Why 'Workamping' Makes Sense — And Not Just for Older Folks

Workampers can linger at a national park while still bringing in income. The average age of workampers is about 53. . (Photo: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock)

The main difference between hobos and tramps is that while both are homeless, hobos work and travel as part of their lifestyle and tramps like to travel but don't care to work.

Those terms may feel old-fashioned, but if you take away the negative connotations, they accurately describe what more people are doing today — and plenty of people aspire to do. In fact, there's a new word to add to the mix: workampers.

Workampers are people who combine RV living with part- or full-time work. The word is a portmanteau of "work" and "camper," and the group includes single people, couples and even families. An RV isn't even necessary — the term goes beyond RVs to encompass those who travel in any kind of camper, including those iconic Volkswagen vans. Workampers may or may not have a more traditional home in addition to their home on wheels.

How it works depends on the travelers. Some do their work remotely, pulling a full-time schedule for weeks at a time before moving to a new location. Some exchange a minimal amount of labor for a place to park their RV, avoiding camping fees, and still others work seasonal jobs — think campgrounds, national parks, fairs, ranches or farms. (In fact, that last group advertises specifically to workampers, and there's a workamping website dedicated to connecting workers with jobs. Of course, there are.) You can hear two workampers describe why they do it in the video below:

It's about 'freedom of place'

There's no firm numbers, but a growing number of people are trading in traditional digs for the open road. While people of all ages are workamping — everyone from retired people to people in their 20s — the median age is 53, meaning many of them aren't retired at all.

Workamper.com says the number one benefit of the lifestyle is "freedom of place" — which doesn't just include the ability to go somewhere, but also to experience it for as long as you'd like to. As described on the FAQ section of the site:

"For instance, it takes months to fully explore places like Yellowstone Park, yet due to the high cost of living and campground stay limits, the average visit lasts only a few days. Workampers who spend the entire summer in Yellowstone leave knowing the park as well as the locals! Freedom of Place also means warm winters, cool summers, time with the grandkids, time away from the grandkids and a million other enticing benefits!"

As baby boomers continue to age (and Gen X not too far behind) workamping is set to keep expanding as an option for all kinds of people.

As the work mobility trend grows along with better, faster Internet connections, the only real requirements for this lifestyle are itchy feet and the ability to remain flexible about the possibilities.