By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
There is a lot to learn in the travel nursing world. When I first sat down to try to figure out how to make travel nursing work for me, I was quickly overwhelmed with all of the knowledge I needed to be successful. From working with recruiters to navigating short term housing to working on a unit after a very brief orientation, the skills learned as a traveler are unique to this very special career field.
Fear not, I did manage to navigate all of these areas and have had a very happy, successful career as a traveler thus far. The great thing about the modern world is the plethora of information available on the internet that will help you get started on your great travel nursing adventure.
What an internet search can’t teach you is how the experience of travel nursing will change you. Whether you are working as a local traveler or crisscrossing the country, you will see a shift in mindset and be shocked at what you can learn about yourself on a 13-week assignment.
1. Living simply gets easier with practice
A huge source of stress for new travel nurses is how to pare down their possessions to what can fit in their car. While this is definitely difficult at first, it will get easier as you go along.
What I have noticed is at some point the hassle of having to unpack, pack and carry certain items around begins to outweigh the perks of actually having those items with you. As a general rule, if you bring something along for one assignment and do not use it the entire 13 weeks, it’s time to either take that item back home or get rid of it. Similarly, I also like to weigh the pros and cons of buying certain items at each assignment rather than packing them each time. For example, you can get a cheap coffee pot if needed at each location and donate it at the end of your 13 weeks or pass it to another traveler rather than taking up space in your car.
2. There are lots of people out there looking for a friend
So many people are worried about being lonely while on assignment. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there are people everywhere just waiting to be your friend.
The reality is as adults it is incredibly difficult to make new friends. For some reason, as we age we get more closed off and less likely to reach out to new people and actually invite them to hang out or sit down and have a real conversation. Be friendly, reach out and actually make the first “move” and you will find it is much easier to make friends than you fear to go in.
3. Independence is a learned but useful skill
I found as a travel nurse my personal limits were pushed more than I could have ever anticipated. When you are working a permanent job and the inevitable chaos of life hits, you usually have the comfort of family or friends to fall back on. As a traveler, these support systems may still be available to lend an ear if you have a bad day, but you learn how to navigate a lot without having someone who can show up and take the stress off in person.
One of the coolest things traveling helped me realize is how resilient I am. After growing up and having tons of family nearby to call to lift heavy things, pick me up when my car broke down, or do a quick favor around the house it has been incredibly gratifying to realize I can accomplish a lot without someone there to lend a hand. One of my proudest moments was unpacking my entire car by myself for the first time. It was exhausting and felt like it took about 8 million trips, but it was the first time I had ever managed to move without help, and that was a really cool feeling.
4. Google can be used for just about anything
The beauty of traveling in the modern age is everything is figure-out-able (yep, that’s definitely a real word). But seriously, Google turned into my best friend as a travel nurse.
Internet searches can help you with just about everything you need as a traveler. I use it to find housing, to make sure that housing is safe, to find a gym, and even for connecting with other travelers in the area. If you are unhappy or lonely at an assignment then you can use the incredible power of the world wide web and find just about anything that will help perk up your mood or make life a little easier.
5. Things will always work out
If you choose to work as a travel nurse for an extended period of time you will inevitably experience some hiccups along the way. The key to pushing through these times is to remember that a month or a year or ten years from now most of these bumps in the road won’t matter.
I choose to believe if something doesn’t work out, there is a good reason for that and whatever is coming next will be even bigger and better in the long run. Maybe a contract gets canceled but you meet your new best friend at the replacement job. Maybe your car broke down and your road trip was delayed but you avoided a worse wreck down the road. Maybe you took a lower-paying job right before a great opportunity opened up but you end up at your dream location. In the long run, as long as you end up happier and feeling accomplished, the little issues along the way truly don’t matter.
Working as a travel nurse has its ups and downs for sure. However, the experience of working as a travel nurse is one that really cannot be matched by any other career path. Some days will test you and others will have you wondering why on earth you chose to do this crazy thing called traveling, but other days will make you realize it is more than worth it. The lessons you learn along the way are great to reflect on, and truly make you thankful for the opportunity to live life a little outside the box for a while.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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