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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.