Our Experience with Amazon Camperforce

“Amazon is hiring.”  With those words, the wheels were set into motion as applications and paper work were filed and plans were made to be in Campbellsville, Kentucky for the “peak” season at the Amazon fulfillment center in town.  Before we got to that point, we did what we could about researching and asking questions about working there so we could be as prepared as possible for the experience.  What we found out was that no matter how prepared you think you are to work in a facility doing the type of jobs Amazon requires; it is only through the actual experience that you truly find out what working at Amazon is all about.  This is an account of our personal experiences during the five months we were in Campbellsville; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

When most of us order from Amazon, we don’t really think about what happens when we click that final button completing our order.  If you were like us, the order was placed and magically it arrived at our doorstep after a few days.  What you don’t see, or perhaps not even realize, is that when that order is placed so many gears are set in motion to make that magic happen and get you your product in a timely manner.  The order goes through the computer system and ends up on the scanner of a “picker” who then tracks down your item, among others, in a HUGE facility and places it in tote.  That tote now begins the rather long journey down a conveyor belt highway and eventually ends at the packing department where people sort and organize orders for the “packer” who places your items, ever so gently, in the box and sends it on the way to the ship dock where it is sent to your home.  That is about as simple as I can make the process.  Working for Amazon, you would be one of the many cogs that run this enormous machine.  Each cog belongs to a department which is responsible for different aspects of the whole.  Depending on what department you decide to work in, this will have a huge impact on your experience at Amazon.  I worked in the pick department and on the day shift while Christi worked in the pack department and on the night shift.  Our experiences will certainly be a little different than those who do not have younger children or will be a solo worker.  Working on different shifts presented us with a host of other difficulties which we will discuss as we document our experiences.

StickFigurePainFirst, let’s talk about the job itself.  As I said, I was a picker and it was my job to go find the product and get it in the tote and on the conveyor belt so packing could do their job.  I was on the day shift so my schedule was fairly normal as far as a work day goes.  Working at Amazon, the two things to always remember are this is a factory/warehouse job and it is a very physical job.  You will be tired, you will hurt, and you will be sore.  If you can remember that and can accept those facts, you should be good.  The facility is very large and just about every area of it is jammed pack with product of many kinds.  Let me make one fact abundantly clear; I cannot express this one fact any more plainly and I cannot explain the utmost importance of this one single fact; you will walk and you will walk a lot.  Now, things may change in between seasons, but for me, I routinely walked 15 to 20 miles a day and sometimes upwards of 25 miles in a single day.

This is not just walking, it is up and down stairs, many flights of stairs, bending, lifting, temperature changes in the building, squatting, and twisting; it is quite an amazing workout.  You will definitely leave there in much better shape than when you arrive.  I can also not express how important it is to drink water constantly during the day and even while you are off work.  Sure, you may pee like 20 times a day, but you will need the fluids to keep going; as I said, this is a very physical job.  Again, it is very important to remember it is a warehouse type job and not very glamorous.  The pay is decent and the various perks they throw at you during the season help make it more bearable.  As far as a job goes, especially a temporary one with an end in sight, this gig is not too bad.  The more you work, not only hours in a week but how many months you are there as well, will add up to a good paycheck by most standards.

ThanksgivingDinner2015One way this job becomes even more bearable will be the people you encounter both in the workplace and at your campground.  The people, more than the job itself, really make this an experience you would do again or one you will curse yourself for even considering and questioning why you ever decided to do it in the first place and never do again.  While on the job, you will encounter both full time regular employees and fellow campers who are here for the peak season.  Regardless of who they are, treat each meeting as fresh and new and try to avoid thinking everyone is the same because they have the same badge.  I met people who really made the time on the job much better and the little interactions during the day helped keep a smile on my face and much less drag on my feet.  I also had the displeasure of meeting a few who made the day miserable.  The good news is that the job of picking keeps you moving and you can walk away from or even completely avoid the people you don’t want to see or talk to during the day.  There are also several break room and lunch area choices which make social interaction avoidance an easy prospect.  I am an introvert so I enjoy my alone and recharge time away from people.  That can be a difficult venture in a place like this.  However, finding a quite chair in the building during your breaks is easier than you may think and eating lunch in your car is always an option to escape the chaos of the day.  The managers and supervisors are all very different.  Some are easy to work with while others are more stubborn and set in the way they do things.  Keep an open mind and realize that you may be having a hard time with them but your boss may be having a hard time with whoever is above them in the supervisor chain of command.  Something else to remember, we are a gravity based society and the poop usually rolls downhill to the bottom.

As with anywhere you travel, where you stay has an impact on your state of mind and will go a long way towards a pleasant stay and a horrible one.  Campbellsville is one of the better facilities as far as offering a variety of campsites that offer no more than a glorified parking lot to a lot to do state park.  Campbellsville, from what I have read and heard from others, is also the best as far as distance from the campsites to Amazon itself.

StablesFlyingYoshiWe arrived in early August and decided to stay at the Green River Stables RV and Horse Park Campground; we have a review for this site on the Park Review page of our site.  We decided that, even though Heartland is literally right across the street from Amazon, living in a parking lot with nothing to do for the kids and everyone crammed in there like sardines was not the best option for us.  The Stables, as it is called, was about 15 minutes from Amazon and had horses for the girls to pet and look at but no riding.  This place had a “community” building but it was clearly designed more to be a horse park for weekenders to bring their animals and ride the trails of the state park next door.  I will not get into too much detail because we thoroughly detail the park in our review.  We visited the Green River Lake State Park Campground and it was really nice, so we decided to pack up and move camp sites.

GreenRiverStatePark2We spent from September through December in the state park and it was a great decision.  Again, we have a thorough review of the state park campground on the park review page of our web site.  Our kids, and us for that matter had a wonderful time at the state park when we were not working and the friends we made while staying there will last a lifetime.  Coming home to a scenic lake view with grass and woods and nature all around you helped tremendously in resetting ourselves from a tough day at work. GreenRiverStatePark

As we said at the start of this, our situation and experiences are different than a majority of the people that worked at Amazon.  We are a younger couple with two young children.  This presented our family with some choices to be made.  One of us could work while the other stayed home and that would be the end of it.  This is certainly a possibility; however, depending on your financial situation and how much you are looking to make and save, this may not be plausible.  We knew we wanted to save as much as possible to set ourselves up for the first few months of the new year, so we decided to have both of us work to maximize our pay.  But how does this happen?  We have younger children who could not be home alone and we did not have the option of a sitter.  The only way we could accomplish this was by one of us working the day shift and the other working the night shift.  The time overlap between me coming home and Christi going to work was about ten minutes and our neighbor was kind enough to watch over the girls during that short period.  At first, it was tolerable and almost comical the waving to each other as the cars passed on the road.  As time passed and the weeks went by, this became much less tolerable and a whole lot less comical.  At the height of peak season, we would only see each other a day and a half at most during the week and not say a single word to each other for at least five days.

taking-notes-in-class-notepadWe communicated through old fashion notes and mini letters each day.  We would tell each other about our work time and what happened at home and what needs to be done, etc.  Basically, I would go to work all day and then come home and be a single parent for the night while she was a single parent during the day and went to work at night.   This made us severely cut back our places to go list because we were just so tired on our days off.  We also had to cram everything that we needed to do, shopping for instance, into our very small amount of off time.  This was stressful on our family but we saw it through to the end.

The questions we hear most when people ask about our time at Amazon and we even ask ourselves now that it is over are was it all worth it and will you do it again?  The first question, was it all worth it, is difficult to answer really.  There is not much that makes not seeing your family worth it, however, if you look at it from a pro and con stand point, yes it was worth it.  We had an amazing experience in a new area and faced a new challenge.  We met a handful of really good people that we now will have a lasting friendship with and our kids made great friends that they will also keep as we travel.  We prepared ourselves financially for the upcoming year and are able to do exactly what we wanted to after leaving Amazon.  Sure, we didn’t have the family time we would have liked, but we made the most of the times we were together and that is what matters.

The second question, will we do it again, is also a little difficult to answer with any kind of 100% decision.  With that said, we can offer a resounding maybe as our stance.  We look at it this way; the Amazon Peak Season will be here and they are, seemingly, always looking to hire full time campers.  Depending on where we are, both physically and mentally, we will make the decision to come back on an as needed basis.  I think that is the best answer we can give.  So you are thinking about working for Amazon during their peak season?  I hope this has helped you and shed some light on what not only the job is, but also what the experience is while staying here.  Good luck in your decision and, if you do decide to take on the Amazon challenge remember, it is only temporary and there is a real exit light at the end of the tunnel.

2015: A year of choice and change

2015 was a year of choices and change.  A year ago we were in full get ready to leave mode and we had half a year still to go before we could begin our journey.  We were all getting very anxious knowing that the time was still months away, but it would be upon us very soon.  So many choices to be made; what do we do with all this stuff, what kind of RV are we going to get, what kind of car do we get, what do we do with the old van?  Somehow, we survived the build up and anticipation and answered all of those questions and more.  The change was now upon us and our new life on the road began.  Every day was now about new adventures, new choices, new challenges, and of course change.

We can say, without any hesitation, there have been no regrets or second guessing about our choices.  We are living life on our terms and our way instead of waiting for things to happen and hoping to “get away” for a few weeks during the year of constant struggle.  Sure, it has not always been easy, but through every hardship we have figured it out and found an answer to keep going.  So much so in the first eight months of our journey that we have self nicknamed our family the Figurerouters (Fig-ur-er-outers).  As individuals, I think we have each changed, at least a little.  For myself, I have become much less stressed and have got back to my easy going nature letting things come as they will and rolling with it.  Christi has boomed creatively, not that she was stagnant before, but now there is no distraction of the struggle we once had and she seems so much more focused on what she wants rather than how can we survive.  Trinity has adjusted to this on the road minimal space life better than we would have ever hoped.  She is very comfortable and has really gained an understanding of the more important aspects of life.  Avery, I think, has changed the most of us all.  She still maintains her go back to and recharge from the social aspect of life, but she has really opened up to going out and playing with other kids and actually talking with other people.  Avery is still very much an introvert, like her daddy, but it has been inspiring to see her adjust and grow yet still maintain who she is as a person.  As a family, we have changed as well.  We have become stronger and more connected; we have become a tighter family unit that bands together and helps each other out through any hardship and we have become a happier family, which may be the most important.

2015 saw many choices and change for us all.  Where once we lived in a 2000 square foot home with rooms for days, we now live in a space less than 200 square feet.  We had many hard choices to make when downsizing and to let go of the material life we once lived.  Yes, we still have possessions, we have not completely given up the idea of the material life, but we have shrunk the need to our family’s basics.  Our family is very tech heavy so a lot of our choices have been around that aspect of material items.  Where once we had the ability to go to another room to get away from whatever, we cannot go really anywhere without still seeing the other people.  However, even in that makeup, we have all managed to find our own space and retreat to it if we need to be “alone”.  We even made a change to our family itself.  The D20Nomads were cat people; at one point I think we had four feline friends.  However, when we hit the road, we were not sure we could do a pet and still travel.  That quickly changed and now, after constant asking for the better part of several months, we got a dog that has joined our family and is now firmly entrenched; Lilith really has been a welcomed addition.

2016 has just begun and the outlook for the year is bright.  We have a good plan and probably many back up plans just in case.  We are ready to take on the challenges as they come and conquer them all.  The D20Nomads are still rolling and the game will not end until we are ready to pack away our dice on our terms.  Bring it on Dungeon Master; we are ready to roll for initiative!