4 Island Travel PT Assignments

As winter comes to a close, you might be wishing you were on an island somewhere…. if you’re a travel PT, you may have that option on your next assignment. Here’s (more than) 4 opportunities that could have you living on an island soon. Lots of links included to articles from when I worked on and visited several of these islands.

Kate hiking down from the 10,000 ft summit of Haleakala on Maui to camp in the base of the volcanic crater many hours and miles later that night in 2014.

Hawaii

Let’s not bury the lead. Hawaii is a tropical paradise within the borders of United States. All the advantages of really getting off-the-grid without any of the hassles or insecurities of international travel. Within Hawaii, there is a wide spectrum of opportunities – from uber-urban living to the very rural – a little different flavor for whatever your taste is.

Oahu is the main island and generally a good place for anyone unfamiliar with Hawaii to start. Oahu is home to about 1 million people, many of whom live and work in Honolulu, a major city and international hub. Honolulu offers all the perks and culture of a big city with the world famous surf beaches of the North Shore a short 30 minute drive away. Traffic can be brutal on Oahu, so plan commute between home and a potential job appropriately

Maui and Kauai each have occasional assignments available and tend to be a happy-medium for the traveler seeking a mix of social life and rural island-living. Both islands have thriving communities and also places you can quickly get off the beaten path. Each island has grown a bit in recent years, but also have huge swaths of land preserved for their beauty and recreation. On Maui, much of that land is within Haleakala National Park. Haleakala is a 10,000 ft volcano with astronomy observatories on top and it’s flanks running straight into the ocean. On Kauai, few views on Earth rival those of the Napali Coastline – a stretch of steep cliffs and secluded beaches spanning the coastline between where the two ends of the road circling the island end. I really believe you can’t go wrong with any opportunities that arise on Maui or Kauai.

Mother nature hard at work creating more land on the Big Island through the eruption of Kilauea volcano and lava running into the ocean in 2016.

The Big Island, which is actually named “Hawaii”, has it all. The Big Island is about 70 miles across and boasts 13,000 foot peaks, an active volcano, some of the best scuba diving in the world, and a thriving biking/running/swimming community that hosts the Ironman World Championships each year in October. Kona on the dry West coast of the island, and Hilo on the Eastern wet side of the island are the two major towns – each have a pretty steady stream of revolving travel assignments available.

When finding a travel PT assignment in Hawaii, luck and timing play big roles. Sometimes, very few jobs are posted, while at other times, you’ll find many jobs. Waiting just a few weeks typically resolves any drought of jobs, but be cautioned that Hawaii assignments draw a lot of applicants, so bring your A-game to the interview. Also worth noting that pay in Hawaii can be low… but you’re working in Hawaii, so….

Martha’s Vineyard

On the beach below the Gay Head cliffs on Martha’s Vineyard in 2015.

Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts offers the true island-living experience. In the summertime, people are intent on fishing, beaching, and… outdoor showers? I believe that nowhere in the world is as passionate about outdoor showers than the people of Martha’s Vineyard. When assessing function and patient goals on my home health assignment on Martha’s Vineyard, it was not rare to have a primary goal for a patient to return to their outdoor shower. When Kate and I lived in a camper there, we caught the fever – although we had a shower in our camper, the campground opened a row of 6 outdoor showers, and we indulged daily, rarely, if ever, using the indoor shower.

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and the Martha’s Vineyard office of VNA of Cape Cod often have openings because affordable housing is near-impossible on the Vineyard. Many of their permanent employees travel 45 minutes by boat everyday from The Cape for work. If you can figure out housing on The Vineyahd, you’ll have a great time. Also worth mentioning, the Cottage Hospital on Nantucket, a couple hours by boat from Martha’s Vineyard, also regularly seeks travelers.

St. Thomas

The US Virgin Islands are part of FSBPT. Like any state, you can apply for a license in the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas is the main island and has historically had good availability for jobs. The Virgin Islands are definitely for the more adventurous traveler, or, perhaps, for the traveler who wants a tropical experience, but doesn’t care for the long distance to Hawaii. Most people on St. Thomas speak English, but Creole or Spanish may be primary language of some patients. I have read about concerns of safety, but travelers who have worked there tell me that if you are smart about your surroundings and company, then it is safe…. and highly enjoyable – basically like any major US city.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria may have changed the travel experience on St. Thomas. Largely overshadowed by the destruction in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands got hit hard as well – in fact, the roof ripped right off the hospital in St. Thomas during Irma. As best I can tell sitting at my computer in Colorado, it appears there is still an ongoing need for travel PTs in St. Thomas – it also appears there are many volunteer opportunities to continue helping with hurricane recovery. It’s worth mentioning that Puerto Rico is also under the umbrella of FSBPT, so you might consider volunteer work in Puerto Rico as well.

Alaskan Islands

With more coastline than the entire rest of the US, there are many way-off-the-grid island opportunities in Alaska, but here are a few standouts.

Looking across the town of Sitka at Mt Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano. Also, I remember Sitka having a great brewery!

Kodiak Island currently has travel PT needs. Kodiak is 100 miles long and has a population under 14,000 making it a true outdoorsman’s paradise. Kodiak is best known for the Kodiak Brown Bears, which alongside polar bears are the largest bears in the world. Kodiak has ample fishing, hiking, hunting, and anything else you can imagine outdoors. Though, it is not for the faint of heart – no one is around to bail you out if you get yourself in trouble out in the wilderness. But for the therapist looking for a truly rugged off-the-grid experience, Kodiak could be a dream assignment.

Sitka, on Baranof Island, was the capital of Alaska back when the state was a part of Russia. On our way back from working in Anchorage, Kate and I stopped off to visit a PT friend there and quickly fell in love with the community. Sitka is a vibrant town with architecture reminiscent of it’s Russian past. Our friend took us down to a park to watch for whales, and sure enough, we quickly saw a pod of Orcas swimming by in the bay. Sitka has excellent access to the outdoors both in the mountains and on the ocean. Compared to most of the rest of Alaska, Sitka is relatively Southern and therefor more temperate.

If you are willing to make a longer-term commitment (starting at 2 years) in Alaska, there are opportunities to make substantially more money in the form of student-loan repayment. These opportunities are available both in private and government facilities through a government program called SHARP. When working for large health systems in Alaska, there can also be opportunities to take small planes out to remote bush towns reachable only by sea and air. PTs fly in to provide rehab to the residents for a couple days at a time. While I don’t think a typical 13  traveler in Alaska is likely to be sent out to the bush, it might become more possible to make these trips after extending a contract for a longer period.

Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau Alaska, 2012…. not technically on an island, but you can only get there by boat or plane.

There are many more islands all over the country where you can find work as a traveling therapist. Jobs exist off of Texas, in the Northwest corner of Washington state, off the far Northeast coast of Maine, and down in the Florida Keys. If you look, you will find the island that suits you fancy. Happy travels, and good luck turning those island dreams into your real life.

 

A Tale of Two Cars

After 9 years of working as traveling Physical Therapists together, my wife and I have found cars a lot of interesting ways. When we started traveling, we would each drive a car cross country to get where we were going, but in time found road trips were a lot easier when we shared the driving in one car. This has led to us buying a lot of random vehicles on Craigslist when we arrive at our destinations… and later selling them on Craigslist. Throw in a handful of assignments in the 49th and 50th states, and the resume of vehicles we have owned is, from my viewpoint, impressive: A 1984 Chevy RV in AK, a VW Passat in Hawaii that broke down within 2 weeks, a subsequent 3-month rental car in Hawaii, and a Honda Civic in Maine that the entire exhaust system fell off of gradually piece-by-piece to be collected in the trunk and eventually sold to the next owner – so many memories too: the power back window of a 97 4Runner (best SUV feature ever), the Camry with the cockroach infestation, strapping 2 kayaks right onto the roof of that same roach-infested Camry, and living-in/maintaining/improving a camper all last summer back East on Martha’s Vineyard.

I take any opportunity I can to share pictures of the camper we lived in last summer. The ends pop-out, so our living space was slightly larger than it appears here. We'd eventually set-up a tent room on the deck and made it look a lot more homey too.

I take any opportunity I can to share pictures of the camper we lived in last summer. The ends pop-out, so our living space was slightly larger than it appears here. We’d eventually set-up a tent room on the deck and made it look a lot more homey too.

There’s so many vehicles, homes, and vehicle-homes, I can’t even remember each one. For now, I do want to share the two very different stories of the two vehicles we have right now in Hawaii.

We were working in our usual winter jobs in Colorado when we secured our jobs way out here in the Aloha State. Having worked previously on the rural island we’re currently on, we knew we wanted to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. It can be tough to get a decent 4×4 here, because everyone who has one drives it into the ground. Lucky for us, we already owned the perfect vehicle for the trip. Our 2007 Toyota Highlander (“McLeod” – there can only be one Highlander), has been an awesome car, but we’ve started to pull more and more toys that are above its towing capacity. A Highlander is a great SUV offering a comfortable ride and good handling on rough road and in the snow, but it is definitely not meant to tow campers over 12,000 ft mountain passes – and we like to do that sort of thing. So, it was decided, McLeod would come to Hawaii with us, we would enjoy having a 4-wheel drive vehicle to access the off-the-grid mountains and beaches. We hope to sell McLeod here at the end of of our time in Hawaii – he will live out his retirement years in the islands. We will then return to Colorado and buy a truck.

A lot of research went into the logistics of getting McLeod over to Hawaii from Colorado. We (Kate actually) learned a lot about the vehicle shipping business. We have friends who shipped a car from Colorado to Florida for about $800 a few years ago, which sounds very reasonable to me – I’ve recently heard similar prices from other travelers. There’s a lot of different ways to try to find a good deal for shipping the car cross country. You can ship by rail which I think offers the best deals, but seems to be inhibited by the time it can consume in transit and the need to drop off and pick-up the vehicle at a major hub. It’s not unusual to have a narrow window of time to drop the car off with several weeks wait to receive your car on the other end. Shipping the car by truck is more common and, in theory, easier, but is didn’t mesh with our schedule.  The way the trucking system works is that the shipping companies you contact simply act as brokers between you and the truck drivers. You set a price you are willing to pay as a bid, and truck drivers are able to accept or negotiate the price – there are numbers available to give you an idea of what a typical car transport from, in this case, Aspen to San Diego might cost. Basically, you submit a bid and if there’s a driver headed West that likes the price and wants to swing by and pick up your car, they will accept. Also, if you live in an isolated place, you can offer to bring your car to a place closer to a major highway and this will cost you less as it’s more likely to be on the driver’s route. Because of this arrangement, you can find a trucker to take your car on pretty short notice. It’s a great system, except that you frequently don’t know exactly what day the driver will show up to take the car, and you need to have someone available to drop off the car and then receive the car on the other end. For us, it just didn’t work. We only had one week between work in Colorado and work in Hawaii and needed to dump the car quickly and get out to Hawaii.

Last year, we were leaving Colorado and wanted both cars back in New England. But, we wanted to share the driving. Our solution was McLeod towing our un-named Celica on a U-Haul dolly. I'll never do this again. The dolly made such a racket, and we couldn't pull off the highway in any cities where parking might be an issue - might not sound that bad, but, trust me, it was pretty awful.

Last year, we were leaving Colorado and wanted both cars back in New England. But, we wanted to share the driving. Our solution was McLeod towing our un-named Celica on a U-Haul dolly. I’ll never do this again. The dolly made such a racket, and we couldn’t pull off the highway in any cities where parking might be an issue – might not sound that bad, but, trust me, it was pretty awful.

We eventually set a plan to drive to San Diego and ship McLeod from California out to Hawaii on a boat – it costed us about $1000 to Honolulu, another $400 for the transfer to the island we’re currently working on – reasonable as far as I’m concerned. A few days before we were set to wrap up work in Colorado and get on the road, our boat was cancelled (with our money already paid), and an alternate boat had to be scheduled. We ended up having to leave a little early and make a sprint straight from our last day of work in Colorado on a Saturday to San Diego for a Monday car drop off. We ended making the trip with time to spare and saw some of the South West which I truly haven’t seen a whole lot of. Then, we were off to Hawaii! Unfortunately, the car would take 3 weeks in transit, so we had to come up with another way to get around the island in the meantime.

We had considered having a second vehicle – for the time until McLeod arrived and for the occasional times we would want a second vehicle. Maybe just a moped or dirt-bike would do for traveling the short island distances. There’s some rental cars available on the island, but they would cost us $200-$300 for each week we had to wait for McLeod to arrive. By some stroke of fate, it turned out the PT traveler before us had been driving a car around for the last 7 months that he wanted to sell for $1000. Honestly, I didn’t need to hear anything else – a $1000 car that drives? Sold.

I spoke with the traveler on the phone about buying the car, a 1982 Cutlass Supreme. The traveler was a real relaxed guy who I would later get to know personally – he clearly fits in with with the island lifestyle. Side note, he would explain to me, “I like to get in the ocean at least twice a day.” He had bought the car for $2000 from a traveling RN, and after his 7 months of use, he felt he had gotten his monies-worth out of it, and he was willing to let it go for 1000 bucks. He had no trouble with car, it always started up. The windshield wipers could occasionally get stuck in the on position on a sunny day which could be embarrassing, but other than that, it was a great buy for $1000. The travel PT had told me that the car only had 25,000 miles on it, “after all, it’s been on an island its whole life”. Upon further investigation, there is no 6th digit on the odometer of this car, so who knows how many times it has been past the 100,000 mile mark. But this 1982 Cutlass Supreme does drive. It likes to go. It’s a Brougham edition – I’m not totally sure what that means, I think Brougham might be the company that did the interior of the car (upholstered front bench seat and all) – naturally we have named him “Brougham”.

Jai, the previous travel PT still trying to sell me Brougham, even as I'm returning from getting cash out of the ATM. Awesome car.

Jai, the previous travel PT still trying to sell me Brougham, even as I’m returning from getting cash out of the ATM. Awesome car.

Brougham has been a blast. Great beach/island car with real street cred. We know the local guy who originally owned the car for its first 20-or-so years. He occasionally stops me in the middle of traffic in town to harass me about taking care of the car. It floats like a boat around corners and over speed bumps – Brougham is pretty awesome. I was able to restore some original glory through re-attaching the hood ornament and some of the original insignias to the trunk that had fallen off over years due to rust and who-knows-what else.

After about 2 weeks of work, McLeod finally rolled in on the Monday barge – barges come on Monday and Thursday with all the supplies for the island, including everything you could end up buying at a store. The barge is a nice reminder of what an isolated place we live in, how all packaged food and supplies come from somewhere, and that the waste we produce has to go somewhere as well. McLeod has been the 4-wheel drive beach-and-mountain-mobile we have needed him to be. It’s also nice to have A/C on an 80 degree day. Even with McLeod here and offering a smooth, cooled ride, Brougham has not sat idle long. The Cutlass Supreme is just a fun car to drive and gets us enough puzzled looks that we take it out frequently.

We hope to extend this contract for another 13 week stint before returning to Colorado for the winter. If for some reason we can’t extend, then we need to get For Sale signs on these cars soon and let the cycle start over again. When we get back to Colorado, we’ll be looking to buy a truck – preferably something from this decade with some good towing capacity. Until then, McLeod and Brougham will keep driving us in circles around this island, up in the mountains and down to the beaches. I suspect we’ll create some good memories of each of these vehicles between now and then.

Aloha! See you out on the open 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!

A Working Vacation

Now is as good a time as any to mention that I really don’t know what you people want me to write about. I try to mix it up but there are 400 or so of you out there every month, silently reading my blogs. So, if there’s a broad type of post you’d like me to write about, here’s your chance to let me know. In the meantime I’ll continue with my completely random stream-of-thought ramblings about travel therapy tips, my personal experiences, and more PT-politics issues than I should rant about on a site that is supposedly dedicated to travel therapy.

The view out the front window at the hut. Pure relaxation and solitude.

The view out the front window at the hut. Pure relaxation and solitude.

This time around, we have a simple travel blog. Hopefully it’s a fun catch up of what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks in the prolonged move from Colorado to Martha’s Vineyard (an island off of Cape Cod).

Kate and I wrapped up work back on April 25th and immediately hiked into the woods for a couple nights in a hut in the snowy Aspen back country. The hike was meant to be 6 miles in, but we inadvertently took the scenic route and turned it into a 10 mile hike – it was well worth it for a couple days and nights of really deep relaxation in solitude without another human around for miles. Upon our return home to our hospital-owned apartment, we busted our butts to get packed for the remaining 2.5 weeks off of work.

We eventually got packed, stowed our winter gear in our usual storage area, and hit the open road. With a final destination of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, we promptly headed 6 hours West. Kate was taking the second half of her Dry Needling training in Salt Lake City, which seems like a very intense weekend of learning. Learning the skills of dry needling sounds wonderful, but 3 full days of being needled by other beginners sounds awful. Anyways, Kate worked really hard all weekend, and I just played – some hiking, brewery hopping with a good SLC-based friend, watched some horses and boxing on TV, and I found a small traveler’s gem called “The Heavy Metal Shop,” seems pretty self-explanatory. All good things must come to an end, and we needed to start heading East.

Great view of the city during my hikes in SLC while Kate was working hard at her course.

Great view of the city during my hikes in SLC while Kate was working hard at her course.

We hammered the 45 hour drive to the east coast, made it in 4 days including one very long all-day, all-night drive from Indiana to Maine.  At 3:30 in the morning, we stopped outside of Boston to disconnect and drop off a trailer at Uhaul. The world is a weird place between 3 and 4 AM, I think it’s the way the end of some peoples’ day collides with the start of others’ day. Eventually at 7 AM on Wednesday, we rolled into Maine where we would spend time with family, and occasionally zip down to Boston to have some time with friends. 11 days to go before starting work – sounds relaxing, right? No. Wait… Hell no! We had the task ahead of buying a camper to live in for the summer.

Light houses are definitely a prominent tourist attraction here on Martha's Vineyard. So, being tourist, we got right out there the first weekend looking at these things. "Yup, there's another light house."

Light houses are definitely a prominent tourist attraction here on Martha’s Vineyard. So, being tourist, we got right out there the first weekend looking at these things. “Yup, there’s another light house.”

Several days later, we bought a camper in Southern Maine and towed it with our Toyota Highlander, which we have named “MacLeod” (there can only be one Highlander) – MacLeod barely handled it. Transmission fluid heat warning lights and a general struggle up hills were the pertinent symptoms – I set a speed limit of 60 mph for the rest of the time towing the camper and emptied the full sewage tank to lose some weight, no more warning lights. Who new they were throwing in 40 gallons of free sewage with the camper!?

We got the camper back up North and had a few days to visit with family but mostly worked like heck to get the camper ready for move-in. Washing, vacuuming, scrubbing, and caulking would fill the majority of the week before hooking the camper back up to MacLeod and getting down to Martha’s Vineyard. On Friday, we took the short ferry ride from Cape Cod to Tha Vineyahd and have spent the rest of the time setting up camp and moving in. I’ve been dying to share more about the camper, but I’ll save it for a (preview-of-coming-attractions) blog devoted completely to the camper life. Spoiler alert, space is tight in a 21 ft camper.

Here's the ferry we brought the camper over on. We saw it out offshore headed to the cape, in the background.

Here’s the ferry we brought the camper over on. We saw it out offshore headed to the cape, in the background.

So, here I am, hooked up to the wireless internet signal that comes from a box strapped to a wooden post out back of the camper. Inside, I am surrounded by more belongings than should exist in a camper this size. We’ll be living on this camp site for the next 6 months, so I suppose the abundance of supplies is warranted, but we have some organizing to do.  It’s a chilly night, so the propane heater is kicking on and off. Work started two days ago, and so far, the most challenging thing about living in a camper is getting work clothes out and getting them unwrinkled. At 3:30 AM this morning I was walking around the campground trying to find out where a smoke alarm was going off, the detector was outside an unoccupied cabin and fog was setting it off – weird time of day. If wrinkled clothes and a stray smoke detector are my worst problems with living in a camper, I’ll easily take that trade off for a summer full of nights by the campfire.

That’s all for now. You’ve got some blogs about home care and camper living coming up, so if you want me to write something different, you better let me know!

Preview of Coming Attractions

Matha's Vineyahd

The Cape and Islands

So much to talk about. There is a lot going on in our world right now. The normal hecticness of finishing up the assignment and end of ski season parties has been compounded by actually knowing where we are going in May. Usually at this time of year, as the winter season wraps up in Colorado, we’re discussing where we would like to go for the spring and just starting to get some leads from our recruiters. But, this year, we locked down our May to November assignment in March, a true luxury. Normally, 2-4 weeks ahead of an assignment is good lead time to get everything set for the next assignment, but we have been graced with a full 2 months to get ready for our summer doing home care on Martha’s Vineyard. There seems to be a lot of confusion about exactly what and where Martha’s Vineyard is.

I grew up nearby around the Boston area, so I do know that Martha’s Vineyard is an island off the coast of Cape Cod – Nantucket’s next door neighbor. There once was a man from Nantucket…. um, nevermind. Anyways, Martha’s Vineyard is an island, there is no actual vineyard that I am aware of. I’ve only ever been there for one day as a kid – I seem to remember it being a fall day with pretty lousy weather – Kate has never been there. An unknown adventure awaits!

Housing is coming together pretty well for us despite running into a few challenges along the way. We originally were looking into houseboats for the summer, but there’s a lot of logistical challenges to how long you can stay in one harbor, what to do when a storm comes, and whether you are actually allowed to live on your boat at all in certain places. Basically, if you plan on working a 5-day-per-week job on land, it gets really challenging logistically to live on a boat. So, we shifted our focus to finding an apartment. At first glance on Craigslist, apartments looked very reasonable for rent – unfortunately, all the rent rates I was seeing were weekly rates. It quickly became clear that finding a reasonable place to live without having half a dozen other roommates was going to be a real challenge.

Dear Champ, Hey there Champ, Kate and I need to talk to you about something. We had some great times out there on the road - some of our more memorable times in all our years of traveling. But, well, it's time for us to move on and get another camper - something newer, something sleeker, something a little more "liveable." I know you'll understand, we'll think of you often. - James

Hey there Champ, Kate and I need to talk to you about something. We had some great times with you out there on the open road – some of our more memorable times in all our years of traveling. But, well, it’s time for us to move on and get another camper – something newer, something sleeker, something a little more “liveable.” I know you’ll understand, we’ll think of you often. – James

Kate and I have long dreamed about living in a camper since riding around in our old RV “Champ” every weekend during our assignment several years back in Anchorage, AK. It turns out that Martha’s Vineyard has one campground and we have locked down a campsite for the summer. The only problem is, we don’t own a camper yet. Our main logistical problems will be 1. Finding a camper small enough for our SUV to tow, but big enough to live in for 6 months. 2. Reserving a spot on the ferry to the island not knowing the exact size of our camper yet. 3. Figuring out how to watch as many Red Sox games as possible without cable!

I’m really looking forward to the adventure of living in a camper this summer. At some point we’ll have to make a decision whether to sell the camper at the end of the summer or keep the adventure going. I guess whether we keep or sell the camper depends on how much we like it. In the meantime, the end-of-season parties are wrapping up here in Colorado. Work parties, ski mountain parties, and just party parties will keep us busy over the next 3 weeks before starting the road trip back “home” to New England. The first leg of the trip going back East will be to head West for a dry needling course in Salt Lake City! After that, I hope to grab a couple baseball games in random stadiums along to route and couch-surf with a few old friends from the road.

Stay tuned! Lots of adventure and fun ahead!

The Journey of Stuff

Supply chain. It’s something so basic that surrounds each of us every day, yet most of us go on completely oblivious to its existence. The supply chain is what brings us every material thing we have ever come in contact with.

TravelPT - longest wharf in Hawaii

Kaunakakai wharf, the longest wharf in Hawaii. The barge lands here and the pipes at the right of the picture are the gas lines that bring fuel from delivery to the big tanks in town.

The first time I ever thought about the supply chain was on a travel assignment in Chicago. I rented a room in this guy’s apartment who was a higher-up for one of the major shipping companies in their “supply chain management” division. You might ask, “What really is supply chain management?” I did ask. He explained that he was in charge of all the shipping for an electronics company – ALL the shipping. Let’s say that the electronics company wants to make and sell some phones, they first must receive all the parts or materials for the manufacturing of the phone. After assembling all the parts, the completed phones may need to be shipped to a different plant for distribution, from there they ship out to stores and customers. I had never, ever thought of all these steps that go into the making of absolutely everything we buy, and I have rarely thought about the supply chain since.

Living on a rural island has again pulled back the curtain on the path things take to get to us and also the path they take when we are done. Molokai’s supply chain relies on a barge that comes two times per week – Mondays and Thursdays. If you hit the grocery store on a Sunday night, before the barge arrives the next morning, you are likely to find the selection of meats and other perishables has been picked over and doesn’t offer much. Timing your grocery trips with the arrival of the barge offers greater selection, and greater crowds. I learned several weeks into my stay on Molokai that the gas prices will drop just before the boat comes in that refills the island’s gas tanks – a handy tip for purchasing another commodity that I rarely ever considered how it got to me. Everything ever manufactured has taken a trip to its final owner – this trip is just far more visible on Molokai.

Up at the Molokai Dump, the bulldozer gets ready to turn trash into a mountain.

Up at the Molokai Dump, the bulldozer gets ready to turn today’s trash into a mountain.

On the other end of the supply chain is my weekly trip to the dump. I try to be very environmentally conscious, recycle everywhere, limit the plastics I use in every way I can, but had never personally had to take my trash to a dump. Every week, I go to the dump and head up the steep dirt road to the top of the hill where I throw my trash in a pile. Up on top of this mountain of trash (pu’u opala  – loosely, trash mountain in Hawaiian), there is a bulldozer driving around, flattening the trash and occasionally adding dirt. As I return to the dump week after week, the area where I throw my trash has shifted slightly to a different part of the hilltop. Week-by-week, on Saturdays before 2:30 PM, I do my part in building this mountain of trash one bag at a time. With only 8,000 people on the island of Molokai and only locally owned businesses, I get to see consumer waste and disposal slowed to a more easily observable scale and managed by one guy in a bulldozer. Over 13 weeks on Molokai, I have been unable to tell how much higher the mound has gotten, but on my last trip to the dump, I saw one clear sign of the accumulation of trash – a crew was beside the hill rolling out huge layers of black plastic to prepare for the next layer of the hill to be built of new trash.

In my time on this small island, I was able to watch the boat come in weekly with supplies, buy those supplies from the store, take the refuse of those supplies to the dump, and watch that refuse get flattened into the ground by a dude in a bulldozer. Seeing this much of the supply chain in full display has strengthened my efforts to recycle and, more importantly, to just. use. less. If a small island of 8,000 is able to build a mountain out of trash, what can a city of millions do?

From this point, I could preach on-and-on about how I feel regarding our culture of consumerism and how wasteful small bottles of water are. Instead, I’m going to stop here and only remind you that with every product you buy, you are in some way contributing to a mountain of trash somewhere. Indulge this Thanksgiving weekend, take advantage of deals for holiday shopping, but do consider where goods come from and where your waste is going.

Update 8/27/2016 – On our return to Molokai pu’u opala has noticeably grown. Several weeks ago, a group of 200 people collected 12,000 lbs of trash from a 3.5 mile stretch of coastline. This trash is in many languages and comes from allover the Pacific. Reminder: Trash on land goes to the ocean, trash in the ocean lands on a faraway beach…. when animals don’t eat it first.

Two Weeks of Shampoo

The last few weeks around this blog have been a little too serious for my taste. Time to stop taking on all the problems of the world and get back to the nonsense and fun about being a traveler.

Things are winding down on this assignment. 11 weeks are gone and only 2 remain. In a non-traveling life, I think months and years would start to blend together for me, but the constant change in job and location helps to keep my memories of events organized. If I lose track of when something happened, all I have to do is think about where I was living, and instantly I know when it was. When did the Red Sox play the Rockies in the World Series? I was living in Colorado Springs, so it must have been 2007 – Go Sox! This constant change also creates constant deadlines – projects must be completed before any big move, i.e. Christmas cards must be sent before this assignment is over, otherwise it will be mid-December before I’m situated and organized again.

The sun set a couple weekends ago. This has been a great assignment and moving on will bring more adventure but is bitter sweet.

The sun set a couple weekends ago. This has been a great assignment and moving on will bring more adventure but is bitter sweet.

As the time has gone on with being a traveling PT, I’ve become very good at estimating time in unusual situations. For instance, it takes about two weeks for me to memorize the light switch arrangement in a new apartment. Until two weeks has passed in a new place, I am likely to be found late at night, in the dark, feeling my way around the walls trying to find the right switches. I realized recently that I’m constantly thinking of all kinds of bizarre things in terms of time.  A Costco trip at the beginning of each assignment will be filled with estimations about whether each package is big enough or too big for the whole assignment – I’ve gotten good. Two large jugs of maple syrup (32 oz each) will last 3 months. We somehow ended up with too much maple syrup on this assignment, now we’re really having to eat/drink a lot of the stuff – woe is me. 🙂

Now that I think about it, this assignment has been a tricky one for managing the amount of products we have. We’re really isolated here on the island of Molokai, and there’s no major chain stores (except for Ace Hardware). The barge comes in only twice a week with supplies and most of the stores are locally owned and small. Most of the things we’ve been buying are limited in selection and you have to buy what’s available whenever you need it. I thought I was going to run out of body wash and spotted some on sale a couple weeks ago. I jumped at the opportunity to get a decent price. As the days tick down, the original bottle is still managing to hang on and I’m realizing that with a little conservation I probably could have made it through without the new bottle. Now, with all this extra body wash, the inclination is to try and burn through the bottle fast, make every shower a super-soapy-sudsy event. But, that’s not sane, I’ve really had to step back, use the normal amount of body wash, and realize that it’s alright if I leave a couple bucks worth of soap at the apartment when the assignment is over. Man, I thought my powers of soapy-estimation were better than that. Luckily, we’ve just learned that the travel PT starting the week after us will be moving into our apartment, it makes me feel better about leaving some extra supplies behind.

Time for me to run, we’re having hamburgers tonight, gotta start to eat down the beef supply in the freezer. I’ll write again next week before this assignment is done – the deadline is approaching fast.

Friends in Places

Recently, I’ve done really well at getting a blog out to you almost every other week (::sound of me patting myself on back::). The winters in Colorado are just too much damn fun to be sitting around writing on my silly website. That leaves the 7 months when ski lifts are closed to be productive and get some marginally decent writing done. The past several weeks, this blog has been quiet…. A clear sign I’ve been having too much fun outside of ski season.

Our first glimpses of Waikiki on our puddle jumper over from Molokai. In the group of tall building by the shore (Waikiki), the building we living in during 2010 is the furthest to the left.

Our first glimpses of Waikiki on our puddle jumper over from Molokai. The building we lived in during 2010 is center of the picture, but the furthest to the left and small in the group of tall buildings near the shore.

It all started when we moved to Molokai 4 weeks ago. After one weekend on Molokai, Kate and I could see the lights of Waikiki calling from across 26 miles of open ocean. 4 years ago, we had a 6 month home care assignment over there and lived in an apartment 3 blocks from Waikiki Beach. The job on that assignment was one of the worst travel assignments I have ever had. A quick review of my blogs over recent months and years will reveal several passing mentions of that job and my rehab-oblivious boss. But, the combination of my Craigslist-surfboard and the 5 minute walk to the waves of Waikiki made the assignment easily bearable. Early on in the assignment we made friends with a few other travel PTs. We spent all of our non-work hours kayaking to small offshore islands, hiking, singing karaoke, and eating at a delicious underground sushi bar. It was pretty awesome. Over a few months, we added one friend’s significant other and some new travelers joined the group. We reached peak form in month 5 and had – as the kids say, “a frickin’ blast.” Somewhere along the line, we discovered Honolulu’s best deal ever: a catamaran called the Na Hoku II – they would let you on for a local’s price of $25 and sail for 2 hours around the shores off Waikiki, with a free open bar. Our Saturday habit quickly became beach/surf, then booze cruise on the Na Hoku II, then sushi, then if still upright we would sing karaoke (and eat more sushi). Every week was a countdown to Saturday. We got to know the characters on our weekly routine – to start the afternoon, Captain Crash would drive the boat out of harbor while playing The Booty Song, to end the night at karaoke, an old local man named Uncle Ron would sing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. During the hours between The Booty Song and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, we would have a blast. That was the summer of 2010, We. Had. So. Much. Fun!

Diamond Head keeps a watchful eye over Waikiki. As seen from the blurry eye of the Na Hoku II.

Diamond Head keeps a watchful eye over Waikiki. As seen from the blurry eye of the Na Hoku II.

3 weeks ago, we somehow got the whole group back together in Waikiki. I can’t think of another group of friends that could all get back together in one place without somebody missing. Traveling PTs from the summer of 2010 came from the Pacific Northwest, Texas, Molokai, and Waikiki to be together for 48 hours of AWESOME. We hit all the old haunts: we had our afternoon on the Na Hoku II (minus Captain Crash) and made it to late night sushi/karaoke – complete with Uncle Ron still singing Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. We started mornings with killer brunches and finished our nights sharing memories of our old times together. Kate and I eventually made it back to our 9-seat puddle jumper headed back to Molokai for work on Monday morning.

We only had a short time back on Molokai, because just ten days later we had a trip planned to Colorado for a really great friend’s wedding. I grew up with the groom as my best bud. Eventually, when he and another close friend said they were moving to Aspen, Kate and I said, “We’re coming too!” The wedding in Breckinridge was beautiful. The weather was perfect. The foliage was at its peak for the 10,000 ft ceremony. But, that is NOT what I found myself talking about during my return to work earlier this week. Because of my friendship with the groom during our move cross country together, we shared many friends throughout different phases of life. At the wedding, I saw friends from growing up in the suburbs of Boston and also from my new, seasonal life in Colorado. Kate and I got to swing by our winter-time job to catch up with some fantastic friends, and had a bonus night out on town. We bumped into people we didn’t expect, but were happy to see them and had… a frickin’ blast. Having fun with a bunch of friends is what I remembered and was sharing with patients at work this week. What a great time with old and new friends! I apologize in advance for the abundance of ski videos the HoboHealth Facebook page will be posting this fall as a result of my one weekend in Colorado.

We got the band back together. Here's the whole 2010 group together enjoying a brunch in 2014. A great time.

We got the band back together. Here’s the whole 2010 group together enjoying a brunch in 2014. A great time.

So, what’s the point? This post is not long excuse for why I haven’t written in a few weeks. Sure, I’ve had fun this month and haven’t been able to write as often, but this post is meant as an example of the life I’ve chosen to live as a traveler. I sometimes think of the sacrifices I make to enjoy the places I get to live. It turns out that some of those sacrifices are made up in my own head and I’m getting the best of both worlds.

I sometimes get an uneasy feeling when I go back to hangout with friends from the “good-old-days.” I inevitably come to meet the NEW friend who is a neighbor of my friends, or a coworker, or a CrossFit gym-mate, or whatever. I guess the feeling I get is jealousy, but there’s also a feeling that I’m missing something by being away traveling; that me and this new guy could be really good pals if I were around more often. But, it’s really fun times like the last few weeks that I realize I’m not missing out. I’m off building relationships that are just as strong. These relationships are built on the traveling experience and only exist because of the Na Hoku II, knowing who Uncle Ron is, powder days in Colorado, and dozens of fun things between. Someday, I’ll get my chance to make a lifelong friend across the picket fence (or at least in the next RV parking spot over). For now I feel really good traveling and I’m having a really good time making great friends in unconventional places. I hope on this assignment that I’ll meet some good people who I can stay in touch with.

I’ll try to write more often. After all, it’s not going to get any easier to write with all the fun with friends coming this winter.

Travel safe!   …but not too safe… what’s the fun in that? 🙂

Relax to the Max

Kate and I finished our jobs on the Big Island today. A standard 13 week contract for each of us that flew by in no time. This is typically the time that we start packing bags for a sunrise flight to visit family on the east coast or throw all the bags in the car for a couple-thousand-mile road trip. This is typically hustle-time. But it’s different this time. As I relax and enjoy my pau hana (after work) drink, the bags are already packed and traveling the brief 120 miles to our next assignment. When we get to Moloka’i in 10 days, our car will already be there with a few weeks worth of Costco supplies packed in the rear. What to do in the meantime? Vacation!

We are spoiled rotten. We get to drive all over the country every year. Usually we travel by car and see some awesome sights along the way. Last spring we drove from Colorado to Maine by way of Key West (Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job! 10/6/13), the year before, we drove from Colorado to Alaska and returned on 10 day ferry trip down the North Pacific Coast (Alaskan Ferry Trip 12/17/12). These trips are always cool and create awesome memories, but they aren’t relaxing. The road trips are many great things, but they are not a break. Logistics, highway food, cheapo hotel beds, and an occasional call to AAA are the common obstacles. In the next 10 days, we will deal with none of that. We will just RELAX. (don’t do it)

A song about relaxing by a band with a travel-themed name. Really the perfect vacation song.

I haven’t written on here much at all about our next assignment, which, by the way, is going to be fantastic. I’ve been keeping a journal on the side. I’m not sure if it will become some sort of blog entry on here in the future, but for now, I’ll offer this brief summary of what we’ve gotten ourselves into: Kate and I will be the two Physical Therapists for the island of Moloka’i when the current PT goes on maternity leave. The only hospital on the island of 8,000 people typically needs one traveler following the recent retirement of one of their two PTs, but with the pending maternity, they will need two travelers. Kate and I will run the show for three months while hopefully grabbing a chance to explore one of the lesser known of the Hawaiian Islands. Moloka’i is less than 10 miles from Maui, but much, much, MUCH more rural and quiet. Moloka’i is one of the last unspoiled areas of Hawai’i and will be quite the isolationist’s travel assignment. A huge majority of people who live in Hawai’i have never been to Moloka’i, but many of the ones who have visited have shared their stories with me over the last few weeks. From tales of hunting wild African antelopes left over from a now closed safari park, to being trapped on a remote deserted beach for days, to the incredible kindness of (most of) the locals – everyone who has been to Moloka’i has a tall tale to tell. Perhaps in the future I’ll share some of the other stuff I’ve written about preparing for our trip to Moloka’i. To be honest, I started out quite skeptical and thought Moloka’i might be TOO rural, but I’ve come around and am crazy-excited for the next 3 months.

People do love their canoes on Moloka'i. Unspoiled beauty.

People do love their canoes on Moloka’i. Unspoiled beauty.

But, work in Moloka’i is 10 days away. The work of planning, and scheduling, and packing is done. We’ll wrap up our time on the Big Island over the next two days with some serious beaching. Then, we take a TSA-free puddle hopper over to Maui for 5 days of camping, hiking, and relaxation. Saturday morning, we’ll take the <10 mile ferry ride over to Moloka’i to let the real adventure begin. My biggest worry over the week will be preparing for a fantasy football draft on Skype with a bunch of buddies from school back in Boston (oh those goons). I promise many pictures over the next week and some unique tales from the upcoming assignment.

I have to run, the sun has set on the last day of Big Island work and I have to get to cooking this steak. 🙂 Aloha!