Couple “out of sync” for volunteer time commitment at NPS

Dear RV Shrink:
My wife and I felt we needed to change things up a bit in our travel routine so we decided to try volunteering at the National Parks. I don’t really want to be a campground host and find some of the citizen science projects or trail maintenance more appealing. My wife likes to participate in the visitor information services.

We find openings at various parks that satisfy both our wants – the problem seems to be time commitment. My wife wouldn’t mind staying in one place for six months at a time. I, however, like to move around a lot more. I think two or three months in one place would be perfect.

We have a much harder time securing volunteer jobs because I refuse to drop anchor for half a year. It tends to cause some hard feelings when she finds a position that is appealing and I won’t go along with the time commitment. Shouldn’t volunteers have more flexibility? —Vulnerable Volunteer in Virginia

Dear V:
You do have flexibility – it just doesn’t sync with each position you apply for. Volunteer services have become a great boon for both the public and private sector. It is especially popular with the RV traveling crowd. What originally started as a work-for-hookups barter between campground hosts and camping facilities has expanded into hundreds of positions.

The popularity of these programs has generated thousands of volunteer applications all over the country. It has also created competition for many popular areas and jobs that appeal to a great number of people. Often an administrator will select an applicant that is willing to do an entire season over one that desires a partial term.

The two of you must work out what time commitments you are willing to make and compromise. The more you can offer in terms of skill and flexibility should boost your chances of landing the volunteer jobs that appeal to you. Applying for more than just one position in one area will also increase your chances of securing a job that fits whatever terms you decide work for the two of you.

If you can’t find the perfect volunteer job, try one that is not as appealing. Life’s an adventure. You might stumble into a job you love and have never considered. You will be surprised how many opportunities to do other things are spawned from an original volunteer position.

Volunteering with the National Park Service.
Volunteer opportunities at nine federal agencies.

—Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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6 Thoughts to “Couple “out of sync” for volunteer time commitment at NPS”

  1. Lee Ensminger

    “…and I won’t go along with the time commitment. Shouldn’t volunteers have more flexibility?”

    It sounds to me like YOU need more flexibility. You’re exercising some kind of absolute veto power for every situation longer than two months, and not considering your wife’s desires. Perhaps two or three two-month gigs you like, alternating with a six-month gig your wife wants. Of course, you could just keep doing it all YOUR way, and eventually there won’t BE a problem, because there won’t be anyone around to suggest that pesky six-month gig. Everyone wants to get their way at least some of the time. Compromise is a real thing.

    1. Terry

      consider asking for a work share, if they have another couple who will do the other 1/2 of the time span. Understandable if retired don’t desire to stay put for 1/2 year, but also understandable that wife wants some roots for longer than you do! Maybe compromise and do some short term and some full term.

  2. Brenda

    Ditto the state parks. Many require only one month, but will often accept longer stays if you decide to extend. Unfortunately, I am not aware of one site that covers all state parks. Some do post on but many do not.

  3. Marvin Thomasson

    I would suggest looking into state parks or Corps of Engineers campgrounds. I know Florida accepts 3 month stays as camp hosts. Other states will have their requirements. Many opportunities. in private campgrounds. They will usually accept whatever time you’re willing to stay for your site. We found a 6 week job outside Yellowstone that allowed us to see the Park so well that we’ll probably never go back!

  4. Gigi

    At least for your first job, a shorter time is better. What if it turns out you are not happy with the situation. Want to spend 6 months not happy? And if you love it you can probably extend.
    Read the blogs by workcampers, sometimes the job turns out not to be as it was described.

    1. Terry

      Yes, esp when in a private camp where owners live off site and your 10-20-hr/week commitment becomes 24hr/day. You can run, but you cannot hide …

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