My Landlord is a Clown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

10/22/15 – PM

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

Two weeks later… 11/4/15

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Onto the Next Travel Assignment

hoboblockBeing a traveling Physical Therapist requires frequent, and constant change. Week 13 or whatever is the last week of your contract will inevitably be your busiest. Hopefully work slows down a little bit that last week as you discharge a bunch of your clients and transition others to different therapists, but life outside of work gets busy. That last week is full of organizing, packing, working on logistics for travel to the next assignment, and often time actually interviewing for and nailing down your next job (and, if you’re really dense, you’ll try to write a blog this week… brutal).

All the chores outside of work on the last week of an assignment make it a stressful week. I’m currently 3 days from my next move and finding myself relatively relaxed. Clearly I’ve learned something over time about making the transition from work to road trip to work. But what is it? Here’s my reflection on the things you can do to take the crazy out of your next job change.


Accept it! This week is going to suck. At work you’re doing a ton to discharges and transitioning patients to other therapists. Embrace it, every waking hour this week you will be working or packing or planning. The only way everything gets done is by finishing one single task at a time, start chipping away.


If you can identify one group of things you have to accomplish each day, you will break up the burden. To take everything on in one day is too much. Today, I wanted to take the recycling to the dump, get the tail light on the car replaced before the drive out west, and get out one last blog before disappearing on vacation. Boom! Done! I got stuff done today, I feel accomplished, and I’m a few steps closer to being ready to jump in the car and be on my merry little way.

Say Goodbye Efficiently

Yeah, it’s very unsentimental of me. Get over it. You will get requests from friends, co-workers, and mysterious others  for one last hoorah, a chance to say goodbye. The more saying “goodbye” you can do the week before your last week, the better. Get out ahead of your friends and start inviting people to dinner before it’s your last week. You’ll have a blast, you’ll get to spend some good time with friends, and it won’t take precious hours out of the time you need to be packing. If you get stuck in the last couple days tight for time, invite friends over to hang out at your place while you putter around packing and cleaning – if they can drink your wine and eat your food, you don’t have to move it.

Be Good

Everyone knows you’re busy, but do take the time to do the right things. Wrap up all your paperwork at your job. Close cases that have been left inactive. Clean up your work space – effectively tie up all your loose ends and make it seem like you were never there. They say the best referees in football are the ones you that you don’t notice are even there, same goes for travel therapists.

A Time for Rest

When the opportunity arrives, take a break. I very frequently find I reach a point where I have done what I need to do for a day, and rather than stopping, I press on. You’re a traveler. Hopefully you’re living this lifestyle to experience different places and cultures. When break time comes, get out to that restaurant you meant to go to one more time, or go enjoy one last sunset at your favorite vista. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the town you’ve lived and worked in for thew last few weeks, take one last chance to soak it in.


I think that’s all I have tonight, folks. Most of my bags are packed, but I’m doing home care, so the car has a lot of work stuff in it. I need to finish work before I can start packing the car.

From here, on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, we’ll make trips to Maine, Florida, and Italy – for family time and fun – before driving out to Colorado for the next assignment. I’ll post pictures on the travels as I go, but you may not here much from me for a few weeks.

Enjoy where ever you are!



Watching football on the camper's big screen.

Watching football on the camper’s big screen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on the road.

The New Grad Dilemma

new grad therapist travelNote: I have included a lot of links in this piece and there is a ton of information beyond this article through those links. If you are a new grad therapist looking into travel, take the time to explore these links. Some are other pieces about new grads traveling, some are about professional development, and some are conversations on the discussion board that are pertinent. Note 2: I’m going to write this post using “Physical Therapist” language, but I believe this topic applies to speech and occupational therapists as well. I feel passionately about this particular post and found myself getting bogged down in language trying to be more inclusive of all therapists – so, forgive me, I really mean all therapists, but as a PT, I just write more gooder when I can write in the terms most familiar to me.

In the last couple months, I have written and spoken with quite a few new grad physical therapists who are going straight to traveling after graduation. With several of these new grads, I have had the opportunity to give my typical schpeel:

I do not believe you should travel as an immediate new grad therapist. I believe you need at least a brief experience as a PT with your own patients and own license alongside other experienced therapists to get to know yourself as a clinician and what life as a professional in a good clinical setting is like. That way, when you run into employment, management, or ethical red flags on assignment, you can recognize them and react appropriately. As a student PT, you have gained great knowledge that is more up to date and in depth than many currently practicing clinicians. You have also likely managed your own patient case load and treated a wide variety of cases. But, you have never done this without a safety net – with everyone expecting you to be the person with the answers. Do you need to be an expert clinician to be a successful traveler? Absolutely not, but I recommend you have some sort of professional experience, because there is frequently less support around you as a traveler than there would be in a more stable environment. I do not think you should travel right out of school, but if you are determined to, I would like to help you down the path to a better traveling experience.

So, in summary: Don’t travel immediately out of school, but if you do, I’d like to help you along the way.

What has my experience with giving this advice been? Failure. Despite my advice, just about every new grad physical therapist I talked to this summer is already working in a travel job or currently traveling to their first assignment. I have lost them to the awesome, kick-ass world of traveling therapy. Can I really blame them? No, being a traveling PT has a lot of benefits and upside, but I hope I can still save a few of you who haven’t signed travel contracts yet. I plead with you, just get a brief stretch of experience as a therapist before you travel.

I’ve written a lot on this topic in years past. I’ll try not to be redundant and instead, as mentioned above, link out to the things I have written in the past. If you are a new grad considering travel PT, earnestly consider whether traveling therapy is the best thing for you right now. Maybe it is, life changes fast and your window to travel may be closing soon, but if you can delay travel for 6 to 12 months, it will improve your experience. What follows is a mixture of “why you shouldn’t” and “if you do” advice.

With the new grad therapists I have been talking to, the most prevalent challenge I have been finding is predatory recruiters who don’t care who you are and who you want to be as a professional. These recruiters are only motivated by the fact that they get paid if they place you in a job. I’m generalizing, but the more predatory recruiters tend to be in the really big recruiting agencies that are staffing-factories. Finding a recruiter as your “employer” is the same as if you were looking for a permanent employer. You would want a clinical employer that allows you to spend solid one-on-one time with each of your patients. Likewise, you want to find a recruiter who has the time to get to know you and give you some personal attention. When working with a recruiter (and I recommend you work with 2 or 3), ask yourself these questions:

1. Does this recruiter know or remember anything about me personally or professionally?
2. Does this recruiter care if I get placed in a good job?
3. Am I steering the conversation of where I am going to work? (or is the recruiter?)

If the answer to any 1 of these 3 questions is “No,” find another recruiter. Don’t worry, there are over 300 Joint Commission accredited recruiting agencies, you’ll find another recruiter. Your recruiter should be WORKING FOR YOU to put you in a situation that best fits your needs and sets you up to grow as a professional. The predictable next-step with any predatory recruiter is a low-ball offer to work at a facility with no other PTs but likely an ungodly number of support staff for you to supervise. In this conversation going on at the discussion board (which I highly recommend you read), one new grad mentions a job offer where he would be the only PT at the facility with 3 PTAs. Which brings another three questions to my mind:

1. If the facility needs a traveler, who is supervising the PTAs now?
2. Does a therapist supervising 3 assistants actually get to treat any patients of their own?
3. How unbelievably bad is this facility that they are willing to hire a new grad they have never met in person to be their only therapist?

Forgive me, I’m just a worried big-brother-PT trying to keep his siblings out of trouble. I know you guys are all (mostly) super-intelligent people and see the red lights flashing on this job offer, but I want to assure you that you have choices and should never-ever under any circumstances work for a recruiter who offers you a job like the one described above – pass on it, this job can be somebody else’s nightmare. I got really lucky with my first assignment, but took time looking for a recruiter that was willing to hold my hand throughout the process. Because I was working at a permanent job, I had the luxury of taking my time to research staffing agencies and search for a job. When I found the recruiter I would eventually take my first assignment with, we searched together for a job that would allow me to work in outpatient and would have other PTs around for my mentoring and growth. It took a few weeks of patience, but that assignment eventually came up. I interviewed and accepted the job, and I extended my contract there twice to ultimately stay 10 months because it was such a great fit for me and satisfied my need for growth as a new therapist – this, ideally, is what your experience should be as a new grad exploring travel therapy. Your recruiter should be some sort of a cross between a teacher and companion who can appreciate what you need in a job and what strengths you have to offer a potential employer. Here’s an older discussion board thread discussing travel as a new grad and selecting your first job.

Let’s talk about why a facility needs to hire a traveler, because I think it is central to why some travel assignments are better than others and why you should have some experience before you travel. A facility hires travelers because they are understaffed. A facility can be understaffed for a number of very benign reasons – an employee is out temporarily for illness or maternity leave, the geographic location is difficult to attract highly educated professionals to, the business has recently expanded or gone through a structural change and is spread thin on staffing, or the area doesn’t have any PT programs nearby so there is a chronic shortage. If you’re discerning, patient, and lucky enough, these are the jobs you will take consistently as a traveler. These facilities generally care about their patients, and, because they care, they will be expecting you to bring a certain established skill-set with you to hit the floor running and start treating patients confidently soon after you start. If you approach the job selection process with little care of where you work and no experience to demonstrate any specific skill set, you’re more likely to find yourself in the facilities that have staffing issues for the other, more sinister reasons – these places are willing to hire any warm body with a license. Facilities can have staffing issues because management is awful, productivity expectations are too high, or the business is unethical. The therapists that put themselves in the situation of working for the clinics with the worse kind of staffing issues are not going to have a good professional life. They will experience stress and burnout, and these are the people you will meet who are cynical about therapy and healthcare business in general. With a little bit of effort and patience, you can dodge lousy assignments – when the red flags go up, pay attention to your gut. If it sounds like a lousy situation, it is. If you can get yourself a year or even just a few months of experience before traveling, your marketability improves dramatically and the quality of jobs available to you will grow.

The reason I feel the need to warn you all about the dark side of traveling as a new grad is because I care greatly about our profession. We are uniquely situated to do great things in healthcare. We are primed to heal patients conservatively without medication or surgery, to heal and promote health in many different venues, and to prevent pain and disease in the first place. All of these things save patients and insurance companies a great deal of money versus other treatment options and will ultimately be our golden ticket as everyone continues to age. In order for our profession to best seize these opportunities, we need to cultivate the best clinicians, and I don’t think starting out as a traveler with zero professional experience will make you the best clinician and ambassador of our profession that you have the potential to be. Just a little time before you travel will get you grounded and set a baseline for your future experiences. There are great advantages professionally and clinically to being a traveler – if you travel for multiple years, you will eventually work in more settings than you ever dreamed of. You will treat patients of more different backgrounds and cultures than you could never imagine, and you will be one of the most well-rounded clinicians with more diverse clinical and world experiences than any of your non-traveler colleagues. Without experience in the setting you would ultimately like to work in, you are more likely to aimless drift from lousy assignment to lousy assignment without gaining a good foothold on who you are as a clinician when you are at your best. As a traveler, professional growth is a solitary experience, you really need to be on the right path when you start. Please, I beg you, travel, it is a fantastic experience, but get just a tiny bit of professional experience first – in the long run, you will be more successful in your travels and you will be a better representative of our profession to your patients and co-workers.

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.

Camper Life

The cold has finally broken me. I just went out to the trunk of the car, where our ski gear is stowed, opened up the bag, and grabbed my wool cap. Back inside the camper that we have been living in for almost three weeks, the oven door is open after dinner to help get whatever residual heat we can from it while the propane heater kicks on and off. When I thought of living in a camper on an island for a summer assignment, I tricked myself into thinking it was already summer in New England – just a couple more weeks and maybe it will be.

It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to write anything of substance about the camper we’re living in. I guess, in reality, we’ve only been living in this camper for less than three weeks. I’d like to wait a few more weeks to write anything so that I have some firm conclusions on what life in a camper is really like, but it’s going to be a long process of adjustment. There’s another 5 months ahead to share all the other things that come up, so why wait… this is the first installation of a series of posts on camper life that I will be putting out this summer and into the fall.

Kate and I have lived in close quarters before. On my very first travel assignment, before we were married, I had a studio in Boston that is still the smallest place I have ever seen – at less than 6 feet in width, you could not lay down on the floor cross-ways without bending your knees. The length of the room wasn’t much longer. Just a twin bed, a shelf, and a very, very small attached bathroom. Later, we would live together in far Northern Maine on a travel assignment in a small one-room cabin. I think this was the first time we became aware of “tiny-living” through some blogs like The tiny living movement has really caught since then and shows about tiny living appear nightly on HGTV, DIY Network, and the like – or so I’ve heard, since we’re living without TV.

The cabin we rented in Presque Isle, Maine. Fun fact, "presque isle" means "near an island." Presque Isle, Maine is land-locked and near no islands.

The small cabin we rented in Presque Isle, Maine. Fun fact, “presque isle” means “near an island.” Presque Isle, Maine is land-locked and near no islands.

Let’s address the no TV thing. I love it, I just absolutely love not having a TV. Last summer in Hawaii was the first time we went without TV, or at least without cable. The only thing I truly missed was sports. Last summer/fall we would go out for football games or sometimes miss them if the Pats weren’t being televised. For now, since we’re in New England, we’re able to catch our precious Red Sox on the radio nightly, and if we’re out some where, it’s always on TV. Last summer, without TV, completely ruined us for our return to Colorado during winter where we rent an apartment pre-supplied with cable. At first, TV was hard to watch. Having to tolerate multiple minutes of advertisements between brief segments of the actual show was infuriating, but, with passing weeks, the time the TV was on during the day began to grow and my tolerance for ads returned. I don’t think I ever fully got back to my pre-Hawaii TV routine, which I’m proud of, but I did continue to watch far more than I needed to. I’m really glad to be back to no TV. I’m getting more done in my life, relaxing with a book more often, and the radio is usually all that’s needed for a little entertainment, although the Sox need to pick up some slack if that’s going to continue to be the preferred programming. Occasionally, once or twice a week, we’ll treat ourselves to a movie or show on Netflix – a sensible amount of mindless TV.

That assignment in Hawaii last summer plays another interesting role in getting us into the camper this year. The Hawaiian Island of Moloka’i, where we were without the TV, was a very rural and uncomplicated place with a very straight forward life. After work, there was little that “needed” to be done. Life was simplified to working, getting some exercise, and relaxing. Relaxing usually came in the forms of going to the beach, reading a book, or watching the sun sink into the Pacific ocean from a lounge chair on the driveway. I think last summer was the first time I came to truly appreciate a more simplified life, with less going on, and more relaxation – this is the first thing I most appreciate about living in a camper at a campground. We frequently have camp fires and once the day’s work is done, nights can be pretty lazy, or least I expect them to become more lazy once we have settled in and have finished more of the projects that need to be done around the camper.

For now, I’m going to leave the camper talk at that. I realize I really haven’t said much about how living in a camper is going so far, but that will develop over the next couple weeks. As far a life in a camper to this point? I’m having flashbacks to episodes of Tiny House Nation and people talking about consolidating their belongings, coming up with inventive storage solutions, becoming more conscious of their water and electric usage, and having to be more organized on a regular basis to prevent living in total squalor. That’s all you get for now, but I’ll post more soon.

Today, I’ll leave you with the first video I have ever done for this site – a tour of our camper. Enjoy!


Your First Travel Gig

first traveling PT assignmentAfter being a traveling PT for 8 years, I sometimes forget that what now seems like a pretty routine process was very intimidating and complicated at first. This post describes what you can expect in the process of getting your first traveling therapy job. I have another page that you can link to under the “Getting Started” tab. There’s some similar information there, but with a slightly different focus. Here I have tried to focus on the details of your interaction with your recruiters and the order of how this should all happen to get your first job in traveling therapy. Here we go!

Get a License

Do this first. Start working on a license for the state you want to go to as soon as you decide you want to travel. You can start this process after you start looking for jobs if you are still trying to figure out if you want to be a traveler (trust me, you do). But, if you wait too long, waiting on a license can delay the start of a job or prevent you from getting a particular job all together.

Contact a Couple Recruiters

This section was the impetus for this whole blog. I have heard more and more from people that their recruiters are telling them, “If I’m not your only recruiter, then I can’t give you my full effort.” If a recruiter ever says something like this to you, my suggestion is to hang-up and never talk to that recruiter ever again. Of course the recruiter wants you to work solely with them! It takes any competition or reason to hustle for you out of the picture. A good recruiter will understand that you are working with some other recruiters and will work harder to be the one to get you the assignment you want. Recruiters usually work on commission and get their pay from getting you a job. YOU, the therapist, are the commodity, without YOU, nobody gets paid. Seriously, if a recruiter says you have to work with them exclusively, they are playing you – ditch ’em!

Here are the reasons for working with multiple recruiters: First and foremost, talking with a few different recruiters should give you an idea of the going pay rate in a particular area which can vary wildly place-to-place. While different recruiters will have many of the same jobs available, there will be some jobs that are different between companies. Some companies have exclusive contracts with certain hospital systems – it all gets very complicated when you get into the details of how temporary jobs are posted and who they are posted with, but the bottom line is that having multiple recruiters working for you increases the number of potential jobs available to you. Also, when you do get ready to accept a job, having several irons in the fire will give you more leverage in negotiating better pay.

Get Submitted

When you are “submitted” for a travel assignment, it means that you have heard of a job from a recruiter, and you want your resume to be put in the applicant pool for the job. Some jobs will have dozens of applicants, while for others, you might be the only applicant. The number of applicants for an assignment has very little to do with the job itself and likely has more to do with the location of the job and how the facility chooses to post their available position with agencies.

Once submitted for a job, you cannot be submitted for the same job by a different agency – this is where having more than just a couple agencies working for you can trip you up. Early in our traveling, my wife, Kate, and I had 6 different companies we were working with, it got complicated. We had multiple agencies submitting us to the same jobs and arguing with the facility that that each had submitted us first. It was embarrassing – don’t let it happen to you.

Different agencies will vary in how they handle the process of submitting you. Some agencies will want all your information right away, I prefer not to give them my info (references, resume, etc.) until they have found me a job to be submitted for. So, if you can, delay giving a company all your details until it’s time to be submitted – but, some companies just won’t have it and want your info before they do anything for you. Some recruiters may ask if they can submit you for jobs without contacting you first – basically, they find a job that meets your criteria of location and setting, and they will submit you without hopping on the phone to notify you first. If you are working with just one recruiter that you trust, this is fine. Also, if you are searching in an area where there are many people looking, like Hawaii, and want to be one of the first people to apply, then this can be a good strategy. But other than those two situations, I have a hard time justifying giving my recruiter a “green light” to submit me for whatever, whenever. By having the recruiter check in with you, you are keeping control of what jobs you are applying to and where your resume is being pumped out to.


If a facility you have been submitted to is interested in you, your recruiter will arrange a phone interview for you with the facility. Simply remember that this is your chance to interview the facility as much as it is their chance to interview you. Ask questions, but come into the interview knowing some stuff about the place you are interviewing with. Usually, at the end of the interview, you and the interviewer will report back to the recruiter separately to let them know how the interview went.

The Job Offer

If the interview has gone well, you will receive a job offer. If your recruiter does this verbally, ask that it be sent by email also so that you have it in writing and can crunch some numbers. Swiftly move along to the next step.


Therapists. We are really bad at this step. But, if the pay seems low compared to what you’ve been hearing through other recruiters, or if there is a benefit that you want that isn’t included in your package, ASK! It never hurts to ask. Don’t underestimate your ability to name a price and see if it can be matched. Remember, YOU are the commodity!


Don’t get so wrapped up in your negotiating and getting every little bit out of your contract that another therapist signs their contract first and takes the job. Sure, negotiate, but do it swiftly.


That’s probably more details than you really need, so I’ll stop here. I’ll again refer you to the “Getting Started” page that is somewhat redundant to this post, but offers some other details including a link to what benefits you should expect or ask for. Happy job searching, I’ll say something here that I don’t say nearly often enough: I love being a traveling PT. If you have the itch to get out there on the open road, you should do it now, because life is a funny thing, and you don’t know how long this opportunity to travel will last. Happy travels!

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!

Licensure Tips

hobo licensure tipsI find myself coming back to the topic of licensure a couple times every year. Licensure is the great challenge and barrier to a much more free travel life. If licensure was centralized in one place, we could go where ever we wanted, when ever we wanted. Nurses have co-ops between states that allow transfer of licenses across state lines in particular states, but PTs are at the mercy of each individual state’s licensure office to grant access into the state in a timely manner. There are plans in the works to improve reciprocity between states, but it will be several years before we see any of these changes.

Yesterday, I was speaking with some other travelers who are just wrapping up their first travel assignments and looking to move onto other states, but struggling with licensure. I realized I have taken for granted the jaded nature with which I view getting new licenses that has developed from years of being repeatedly disappointed by state licensure offices. Here’s my advice, from my acquired jadedness, that should help your transition to your next state go much more smoothly.

Start Early

Getting a license in another state is going to take longer than you think. Get started as early as you can. The more state licenses you already have, the longer you should plan for. For instance, Illinois takes 6 weeks to process anything, so if you applying to another state and have an Illinois license, you’ll need to get a verification from Illinois and this will add 6 weeks to whatever estimate you have for the time it will take to get the new license.

Snail Mail Verifications

Most states require you to have each state you have ever held a license in to send a verification by mail (yeah, real mail). Additionally, many states require you to send a written letter to them to get a verification. Does it make sense in 2015 to have to send a letter by mail to a state office to get them to send a letter to another state by mail? Absolutely not, but get over it, it is exactly what you have to do. Fortunately, there are a small number of states that are now accepting online verification – they will let you go online, print out that page that shows you have a license in good standing, and fax it into them. But, unless you have spoken to someone in the state’s office that says they will accept online verifications, do not count on getting away with this. The majority of states still require the pony express to get involved.

Follow Up!

When you request verifications from states, follow up by phone to see if the verification was ever sent. I have had checks cashed for verification by states that never actually sent the verification. 2 weeks after I send out my verification requests, I will typically call the state I am applying to to see which verifications they have received and which they have not. I will then call the states that they have not received the verifications from yet. This can be very time consuming, but it prevents me from waiting around weeks for verifications to arrive that will never be sent.


Build in at least 6 months to get a license from California. I’m not sure what you’ve heard, or exactly what the state of California is telling candidates for licensure, but it takes 6 months to get a California license. There is a finger printing process, there is a juris prudence exam, and there is no lack of bureaucracy. If you need to be in California in 3 months, you are too late, Just build in 6 months for California – add six weeks if you already hold an Illinois license. 😉

 Don’t Fret

The licensure process is there to protect the public from the worst of the worst, but the system is far more cumbersome than it needs to be. Don’t get all flustered by all the changes that need to be made to the system. Just know that with some patience and a little bit of paperwork, you will eventually get that state license you are chasing. The more level headed and methodical you can remain through the whole process, the less stressed you will be.

These are just a few simple tips on licensure. There are a few states that stand out from the pack that are better than others to get licensed in, but do know that your typical state licensure office is understaffed and will take weeks to do anything. I picture a cyclone of papers swirling around every licensing professional. If you want more info on licensure, click in the search box at the top of this page and type “tag:licensure”. Good luck!