While traveling in Yellowstone National Park, one of our TVC Campers reached out and told me that she worked in the Park so to stop by and see her. I made my way to the Fishing Bridge General Store and had a delightful time with Alex. In full disclosure, she treated me to some wonderful ice cream while we chatted! Yum! I was thrilled that she agreed to share her story and her pictures of Yellowstone wildlife so we could share this unique workcamp story with you all.
Tell us about yourself and your fellow campers:
I travel with my wife, Helen, and our labradoodle, Sandy, who is 3 years old. We lived in New Mexico prior to transitioning to full-time RV life.
When and how did you decide to RV?
About 4 years ago, I brought up the idea of buying an RV for vacations. Helen looked at me like I was crazy, so I dropped the subject. About 2 weeks later, she said she thought it was a great idea, so we started looking. I then brought up the idea of fulltiming; again she looked at me like I was crazy, but after a month or so, she agreed it sounded great. Then, about 3 months later, she got laid off from her corporate job, so we hit the road.
How often do you travel in the RV?
We are currently work-camping in Yellowstone National Park, for our third season. When the Park closes for winter, we travel around a little. Last year, after returning to New Mexico to visit family, we headed east. We visited a lot of tourist spots, including Graceland and Dollywood, went to an NFL game, and spent the rest of the winter in Florida before heading back to Yellowstone.
What were the reactions of your family, friends, etc?
Our family and friends either think we’re incredibly lucky or absolutely crazy!
What kind of RV do you have?
We have a 31 foot class C Minnie Winnie.
What did you do with all your stuff? How did you downsize?
We had several yard sales, gave away lots of stuff, and have a storage unit for things we just couldn’t part with, like photos, keepsakes, etc. Our goal is to get that emptied this year.
Have you done any renovations on the rig?
We tore out the couch and dinette, and put in shelving and a couple of recliners. It is much more comfortable now.
Just how long have you been on the road? Do you ever see a finish line?
We’ve been on the road a little over 2 years and there are lots of places we still want to see. We love how we live, and can’t wait for our next adventure.
What is the absolute best thing about RV Life?
Getting to see lots of new country. Making new friends. Visiting family. Having freedom.
What is the worst thing?
I wish I had a bathtub to soak in LOLOL.
I assume Yellowstone is your favorite place, tell us why.
Yellowstone is truly an amazing place. We work at the general stores and there is an employee RV park about a mile from the store, where we stay. Yellowstone always has something different to offer – hiking, going to the thermal areas (geysers, hot springs, mud pots, etc), looking for animals, fishing…there’s always something to see and do. I love springtime in Yellowstone – that’s when the animal babies are born and they are so much fun to see. I also love it when it snows, and we had snow last month on the first day of summer. When we left last year, in October, there was 2 feet of snow on the ground and it was -12. That was maybe a little too cold. Oh, and we sell delicious ice cream!
What are your favorite kinds of destinations?
I love to take photos. Its my new hobby and I love to take pics of animals. We also like to see new places and try new foods. Last winter in Florida was great fun. We went to Discovery Cove and swam with dolphins and snorkeled with manta rays. We also ate lots of southern food and BBQ. We’re looking forward to going back to the Memphis Zoo and the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
What have you learned on this journey and what are you still seeking?
I’ve learned that flexibility is key to RV life. Something always happens to throw plans out of whack, and it’s best to just go with the flow. Stuff happens, and it’s how you deal with it that determines how happy you’re going to be or how much fun you’re going to have.
How do you fund your travels?
When we decided to go full-time, we needed to work to make it happen. We looked at jobs, and decided to apply to work in Yellowstone. We applied through Delaware North (the company that runs the general stores) and got hired as floor supervisors. Neither of us had worked retail for years, so it was an big change going from the corporate world to working in a store. Most of the people visiting Yellowstone are super excited to be there, so most of our customers are happy and they love to share their experiences in the Park with us. Our first year, we started as floor supervisors, and got promoted during the year to Assistant Managers. Last year and this year, we’ve each managed a store. Most years, we have a mix of college students, retirees, full-time RVers, and kids from other countries who work at our stores. We’ve made friends for life, learned about other cultures, tried different kinds of foods, and built a close knit team of employees. With COVID-19 this season, we have more retirees and full-timers, a few college kids, and no kids from other countries. I miss the mix of people we usually have.
How do you live together in such a small space and not drive each other crazy?
Sometimes I think you have to be a little bit crazy to live together in such a small space. It can be a challenge, but communication and understanding each other’s needs is the key. We have a lot of common interests, and I think that helps.
What is the most exciting thing on the horizon for you?
I’m always excited to see what’s around the next curve or beyond the next bend. Full-time life certainly is an adventure, and I can’t wait to see where we end up next year. We’ve been considering going to a new place to work and explore.
What is your best advice for those visiting Yellowstone NP?
Expect to fall in love with Yellowstone. There’s something about it that reaches deeply inside you and captures your soul.
How can people find you on social media or a blog?
I’m on instagram as auntiebro (a nickname my nieces call me) and you can find Helen and I on Facebook. I tend to post a lot of animal pics – Alex Hilty or Helen Caulfield.