Machu Pichu March 2012

I will have been traveling for a total of 14 1/2 weeks or 102 days when I touch down back in Chicago on May 23rd. This is my longest trip to date….and I’m not ready to go home.

As my current trip abroad is slowly coming to an end, I find myself confronted with a myriad of thoughts.  I find that I am already building a ‘to do’ list in my head.  I’m dreading going back to the ‘real’ world.  At the same time I feel a bit reflective on my career choice.  Being a travel nurse has perhaps been the best career choice that I could have made.  Did I know it at the time?  No, not really.  I have always enjoyed the fact that Travel Nursing has allowed me to explore new places throughout the US and now I am enjoying that it (as well as many other factors) allows me the freedom to travel internationally.

Since my first trip abroad to Vietnam in 2008, I’ve longed to travel for longer periods of time. While in Germany, I discovered that the short ‘vacation’ type trip is not for me. I really do long to be in a place to truly experience it. This time around, I was able to slow down a little bit and stay longer in a couple of places. I spent three weeks in Antigua, Guatemala and nearly 4 weeks in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. I’m loving it!! It’s been wonderful to have a ‘local’ coffee shop, bar, grocery, etc. The feeling of being a part of a place while traveling abroad is the same that I’ve experienced in the US being a Travel Nurse.

Being able to become somewhat of a local with 13 week contracts is the thing that I love most about travel nursing. I’ve found that places that I’ve loved on first impression, I’ve grown to dislike and alternately places that I’ve hated on first impression are now some of my favorites. It’s a totally different experience to ‘live’ in a place rather than visit.

What’s next? I’ve been contemplating this with an equal sense of dread and excitement. I have several options to consider. I could stick with my original plan and work for the next 9 months saving and scrimping to take the ‘big’ trip that I’ve had in my head for the past year. Alternately, I can go home and work one contract (13 weeks); still saving and scrimping and potentially travel another 4-6 months.

Gettysburg October 2011

There are some potential complications with the ‘big’ trip. First and foremost is my job. In order to be able to continue working with the VA Travel Nurse Corp, I have to work a minimum of one contract a year. It took tons of paperwork, red-tape and waiting in order to obtain the position with the VA. A process that I do not relish going through again. Traveling for an extended period of time will essentially not be an option if I want to continue working with the VA. I make about 28% more working through the VA than I do working through a traditional/civilian travel nurse agency. To me this translates to 28% less time needed to work to maintain the same income. This equates to approximately 100 less days per year of work…. This is all probably mumbo jumbo to most of you out there but for any of my nursing friends that continually ask me ‘how do you travel so much’; this is part of the answer.

I have to admit that thoughts of only having to go home for a mere 13 weeks (plus a week or two with family), has a huge draw for me. The thought of being able to travel 4-6 months alternating with 3 months of work sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Not only does it make the amount of time working less in a stretch, it allows me time to visit home and touch base with the family a little more frequently. I think that it will also allow for less ‘burn-out‘ that nurses are very prone to. Sounds like I’ve made my decision….

Wish me luck in transitioning back to the ‘home’ life. It appears that I’ll be spending a few weeks preparing for and celebrating my youngest graduating High School. During this time, I’ll be catching up with friends and family.