When I come back from my Central/Eastern Europe jaunt, I’m not sure exactly where I’ll be working. I’m currently a travel nurse in Denver (more about travel nursing here and here ), and my current contract ends four days before I fly to Prague to begin the next adventure. I was offered the opportunity to extend this contract, but I chose not to as the job is not really a good fit for my present and future goals.
In February, a recruiter from a different agency than the one I am presently with reviewed my profile with another hospital here in Denver, and she reported back to me that they really liked what they saw. There was one caveat: it was too early to offer me a position. If you have any experience with travel nursing, you know that when you apply to a position, you are basically saying that you will be able to start as soon as all of the paperwork goes through. With rare exceptions, it’s not really possible to get an offer for a position if your intended start date is more than a month out.
This recruiter told me that she likes to submit her nurses for consideration about 4-5 weeks before their intended start date. I come back from Europe May 25, and will be ready to start a new contract in Denver by June 1, meaning that she won’t submit me until end of April/first week of May. This means that I’ll be leaving for Europe without a definite contract for when I come back. Now, Denver has TONS of travel nursing positions that post each day. I’m fairly confident that I will be able to secure a contract quickly when I get back, but it would be nice to lock one down before I leave.
All of this made me think about how much easier it would be if I were to just stay in Denver after this contract is over instead of going to Europe. I could start a new contract a few days after this one ends, I wouldn’t have to find a place to store my car and belongings (basically just my clothes since I was provided with a fully furnished apartment), and I could continue to save money without interruption. And THEN I got to thinking about how much easier my life would be if I didn’t have the desire to travel and adventure around the world. If I wanted the normal path, a lot of the things that currently stress me out would not be factors.
I guess I would define “the normal path” as going to college, getting a job, setting up a savings and a 401k account (still don’t really get what the heck that is), getting married, buying a home, having kids, and dealing with paltry vacation days that Americans get.
I earned two bachelor degrees by the age of 23. I absolutely love school and learning, and I feel sooooooo thankful and privileged to be educated. My nursing degree allows me to work anywhere in the country and make a good living. It also allows me to do travel contract work, which is what I’m doing now. I could work a three month contract in a U.S. city of my choosing, travel internationally, work a three month contract, repeat, while I saw the world.
There’s a wrench in that plan, though. I want to go back to school to become an NP (nurse practitoner). Being an RN (registered nurse) is cool and, like I said, I make a good living; however, there’s not much that I can do medically for my patients without an MD order. If my patient’s blood pressure is elevated and he or she needs an antihypertensive medication, I have to call an MD, NP, or PA to get that order (unless it’s a standing order, but a provider still has to put those in). As a psychiatric NP, I will be able to see patients and prescribe medications and other treatments that an RN or LPN will then carry out.
Anyway, I want to start NP school next fall. I could put off school for the rest of my twenties and do the travel nurse/international travel thing, but I don’t want to work as an RN for that long. I need to further my education so that I’m not miserable at work. Again, all of these issues could have been avoided if it weren’t for this pesky travel bug. If I didn’t want to travel, I could have started an NP program this year and I would be a working nurse practitioner by 2017.
But once I’m working as an NP, the freedom that I have now as a travel nurse vanishes. The days of having unlimited time off to travel between assignments would be gone. Additionally, I would be working with, at a maximum, 2-3 weeks of vacation time. An idea that I have been playing around with is continuing to save money during NP school, and taking a gap year to backpack somewhere for 6-12 months before I get an NP job. It could be quite difficult to get a job that far out from graduation however. After this gap year, I would get a full time job and try to travel as much as I can within the vacation time constraints.
I have a savings account that I will continue to contribute to, but all of this talk about 401ks and IRAs and retirement and equity make me break out into hives. To me, all of those words just scream monotony, routine, and minimal, if any, long term travel. That’s really all I have to say about the money aspect. Having a savings account is about the best I can do right now, and I’m grateful. I know that many don’t have jobs that allow them to have extra income to save.
MARRIAGE, KIDS, & HOME OWNERSHIP
As of right now, getting married and having kids doesn’t sound like something that I want to do. I don’t see this changing in the future. Over the years I have become beyond fiercely independent. Some may say to a fault, but I absolutely relish in the feeling of not having to answer to a partner or take care of anyone else but myself.
I should mention here that I was not one of those little girls who dreamed about their “prince charming” and their wedding day. I also have never had a boyfriend or been treated all that well by boys, so marriage has never been something that I’ve given much thought, until recently. The deeper I get into this independent woman traveling lifestyle, the more I see a boyfriend or husband as a hindrance to the things that I want most.
Travel blogs like Getting Stamped and Goats On The Road give me major relationship goals, but there is still a major part of me that believes I can’t handle everything that a relationship entails. I can’t imagine having to factor another person into the decisions that I make. I can’t imagine having to work around someone else’s vacation days. I can’t imagine having a baby, and not being able to sleep in and do whatever it is I want for the day. I can’t imagine not having the option to hack it all in at any given moment and book a one-way ticket. I don’t want to have to put in months and months of planning just to be able to swing a one week family vacation.
When I was in Southeast Asia, I noticed that there were plenty of European families traveling with kids. These families were adorable, and it appeared relatively effortless to travel with their children, but I don’t know if that’s for me—and amount of vacation time is a factor here. I want to be able to wander aimlessly around town, have unexpectedly crazy nights out, and laze around on the beach for hours. All of these things become harder when you’re traveling with little humans.
Travel Cake is one of my favorite blogs, and is one of the best travel blogs out there in my humble opinion. For the past ten years or so, Sarah has balanced solo travel with travel with her partner. She just recently had a beautiful baby girl. I see how she is able to balance marriage, motherhood, independence, and travel through her posts. I can physically SEE how someone has made it all work, so why can’t I envision it working out in the same way for myself? (Side note: Sarah has a great series of posts that detail the 100 most memorable travel experiences that she was grateful to have before becoming a mom. All I can say is wow. These experiences will leave you inspired, that’s for sure. The first post in the series is here).
And home ownership? I want no part of it. Buying a home ties you down to the house and to the city where the house is located, and I would feel so restricted, chained, and stuck.
I just rambled on–probably nonsensically–for 1500 words, and feel more confused than ever. Part of me regrets not having traveled more when I was younger. Maybe my wanderlust would be a little more contained now if I had. Then again, I think to myself that I am only 24 and there is still plenty of time to see most of the places I want to see and do the things I want to do. I have also already had so many experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything!
Right now, in this very moment, what I want most is for my April ticket to Europe to be a one way ticket. I want to explore Eastern Europe, and then continue on through Africa, Central Asia, India, New Zealand, and beyond. I want to see Mount Kilamanjaro and the Great Migration. I want to eat deep fried momos on the streets of India. I want to eat a ridiculous amount of mangoes in Tofo. I want to hitchhike the Pamir Highway. I want to take a flight over Mount Everest because, let’s be real, I could never make it through the base camp trek. I want to dance to trance music on the beaches of Goa. I want to stand on the salt flats in Bolivia and take cheesy optical illusion pictures. I want to stare out of the window in awe and drink Russian vodka with my cabin mates while on the Trans-Siberian to Beijing. I want to live the most adventurous and intrepid life that I can.
Deep down, I know that the most realistic way for me to have that life is to continue travel nursing for the next several years; however, I have an almost equally strong desire to get that NP degree sooner rather than later. The travel nursing/travel scenario would make the most sense to give me the life of travel that I want, though.
If I wanted the normal path, the normal trajectory, I wouldn’t have to worry about or contemplate most of what is in this post. Reese Witherspoon’s character in How Do You Know says it best when she says “Most girls’ plan is to meet a guy…love…have a baby. But I don’t know if I have what it takes for everybody’s regular plan”
Does your desire for travel conflict with other areas in your life?