Search With One Travel Recruiter or Several?



When I first started traveling, I worked with just one company, I had steady health benefits, I would accumulate PTO, and I even got a free wifi printer as a loyalty bonus. The printer was too big to travel with, but I still use it when I have it with me. The company I worked with initially has big name, and they were always able to find me a job. But, when I started looking around, I realized the deal I was getting might not be as good as I thought. Other companies were offering me as much as $200 more per week for similar jobs and seemed a lot more attentive to my needs. $200, that’s one wifi printer per week! That started me down a path of searching with multiple companies about 7 or 8 years ago.

The Vagabonding DPT:

I started traveling about 2 years ago as a new grad.  I was fortunate to have a Travel PT mentor who set me up with my current recruiter.  Yes, that’s singular.  I have one recruiter.  I know that the majority have multiple recruiters, but for now, having one recruiter has helped me build my career as a physical therapist. My recruiter is fully aware of my abilities, professional goals, minimum pay rate, and setting preferences.  He’s submitted me for positions that I may not “qualify” for (i.e a requirement of 5+ years for a job assignment) because he was confident in my skills and that the position would be a perfect fit for me. Even as a new graduate with my first assignment, I’ve stood firm on negotiation of time off as well as pay rates.  I got exactly what I wanted because I had a recruiter who was willing to negotiate those terms on my behalf.

What are the advantages of having one recruiter vs. multiple recruiters?


Compare pay rates between companies. It becomes clear very quickly whether what you have been making is competitive with other companies’ rates or not. Knowing what other companies are able to pay you in a given area can be a great negotiating tool if you do decide to stay with just one company.

Different companies have different jobs. You will see many of the same jobs posted across most agencies – the jobs that are the same across agencies are all listed on databases that many facilities contract with to fill their jobs. The databases sell subscriptions to the staffing agencies to have access to their jobs (the databases also charge 3-4% of the total contract price to the recruiters). To beat this system, agencies have gone out of their way to make contracts to exclusively staff particular facilities. So, it is possible that you can’t find a job in a particular area because you aren’t looking with the agency that has an exclusive contract with a facility in the area. Also, some agencies rely solely on what comes across the databases; Other companies are willing to call around for you. All recruiters will say they are willing to canvas an area for you, but less will actually do it (the smaller agencies tend to be more willing to put in the footwork of tracking down novel contracts). Broadening your agencies, may open up additional options.

The Vagabonding DPT:

Each travel company provides different perks the more time you spend with them.  The benefits listed below are solely representative of one company:

Paid Time Off: My company provides paid time off for 40 hours after working 2,080 hours and 1 year with them.  A travel therapist would be free to cash out that PTO to fill any requested time off during an assignment or in between assignments. From that point thereinafter, you accrue some PTO for every hour you work.

New Grad Bonus: A new grad who works 3 consecutive contracts with this company will earn a $1,000 bonus.

Continuing Education Bonus:  When you’ve stayed with this company, you receive $400 of continuing education credit valid also for conferences such as Combined Sections Meeting or NEXT.

Less Paperwork: Every company has a set of protocols that they must follow to be compliant with TJC including BLS certificate, licensing, NPI number, vaccinations, physical exams, TB tests, drug screen and physical examination. In addition, each company will have a mound of paperwork in regards to the company’s policies and procedures about expectations, benefits, clinical competency, etc.

Staying with one company allows you to focus on what you need: less paperwork and more time to invest in your passions and interests.

Health Insurance: If you choose to go with one company and choose to go with their health insurance, you won’t have to worry about switching health insurance companies.  Travel PT companies will typically allow you a 30 day grace period in which you will be covered by the company while you’re between assignments.

Consistency: Some larger Travel PT companies will bounce you around with various recruiters who manage a particularly region.  If this is the case, then you will have to take the time to let each recruiter know your preferences and want-list.

Do you feel there are any disadvantages to the approach you have taken?


The obvious downsides to working with multiple agencies are the benefits you don’t get for being loyal to one agency and the extra paperwork you do get – as April mentioned above.

If you do work with multiple companies, remember this cardinal rule: “You take a particular job with whichever agency offers it to you first.” Meaning, you can’t take an assignment offered by one agency, and tell a different agency about it to try to get a higher pay rate. Things can get sticky fast.

It takes some management to work with multiple companies. At one time, I was searching with 6 or 7 different agencies. One job came up and they had received my resume from multiple different agencies, each claiming I was “their guy”. While I went with the first agency to present the job to me (the only agency who had permission to submit me for the assignment), another agency bullied the facility into only accepting my interview through them. I was unable to go with the agency I liked best and who had presented me the assignment first. It was embarrassing and it’s why I now limit my searches to 2 or 3 agencies. When you are working with multiple agencies, you have to be clear that you need to be contacted before being submitted to a job, otherwise you may end up in my situation with companies bickering over ownership of you with the facility – it’s embarrassing and a good way to blow the interview before you even have it.

The Vagabonding DPT:

As James mentioned above, working with one company requires much trust in one person to provide you with the best pay rate, location, and setting.  By doing so, you may limit your options for future possibilities.  You must trust that your recruiter is negotiating the terms of your contract to the best of his/her ability to provide you with the best overall package.  To decrease this, you could also ask other Travel Therapists about their pay rate for that setting in that specific region.

The same facility may be working with several travel recruiting companies to fill a need. So when you work for multiple companies, you may be offered the same position via two different companies which can actually work against you. In the end, you may not end up with the assignment.


We present you with the advantages/disadvantages to assist you in making the best informed decision for your travel career path.  We’ve each done our research to negotiate our contracts.  Stay informed and ask around.

This is the second blog HoboHealth and The Vagabonding DPT have done together, you can link here to our first blog together about whether or not to travel as a new grad.

Check out our websites: and Follow us on Twitter @HoboHealth and @AprilFajardoDPT. Finally, follow our Facebook Pages to keep up on our latest blogs and what/where we’re up to: HoboHealth and The Vagabonding DPT


Tax Time, Again

Crunch time. Taxes are due very, very soon. No matter how much I work throughout the year to be prepared for tax season, it still takes hours to get everything organized when April rolls around. Don’t let me fool you, Kate’s the one who handles the finances around here – very smart of her. But, every year, I hope taxes will be painless, they never are. It is an awful, dreadful process, and being a traveling therapist does not help simplify the matter. I hope you’ve filed your taxes already, but if not, here are a few tips that will help make your tax season a little less painful:

Hire someone who specializes in taxes for travelers

An actual bill I received from the IRS in the middle of writing this very blog…. apparently we made a mistake two years ago. Whoops, my bad.

Having someone do my taxes who understands health care travelers and their financial arrangements is priceless – actually, it’s only $300. A traveler’s taxes are complicated. I work in multiple states each year, have a rental property in Maine, live in Colorado, occasional work as an independent contractor, and receive a lot of tax-free money each year. In my first years of travel, I tried using TurboTax, which charged me a lot of money for all the extra forms I needed. I also tried using someone at H&R Block – he said he could handle my taxes, but clearly had no idea what he was talking about when it came to travel stipends and reimbursements. Hiring a professional who can handle all the moving parts of travel therapy is money well spent.

A quick Google search will find a long list of people who specialize in taxes for travelers. Searching for “travel nurse tax preparation” yields the most results. A tax professional who specializes in travelers should also be able to help you answer all the questions you likely have about your tax home. A good tax-guy/gal should also be able to advise you of the things you can do in advance to help secure your tax home status in the event you are eventually audited. Speaking of which, make sure you ask any potential tax preparer what their responsibility is in the event you are audited. A few tax professionals warranty their preparations so that an audit is done on their time, others will charge you an hourly rate to defend your audit on their preparation.

Track your mileage

It’s easy, but few actually do it. Just keep a memo-pad in your glove box and write down any mileage that pertains to work – for 2016, you can deduct 54 cents for every mile you drive. It’s that simple.

Mileage you can include in your deduction:

  1. Mileage driving between assignments.
  2. Any driving between clinics or other work locations.
  3. In home care, all mileage between the office and patient visits can count towards your deduction.
  4. People living in permanent places commuting to permanent jobs are not allowed to deduct their commute mileage. However, because a travel work-place is temporary, I believe we are allowed to deduct the mileage on our commutes. That mileage can really add up! (You may want to see what your tax professional before committing to this one.)

The exception to the above categories is if you are already reimbursed for your mileage, you cannot claim it as a deduction on your taxes. For example, if an agency reimburses you specifically for your mileage to relocate, you cannot then deduct that mileage from your taxes. Similarly, if you are paid per mile in home health (which I recommend you do negotiate into any home health contract), you cannot claim that mileage. Although, with a federal deduction of 54 cents per mile, if your job reimbursed you less than 54 cents you can claim the remainder. These little bits do add up to a deduction that could make difference over the course of a year.

Keep track of your tax deductible items throughout the year

We have a big envelope that we put receipts in throughout the year. We keep track of the costs of various trips, the price of continuing ed courses, the price for APTA membership, and anything else that could be tax deductible. Frequently we make notes right on the front of our large tax-envelop so when tax season rolls around we aren’t spending hours trying to find the prices we paid for deductible items – this is where the majority of tax-prep time goes in our household. If you can truly be disciplined and keep track of your work-related costs throughout the year, tax preparation is far less painful when tax day comes.

Keep your tax records available to you, wherever you are

We have a fire-resistant file box that always traveled with us. It had everything important in it including our old tax records. The firebox is really heavy, maybe 20 pounds when empty… 35 pounds when full. It never fit quite right behind the front seat of the car on roadtrips. It basically has always been a pain to manage.

In the age of online data, it makes much more sense to scan all of your tax documents into the computer and store them online. If you ever have your taxes questioned in the future, you’ll be glad you have a readily accessible copy of your tax return. There is nothing worse than receiving an unexpected bill or audit from the IRS and having your tax returns back home, hundreds of miles away. When you need proof of your returns, you want it quickly. The general rule is to keep tax records for 7 years, but if it’s all online, I see no downside to keeping them longer… indefinitely.

Good luck, may this tax season be easy on you!

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.

Must-Visit Outdoorsy Communities

The best places to live are those that mix a life surrounded by the great outdoors with a great community. Many of the places that offer endless opportunities outdoors do not have the support of vibrant communities, and many great communities are far from the great outdoors – the places on this list offer the best of both worlds. These are smart, cultural places that center around outdoor recreation – consider seeking them out on your next road trip… or even for a travel assignment if you consider yourself lucky.

Boulder, Colorado

Up playing in the hills surrounding Boulder – easy to get off the beaten path fast.

The ol’ Colorado standard. Set just West of Denver, some consider Boulder America’s Biggest Mountain Town. Boulder is inhabited by a huge number of the world’s elites in skiing, rock climbing, cycling, and triathlon. Boulder is close enough to almost any-kind of outdoor recreation you could crave while also having a large enough community to find the creature comforts you need just outside your door.

Boulder’s outdoor community centers around the Flatirons – a series of 5 jagged peaks jutting out of the ground. The peaks are around 8,000 ft from sea level, of course town itself is a mile high. The bigger mountains are less than an hour away in Rocky Mountain National Park and there are 14,000 foot peaks nearby in almost any direction. For entertainment, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is close by and brings in some of the biggest names in music to play concerts each summer. The venue is highly unique – the amphitheatre is open air, naturally formed, and set within several large crags of red rock. If you need the big city, Denver is only bout 45 minutes away.

Bend, Oregon

Downtown Bend, Oregon in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains. Industrious people self-making everything.

I recently visited Bend, and it blew me away. Bend is surrounded by huge (HUGE) mountains. Mt Hood looms in the distance at over 11,000 feet (7,707 ft of prominence from the surrounding land). Mt Hood is home to six separate ski areas including year-round skiing on glaciers (available limited time only, while supplies last). While Mt Hood is the pinnacle of outdoor activities in the area, Mt Bachelor is closer and more accessible to Bend – it offers much of the same recreation on a slightly smaller scale. Many of the mountains in the area are volcanic and, therefor, dramatic in their look – steep slopes that standout from much of the surrounding high-desert.

Second to the impressiveness of the mountains, is the very impressive local beer selection… I’ve never seen so many different beers in my life. Breweries abound – many brands you’ve heard of, many you haven’t. But beer isn’t all that Bend makes. If the end of our society came today, Bend would go on. These people are self-sufficient in making everything. Coffee, bread, gluten-free dairy-free bread, locally-sourced everything, local clothes companies, Hydroflask water bottles – you name it, Bend makes it. I definitely see the appeal of Bend.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

I’ve never been to Tahoe (hence no photo), but I hear it’s awesome. Suddenly, I have about half-a-dozen friends living around Lake Tahoe. I personally equate Tahoe with skiing – there are 12 ski resorts in the area with Squaw Valley and Heavenly being the two biggest. But Tahoe, being a huge lake, offers many summer-time opportunities that other mountain communities don’t have. Boating, wind surfing, and everything else you can do with miles of open water. But Tahoe’s greatest strength might be its location and ease of access to everywhere else. Heading West, you’ll end up in Sacramento, wine country, and San Francisco. East will send you into Nevada with quick access to Reno and Carson City. South shoots you straight into the Sierra Nevadas and with a few hours of driving, Yosemite Park. If you’re spending time in Nevada or Northern California, make sure your next ski trip or summer lake trip includes Tahoe.

Montana, The Big Sky State

Montana is huge. The mountains are huge, the lakes are huge, the sky is huge. This is in Glacier National Park in far Northern Montana.

I don’t know how they’ve done it, but the sky is truly bigger in Montana. I have rarely seen landscapes as majestic as your average commute in Montana. My only experience with Montana was a roadtrip that entered in the south through Yellowstone and exited North to Canada through Glacier National Park – every single mile between felt like I was still in a national park. We stopped at Chico Hot Springs, just outside Yellowstone, and enjoyed their massive outdoor pool fed by natural hot spring water – the stars at night were perhaps the most I’ve ever seen (on account of the sky being so big). In the past, the hot springs were a spa for the sick in the early 1900’s. I couldn’t help but think that there is something special about that place and that the water does indeed have to be healing. We stopped into Bozeman for a quick meal while on the road and found it to be a fun, happening college-town. Other small cities in Montana have their own unique personality and have a lot to offer as well – Missoula, Billings, and Whitefish all offer outdoor recreation in the wilderness that stretches out in every direction. Get to Montana where the Wild West is alive and well – you will not be disappointed.

Last Day of a Travel Assignment

I just came in from fishing on my kayak on the eve of my last day of this travel PT assignment. As usual, I caught nothing, but got a killer view of the sunset. Tomorrow, my wife Kate and I will work the last day of our contract on the island of Molokai in Hawaii before heading back to our winter home in Aspen, Colorado. This transition seems a little more subdued than usual – maybe it’s that we have some time between assignments and aren’t in a rush to get on the road. I used to lose all motivation to do paperwork during the last 2 to 3 weeks of any assignment – of course the paperwork eventually had to get done, but it wasn’t pleasant. As time goes on, the switch has become a bit more mundane for me – one job ends, another begins… just like they always do. But I’m better at keeping my nose to the grindstone until the very last days.

Here I am fishing out front of our apartment on a similar evening where similarly, I caught nothing.

Here I am paddling out to fish in front of our apartment on a similar evening where similarly, I caught nothing.

With ending a job, there’s all the finals steps that need tending to: cleaning out/off your desk, finishing all notes, tying up the loose ends on the cases of any patients who may have gone missing, and preparing for the other therapists to take your patients. Bottomline is: you don’t want the last memory of you to be all of your unfinished work left behind for the other therapists to handle. There’s typically some pageantry as a traveler gets ready to leave an assignment. I try to avoid too much fanfare, it feels awkward to me – I’m very used to coming and going. If it were up to me, I’d leave the office on Friday with the typical wave of my hand and a “have a good weekend!” …and never come back. In the PT Department earlier this week, we had a nice, simple ice cream bar with just the 5 of us in our department. It was nice, simple, perfect – it was a wonderful, delicious gesture, but not over the top. This location has trouble finding a permanent PT because of its isolation, so they are used to a revolving door of travelers. Perhaps that explains why my style of a “goodbye” matches with theirs. Someone, Vikki, will come in on Monday and take my place. She seems nice, and I hope she is – I’ve been telling all the patients she seems good, and I bet she’ll take all the placebo effect she can get. The patients definitely don’t like it when a traveler leaves, but I still laugh when an unassuming grandma threatens to come to Colorado for PT this winter.

The greatest challenge that comes with moving along to the next job is the process of getting the next job arranged. After traveling for 10 years, and returning to the same seasonal job every winter, finding the next job isn’t usually too much of a process anymore, but it used to be! Figuring out where to go is the first major hurdle, and it needs to happen well before the last days of the job. If you’re on a 13 week contract, you should have a pretty good idea of where you’d like to go very early on in the contract – especially if you need to get a new license to go there. When it’s time to find the next job, it’s not uncommon to find me in little corners of a hospital, between appointments, making calls to recruiters for quick updates on potential jobs. There’s a lot that goes into getting the next assignment, and it can, and usually does, happen at a pretty fast pace in the middle of a busy work week.

I just read a couple articles in a ski magazine and it got me pumped to be headed back to Colorado for the winter. I cannot wait to get my skis out of storage and onto the mountain (it’s snowing there right now as I write). Kate and I have ordered a fair amount of ski gear on sale over this summer while we’ve been here in Hawaii, so we’ll have to box all that junk up and ship it ahead. We have almost two weeks of hanging out in Hawaii before we have to leave – I really think this is the ultimate traveler’s hack. I haven’t had to pack a thing while I’ve been working. It is so refreshing to not have a car full of stuff before my last day of work tomorrow.

Here's the Shasta camper we bought. I can't wait to get to work sprucing her up!

Here’s the Shasta camper we bought. I can’t wait to get to work making her shine again!

When we do leave for Colorado in 2 weeks, we’re going to swing through Oregon and visit some friends in Bend before flying into Denver where we’ll be buying two cars. The original plan was to have one car when we returned to Colorado and have some time to find a second car, but while we’ve been away, the Colorado car’s engine stopped working. I’m not very mechanically-inclined, but my understanding is that the engine is a fairly essential part. So, we’ll buy at least one, maybe two cars in Denver – one has to be able to pull the 1970 Shasta Camper we bought from a friend sight-unseen (more on this in the future). After we’re done visiting Oregon and vehicle shopping in Denver, I have a dry needling course in Colorado Springs to attend for 3 days. So excited to finally be a needler (but not excited to be needled for 3 days straight)! The course ends Sunday, and work will start Monday – guess I won’t be starting this assignment well rested regardless of my 3 weeks off.

Despite all the excitement that lies between today and work starting 3 weeks from now in Colorado, I’m bummed to be done here. It’s a community I have grown to know and love and the bitter is mixed a little more heavily with the sweet this time. I guess I’ve got a pretty good thing going here, I could keep working here for another couple months, but it’s that time of year to move on. This is our second time doing a contract on Molokai. When Kate and I came over from the Big Island 2 years ago for an interview, we thought it might be a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Molokai. Three contracts later, Molokai is a part of our life. We’ll be back. I don’t know in what capacity we’ll return, but we will return.

Hawaii, it’s been a blast and I shall return. Oregon, let’s see what you’ve got (I hear you’ve got mountains, ocean, and beer – I like those things). Colorado, I can’t wait to hit the slopes and reconnect with all the friends back there. Nose to the grindstone, one more day of work.

Health Insurance As a Traveling Therapist

As a traveling therapist, there are all sorts of things you can, and should, insure. This may end up becoming a multi-part blog, but for now, I want to focus on health insurance and the options you have available. Getting and maintaining steady health insurance can be a challenge when you change jobs, and possibly employers, every few months. Other than going uninsured (awful idea), there are three potential options to keep yourself insured.

traveling therapist health insuranceEmployer Sponsored Health Insurance
If you are working steadily for a single travel therapy staffing agency or for a combination of agencies, taking your employer sponsored program is clearly the way to go. All the agencies I have worked for factor your health program into your pay package. So, if for any reason you are not taking your employer’s insurance, ask if you can get more hourly – I typically get a dollar per hour extra for carrying my own insurance… more on why I carry my own insurance later.

Typically, what agencies have available for choices are good plans that cover you with providers nationally. When you accept a plan from your employer, you are not subject to pre-existing conditions or other demographic categories that might cause your rate to be higher – you pay into the group price that the insurance has contracted with your employer, simple and right to the point.

A staffing agency that I worked for when I first started traveling physical therapy would drop you from their insurance if you weren’t actively working for them for 14 consecutive days. This used to scare the heck out of me and force me to get right back to work quickly. If a job wasn’t coming together within 2 weeks of the last assignment, I felt the pressure to take anything that was available so I wouldn’t lose my insurance. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if they drop you from their insurance, COBRA (federal gap insurance) covers you. What COBRA does is extend your employer sponsored program when your employment ends. You have up to 60 days to accept COBRA coverage and it works retroactively. This means, if you are taking anything less than 60 days off between assignments, you can go without insurance and if something happens, you can adopt COBRA after-the-fact and you will be covered under your previous plan. The catch is that COBRA is not cheap – unless you need it, then it is a great deal cheaper versus the medical bills you would otherwise incur. Once you have adopted COBRA, you can keep it active for up to 18 months, but in most cases, if you need insurance for more than a couple months, it will be much cheaper to go get a plan on the open market.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Always look for jobs with 2 or 3 agencies, it helps you get a handle on the local markets and gives you more options for assignments that could be a better fit to your needs. One of the big downsides to jumping between companies is all the “new hire” paperwork – which includes a few healthcare enrollment forms. Don’t worry about the paperwork, the benefits of searching with a few companies outweighs the burden of a couple hours of paperwork every few months. Paper work, JCO quizzes, and constant TB tests are a part of being a traveling therapist, deal with it.

Pros: Everything. Take this option if you are consistently working through agencies. You pay the employer rate and are not subject to rate increases for pre-existing conditions.

Cons: Becomes expensive and complicated if you take more than 60 days off between assignments or do independent contracts. You may have to take short-term insurance to fill these gaps.

Short-term Insurance

Doing a single independent contract? Taking a few months off from therapy to just travel? Unexpected circumstances keeping you out of work for >60 days? This might be the option for you.

The job I work every winter in a Colorado ski town is arranged directly with the hospital and does not offer health insurance for my seasonal position. This can be more common that you would think, especially with seasonal positions in resort towns. Frequently these facilities will not hire through agencies and rely on independent contacts for their seasonal hiring. The first couple of years I worked in Colorado, I got temporary insurance plans, and they were the perfect fit for my needs.

These plans last up to 6 months, are cheap, and are available through most insurance brokers. I got mine through, but I really have no allegiance to them and you should be able to get a temporary health plan through any insurance broker. The downside to these plans are that they only cover conditions that happen during the 6 months you have the plan. Any pre-existing conditions are not covered. If you have an injury or illness that extends beyond the 6 month period that is insured, payment will stop after the last day your plan covers. Also, there is no gap coverage, like COBRA, that would help you if you ended up with no insurance and an injury immediately following the completion of your temporary plan.

Pros: Cheap. Keeps you are covered for any 6 month period where you don’t have other insurance.

Cons: Covers only that 6 months period. Nothing that started before that 6 months, nothing that extends beyond that 6 months. No preventative care coverage.

The Open Market

If you find yourself, like myself, doing frequent independent contracts or in a repetitive rotation to a facility that doesn’t provide health insurance, then the open market might be your only choice. The open market can be unforgiving in its cost. I choose to find insurance through a broker who can compare rates and plans of multiple companies, or you can just go online and start searching rates by individual companies. You’ll find different insurance companies available in different states, and even certain companies are conspicuously absent from specific zip codes due to local laws or other factors. You should always apply for health insurance in your home state and at your home address. It may be tempting to get insurance in a state you are working in if they have lower rates than your home state, but by getting insurance at your home address, you are ensuring the insurer (pun intended) will cover you when you travel temporarily for work. Also, having your insurance based at your home address is one more feather in your cap if you ever have to defend the location of your tax home. It’s worth mentioning that when buying an insurance plan in the open market, there are some plans that only have in-network providers locally. You should make sure that the plan will cover you and has providers nationally – especially when buying from a state’s healthcare exchange marketplace (state Affordable Care Act plans). If you do end up with a plan that has providers nationally, but you happen to be in an area isolated from those providers, there are typically ways of getting your care covered in-network  by contacting your health insurance company – I have had success getting in-network coverage with United Healthcare when working in “far out” places.

State healthcare exchanges offer a good place for you to go and find a plan – so whether you are looking for a subsidy or not, you may want to start there and see what’s available. I almost hate to even mention the subsidies available through the ACA. I don’t think traveling therapists are who the subsidies are intended for, but at the same time, buying your own insurance can be expensive, so you might as well get as much help as you can. I know, with my half year working fully-taxed in my home state of Colorado, that my taxed income is too much for me to qualify for a health insurance subsidy. However, those of you working the entire year in situations that are heavily tax-free and for therapists that are recently graduated from school, I bet you’ll qualify for a subsidy to help with your health insurance plan. The one catch with the subsidy is that even though it’s called a subsidy, it’s really a tax credit that you’ll receive when you do your federal tax return, and if your income is more than expected through the year, your actual subsidy can be decreased. Proceed with caution. Here’s a link that provides good, easily understandable information about the health insurance subsidies:

Pros: It might be your only choice. It will travel with you where ever you go.

Cons: Can be expensive, rates are even higher if you have pre-existing conditions. You must make sure your plan covers you nationally.

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!


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!

Traveling Therapist Taxes – It’s Complicated

I haven’t shared an email in a while, so here’s one I received recently that I thought offered some insight into the complexities of traveling therapist taxes.

Traveling Therapist TaxesTraveling Therapist: My wife and I traveled for a while but then had accepted permanent jobs, we are considering the traveling therapist life again and this brought up some questions in our minds. We are currently renting in Kansas, but when we go to travel again, we are trying to figure out what we need to do as far as claiming a tax home. I was originally living in my parents’ retirement house in Florida and was paying rent to them. My concern is that I might not have a place to claim as my tax home when we go back to traveling. Have you bought a house? What is the best way for us to claim a tax home?

HoboHealth: Oh man. Good questions, complicated questions, more complicated answers.

A while back, Kate and I bought a cheap condo up in Maine that we thought would be our tax home. We figured it would be an easy return on our money: 1. The market was way low, and we bought the place dirt-cheap 2. We were paying monthly storage fees that would be eliminated by moving our spare furniture into the condo 3. We’d have a nice, solid, unwavering permanent address as our tax home to collect all of our tax-free bene’s.

Unfortunately, at the same time we purchased the apartment, we had racked up a few years in a row returning to the same job in Colorado seasonally in the winter. Apparently, this is one overriding exception to the standard rules for maintaining a tax-home. If the majority of your work is done consistently in one place year-after-year, that becomes your tax home. The example I get from my tax guy is always pro sports players. If a player maintains his permanent home in Green Bay, but plays for the Texans, the majority of his work is consistently in Texas, and Texas is his tax home despite Green Bay being his permanent address.  You see, Texas is his work place, that’s where he consistently makes his money, it doesn’t matter that he lives in Green Bay. This doesn’t apply to most travelers, because they move often enough to avoid establishing a consistent place of work.  Confused yet?

The other thing that completely blindsided us was that Maine was taxing us at 4% income tax on everything we made, everywhere we worked – despite Colorado being our tax home, Maine considered us permanent residents by their law. We owed Maine over $5000 at the end of that first year with a condo there! Bush league, we got hosed. Just thought I would share my convoluted situation to demonstrate some of the complexities of the tax-home issue before actually answering your question.

So, to summarize your situation: You had a tax home established at your parents and were paying them “fair-market” rent to maintain a home there, but then went to live and work in a different state and have been renting a place there. You’re wondering how to establish a new tax home for when you return to traveling shortly. Has it been less than one year? …I’m thinking you may just be able to pay your parents back-rent for the year and file your 2015 taxes at their address, then you can just carry-on with the situation you had.

The other thing I have heard of, but not ever from anyone that I actually know first-hand, is purchasing super-cheap housing in a 0% income tax state like South Dakota or Florida and establishing that as your tax home. If only it were really this easy. My understanding is that there’s a lot of other factors that the IRS looks at to strengthen your claim for a tax home – driver’s license, vehicle registration, memberships (gyms, clubs, etc), bank location – the more things in your life you can put in one place, the better your argument for that place as your tax home. It is not black-and-white.

Now, let’s say you either re-establish your parent’s home as your tax home, or you somehow establish somewhere else as your tax home. Remember this mantra that has helped me keep my life more sane: You live at your tax home, you are only working temporarily at your travel destination. This is an important distinction. Some states want you to get a driver’s license in their state or register your vehicle there after living there 30 days or less – in your case, you are not living there, you are only working there temporarily. If you are pulled over, you should be clear with the officer that you are only in that location working for several months, you live at your tax home location. Clear?

Staffing agencies will try to make these issues very clear-cut. They’ll frequently give you a checklist for tax home and if you are able to check off a certain number of boxes, you are OK in their eyes to receive tax free money. They may tell you if you work 60 miles from your tax home, you are OK to collect tax free money. There are no laws related to travelers that are this precisely defined. The real laws are much more vague and open to interpretation. Do the best you can to strengthen your case of claiming any one particular place as a tax home so you can confidently defend when/if the IRS comes knocking. And when a recruiter assures you that your tax home is legit, remember that the end responsibility is YOURS and yours only.

Your best bet to get your taxes right is to talk to a tax professional who specializes in travelers. Searching for “travel RN taxes” on Google will give you a variety of options. Good luck trying to understand all this stuff, it’s complicated.

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.