Tramp Wives: Ginger Joins Husband on the Road, Never Looks Back.

That's a pretty racy title, isn't it.

I've written about John's travels and life on the road a few times before. He works as a union electrician, and several times a year leaves Eastern Iowa to travel the country to work on nuclear facility outages.

The not-so-technical term that these electricians use to describe themselves is a 'tramp'. That makes me a 'tramp wife'.

I know. Totally glamorous.

While the term 'tramp' to describe an electrician who travels is new to many of you, I've found that John's travels and our lifestyle in general is also new and confusing to a lot of folks.

There is a supportive group of women that I have connected with over the last 2 years, especially during John's more extensive travels to the southern states. I decided to call on their help and expertise to share their own stories with you. My goal? Help you all understand the benefits, challenges, and quirks of being with a 'tramp', and how we make our sometimes-long-distance relationships work.

Without further ado, here's Ginger with her story.


Hello! My name is Ginger, and I travel with my husband as his job as a union electrician/instrument technician takes us all over the country. It’s an interesting life, and I’m happy to tell you a little more about our experiences with “The Tramp Life.”

How long has your Tramp been traveling? How did he get started? How long have you been together?

Jon and I have been together nearly fifteen years (met and fell in love in the last century), and married for nearly a dozen years. He’s been with the IBEW the whole time I’ve known him, so I’ve been lucky to be in the union world a while.

Jon first traveled in 2006 to work on the big powerhouse going up in Omaha, Nebraska. At the time, we had a lovely home in Minnesota, so he wasn’t terribly far away. We saw one another about every five weeks. We thought the traveling would be a one-time deal, thinking our local economy would pick back up and we’d continue living ‘a traditional life.’ LOL. Gotta love life’s surprises! He worked off and on at home the following year, but in January 2008, he headed to the still-booming Las Vegas for work. I eventually resigned from my job and joined him on the road a few months later. I have never regretted that decision, and we’ve had some great adventures since!

What's the hardest part about the traveling lifestyle? Why isn't it for everyone?

There are two things I find difficult about this lifestyle. The first is the stress of figuring out what comes next. In the construction industry, things are built. And then they are done. So, where to go to next? How many hands will the next big project need? Will we get there to sign the books quickly enough? Will our money from this job be enough to get us to the next? Rinse and repeat for every single job.
The other difficulty is isolation. Every place we go, we are the only people we know at first. All family and good friends are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. It can feel very lonely. It helps to be married to your best friend!

I guess I would say that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone as all people have different abilities for adaptation. If routine and predictability are necessary for your happiness, then the traveling life would not be a good fit for you!

What's your favorite part about being with a Tramp? Feel free to share a memorable story or moment.

My favorite part about our life is seeing and experiencing new things. We both love history, so getting to explore slices our country has to offer is amazing. To see how history has influenced local life is an interesting thing to explore as well. In some parts of the country, like The West, you can sometimes feel History tickling your neck as you gaze out over the unending prairies. In the South it seemed to me History looped it’s arm through mine and walked with me the whole time we were there. I just find it cool to feel the vibes in each place and try to see how and why people settled there initially and why people continue to live and thrive there today. I guess I’m trying to say that this lifestyle is a continuing education, and I just love that!

What does being a part of the IBEW mean to you and your family?

The IBEW is full of wonderful men and women who just “get it.” An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay shouldn’t be too much to ask. They, and their families, work for today and to build a strong environment for the next generation of labor. I am humbled by their intelligence in their craft and their passion in their vocation for Worker’s Rights.

Do you and your Tramp have any long-term plans or goals to travel together? Or, any plans to stop traveling and not live (and love) long distance?

We have a very inquisitive and energetic two-year old son, and another baby on the way. We’d like to be able to wind up the traveling for schooling purposes, so within the next couple of years. Our dream is to be able to live in our home full-time, as a whole family. 

If you have children, how does your parenting change? Any surprises in this area?

I would love to be closer to family so our son could have the experience of playing regularly with other kids/cousins. I have been surprised by how adaptable our son is. He really is a ‘road dog’ in that he just keeps rolling with the changes our life brings. We’ve only ever been parents on the road, so I don’t really know how/if that would change by not traveling. Perhaps we will see one day.

For anyone in a long-distance relationship, give them some advice on how to make it work. What is essential to making life easier?

Gosh, I don’t feel qualified to ever give anyone else advice. I can only relate what works for us. We try to establish very clear goals, and make sure we are both on that same page. What do we want out of this particular job? Then everything is geared toward that. Communication, honesty and respect are huge. Every night, my husband thanks me for cooking dinner. He doesn’t have to thank me, and I don’t have to cook. But he does and I do. And we appreciate that in one another. And then I thank him for providing the means for the dinner. It’s all a joint effort, and regardless of whose name is on the paychecks, it really does take both of us to make it all run smoothly. And I just feel incredibly lucky to be married to my best friend. It’s great to be somewhere new and see somethingwhack, look over and meet his eyes, and just know what he’s thinking, no words being said. It would be a hollow adventure if we didn’t share it with one another.

What else would you like to add?

I never thought our life would be like this. I mean, who would? It’s just not “mainstream.” Or “normal.” Which meant that for a while, it was very, very scary. But, it turned out to be like most scary things in life: once you take it step-by-step and day-by-day, it somehow loses it’s frightening edge. And, in a really fun twist, this life has become a true joy. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to live an honest to goodness life of adventure.

Do you have any questions for Ginger about living on the road or traveling full-time? Leave them in the comments!


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