#18 Shovelbums Guide Part 5: Lodging

The following steps are complete on your journey to be a CRM archaeologist: You wrote a CV and a cover letter, you applied for a job(s), and you had your interview and accepted a position. Now the fine logistics of being a traveling archaeologist begin.

There are many ways in which people live and work while on the road. Some try to do it as cheaply as possible by camping or sleeping in their cars while others stay in various types of hotel/motels while still others have vans or RVs to travel and sleep in. The choice depends largely upon the company you are working for.

Companies approach the lodging question in a various ways. On the east coast I've generally seen companies chose and pay for a hotel for you. You have no choice of where to stay or whom to stay with. Sometimes you will get your own room and sometimes you will be paired up with a roommate of your choosing (especially couples) and sometimes you won't get a choice.

In New Mexico, my company rented a ranch house and also put single wide mobile homes on the property for techs to stay in. In North Carolina I stayed in a three-story beach house on Kure Beach (one street from the beach). On a project in Virginia the crew had an 18th century bed and breakfast on a lake rented out to us. Mostly, though, you will have the cheapest, bottom of the barrel, hotels rented for your lodging.

On the west coast and in the Great Basin I've generally seen companies just give you a high per diem and let you choose your own lodging. On one of my last projects there were people camping from their cars, people in hotel rooms, a couple in an RV, and a guy that just slept in his van on BLM land.

There are some special considerations if you plan to camp. Camping in a lot of the west can be done for free on BLM land or in free BLM campgrounds. Often, there is no security and no camp host so you will likely have to pack up your campsite every morning. If you travel with few possessions and are an early riser then this might be an option for you. Finding a campground with a camp host or paying to camp in an RV park will provide the security (and often showers and internet) to leave your camp intact during the work day.

Living in an RV also has its challenges. My first impulse was that I'd save a lot of money traveling in an RV. This is not necessarily the case. I hope my friends that have done this can comment and leave an account of their experiences last fall. An RV can't just be parked anywhere. You can overnight in an RV park for $20-40 a night or you can park somewhere for free at night and find someplace to park during the day. There is also insurance and fuel costs to consider. It might be an option for those that can find a way to make it work.

Most of the time you will be looking for a hotel room. A lot of the small towns in America do not have hotels that are listed on the popular websites such as priceline.com and hotels.com. A simple Google (or your search engine of choice) search of the town you need and the word "hotel" will usually provide a list of accommodations, some with reviews. When you call, be sure to have your list of things to ask about all ready to go. What should you ask about?

Before I even get to price I like to make sure the hotel has the amenities I need. For long term stays a microwave and a refrigerator are essential. You can do without a refrigerator if you have a cooler and an ice machine nearby but that is a hassle in the summer time. You can do without a microwave too but be prepared to bring a hot plate and cooking equipment or something equivalent. In this day and age having the internet is pretty important for most people. Ask the receptionist whether the internet is wireless or ethernet and whether you have to pay for it separately. Do they have breakfast? It might save you money if they do.

Some minor things I ask about include the types of beds (two doubles or one larger bed), type of TV (I can hook my computer to certain types), air conditioning, and whether they have an exercise room.

There are some things to think about when discussing the cost of the hotel room. Hotels often have a AAA discount. A lot of smaller chains will have discounts for people working in the area and most have weekly rates. If you get a weekly rate find out whether their week is five days or seven days. Also find out what the refund policy is. You may have to leave early for one reason or another and would probably like your money back.

At some point I'll have entries about what to bring for your hotel room and how to live in one and not go insane. This field has a pretty high turnover because people just can't handle being on the road for long periods of time. In my experience it's usually because they live a temporary existence and never really settle into the places they live. I always bring as many comforts of home as I can and treat the hotel room as my own house. I rearrange items in the room and put things where I want them. All of that goes to enhancing the illusion that you don't live in a hotel room.

See you in the field!

Written on the loneliest highway in the country: Highway 50, central Nevada portion.