Workamping in New Mexico: Month One Update
JANUARY 30: Who? What? When? Where? Why? The five W’s of basic problem solving and information gathering are used often in research, journalism and police investigations. We aren’t trying to solve any mysteries here, but these five questions constitute a good formula for getting the complete story on a subject. Today’s subject is our workamping job in New Mexico. After our first full month on the job, you, our readers are due an update on our most recent gig.
So this part doesn’t change much from one job to another, as the who is us, Russ & Betsy Gibbons, a husband and wife team that started our full-time RV journey in May 2016. We are big fans of learning new things and love trying anything at least once. We are not afraid to roll up our sleeves, get a little dirty and get a job done. As we explore the country together, it is our desire to work in positive, customer-centered work environments and expand our skills at each stop along the way. It is our goal to be able to explore different parts of the country and experience what those locations have to offer. We hope to get to know many different people and form working relationships while creating memories for years to come. Along the way we find time to enjoy some of the things we love, such as biking, hiking, blogging, eating and reading. So that is us in a nutshell, and we hope our job here in Albuquerque will match up with the goals outlined above.
Deductions, credits, due diligence and Uncle Sam are the name of the game for this round of Workamping. That’s right folks, taxes and not just our own. We joined the crew as tax preparers for Jackson Hewitt here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Have we ever done taxes before? No. Have we ever been in Albuquerque before? No. As we said in the “The Who” section, we are big fans of learning new things and love trying anything at least once. We didn’t even do our own taxes in the past, so definitely something new for us! It was also our goal to explore different parts of the country. They say, two no’s make a yes and that is exactly the case for us. All training was provided and you may have heard us complain once or twice in an earlier post about Tax School. Given the impression that the online training course would take about 20 hours, we were kind of “over it” when we hit the 60 hour mark. Now you might think we are just slow learners, but it was a narrated course, so it’s not like we could have made it go any faster. To be honest, when we first applied, we thought it was for customer service positions - answering phones, responding to emails, making appointments, etc. However, when we had a quick phone interview with the owner of the franchise, he kept mentioning tax preparation. We then made it clear, just so you know “we’ve never done taxes” which was followed up with a “don’t worry, we will provide all the training you need.”
We had one week of training in December and part of another week in January before we started “seat rides.” We anticipated these “seat rides” to be a little more hands-off, just watching as a seasoned tax pro showed us the ropes. However, our first day reporting to the job, we were in the hot seat, preparing taxes using the Jackson-Hewitt branded software. It really probably was the best way to learn in an office with help nearby. After a month, the franchise owner was right, we are doing taxes and most days feel comfortable doing so. For those other times, we are thankful that we work with some “Walking Tax Encyclopedias” to use as a phone-a-friend and process support is available all day via a company chat room. At the end of January, we had completed 54 tax returns combined.
As with most jobs, customer service is utmost. Most days that part comes easy for us and we sometimes get frustrated with people who don’t provide this type of service. After great customer services comes tax knowledge and while we didn’t look forward to our online Tax School training back in September and October, we are thankful for it as not has it helped us complete our customers’ tax returns accurately, but it allows us to provide additional advice to our clients to help them in future years. It definitely takes more brain power than several of our other workamping gigs, but it hasn’t been all that “taxing” thus far. (Sorry just had to sneak that in there, it’s just too easy!) We have certainly learned a lot in the last few months about taxes, but nearly half the returns have some type of unique situation that may require a trip to the IRS site, Ask JH or our new favorite the Quickfinder, more lovingly called the “Tax Bible.” Each scenario gives us an opportunity to learn something new and research something a bit more to help our clients receive any and all credits for which they qualify.
One of the biggest draws for us accepting this job was the timeframe. It worked right into our ideal plans. We had hoped to spend the holidays with family this year after not being able to do so last year. Thanksgiving was to be with the Gibbons Clan in Pennsylvania and Christmas celebrations were scheduled in Ohio with the Dutt Family. Our job in Texas wrapped up exactly one week prior to Thanksgiving giving us a chance to hop on a jet plane and celebrate with our PA family, just as hoped. So that was taken care of, next up Christmas plans. When we applied for the job, they let us know that training would run December 10-21 and then resume after the New Year. That meant a trip to Ohio to see Ol’ Saint Nick over the Christmas holiday was possible (post coming soon). Not only did the start date work out, but with a mandatory tax deadline of April 15, so did the ending date, as most spring/summer jobs are looking for workampers to start in May. They say timing is everything and that was the case for this Workamping job.
As to when we work each week, it has been about 40 hours a week, some of the weeks a little less and some a little bit more. It is likely that the hours may decrease as tax season progresses. The earliest shift starts at 9 AM and latest closing shift is 7 PM, with hours being both during the week and on weekends, including Sundays. We will go with the flow and work the days and hours we are needed.
All this talk about the job doesn’t really give you all the details about where we are actually located. The franchise owner, Matt, owns several different local franchises, including ones in Texas, New Mexico and California. We had opted for the Las Cruces, NM and Denton, TX locations but when they said where they really needed bodies was Albuquerque, we agreed. After all, our travels had yet to take us to New Mexico and after a year working in Texas, we were due for a change. For 4 months we will call Albuquerque, New Mexico home. So let me present some facts about the state that has a pretty great nickname, the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the country, falling just below Montana. Big as it might be, only about 2 million people call the state home, ranking it 36th on the list of states by population. With that fact in mind, despite being located in New Mexico’s largest city, we can get from one side of the city to the other in less than 20 minutes. They like to say they have traffic, but it is far from the mess found around the city of Atlanta. We know because we lived there too! New Mexico has far more cattle than people, with under 20 people per square mile and around 13,500 ranches.
New Mexico has several claims to fame with one being it plays host to the world’s largest hot air balloon fiesta each October. A visit to Hatch, New Mexico will make your taste buds dance as it is the “Green Chile Capital of the World” And while Denver might be the Mile High City, the capital of New Mexico is the highest capital city in the United States with Santa Fe standing at 7,199 feet above sea level. Even in our short time here, we have seen the diverse landscape of the state. One quarter of New Mexico is forested with seven national forests, including the country’s largest at 3.3 million acres, Gila National Forest. You will find 13,000 foot snow-capped peaks, desert sand and wildflower-laden prairies. New Mexico has the oldest continuously inhabited towns on the continent and the oldest capital city and government buildings in North America, but is still one of the youngest states of the nation, not becoming the 47th state until 1912.
While we hope to explore a lot of the state, it is likely most of our time will be spent in Albuquerque. We are doing some “Urban Camping” at the Albuquerque KOA. About a quarter of the state’s population is in ABQ and it is recognized as one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country. We look forward to enjoying its ethnic architecture, artwork, cultural centers and cuisine as well as all the perks of camping in an urban area. You know things like, being able to frequent Trader Joe’s, having a Costco within walking distance and a laundry list of good restaurants to try! Even though Albuquerque is a big city it doesn’t seem to be such as the tallest building is only 22 stories and 351 feet high which is supposedly due to the soft soil near the Rio Grande. We gave you some fun facts about the state, so let’s give the city it’s time to shine. Albuquerque is often found in the list of most PHDs per capita and neither Russ or I being here helps that statistic. Along those lines, Bill Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen started the company out of a garage here in Albuquerque in the 1970s. In contrast to all those smarts, it is also the location of the infamous and frivolous McDonald’s coffee spill lawsuit which proves not everyone in Albuquerque has big brains. Guess you already knew that, knowing they allowed the two of us to stay here. Hope one or two of those fun facts about “The Where” of our workamping job will help you in a random trivia game someday. You’re welcome!
We have provided you with a little better idea of who we are, what we are doing, when we are working, and where we are, but why are we here. Well when we departed on this big full-time RV adventure, it was to do three things SEE the country, live a SIMPLE life, and LOVE each other. We knew that taking this job would allow us to SEE a part of the country we hadn’t seen much of. I had been in New Mexico for about a day during a family trip out west, but Russ had never set foot in the state. As we do when we are in any area for an extended period of time, we make a “to-see” list. We have crossed a few things off the list, but still have several places to visit and things to see, but those will belong in another post, another day! We also took this job for a change a pace, to try something different than most of the workamping jobs out there. More than half of the jobs advertised are at campgrounds and we plan to work at many more of them, including one in New Jersey next summer, but a change of pace and different learning experiences and challenges are welcome. It often gets a bad wrap, but change is good!
We’ve answered the 5W’s above, but that would leave some of these little special details out. We do get paid for all hours worked at $10/hour and our site is included at no charge. Unlike our last job, we do pay for our own electric on a monthly basis. While we don’t make much over New Mexico minimum wage, we try to maximum the opportunity to explore the area while living essentially rent free. When it comes to perks of a workamping job, you often here us talk about the commute or lack there-of. It is one of those “it's six of one, half a dozen of the other” type scenarios. When you live where you work it sometimes means you can’t get away from the job. In this case, we do have a commute, but when we leave the office for the day, so does the work! No answering after-hour phone calls, late night lock-up or helping out a guest before the office opens. We do miss having lunch at home every workday, but we have learned to adapt our “Salad Hour” into an enjoyable and packable dining experience.
While we didn’t solve any problems or crack the case of a mysterious investigation, we hope the who, what, when, where and why of our job gave you a better picture of our current workamping experience. We will follow up with another update at the end of the month. As always, if you have any questions or comments, we would love for you to share them with us down below.
If you are curious about the world of Workamping, checkout Workamper® News the company that coined the term Workamper® back in 1987. They offer a free membership that allows you to search for jobs and receive the digital version of their magazine. If you do opt for the gold membership which includes additional features like a resume builder & printed magaizine, we would love if you would mention that you were referred by Russ & Betsy simply by using the code AMB103.
RUSS & BETSY'S WORKAMPING REVIEWS / UPDATES:
- - - Jackson Hewitt in Albuquerque, NM (December 2018 - Current):
- - - Texas Lakeside RV Resort in Port Lavaca, Texas (November 2017 - November 2018):
- - - Acadia Bike & Coastal Kayaking in Bar Harbor, Maine (June - October 2017):
- - - Amazon Camperforce in Campbellsville, Kentucky (October - December 2016):