By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
As travel nurses, we take on a rather unorthodox lifestyle. Our jobs, homes, and plans for the next week or month or year change quite frequently. You may have plans to head to California and with a last-minute contract cancellation find yourself in Maine instead. And that is totally okay (and normal), but this concept can be very difficult for friends and relatives to understand.
This time of year many people are headed home for a nice long visit with family. As a married traveler, I know I got plenty of questions about when we will buy a house, find a job back home and live the “normal” life everyone expects. As a single travel nurse, I can only imagine the questioning is even more annoying because you also get hit with comments about never finding someone to date if you keep moving around or hints about your biological clock ticking.
Which leads to everyone’s favorite question being asked: When are you going to settle down?
While it would be easy to just wave these questions off and simply use the approach that it is none of anyone’s business, it can sometimes be helpful to go in with an answer primed and ready if you do happen across the relatives who won’t let up about their concern over your lifestyle.
Option #1: Explain why you do what you do
Every travel nurse has their own why behind what they are doing. Some are out to pay off debt, others want to see the world as much as possible. The sheer act of moving so much may not seem “worth it” to an outsider who doesn’t understand the why behind what we do.
If you are traveling for financial reasons, be upfront and explain that travelers may make 1.5-2 times as much as a staff nurse and how beneficial that is for your financial goals. If travel is key to your happiness, be sure to lay out how nice it is to take extended periods of time off without worrying about PTO or manager approval. I have found that the time off factor alone is something anyone working a normal job can appreciate, so that’s usually my first tactic if I am explaining the pros of travel nursing.
Option #2: Refute the claim that anyone has to settle down, ever
For some people, the travel nursing lifestyle doesn’t really have an end date. I have met people who have traveled for fifteen years or more and are very happy doing so. In addition, some travelers even have kids and spouses that travel with them so adding to your family isn’t necessarily an indicator that you have to “settle down” in one location.
When I decided to move back home to have a baby, many of my friends and family assumed that was the end of my travel career. However, if someone assumes this I usually correct them and rattle off several examples of people who travel with kids. Most people do not realize there are options for living outside a traditional lifestyle, especially if your goal is to grow your family or meet someone and get married. Simply educating them on the fact that it is possible to travel and still have some traditional life experiences may help thin out the questions about settling down.
Option #3: The sarcastic approach
The second I told my grandma I was engaged I started getting questions about when I was going to have a baby. As a brand new nurse with a husband in grad school babies were not anywhere on my agenda at the time. I started off telling my grandma politely that we would probably consider babies closer to when we turned 30, but she persisted in making comments or asking questions about when we planned to start the process.
Finally, I had had enough because my nice answers were not getting through to her. I started saying things like “I just don’t want to give up wine” or “Keaton (my husband) says we are never having kids”. Although I am not sure if she actually believed my sarcastic responses, she got annoyed enough with them that she stopped asking. While this isn’t my preferred way of deflecting familial questioning, in some cases if they are not being respectful of your choices and boundaries you may need to protect your own privacy in a less than friendly way.
At the end of the day, it is your life and most certainly your choice. Friends and family do not have to understand your lifestyle, but you deserve to feel comfortable and confident and not like you have to defend your choice in careers. Start by focusing on the positives of working as a travel nurse, but don’t be afraid to be more direct and stand up for yourself if that one nosy relative just won’t let it go. Besides, in the end, you get to take off back to your awesome travel lifestyle when all the holiday craziness is over.
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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