Careers in Travel PT

I had the opportunity to talk with Regis University DPT students. We covered a whole lot of topics in just 30 minutes – housing, tax home, finding a recruiter, searching for assignments, independent contracts, PT compact and licensure, health insurance…. and a lot more.

The presentation and Q&A were recorded and are here for your enjoyment!

The Big Settle Down

Kate driving our first camper, “Champ,” through Denali National Park. Champ was awesome and had so much character. I think our new camper, “Mabel” (named before us), will give Champ a run for his money.

Kate and I were travel PTs for over 10 years. We had a good run – no, “good run” doesn’t begin to describe it. We have lived all over the country, driving to both the East and West Coasts most years. We have lived in a camper on Martha’s Vineyard, explored Alaska, found serenity in rural Hawaii, and have accumulated over 500 ski days each in Colorado. We have had a great run.

We’ll be having a kid in about 4 weeks. When we decided we wanted to have a child, we weren’t sure if it would end our travel careers. Until even a couple months ago, we had a backup plan that included the three of us living in a camper taking short contracts all over the Western US – it seems a single traveler salary could stretch further than most permanent salaries. With travel pay, one of us could work while the other home-schooled the little one. We remained very undecided about whether we would stay in Colorado following the baby’s birth or see just how far we could take this traveling thing. We have a couple friends here in Aspen who are raising a one-year-old between Asheville, NC in the summer and Aspen in the winter – sounds pretty awesome, and with an established life in each place, very manageable. We had visions of a similar life… seemed reasonable.

So what gives? Life as a travel PT really has been living the dream. We never made a formal decision to stay here in Aspen – it just happened.

Over the years, we began returning to Aspen for winters yearly. We have long said if we were to settle down, it would be here. Over the years, we’ve casually looked at properties with a friend who is a realtor. About 3 years ago, we took snowmobiles to check out some land on the back of Aspen Mountain. It would have been awesome. (It would still be awesome) But, it would be expensive, and we would have to snowmobile to our house through avalanche terrain every day in the winter – not the most practical set-up. There’s been a couple other things we’ve casually looked at over the years. Within days of showing up in town this December, our realtor friend insisted, “Hey, there’s this house you should really check out.” We dilly-dallied, didn’t pay much attention, and again, “Hey, there’s this house you should really check out.” Within 2 weeks of returning to Aspen this winter, we were under contract on the house and have been working to buy it since.

Our first winter in Aspen, 2007. We figured we’d live slopeside, because “You only live in Aspen once. Right?” This was one of the many on-mountain fireworks shows that first year when we could stroll out our front door and watch. We certainly don’t live slope-side anymore, but we’re close enough.

It just happened. There was no conscious decision to stay in Aspen, but here I am sitting by my cozy wood fire typing, in my house, trying to process the fact that I’m not a travel PT anymore. The longest job I’ve held in the last 11 years was my first travel assignment that I extended out to 10 months. Before that, my entry-level PT program at Northeastern University was structured so that we were constantly rotating between a few months in class and a few months in clinic. The last time I did one consistent thing for over a year was high school! But, I guess it’s time to settle-down. All this came together and happened so naturally that I have to believe the timing is right and that it’s meant to be. I honestly see a lot of advantage to being in one place. There are definitely areas of my life where I’ll gain traction and finally be able to make some headway. Don’t get me wrong, traveling PT has been a dream-life and I can’t picture doing anything different with the last 10 years. One sign of more stability is that I’ve already committed more time to the Colorado Chapter of the APTA. My first project is getting the PT licensure compact to pass here – clearly travel-driven idea.

So what now? I guess I’ll keep writing about traveling and the path-less-taken by therapists. I’ve learned a lot about traveling over the last decade and will continue to share what I can for as long as I can. I recognize that my knowledge and advice probably have an expiration date, maybe a couple years. You’ll likely start to see me taking on more generalized PT and rehab topics, but travel PT will stay central for now. In life, traveling is not even close to done. We recently bought a 1970 Shasta camper that we are going to put some serious miles on this summer driving through the mountains and into the desert. The mind-set in Aspen affords a lifestyle full of continuing adventure. Many of our coworkers routinely take 3 week international vacations – many of our coworkers and friends are of international origins themselves. I’d eventually like to see a large chunk of the globe, but Australia, Japan, Iceland, and much of Europe stand out as places that I need to get to more immediately. A steady job affords the opportunity to increase participation in global-health projects and international service learning for which there are many opportunities in healthcare. Aspen has exchange programs with several sister cities (Bariloche, Argentina; Chamonix, France; and Christchurch, New Zealand to name a few of our sister cities). I’m not really sure what having a child, owning a home, and accepting a permanent job means, but it definitely doesn’t mean the end of travel.

Stay tuned, this is the start of a new adventure. A very different, new adventure.

Choosing the Right Camper to Live In

As we have done our traveling in the last year, we have slowly but surely made some changes. One of those changes that we came to was the decision to buy a trailer and live out of it full time. Our journey to the trailer probably took way longer than necessary because Kelsey was very particular about what she did and did not want our trailer to look like. Phil was more concerned about the inside, which is more important in the end. When we actually looked at all the possible options we each wanted in a trailer we knew we had our work cut out for us.

Here are some things Kelsey wanted/needed in the trailer:

Phil and Kelsey normally blog on their website at minimalistlifemaximumresults.com

Phil and Kelsey normally blog on their website at minimalistlifemaximumresults.com

1. NO STRIPES – Kelsey likes to be unique and she did not want her trailer to look like the other trailers we often see on the road, this means no stripes decorating the sides. If you like the look of the trailer or RV with stripes that’s fine, but you see those trailers everywhere. It is kind of hard to find a trailer or RV without stripes nowadays. We want to be unique and that’s what we were looking for.
2. Solar energy – This wasn’t exactly a deal breaker like some of the other items on this list. It is relatively easy to put solar power into an already existing home, whether it’s a standalone home or a mobile home. It makes it much easier when it is already installed for you. If we were going to pay big money for our new home, we preferred it already done for us.
3. No shower – This was kind of a weird one since most people think of a shower as a necessity. Kelsey did not want to deal with the hassle of the shower and fell in love with the idea of having to join a gym in order to shower. That little incentive to shower can be a huge motivator to go to the gym and get in better shape. This is a tip not just for people on the road but for all you home dwellers out there too! Another benefit of not having a shower is reducing the amount of water used. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons of water. That can equal out to over 6000 gallons of water used per year, per person. Just on showers!
4. Small in size – We like downsizing and quickly realized we tend to have more space than we could ever need. We also like getting rid of stuff and living as minimalist as we can (hence the title of the blog). By doing this and going as small as we can, we are forcing our hand even more. Sometimes a big (or small) change can do a world of good in your life if you feel stuck.
5. Enough room to change comfortably – We looked into the van life a little bit, but we are still working professionals. That means we have to dress business casual – so looking presentable in a van would be tough. Not impossible but definitely becomes more difficult if you have only a small van’s amount of space.

Phil’s lists of wants:

1. Towable by a small SUV or crossover – Phil has never wanted a truck and has always wanted a vehicle that optimized gas mileage. Anything bigger than an SUV or crossover would really impact this ability to stay eco friendly in the car department.
2. Decent amount of windows to give open and outdoor appearance – The draw of the trailer is that you’re outdoors, you can walk outside at a moments notice. If your trailer is stuffy with no windows, it makes it feel like you live in a small box, not a tiny home.
Camperlife3. Kitchen of some kind – Phil isn’t really big on cooking but we have made healthier food choices in the last 12 months. Cutting out Cheetos, pop tarts, potato chips, chicken, beef, etc has been great for us. By making a big life change for the better, we didn’t want to make a big life change for the worse. Our kitchen is only an induction (energy saving) stove top and a mini fridge, but we are able to use that efficiently to keep up our healthy lifestyle.
4. Toilet – This one is kind of important to Phil as he goes roughly 20 times a day. Technically, he also wanted a shower but after some negotiating the no shower lifestyle ended up winning out. And the toilet in this place is composting! So less water and even better for the environment!

It turns out finding a trailer that meets all of these needs is way more difficult than it sounds. By way of luck (or more just constant searching) Phil came across an all wooden solar paneled travel trailer that actually fit all of our wants. The company is Homegrown Trailers, and they are amazing. Not only did the company already meet the needs we had laid out on paper but when we went to look at the trailer they came up with ideas to customize the trailer even more to fit our needs. It was perfect timing since the company has only been running since early 2016.

We do have to give some honorable mention to Air Stream as that was our top choice until we found out perfect match with Homegrown Trailers.

Suggestions to finding the trailer for you:

philkelseybeds1. Make a list of what you want and categorize by what is and what is not negotiable.
2. Set a budget – Don’t go over your comfortable amount to spend just to find the perfect trailer. If it’s perfect and you still want it, it will always be there later. We ordered ours back in July and are happy to make money and get ready to pick up in December.
3. Do research – And a lot of it!
4. Don’t settle – wait until it is exactly what you want. Kind of going along with the budget point above. If the trailer doesn’t have what you want, it’s not the trailer for you – unless you are very interested in the DIY trailer, which some people are.
5. Make time to call the company and see what other types of options or customizing is available.

Everyone is different and that’s perfectly fine. If you want to live on the open road go check out some awesome vans, trailers, RVs and mobile homes. There is no wrong choice as long as it fits your needs and is what you want! Thanks James for the awesome opportunity to write about our beginning of nomadic, eco-friendly travel trailer PT and thanks to everyone for following along with our journey!

A Tale of Contract Negotiation

travel PT contract negotiationAfter a few hours of skiing this morning, I had one heck of a day wheeling-and-dealing a travel contract. I ended up with a couple extra hours and thought I would quickly share the experience.

Kate and I are trying to return to a small, remote community hospital that we worked at a couple years ago. We absolutely loved the community and would love to return this summer for 3 or 6 months. We’ve been speaking with the rehab director over a few weeks and have established that there are 1.5 jobs (60 hours/week) available for the two us this summer. We’ve just been waiting, and waiting, for some details and pay numbers to come through. We had previously worked for this hospital through an agency, but the hospital requested we do an independent contract if we could. Finally, this past week, the ball got rolling, we filled out applications with the hospital and a proposed pay package came to us. I was pleasantly surprised with what the package offered – a rental car and housing included but a little too modest hourly pay. I sat down to crunch some numbers and with my estimates of housing cost, rental car, etc, the package fell well short of what we would be making at the same facility through an agency. I figured there was some wiggle room and while a rental car was a nice perk, we don’t really need a rental car and could perhaps negotiate it into a higher hourly pay. When I got on the phone with HR this morning, I was briskly informed that there was no room for negotiation – the offer we received was the final offer. Could we remove the rental car and turn that cost into hourly pay? No. Could any of the money be offered as tax-free per diem? No. How much are they paying for the condo? …a lot more than we would pay for a condo on our own. Bottom line, there was no wiggle in the pay package and I had to insist that we figure out a deal through a staffing agency because we would make a lot more moolah working the same exact job. But, the insanity wasn’t finished yet – just inform our recruiter to work with the hospital to set up the gig, right? No, the hospital has a policy that travel jobs must be posted publicly through a “vendor management system” (more on this later).

That’s the story on how this contract has come to be, but there’s a lot of nuance to break down and comment on that I believe offers some insight into the travel industry. First, non-negotiable!? Why wouldn’t we be able to negotiate a different pay package? While I did enjoy what was offered to us directly by the hospital, a lot of the value of the total compensation was spent on things I don’t need. Also, the tax free benefits available through an agency give them an edge on what the hospital could offer me. Here’s the factors that I believe led to the breakdown in the hospital’s ability to offer Kate and I jobs directly:

  1. A rental car. This is a huge cost. When going to remote areas, we tend to buy a Craigslist car and sell it at the end for minimal loss. If the money the hospital was pouring into renting us a car was converted into hourly pay, we  would have completed a deal directly with the hospital.
  2. Housing – When working for an agency, we typically take the housing stipend and find our own housing rather than taking housing offered through the agency. We do this, because with a little footwork, we can find housing that is better suited to our needs and costs less than the generic, supplied housing. This is exactly what happened with the hospital’s offer – we had budgeted $1200/mo for housing, and they were estimating $2000/mo. Sure it’s convenient to have housing set up for us, but not at a total of $2400 above our budget over the course of a 3 month assignment. (post-script update: We secured housing for $1100/mo – in the same exact condo complex the hospital was offering us housing in. This works out to $2700 more dollars in our pocket versus our initial  contract offer from the hospital.)
  3. Tax advantage – The hospital told me they had looked into their ability to do tax free payments (like per diem) and that they had chosen not to take it on for the tax difficulties it presented. When a portion of your pay is tax free, it really ads up. That was one reason I initially liked them supplying the housing. When they rent it for us, it’s like getting money before it is taxed. A great benefit!
  4. The nail in the coffin: HR literally told me, “We only pay a few more dollars per hour when we work with an agency, so we’re fine with that option.” A few dollars per hour!? That really ads up. Offer ME that money, man! Come on.
Kate and I enjoying the waning moments of our spring-time skiing before jetting off to the next contract in a couple weeks.

Kate and I enjoying the waning moments of our spring-time skiing before jetting off to the next contract in a couple weeks.

While I believe those are the main factors that ultimately led to the breakdown in our ability to work out an independent contract, the insanity was not finished. I mentioned that they had to use a vendor management system (VMS). There are several big VMSs and our contract was posted through the one I am most familiar with – if you have traveled for a while, you have probably had a job that was posted with this system. What exactly is a VMS, you ask? It’s the 4th party in a 3 party contract. VMSs collect job postings from facilities by handling a large portion of the foot work for the facility. These VMSs blast those jobs out to a bunch of different staffing agencies who subscribe to be a part of their listings. Have you ever had multiple agencies post the same job at the same time? If so, that job is posted through a VMS. Some larger companies that own multiple staffing agencies also own a VMS so that they can collect exclusive postings from facilities and post them solely through the staffing agencies that they own – big, shady business. The VMS that this job was posted through (where the facility, the clinician, and the recruiting agency were all known entities) charges a price of 4% of the total contract. So, again, rather than just paying the therapists, more money is being thrown at paying another company a good chunk of the available pay.

Lunacy, complete lunacy. But, you know what? Kate and I are returning to the jobs we want this summer. The contract eventually worked out through a staffing agency and we’re happy with the deal. It’s too bad that when you have a facility and a clinician that want to work together, it takes two other private companies to organize the employment. But, as long as facilities refuse to pay clinicians the money they are willing to pay to outside companies, traveling therapy will remain a strong industry and a great career choice for therapists all across the country.

There might be a second chapter to this story. We only have 60 hours of work between the two of us this summer. I’m currently working on establishing a contract with the state to do some part-time work in a very cool, very unique consulting situation. They are a little concerned with my temporary status, but I think I could do some great work for them in the time that I do have. I know, I have given you no details here …top secret… for now. Hopefully this part-time job will work out and I’ll have some very cool, very unique stories to share with you all. See you out there on the open road!

All That Junk

For a traveling Physical Therapist supposedly living some sort of minimalist lifestyle, I have a ton of stuff.

There's our slick little trailer. Super-easy to tow. Perfect for us, except that we have no place to keep any of the stuff inside it.

There’s our slick little trailer. Super-easy to tow. Perfect for us, except that we have no place to keep any of the stuff inside it.

When Kate and I moved into a camper this summer, we brought a concise amount of stuff with us from our seasonal life out in Colorado. We typically leave our ski and winter gear in a small storage area, this year we left some additional stuff knowing we’d be living in the small confines of a camper. Living in a camper went awesome. Having just a couple suitcases worth of clothes and very little other belongings was a great way to simplify and organize life.

Kate and I had a ton of stuff stored at her Mom’s house up in Maine – and we needed to get the majority of it out. We ended up leaving a few canisters of clothes and other things at her Mom’s house, but were able to regain ownership of a lot of stuff that we never actually missed. Originally, we thought we’d rent a Uhaul to make the trip, but after looking at prices, we reconsidered and bought a new trailer for just a few hundred dollars more than the price of renting one for the week. We filled the brand new 4′ x 6′ trailer to the brim with pictures and knick-knacks from childhood, college, and our wedding. An entire pick-up truck worth of stuff including several boxes of text books from PT school found its way to Goodwill. I would love to have the luxury of time and space to bring the books with us and try to sell them on Ebay for some easy cash, but we only had a few days to get on the road headed west and no space at all for the books to tag along – they had to go. Following 5 months in a camper, we were of the minimalist mindset and did a good job of tossing away A LOT of stuff. Regardless of our success in eliminating as much as we did, we headed to Colorado with our SUV and trailer both full to the brim.

Several weeks, and a couple trips to the storage area later, we have all of our stuff safely inside our hospital-owned condo in Colorado. Life appears mostly normal in our condo except for a persistent stack of plastic bins hanging out. I move multiple times per year, what on Earth do I do with old photo albums, framed diplomas, and my most favorite DVDs and books!? These things have no place in my current life, but I think I would really miss them some day if I were to throw them out. On the other hand, what if a camper becomes a more regular part of my life, or if we move into a small home without much room for storage – then these things that I like having, but rarely miss, will certainly have no place in my life. The idea of a perpetual storage area seems like such a waste.

Rad. Traveling Physical Therapist

Doesn’t everyone bring a totally rad pair of skis from the 80’s on any good road trip?

So, for now, we have one car-load of stuff that travels with us – this is the stuff we actually “need” in life. We have a 4′ x 6′ trailer and a 5′ x 5′ storage area of other stuff. Admittedly, a good amount of the storage area is dedicated to ski equipment and other forms of winter recreation, but the volume of stuff remains overwhelming. So, what am I to do? I have much more stuff than I truly need, but most of the things that don’t have a utilitarian purpose in my life have some high sentimental value. In talking with a few friends, it seems most people have a couple boxes of similar stuff despite efforts to whittle it down. For now, I suppose I’ll keep going through the photo albums and memory boxes to try and identify the difference between important memories and junk that holds little value. It seems that the only time I see this stuff is when I’m trying to pare-down. So, maybe the process of elimination is exactly what puts the objects with out any real purpose to use. For now, the process of going through and reducing the clutter is exactly what allows me to crack the binding on these old albums and enjoy them.

I do look forward to sorting through old photo albums and newspaper clippings that I have long forgotten – reliving memories that may be lost without these little reminders tucked away in a closet or storage area. Should be a fun winter exploring all the knick-knacks, but let’s hope that there’s a lot I can part way with, because it’s not all going to fit in the 5′ by 5′ storage area at the end of this winter.

My Landlord is a Clown

As a travel PT, I have learned that interesting housing situations present themselves frequently. I thought living in a camper for 5 months this summer was the great housing tale of the summer. Maybe not…

10/13/15
It’s Tuesday evening, the campground closes tomorrow morning and we have to move from our camper for one month before this assignment is over. The camper has sold, tentatively on Craigslist… the plan is to grab the cash for the camper when we move out tomorrow morning and have the buyer tow it away. Until then, the Craigslist ad will stay active.

The place we’re moving into is a small one bedroom cottage in Oak Bluffs, housing and rent are brutal on Martha’s Vineyard, that’s what pushed us into the camper in the first place. We had heard from our new the landlord that there was a septic issue that was being fixed earlier this week, today, we learned more.

The landlord said, “I hope the septic is done by the end of the week, but the plan still needs to be approved by the town.” Well folks, I know a developing story when I hear one. We’re stuck, housing is awful here, there’s no choice but to move into the toiletless cottage. We can’t use running water, but luckily, the landlord lives in a house across the driveway with various renters. Looks like we’ll be walking over there for cooking, bathroom, showers, etc for a while. I hope this is a short story, but I’ll be entering journal-style entries until this saga comes to an end. Fingers crossed, wish us luck!

South Beach on the left, wrapping around to Chappaquiddick. We spent many-a-weekend on South Beach grilling and chilling. Took this picture on the way over to Nantucket for a weekend visit with a travel PT/friend over on the neighbor island.

South Beach on the left, wrapping around to Chappaquiddick. We spent many-a-weekend on South Beach grilling and chilling. Took this picture on the way over to Nantucket for a weekend visit with a travel PT/friend over on the neighbor island.

10/14/15
It’s move-in day. We have cash for the camper and no longer own it. An unattended backhoe sits on a pile of dirt beside our otherwise quaint and cute little cottage on Martha’s Vineyard.

Our landlord, a professional clown (no, literally), has given us a tour of the main house where we will be doing anything involving water. Funny tangent: Kate told me one of her patients who lives nearby had asked who our landlord was. When Kate gave her our landlord’s name, the patient replied, “Oh, I think she is the clown.” At the time, Kate left it alone not knowing exactly what the patient meant.

There’s one tenant staying in the main house until Friday (two more days) named Nefertiti who the clown says is from, “Serbia, no that’s not right. Hungary. No. I don’t remember.” We’ve been in and out for two days now and have no sightings of the other tenant. The sun is setting, we’re moved in, a normal work week goes on, I’m pooped.

10/16/15
It’s been a busy week. We’ve worked a normal week, moved out of the camper, sold it, moved into the cottage, and been otherwise generally busy in life. I’m slowly adjusting to going over to the main house to use the bathroom and wash dishes. I’ve avoided taking a shower there and instead used it as an excuse to hit the gym before work and shower at the gym instead. I routinely showered at the gym when we were getting the camper shower water-tight earlier this summer. Kate has been showering in the main house and calls it, “a mild inconvenience.”

Last night, I met Nefertiti on her last night renting in the big house. She came downstairs just as I was standing in the kitchen chopping avocados and holding a giant knife. I saw her and said, “Hi I’m James.” She quietly and nervously introduced herself asked if our landlord was around. Our landlord was not around. “Neffy” quickly headed back upstairs, leaving me in the kitchen with the avocados and the knife. I think she is used to random renters being in the kitchen, but I can’t help but wonder if I startled her.

Today is Friday, and our landlord said she had been calling the town planning board, but hasn’t heard back yet. I guess hope for the septic tank being completed by the end of the week is a thing of the past. I feel like the walk across the driveway to the bathroom and kitchen is what it must be like living in a mansion, walking really far to get to other rooms. We’ve started referring to the main house as “The West Wing”. I doubt any developments will happen over the weekend, to be continued on Monday…

Our small, but quaint cottage peaking out behind the mounds of dirt and constant ground work.

Our small, but quaint cottage peaking out behind the mounds of dirt and constant ground work.

10/17/15

Today, we evolved. We got a large wash bin to use in the kitchen sink. That way we wash dishes, or whatever, in the sink, when the wash bin fills up, it gets dumped in the bushes out front. It’s nice to have a sink. Still no Toilet.

10/19/15

We’ve really settled into the situation here. The landlord has been away at a conference… clown conference? Nefertiti’s season has ended, and she is gone. So, we’ve had our little cottage and the big house across the driveway all to ourselves. The walk across the driveway in the morning for a shower has become casual. I feel truly suburban for the first time in my adult life as I stroll across the driveway in full view of neighbors wearing my plaid bathrobe and LL Bean moccasin slippers. This isn’t a bad set-up, but I wish the work would get underway to fix the septic.

10/21/15

Today, the septic guy showed up, and it’s game on! He says we’ll be without plumbing for a couple hours while he hooks up the new tank tomorrow, but then we should be good to go! He got the back hoe up and running today, and, as far as I can tell, just pushed some junk around in the yard, might have smoothed out some dirt too. The backhoe is in the yard directly beside the cottage, it is also just about the same size as the cottage. Should be an interesting process.

10/22/15 – PM

Houston, flushing is go. All our plumbing needs are being met. Today the septic guy, Vinny, had me flush some toilet paper inside. We rushed outside and we saw the TP happily float into the tank. A clear sign that Vinny, as he noted, “has enough pitch in the tube. Shouldn’t have any problems.” Very relieved to be done with the West Wing and my morning strolls across the driveway for a shower – hopefully, this story is over.

Two weeks later… 11/4/15

Vinny and his rig at work just off our front deck.

Vinny and his rig at work just off our front deck.

I thought we were done. When this tale started, I thought I saw a developing story and would write because it would probably turn out tragic… entertaining, but tragic. It hasn’t been tragic, but the story isn’t over either. The day after the cottage was hooked up to the septic, the main house got hooked up. Every day since, I have thought it would be that last day of excavator work in the yard. Except now, the holes in the yard and piles of dirt by the cottage are getting bigger. Apparently Vinny is working on the leach field now. While it is kind of educational to look in the hole every morning and evening and see the process, there is a little wear to having construction vehicles in the yard everyday. We leave the island for a little R&R today before our next assignment in 10 days. The race is on, Vinny. Who leaves first? Is it us? Or is it you?

Post-script

The kind of movie I hate the most is the kind that isn’t a story. You know, movies that are just a snippet of time and don’t really have a beginning or ending. The most recent one I saw like that was Silver Linings Playbook. What the hell was that, Bradley Cooper!? No ending to that movie, just ends mid-story. Oh wait, did I just ruin the ending for you? No, because there isn’t one.

Anyways, I feel like this snippet of time needs a conclusion, consider this the special content after the credits have rolled. When we ran into trouble with this place, we didn’t really have any other choices for housing. This was it. We could either worry about the constant work going on around us or just accept it and live our lives in our cute little cottage. We could have worried and battled our landlord to hurry the process up, or give us money back, but we didn’t. We accepted it and thrived. I think this is a vital survival instinct that anyone who is a healthcare traveler needs to have – don’t stress, just cope. Most of the travel therapist life is smooth, but if you travel for more than a couple years, you’re bound to run into some sort of adversity: a contract gets cancelled, you go unemployed for several weeks looking for a job, your new assignment isn’t what you had thought it would be, or, ahem, your housing has no working toilet. The bottom line is, if you can roll with it, it will pass. The nature of life as a traveling therapist is that things are constantly changing, progressing…. moving on. If every bump in the road gets you in a tizzy, you’ll struggle. But, if you accept these situations for what they are – passing inconveniences – you’ll move along quickly to the next stage. Hopefully, at that next stage, you’ll find that things are going better than you had hoped: your new job is better than expected, your employer wants to extend the contract, your new housing has an awesome shower.

“Just Roll With It” was the alternative title to this blog. That’s the conclusion. In traveling, roll with the punches. If one assignment has troubles, the next one is bound to be awesome. Good luck out there in your ever changing world!

Vinny did get the hole closed up and grass seed down 2 full days before we left. Strong work, Vinny.

#Camperlife

Watching football on the camper's big screen.

Watching football on the camper’s big screen.

Kate and I had wanted to live in a camper for a while. We had this old, awesome RV in Alaska a few years back and had always talked about living in one for a full summer. When we accepted our assignments on Martha’s Vineyard this summer, we started looking at apartment rents and quickly realized living in a camper was our cheap way out.

The funny thing is, 5 months of camper living have passed and I barely even recognize that it happened. I had all these grandiose intentions of sharing all kinds of tidbits about “#CamperLife”, blogging about the great advantages of living in a camper and having some great take-away message after almost half a year living in 150 sqft. I posted less during the time living in the camper than I intended. When I did post, it was mostly pictures of campfires. Now that it’s over, I have no revelation, I have no great take-away message, I have no feeling of great accomplishment from living a minimalist life. It just feels… I don’t know, it’s like I’ve simply lived in a small apartment that I really liked.

Our main kitchen for the summer. Cooking indoors will never be the same. The kitchen sink was a garden hose.

Our main kitchen for the summer. Cooking indoors will never be the same. The kitchen sink was a garden hose.

There are a few appreciable improvements on life that are worth mentioning. I spent the vast majority of this summer outdoors. We had a great screen room and deck that was where we spent all our home time – 3 months went by where I didn’t cook a single meal inside. Meal prep happened on our outdoor stove top, grill, and fire pit. All this outdoor cooking and campfiring left me wondering about whether my carbon footprint was really improved by living in a camper. Originally I had thoughts of buying solar powered generators to be really minimalist in energy usage, but our very shaded campsite put the kibosh on that very early on. Our entire electric usage for the summer was about 750 kilowatt hours, my understanding is that for 5 months, that’s a relatively small amount of electricity. I figure with all the campfires we had, that we broke about even on our carbon production – sorry, Earth. I did find myself a little more in-tune with nature through all of our outdoors time. Most days, I could tell you the sunset time within 15 minutes, could tell you whether the moon was waning or waxing, and could describe any recent changes in the flora and fauna surrounding our campsite… so that was pretty cool.

People have been asking, “How’s living in a camper?” It’s fine, it really hasn’t been much of a change from how I like to live. It’s cool that I’ve lived minimally and mildly increased my connection with nature, after all, these are two things I have been looking to enhance in my life. So, if you’re wondering if living in a camper is for you, go for it. Hopefully you’ll have a very pleasant and unsensational experience like mine. Although, now that I think about it, maybe my blasé experience says less about the experience of living in a camper than it does about me. Maybe it didn’t affect me because I’m built for this. Me and a camper fit together so seamlessly that I barely noticed it. Let’s latch home onto the back of the car and keep moving – maybe I could be a traveler forever.

See you on the road.

Lightening Round

Grand Illumination Night is a uniquely Martha's Vineyard holiday. A group of a couple hundred small Victorian cottages called The Campground (different than the campground we live at) all hang lanterns on their houses and illuminate them at the same time. We've done some homecare in these houses too - neat, weird little places.

Grand Illumination Night is a uniquely Martha’s Vineyard holiday. A group of a couple hundred small Victorian cottages called The Campground (different than the campground we live at) all hang lanterns on their houses and illuminate them at the same time. We’ve done some homecare in these houses too – neat, weird little places.

I’m going to do now what I do every time I get crunched for time and realized I haven’t posted in over a month, whip off a quick stream-of-thought blog about what’s been happening in my life recently out on the open road. Life right now is in a camper in Martha’s Vineyard, so it makes for pretty easy writing, but it will be a brief one. Don’t expect great grammar, don’t even expect good spellign.

Life has been fast paced and it’s been tough to keep up with the website. There’s been a lot of you reaching out on the discussion boards who are just getting into travel, and we have some good discussions going – so keep it up! I have a couple of half-written blogs for you, but they are posts that require a little more thought, so expect those in a couple weeks. The main thing keeping me busy has been this dang 1/2 Iron Distance Triathlon that I have been training for since I arrived here on the island 4 months ago. It is going to be held right here on the island in just a week and a half, so the end of this crazy, time-consuming training is near. I’m really looking forward to it. The 70.3 miles will cover the entire island and some beautiful vistas, but the training has been ridiculous, so I won’t be doing another one anytime soon.

Living in a camper has been great. I was kept very busy when we first moved in. There were a lot of little repairs that needed to be done. Water heater work, re-sealing some seams, and installing a screen room were the major low-lights of the work. After a few weeks of maintenance and finding out what it’s like to be a homeowner, we settled in and evenings after work have been filled with dinner on the deck and typically a campfire. There’s a lot of things I like about living in a camper, including being minimalist in my consumption of space and energy. The main attraction to the 5 months of camping is being outdoors. I have spent many, many hours on the deck and by the fire. There will a be a couple blogs soon related specifically to living in a camper, so I will digress for now.

Kate working wicked hard on the Vineyard. As I try to claim I've been too busy to write a blog....

Kate working wicked hard on the Vineyard. As I try to claim I’ve been too busy to write a blog….

Being on an island has lent itself to a lot of beach time. Sunday is the big beach day around here. We’ve been captured by friends who throw us in the back of their truck where we drive out onto the beach and create a wagon-circle-type caravan – except instead of keeping women and children in the middle of the circle for protection, there is various grilled meats. Not a bad use of the weekend, every weekend.

Kate and I are both working for a home care company out here. The expected productivity is reasonable, and, being on an island, the driving distances aren’t too bad either. Regardless, it has been BUSY at work. With the seasonal bump of tourists and residents work has been in high-season mode for the last 2 months – Martha’s Vineyard goes from a year-round population of 15,000 to an estimated 170,000 people on island last week! There are signs of the work load letting up a little bit soon. It truly has been a great job.

Just another Sunday on the beach. Great fun carting friends, games, and meats out to the beach for an afternoon of relaxation.

Just another Sunday on the beach. Great fun carting friends, games, and meats out to the beach for an afternoon of relaxation.

The weather has been just absolutely awesome here. We have had about 3 rainy days in the last 2 months – good news for us camper dwellers, and us beach goers. Despite the dry summer, the island life lends itself to insane humidity and with humidity, mildew. Not to wish the summer away, but I’m about ready for some cooler weather so I can stop washing the walls. The campground has really quieted down this week along with the rest of the island. Last night was hoody-weather, but I know we have another month left of solid summer as exhibited by the return of 80 degrees and muggy this evening (peepers peeping like crazy in the trees, love it!). With the change of the seasons, the campground will close and we’ll have to move into an apartment for one month before returning to the mountains of Colorado for the winter.

Expect some more thoughtful and thought provoking posts soon. Among my topics will be new grads traveling, how to select where you want to go as a traveling therapist, and, of course, #CamperLife.

Camping and Working

The world of outdoor showers is something I have never been privy to. But here, on Martha’s Vineyard, outdoor showers are a very serious thing. I have been out on home visits with multiple patients 90+ in age who refuse to shower indoors, because, of course, it’s summer and you use the outdoor shower during the summer. Everybody has an outdoor shower here. We’ve been living at the campground for about a month now. Our camper’s water heater has been on the fritz (more on that later), so most showers have been over at the main campground building – quite nice, actually. Good water pressure, hot water, what’s not to like. But, the row of six outdoors shower stalls has been taunting me across the parking lot with the “closed” sign hanging prominently in front. This weekend, that closed sign changed and I took my first outdoor shower on Martha’s Vineyard. I’m a long way from being considered a local here, but an outdoor shower is a good start.

Typical midweek campfire at or site. Loving it.

Typical midweek campfire at or site. Loving it.

I’m currently sitting out by my campfire in the “seasonals” portion of the campground. There’s 180 sites at this place (huge!), that will apparently fill up in the next couple weeks once everyone is out of school and summer really hits. But, we’re insulated from that madness, surrounded by people who have reserved their spot for the whole summer. It turns out that a lot of these people have homes on “the mainland” and go there frequently. Ed and Nancy on one side of us – Ed is mostly here, Nancy is mostly here on weekends – I’ve made up a back story, based on no evidence, where Nancy is a school teacher – she spent the full week here this week, so maybe her school year ended, and my gut instinct about her being a teacher may actually be right. Mike and Kathy are on the other side – they have New York plates and are mostly here on the weekends. I wonder if they’ll stay for longer periods of time once the summer gets going strong – maybe they are teachers too. They usually roll in after dark on a Thursday or Friday. When they showed up this past Thursday night, Kate and I were sitting by the fire, I shouted over the shrubs, “Welcome back!” Mike replied, “You’re cheating by staying here all the time!” It was funny… but I realize it might not read all that funny, so you’ll just have to trust me. Funny stuff.

Pipe wrench in the water heater on the leaky pressure relief valve. If you don't reconnect that tube at the bottom left tightly when you're done, it throws fireballs up the side of your camper.

Pipe wrench in the water heater on the leaky pressure relief valve. If you don’t reconnect that tube at the bottom left tightly when you’re done, it throws fireballs up the side of your camper.

Anyways, aside from a handful of on going projects, camper life is becoming normal. I’m enjoying the simplicity of living at a campground, and, otherwise, there’s not much to living in a camper – it’s just regular life, condensed. My greatest victory so far is fixing the leak in the water heater this week. A series of projects on the water heater led up to the changing of a valve that was spewing hot water onto the ground outside the camper. I may have almost burnt down the entire place (no, seriously), but the water heater now makes great, piping hot water – 6 gallons at a time. I might start taking more showers here at the camper, but it’s tough to resist the allure of the outdoors showers just down the road.

On the work front, we are back in the grind of home care. It’s been a good assignment so far. The schedule is nice and flexible, so it’s been great to get some mid-afternoon exercise before fully finishing paperwork in the evening. And, to top it off, weather has been great, so what more could you ask for than driving around an island for work during the day and hanging out at a campground every night?

Pretty sweet so far, more updates coming soon. This was just a quick one to keep you up to date on what’s happening with us! Hope your summer is going well and, where ever you are, you have some exciting plans for the 4th!

Enter Island

A hike in the Haleakala National Park on Maui. Insanely beautiful bamboo forests.

A hike in the Haleakala National Park on Maui. Insanely beautiful bamboo forests.

As I write this, the sun has recently set and I’m sitting in the house Kate and I rented today. Our landlord will soon return to Seattle, but for now, he’s our quazi-roommate staying in the separate studio attached to the house. He’ll be finishing up a few house work tasks before eventually returning to Seattle. Nice guy, interesting guy. Apparently he’s a lawyer by trade, but has spent some time working in Denali National Park. At some point, he bought this house out here on the most remote of the publicly accessible Hawaiian Islands and clearly enjoys all the great nature activities here. He has two large lockers of camping and snorkeling gear in the garage collecting dust that he has encouraged us to use, so that’s a real bonus with this short-term rental. There’s also a mountain bike thrown into the deal that he spent part of yesterday afternoon fixing-up, JACKPOT! I’m sure we’ll get some more stories out of him before this is all over. Before getting on island here yesterday morning, we spent 5 days hiking, camping, and relaxing on Maui. My visits to Maui in the past have always been short, usually over a long-weekend from Honolulu, and usually packed with as much activity on as much of the island as possible. This time around, we concentrated the trip on two main areas of the island with a few days at each place, and we were really able to soak it in and relax. In coming from the Big Island, Maui was actually an increase in pace. More cars, more traffic, more busy, more tourists – my disdain for tourists is really quite impressive considering my living the vast majority of each year as a tourist in various tourist towns. I fear for my reintroduction to the mainland in 3 months – if Maui’s pace is too fast for me, I can only imagine the shock a city or metropolitan airport would bring.

Man, I hate tourists. We camped wright by the beach, it was really peaceful in the morning and evening hours.

Man, I hate tourists. We camped right by the beach, it was really peaceful in the morning and evening hours.

I’ve grown used to the small 9-seater planes we have been taking between islands. This trip to Maui was the 4th time flying by small plane in the last several months. To sweeten the deal on Mokulele Airlines, legs between islands are $50 flat rate and free from TSA searches and waiting in a line of any kind. It’s definitely flying with all the airport hassle removed. Yesterday, however, we did not fly, we took a ferry boat over to Molokai from Maui early in the morning. We rushed off to look at the house and then were able to quickly and truly settle back into relaxation-mode. Maui is slower paced than Oahu, the Big Island is slower than Maui, and Molokai is the slowest by far. The past 36 hours here have already been an experience. Afternoons have been filled with empty beaches and sleepy, small-town diners and bars. The land here is dramatic and beautiful. This afternoon, we took a walk up a small dirt path from the beach we were on. We knew the dusty red path would lead us to some secluded beaches down the shoreline that are inaccessible by car. During a short walk down the path, we saw wild turkeys and a bunch of deer. The deer here are cool to see, but are not-native and highly damaging to the vegetation. The damage to vegetation ultimately leads to a whole other chain of erosion events and has big negative affect on water quality and sea-life. Luckily, these deer are tasty, so local hunters are able to put a significant dent in their population. Our beach-stroll turned nature-walk got really interesting when it opened up to an abandoned beach formerly occupied by a resort company that used to run this part of the island. As Kate and I strolled down the beach looking at the decaying buildings set a ways back from the water, incredible views in every direction, and crystal clear water breaking over shallow jet-black lava rocks, we somehow both failed to see the 500 lbs monk seal sleeping in the sun that we were literally about to trip over (when I say “literally,” I mean it). Kate was about 3 feet from the huge monk seal and his partner when in an instant we and the seals all realized the others were there. The huge seals rolled over and Kate and I did a super-speed reflexive sprint about 10 yards up the beach. I’m not sure about the true ferociousness of a monk seal, but I know they can move faster than you’d think and can pack a wallop with their teeth or tusks or whatever it is they have. As we cautiously circled to the other side of the seals at a distance, we watched the seals, they watched us, and it seemed like everyone understood that all four parties involved were equally surprised. There’s only about 1,100 of this species left, and here we are just running into two of them on a day at the beach… crazy. We continued a short distance down the beach and saw some fish and an eel swimming in a tide pool – nearby, there was a “lahge lobstah” shell dried out on the beach. This beach, departed only a short distance from humans was just totally saturated with life. Kate and I had been in the sun long enough, and headed back to the car. As we passed the seals, the huge one let out a bark at us, I think just to see how fast we could move again.

Taken as we approached Molokai on the Molokai Princess Ferry. A dramatic island.

Taken as we approached Molokai on the Molokai Princess Ferry. A dramatic island.

I can’t believe we haven’t been here two days yet. We’ve experienced a lot in our short time here. It will be a wild 13 weeks for sure. Work starts tomorrow morning! But for now the night is pretty quiet except for the roosters I can hear clucking around the neighborhood. More updates and pictures to come soon – I can’t believe I didn’t bring a camera on that walk today. Oh well, next time.