For the Sept/Oct issue of Workamper News magazine, we put a call out to our members to share about a volunteer Workamping experience they had. We received some great submissions, and we unfortunately did not have enough pages to include them all. Here is Workamper Phil & Vicki’s story about their first Workamping experience:
Retiring in the beginning of May 2019, we are now about halfway through our first non profit camp host opportunity. We sold our home, downsized into a 30’ trailer and hit the road with our 3 rescue dogs (our fur children). The dogs seem to be adjusting to our life on the road, as long as they continue to see us daily, and the normal meal schedule is adhered to, they are fine. In our first month we encountered 5 days of snow and then plenty of rain, producing a bumper crop of mosquitoes and black flies, which we continue to feed daily.
We decided to volunteer at a nonprofit/ park/wildlife facility. We wanted to give back; using our talents & experience; and also have some time to enjoy our surroundings. We enjoy meeting others, nature, and photography so we wanted something along those lines. We also had the consideration of our dogs (some locations are not as accepting as others.)
Our current opportunity is at the Finland Minnesota Historic Society, Finland, MN. There are 7 buildings on property and about 40 acres, wooded and as the site hosts we are the only ones living on the property (not counting the woodchuck, various chipmunks, bear, mice, wolves, etc.) The site offers water, 50 amp electric and sewer connection. We delayed our start date here due to the weather in the area, ground was soft; the water had not been connected yet (below freezing temps). Due to the remoteness of the area, we currently do not have TV (and internet connection can be somewhat scattered), which is great for catching up on reading! However, the large parking lot is great for a game of “Chuck It” with the pups after hours (those with dogs understand), and so the decision was made.
We interviewed with the board, which oversees the property, and learned that the previous hosts left early in their commitment last year. What we did not realize at the time was that the property was going to need more site upkeep than what we had originally thought. Our duties include property maintenance, running the gift shop, giving tours of all the buildings, special event assistance, and overnight security.
Some of the challenges we have faces are:
- The original thought was the site is open from 11 to 4 Thursday thru Monday, and that the hosts have Tuesday & Wednesday “off”. It has been our experience that to bring the site up to speed we have been working ~80 hours a week vs. the original commitment of 40 hrs week (20 hrs per person). Getting local volunteers in the area has been a challenge; there seems to be plenty of work to do, but little hands available to help.
- Logistically it works better to get the lawn mowing done, before the guests start arriving. Also, some folks come right before closing time (or on days when the site is closed) and the tour takes some time – this means the hosts need to allow for a somewhat flexible schedule.
- We had to pack 6-40 lb bags of dog food so our dogs will continue in the style to which they have been accustom, so space continues to be at a premium until we can finally figure out storage. We checked with friends and their willingness to transport dog food to us, should the need arise. (Those with animals know the importance of this.)
- To make the most of this opportunity, future site hosts need to realize that in the past there has been site hosts living on site (had not really been going out and exploring, and they worked to continually improve the site.) One of the challenges is there does not seem to be a realistic view of how long it takes to work on various projects (i.e. lawn care/brushing) around the property and a strong resistance to change things.
- We have had the opportunity to give input, however it seems for the most part, it feels like our suggestions are not taken seriously, it takes a while to get any actions on suggestions given, and some suggestions do not seem to get any consideration.
Orientation was basically “learn as you go”. The longer we are here, the more we seem to learn. It has been very rewarding doing the site tours; we have met people from all over the world and hearing their stories of their personal experiences, has been extremely interesting, funny, educational and heartwarming.
Since this is our first hosting opportunity we can’t compare it to other host assignments, but being the only ones on site in a remote area has been a blessing. As in all things, there are pros and cons to anything. One advantage is that you’re only a few miles from Lake Superior. Here the beautiful, quiet setting to enjoy the sounds of nature all around and the warm welcome of the community has been quite wonderful and we have enjoyed getting to know the area and the folks that live here.
And so friends safe travels, may God continue to bless you on your journey!!