By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Travel nursing is such a world of its own. It is hard to understand just what the career will be like until you experience it first hand. You can do all the research, talk to all the people, and plan as much as you want, but I would bet your travel nurse career will still take some twists and turns you did not expect. No matter if you work as a traveler for one contract or ten years, the lifestyle and perspective changes you and is guaranteed to have a lasting impact.
When I first started out on my travel nurse journey, I had no idea how transformative it would be. Four years later, and I am still thankful for the experience, and pleasantly surprised on how the job has carried over into the rest of my life.
It may make you consider moving away from home permanently.
I come from a very close-knit family. My mom, brothers, and I have always gotten along and made the point to spend time with each other regularly. I also have a huge network of close friends and family in my hometown. I never, ever thought I would be tempted to leave permanently. That was the point of travel–I got to live in and experience new cities but ultimately would come back home.
Until the new cities showed me what my hometown was lacking. I had always loved the great outdoors, but travel nursing introduced me to mountain trails and new landscapes. I realized that no matter what suburb I lived in back home, nothing could mimic the landscapes of the Western United States. Now, my husband and I have actually seriously talked about relocating to Arizona at some point, which I would have never in a million years anticipated five years ago.
Travel nursing will boost your confidence.
Even if you don’t feel like a confident person when you start out, travel nursing will naturally give your personal confidence a boost. Whether it is driving cross country by yourself, navigating a new city with zero guidance, or just the fact that you will be working on a nursing unit with minimal orientation, travel nursing will show you how resilient you can really be.
You will learn how smart you are on your own, how strong your clinical skills are when put to the test, and how outgoing you can be even when you are feeling shy. These skills are so helpful no matter where you go from there, and a beautiful part of what travel nursing can bring to your life.
You still need to be diligent with your money.
When I first started working as a travel nurse, my paychecks doubled compared to my staff job. I figured that a year in and I’d be debt-free, and we would then knock my husband’s grad school debt out of the park.
However, the travel lifestyle brings with it its own set of expenses. In order to see friends and family, we usually took around two months of the year off with no paid vacation. Our cars were being driven a lot more, and our “beater” that had gotten us around locally died our first out of state assignment. Plus, there are new restaurants to try, weekend trips to explore, and local experiences that cost money. While we still made significant headway financially, it was not at the speed we first anticipated when we started traveling.
You will lose touch with friends.
Like I mentioned before, I had a close circle of friends back home when I started my travel nurse career. While I still love these people and catch up when I can, I had three years of missed birthday parties, nights at the bar, or tailgate get-togethers. Inevitably, you just can’t be present as much as you were before you traveled, so there is a distance that seems to grow between you and your friends.
Now, the beauty of this is you will likely figure out who your closest people are. My husband and I found that our quality rather than the quantity of friends grew. We learned to prioritize our time at home with the people that mattered most, and those same people have continued to show up when it matters.
You will build a new network of people in all corners of the United States.
The flip side of this is as you move around and meet new people, your extended network will grow. I have friends living in St. Louis, San Francisco, Hawaii and even Guam right now. Travel healthcare workers like to flock together, and the mutual understanding we all have for this lifestyle makes it much easier to maintain a long-distance friendship.
It is really neat knowing that if we decide to take a road trip or travel to any part of the country, we are likely to find a friendly face ready to meet up.
While parts of travel can be intimidating or even a little sad, in the long run, the growth you experience in this career is something that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Taking the leap of faith, trusting in yourself, and getting outside of your bubble at home is a valuable life lesson, and something every travel nurse will tell you was worth it.
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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