By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
As a traveler, it can be extremely daunting trying to figure out what to pack for your very first assignment. I promise it will get easier as you go along, and you will most likely get tired of lugging huge amounts of stuff around and therefore naturally trim down what you actually take with you from place to place.
Sometimes the more difficult part is deciding what to do with the stuff you leave behind. Realistically most people will not be able to get rid of every single thing they own that does not fit into their car before they take their first traveling assignment. This is usually okay because you also need to maintain a tax home to keep your tax free stipends, so a lot of travelers store more important possessions in the room or space they rent at their tax home.
Deciding what is worth keeping and what to sell or donate can be a very difficult decision and will vary depending on each person and their plans for their travel nursing career. How long you plan to travel and how much space you have to store items at home will have a huge impact on what you should keep.
The most extreme approach to whittling down possessions is to either sell or donate everything you will not be using while on assignment. This can be helpful if you need to save up money to help you put down deposits or cover travel expenses on your way to your first assignment. Doing so also alleviates the need to find a place to store your stuff while you travel which will likely save you money in the long run. If possible you could store a few personal possessions or keepsakes at your tax home so you don’t have to take those types of things back and forth across the country.
If you aren’t quite sure if travel nursing is going to be a long term career choice for you, being more conservative with your cleanout may be a better approach. Repurchasing large pieces of furniture and multiple household goods can really add up if you have to buy it all at once when you decide to go permanent.
One thing to consider is the cost vs benefit of renting a place to store big pieces while you aren’t using them. One thing we did was check the cost of local storage units. Then, we totaled the cost of replacing most of what we were considering storing. If the cost of what you are storing is less than what you would pay overtime for a storage unit, it may be more reasonable to get rid of the majority of your stuff before hitting the road.
There are also a few items I would definitely NOT recommend storing. Any extra clothes or shoes can most likely be donated or sold. You will be surprised how few clothes you need once you get the hang of packing, and you’re not likely to go back and look for more to add to your collection.
I would also not recommend storing any linens or pillows. Unless you have really, really expensive items you want to hang on to, plan on replacing these when you go back to a permanent position. Bring your favorite pillow and blanket and find a new home for the rest.
Cheap or mismatched kitchen items are usually not worth keeping either. If you are still hanging on to plastic plates from your college apartment or random dollar store utensils, now is a great time to get rid of them. If you don’t truly love an item or it doesn’t “go” with everything else, time to pass it along to a new home.
For some, the pull to hang on to your worldly possessions may be a hard one to overcome. If you are nervous about what to get rid of you could always plan to come back after an assignment or two and reevaluate what you are keeping. One of the best parts about travel nursing is you can take extended time off if you want to, so you could plan some time to visit home and cut down on your storage if you decide to stretch out your travel career.
Personally we got rid of a huge amount of stuff both before we started traveling and when we came home to have a baby. We were lucky and were able to store our stuff for free, so we weren’t as pressured to whittle our possessions down before we left. When we came home we were shocked at what we had deemed worth keeping before we had left.
Even if you are not a minimalist yet, there is a shift in priorities once you dive into the travel world. Most people find that their “baggage” often causes more stress than it is worth. In general, most travelers are fortunate to replace anything they might really regret getting rid of, but you’ll be surprised how little you actually miss once it is gone.
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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