you go to work and come home, eat dinner and sleep.  It all depends on your circumstances (e.g. for us we couldn't go out to work eight hours a day and leave our dog in a tiny van, especially over summer) and what you are willing to do.  The most common line of work for full time road dwellers without a doubt is in orchards and vineyards.  There's a heap of work available fruit picking and in packhouses and such and you can pretty much follow the picking season all around the country for most of the year.  It's something anyone can learn to do and as an added bonus you are often able to park up for free on site.  As for winter, there is plenty of work to be found at the ski fields.  If you're not too flash on the slopes there is cafe and bar work available, or helping out with hire gear.

Some people are happy to do anything, others are a bit more picky.  Instead of thinking about all the things you can't do, or don't want to do, think instead of all the things you CAN do.  What sort of skills and experience do you have?  Make a list. Can you drive a tractor or a forklift? Do you have an HT license?  If you have an HT license or have any experience in farming, such as calf rearing or relief milking you'll never have trouble finding work.  Good relief milkers are hard to find. If you don't have any farm experience, consider a stint 'Wwoofing'!  This is hugely popular (I'd do it like a shot if I ever needed to!)  and while you don't get paid as a rule, it's a great way to gain some valuable experience while enjoying free accommodation.  If you fancy yourself as a bit of a writer and would like to be able to work from your vehicle, check out Upwork.  It's a global site which you sign up for and gain instant access to all kinds of writing jobs all over the world, big and small.  In this day and age location is no barrier.  Over the years I've worked for companies in the UK and Australia and have just started a new job in PR for an organisation in the US!  Anything is possible these days.

Do you have cleaning references?  What past jobs have you had?  Many people can carry their existing skills with them to help them find new work, which is great news if you're a former mechanic, engineer or builder.  Another popular choice is house sitting.  While it may not pay, it can save you an absolute fortune on campground fees and facilities and keep your living costs super low.   I know people who have done housesitting continuously for years!  You get to look after some beautiful homes and often some adorable pets too. It's up to you whether you choose to stay in the house or not; many motorhomers prefer just to park on the property and stay in their own mobile homes.  If you want to find out more information about house sitting and how it works, check out Kiwi House Sitters on Facebook.  I know a lot of people who do house sitting through them and have heard nothing but good reports.  It's something I would definitely do myself should the need ever arise!


If nothing I've mentioned so far is jumping out at you, don't panic.  It's one of those things you really need to look into yourself to get an idea of what you can do and want to do.  Who knows, something may well just fall into your lap! Living on the road opens so many new doors. I think it's just because you go to so many places and meet so many people, it's amazing how many contacts you develop. A lot of opportunities come from word of mouth.  You might not know anybody when you set out on the road but it doesn't take long and most people have a real and genuine desire to help.  We've just made a new friend called Alison, from the US who has been on the road for a year or more and is staying here for the winter. She never planned to, she only intended to be in town for a few hours!  All it took was a visit to the ice skating rink and next thing she knew, she had a job at one of the local cafes.

A couple we met at our very first freedom camp had been living and working on the road for six years and gave us a spreadsheet they had made, which listed all the places they had worked, what time of year, for how long and had all the addresses and contact numbers.  It was so very much appreciated and made us realise what was out there.  While we've never had to use it to find work ourselves, we have shared it with at least half a dozen other couples looking for work and they have been so glad of it.  As the saying goes, it's often not what you know but who you know.  To date we've also been offered three jobs working at or managing different campgrounds we have stayed at.  Campground owners need a break just like anybody else and are happy to have full time motorhomers caring for the grounds in their absence as they are reliable and understand the lifestyle.

When looking for work, you can still go through all the traditional avenues such as Trade Me, Seek and local newspapers but there are other avenues too, which are tailored specifically for those living on the road. The NZMCA regularly notify members of available or upcoming vacancies through their Motorhomer magazine, on their Facebook page and its Wings Member Only group.  NZMCA members look after each other and it's a great way of keeping informed of some really good opportunities.  There is also a general Facebook page called NZ paid work for people who live on the road.    If you are in a specific area, or planning to be, you can also use Facebook to see what work is available, or let people know that you're looking.  Almost every town has some kind of community or Buy and Sell page where all the local happenings are posted.  For example I belong to a couple in Southland, there is Southland Jobs NZ and just Southland Jobs.  If you're on the hunt for farm work there is even a Southland Dairy Farm Jobs NZ page too. Yet another fantastic resource is a website called Seasonal Solutions, which sets up both Kiwis and overseas visitors with permanent or seasonal job opportunities in the horticulture and viticulture industries.  Being a bit of a wine afficionado myself, I rather like the thought of working somewhere which produces my favourite tipple!  You get the idea, it's just a question of letting your fingers doing the walking and seeing whats around.

Talking of doing some walking, don't forget you can do things the old fashioned way!  Often this can be the most effective.  Go for a walk and check out shop windows and ask local shop assistants if they know of any work opportunities.  If you're wanting orchard or vineyard work, do a Google search for all of them in the area, then pick up the phone or pay them a visit.  Many people living on the road don't have a recent CV, being the mature bunch we are, so spend a little time getting your CV up to date so you can hand copies to people and they have something to remember you by.  If you're too shy to go bowling up to potential employers on the doorstep, pop your CV in their mail box along with a covering letter!  You never know what may eventuate, you could be just what they're looking for.  It's certainly not uncommon to drive past farms, orchards and vineyards in the South Island and see signs advertising for Staff Wanted at the gate.  Don't worry if this all sounds a bit daunting to start off with.  Living on the road makes people very resourceful and creative.  It doesn't take long to drum up the courage to get out there and introduce yourself to people and sell yourself.  If you have a useful skill or talent, it's well worth advertising it in the window of your mobile home.  For example our friend Steve does knife sharpening and another friend, Sally cuts hair.  It's an easy way to make some extra cash (often it will pay for your campground fee at least) and you have a large and receptive audience in your fellow campers!  Motorhomers love to support one another and would much rather purchase from another merry wanderer than a commercial business.

One of the greatest things about working on the road is that you can be your own boss.  You can work as little or as much as you want, depending on the kind of income you need.  Some people go out and work a full day every day, others can work full or part time from their mobile homes, like me and our friend Dan, who is an architect and draughtsman and works flat out from his caravan.  If you're a crafty type you can indulge your passion while making an income.  How much you make depends on how far you want to go, both distance and effort wise.  Some people are happy advertising and selling their wares from their motorhome, like our lovely friend Leanne, who does the most beautiful knitting and card making.  Others go flat out through the busy summer months, travelling around markets and gypsy fairs, selling everything from baby clothes to hand made silver jewellery and amazing artworks.  I'll talk more about those in future blogs as some of them really have to be seen to be believed!  There are some very clever people out there, and they learned how to do it all while on the road.

I know I said yesterday that people on the road are happy to do anything, and we are.  But that certainly doesn't mean you can't get your dream job!  Who knows, you may not even know what your dream job is yet, you just have to get out there and see what comes up.  As the saying goes, you never know what you're capable of until you try.

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