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Make Money and Travel – Building The Pipeline

This Make Money and Travel story is a little different.  It’s one of those cases where work and income wasn’t absolutely necessary because the guy is retired, however when an opportunity to travel while building the Keystone pipeline came up, it was too good to pass up.

When Benny reached out and told us his well paying, fairly easy job not only gave him the opportunity to travel but also reach a financial goal that would allow him to buy his dream home on wheels, well… we thought there may be a few of you out there who might want the same.

make money and travel

Benny is the guy who married his high school sweetheart, joined the Army right after high school and worked a diligent 26 years in the Army.  I know a lot of people who’s stories start out just like this and end with something along the lines of ‘now we’re retired and  live on a golf course in Florida’.  There isn’t a thing wrong with living out retirement on a golf course, but considering you’re still reading I’m assuming it’s probably not your dream, and it definitely wasn’t Benny’s either.  He and his wife RC, much like so many of us have a big desire to roam.  So, when Benny retired from the Army he set out to become a wanderer…little did he know it would lead him to his second career.

While in the military I traveled the world over working in and/or visiting a several countries, (some more than once) Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Luxemburg, Poland, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Philippines, Japan, Guam.  I worked as a Logistician for the Special Operations Forces based out of Fort Bragg North Carolina. That’s where my wife, my kids and I spent the last 15 or so years until I went on terminal leave in May 2013 and retired in January 2014. After I exited the military I soon found that my logistics skills and knowledge were very valuable to the civilian sector.

A few years before retiring Benny and RC along with their trusty Pomeranian named Izzy started planning their new life.  They wanted to travel the US and go wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted and stay for as long as they wanted. Naturally, the RV lifestyle fits this mantra perfectly.  They had no intentions of working and planned to live strictly on his retirement and disability pay which is about $5000 per month.  A nice comfortable budget!  Just as they were about to pursue their plans of selling the house to purchase a Class A diesel pusher, a chance encounter with an old friend in the oil and gas industry changed everything.

 

The Job

Describe your working situation and what line of work you’re in.  At what point did you realize that you could bring in enough income to continually fund a location independent lifestyle?

Three months before I retired we took a road trip from North Carolina to El Paso Texas to visit family. Passing through Houston Texas a friend started telling me about all the work that was available in the oil and gas industry. I told him I was not interested in working and went on to El Paso Tx. On the way back to North Carolina we stopped off back in Houston and my friend begins to tell me that I have an interview with a Pipeline Construction Company building the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas. Since my friend had already set up the interview I figured I would at least go hear what they had to offer.

The night before the interview my wife and I spent several hours in Houston traffic and I looked at her and said I don’t like the traffic here and its too busy and faced paced. She agreed. I told her that at the interview I would listen to what thay have to say and if they asked me how much money/salary I was looking for, I would throw out such a large number that they would send me on my way. The next day, when the subject of compensation came up I gave them what I thought was a very high number and without blinking the man looked at me and said we can do better than that and doubled it! Then asked me if I could start on Monday. (This was Thursday). So I said yes and left there and headed back to North Carolina wondering what just happened.

I left my wife in NC to pack up the house and put everything in storage and on Sunday I drove back to Texas to start working on Monday. RC finally joined me a month later. The job requires me to be mobile and follow the pipeline as it is being built. I am in charge of logistics and procurement. Working in this industry requires a good sized 4X4 truck to access all the off road areas so I had to purchase a Ford F250 4X4 truck. So now I can no longer go with a Class A  Diesel pusher because it can’t pull my truck which I need for work…….so that’s how we ended up purchasing a 5th wheel RV instead of a bus. Now we live in our 5th wheel and travel with the pipeline.

From November 2013 to present we have lived in six different places, (all in Texas so far). We lived on TiKi island for three months at Tiki Tom’s RV park and loved it as it was right on the water and close to the beach. When we are not staying in RV parks we live right on the job site for free. We connect to the power, water and sewer and tap into the Wi-Fi as well. (Kind of like boondocking but better, and its free) They let us stay there for free in exchange for “Night Watch” “Security”. Just having someone on site keeps things from walking away. Izzy is a very good guard dog.

traveling work

 

When I think of this line of work, I think hard labor and mostly men.  Is that the case?

My job as Senior Procurement Manager/Logistics Supervisor requires little to no hard labor. I get on the forklift and help out every now and then…. Just to get out of the office though.  My job is pretty much done over the phone or on my computer.

Women can and do work in this industry.   Most of the women working on the pipeline work as flaggers, welder helpers, office or field clerks.  Depending on the position you can make anywhere from $15 to $22 an hour plus $100 per day in Per-diem and $50 a day truck pay, if you use your own truck instead of a company truck

 

The Hours

How many hours do you put in a week and what does a typical workday look like for you?

I put in 40 to 50 hours a week and have every weekend off. A typical work day for me goes something like this:

  • 6:00am open the gate so that everyone arriving at the yard can get in.
  • 7:00 to 11:30 typical office work, dispatching trucks and equipment to different job sites, locating and or re-positioning equipment from one job site to another, ordering fuel.
  • Lunch ( it’s a really long walk to my rig for lunch…125 feet )
  • 13:00 to 17:00 more office work. Planning any equipment moves for the next day.  Making online purchases to fill request from work crews.
  • 17:00 (5pm) lock the gate.   Then start all over again the next day
  • By living on site it makes the daily commute very easy!!!  Lol.  No traffic.

 

The Pay

If you are willing to say, what is the average yearly salary for someone in your line of work? How long did it take for you to start earning a comfortable/typical living for this line of work? 

I take home $4,000 a week after taxes. That’s a little over $220,000 per year.  Now you see why I couldn’t say no!!

We never sold our house or our household goods. The house in now a rental that brings in monthly income $1375 and our household goods are sitting in a mini storage costing us $300 a month.

We are saving to buy our Class A Diesel pusher. I want to pay cash for it next year. I told my wife that I was only going to work until I had enough money to pay cash for my dream RV.  Check back and Ill let you know how that turned out.

 

The Tools

What are the most essential pieces of equipment or programs you need for working while traveling?

My Ford F250 4X4 truck is the most critical part of my job. This allows me to access the job sites that are mostly off road or off the beaten path and it also pulls our 5th wheel.

 

The Search

How did you find the job?  Do you find it or do they find you and how?  

We kind of fell into this line of work by word of mouth. I had become a member of Work Camper and subscribe to their magazine. We had initially intended to travel around the country working as camp host here and there, until we landed our current gig. Mind you its more work than I intended to do after retiring, but who could say no to the money that they were dishing out?

In order to get started in this industry it helps to know somebody that knows somebody. There are a few Facebook groups that you can follow like Pipeline Operators or Pipeline Jobs….. There are pipeline job openings all over the country.  When a new project is starting up they do all their hiring over the phone and by posting positions on FB.  You just have to stay on top of all the Pipeliner Facebook groups to see where they are hiring next in order to get your foot in the door.  Once you’re in, you’re in the know and can then move from one spread to the next, and you can continue to have pretty steady work.   Most of the time there is anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months between jobs though.   But after working 6 days a week for 4 months, a month off is nice.

Here are just a few Pipeline Companies that you can research:  Phillips Pipeline Contractors, Willbros, Troy, WHC, MPG, EMS, Progressive, Strike….That’s just a few.  Here’s an example of a Facebook listing:

make money and travel

 

The Up’s

What are the best things about working while traveling?  Those things that make you think wow; I really am living the dream.

Getting paid to travel and see the country, even though we are moving way slower that I intended. It’s been a year and we have not left Texas yet.

Free Diesel That’s one of the perks for working for a Gas and Oil company.

Free full hook up sites on the job

 

The Down’s

What are the worst things about working while traveling? Any ways you’ve found to avoid or cope with this frustration?

Not moving as fast as we had wanted. I was dreaming of a week in Key West then a week in South Carolina followed by a week in Colorado……..We are not moving as fast as we would have liked.

We miss a lot of our favorite TV shows. We have a Dish Tailgater that allows us to watch sat/tv but I have not figured out how to record/DVR shows using the tailgater system.

No washer or dryer in our 5th wheel. We spend about 2 hours on SAT/SUN doing laundry at a public laundry mat. We have not found a way around this one yet. 

 

Hindsight

If you could go back in time and give yourself  advice about starting in this line of work, what would it be?

Open two bank accounts. Figure out what your monthly overhead is, (Fuel,Food, Maintenance, Entertainment, Insurance, ect) Take that amount plus 10% and put it into one account. Then take the remaining funds and place in the other bank account.  Let this one grow and ignore it. Don’t let your kids know it exist either.

Purchase some sort of RV Road Service Warranty or Insurance that will cover everything from your refrigerator to tires to leaky roof. EVERYTHING in or on an RV is very very expensive to repair.

Sell everything that does not fit in your RV. Why pay storage for things you’re never going to use again. We have paid about $4000 to store our household goods in a mini storage and next month it’s all going to an auction to be sold. We should have sold it all to begin with and we would have saved $4K. (The few items that you will want to keep but not carry in your RV can be stored in a relative’s home or closet. Photo albums, wedding dress…..small keep sakes)

 

The Fantasy Job

What is one of the most creative ways you’ve heard of someone else funding a location independent lifestyle or tell us what is your dream job? 

My number 1 dream job would be to work for Prevost Coach or any luxury bus/coach manufacture as a research and developer, road testing luxury coaches providing product feedback.

My number 2 dream job would be to organize a network of say 50 to 80 RV resorts where they utilize RV’ers as camp host throughout the year.  Then set up a rotating schedule with fellow RV’ers so they could all move around the country working at the RV parks on their schedule. Think of it like a timeshare schedule where the RV park would always have coverage but the campers were able to rotate to as many or as little parks as they wanted. Everyone would work a minimum of 15 hours a week in exchange for full hook up sites. All hours worked over 15 would be paid at $15 per hour. This network could all be ran out of an RV while on the road. The ultimate goal would be to travel throughout the country and live/stay for free.

I can definitely see why Benny couldn’t turn down the opportunity (or the pay) and I think this could be a great way for some to make the leap into the traveling lifestyle.

Thanks so much to Benny for sharing the intimate details of his work life with us!  If you found his story inspirational and helpful, or have questions, please leave your thoughts in the comment box below.

If you would like to read more helpful stories like this, check out the rest of the Make Money and Travel series.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (32)

  • Noah Curtis

    23 Years Young. Tennessee Living. Ready to get out and travel and work. I have goals and dreams and Im trying my damnest to make them come true. Ive made many mistakes in life and my life situation isnt the best. Im ready for a change.

    reply
  • Jolyn Dangelo

    I’m interested in onsite clerk. If there’s anything out there I would like to be contacted.

    Thanks
    Jo

    reply
  • Art Scott

    what is the site for “Work Camper” as there are several

    reply
  • Dwayne Cotlong

    Got laid of and very much interested in a new career in the pipeline industry. My nane is Dwayne Cotlong live in between Texas and Louisiana. Willing to Travel have own transportation. Chef by trade.20 years plus. Welder Helper 5 years plus. Concrete Finisher 20 years plus.

    reply
  • Ashley Wheaton

    Looking for work asap.

    reply
  • Mayela Herrera

    I am looking for work in the pipeline work can anyone help me

    reply
  • Carmen D Taylor

    I am a 54 year old recently divorced female. (married 35 years) Are there any good paying jobs for high school graduate only women my age? Thank you!

    reply
  • Matt Robinson

    I am interested call me at 318-451-3551

    reply
  • Woodfired

    Thank you so much for sharing your make money and travel story! My wheels are turning. We currently live in Texas and my husband has been transporting NGL’s and Propane for over 3-years. I homeschool my daughter so travel is not an issue and would be a great opportunity for some roadschool. Both of us have lived in several states and my husband in many different countries, so we seem to always have wanderlust. Pipeline work seems viable for us. I’ll join a few Facebook groups and see what happens! Thanks again and best wishes!

    reply
  • Pepper Noble

    Very interesting article. Oil and gas is industry is tough right now.
    Prayers to you all. Hope job opportunity comes up soon in any line of work.

    reply
  • TRACY BROXSON

    Im willing to work hard willing to be trained and willing to travel !Need a good job and hope you can help me its almost xmas and no job really hurts please help if you can!

    reply
  • Rick Patton

    I’m interested
    I worked in the oilfield for 6 yrs now.
    14 yrs as a cad designer
    I am interested in travel.with the wife
    Please inform me on what you guys are looking for at the moment.

    reply
  • David Michael Scott Sr.

    I’ve been working for the teamsters for around 10 years now. I’ve been a truck foreman and a steward on several job. I live in West Virginia and it’s been slow since getting laid-off in December. I would like the opportunity to travel with the pipeline.

    reply
  • Joshua cardoso

    Interested in work

    reply
  • Curt Stults

    I would also like to travel with per diem on a pipeline crew. I have no children and am single. I was wondering though if companies consider someone without a DL. Do some companies let you just get to the city and hook up with a ride from the other workers at the motel?

    reply
  • Bon Pierce

    Enjoyed your story Benny. Thanks for sharing it. I like your idea of the campground job sharing.

    reply
  • ashley robinson

    I’m looking for a flagger job on the pipeline! Willing to travel

    reply
  • Kyle clayton

    I would like to find out how to get a job I have been wanting to get a job traveling

    reply
  • Charles Cochran

    This is an amazing story. I myself have a been a pipeline welder for almost 6 years. I have been certified up and down the east coast at different gas companies. I have recently come off the road and took a huge py cut to be with my family every night I have a 5 year old at home. I’m in the process of trying to get my own rig, its just not financially able too, I have no one willing to co sign, I make the money just don’t have great credit. Its my dream to move myself and my family out to Texas. I’m just curious to know if companies pay you to help you move out there? Please feel free to email me or give me a call 678-972-5800

    reply
  • Master Eller

    Benny- love your friend. Wish I had friends who went job shopping for me. Anywho

    I was missing my favorite tv shows as well. Check this out:

    Your tailgater sat dish is probably, and supposedly, compatible with this receiver.

    Dish VIP 211K

    The “K” is very important. Not only can this receiver have a hard drive added (for a nominal one time fee with dish) for full DVR recording, but it can also capture off-aire signals and incorporate that into the guide system. It’s a fair work-around.

    We use it in the DC area, where local signals via dish are NOT in HD. We grab the local hd channels via our off-aire antenna which is loaded right into the DISH Guide. So if no one told you, one would assume it was all dish from space.

    Cheers!

    reply
  • Benny,
    Thank you so much for sharing this story. My favorite part is you’ve served your country in the military, then happened upon this random job that will help fasttrack you to your dream of full-time travel.
    What a happy ending! Hope to see you out there in that shiny new bus soon!

    reply
  • Steve

    Another great posting. Good for Benny! He serve red our nation in the Army and is successful in civilian life!

    Thank you for bring blogging about him and how people make it full timing.

    Thank you Benny for your service!

    Nikki and Jason, enjoy the key lime pie.

    reply
  • Chris Lisowy

    We just came back from Texas and things were not good in Oil industry. Most refineries that were being built were put on hold. Lots of people told to get ready for unemployment. All happened in 6 weeks time. Just crazy how the most booming industry went bust overnight.

    reply
    • Oh man, I guess like Gold, Natural Gas and other precious commodities it’s always “boom or bust”.

      reply
  • polly

    Just saw your rv on the highway, I75 south. We are a young couple fulltiming right now in the Lakeland, FL area. Heading to Naples to see family..safe travels!

    reply
    • Hello Polly! We’re heading to Naples in a few days to stock up on groceries before heading to the keys. Will you still be there? See ya around.

      reply
  • mark

    My only concern is that with falling fuel prices these frackers are going to be driven out of business and bankrupt.

    reply
  • Hi Benny:
    I’m the one who retired to Florida, but not on the golf course. I had an uncle who did the same type job as yours but with paper mill companies. They traveled all over the US with a 5th wheel.
    Sounds to me like you have it made!!
    I can take care of your laundry situation. I’m up for adoption and will do your laundry for free.

    Good luck, and enjoy the open road!

    reply
  • Bruce P.

    Could you get a class a then just use a work truck?

    reply
  • MargoDoll

    Dear J & N, do you have an email or snail mail addy for contacting you? It was too crazy for a conversation at the RV show 🙂

    reply

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