On travel nursing: How traveling as a couple builds stronger relationships
"I followed my love."
I don't want this to be a trend. I don't want this to be a fad. I want to breathe every day knowing I chose the lifestyle I want. I chose to wander. I want to look back one day and say, "I served my purpose."
To others, this could be just another millennial dream. To eat in a local restaurant and try weekly chef's specialty. To mingle with strangers and pet their dogs. To feel the sand between your toes and let your feet sink into ground's cushions. To turn your back... away from all the things that caused you drama. To be yourself and make a mark in a world full of turbulence and doubts. To play a song while driving on unfamiliar streets and forgetting that problems, wars, and societal division exist. To live in your little bubble and call it paradise. To smile because all while it's loud outside and roads are rocky sometimes, you have a choice whether to stop the journey or to get going and move to your next destination.
"Is it worth it?"
I asked myself after paying two sets of electric bills, rent, and car loan. I'm not going to lie; paying double for everything is stressful to my budget and pocket. Why double, you ask? As a travel nurse here in the US, we receive pay packages that are different compared to those with permanent staff positions. Travel agents offer us nontaxable travel benefits which include housing stipends, meals, and incidentals. Say they give us 1000 USD for housing and 500 USD for meals biweekly, we're able to keep it to ourselves. No tax! And that doesn't include our hourly rate yet. However, to receive nontaxable travel benefits, we must have 1) a permanent tax home (which is my apartment in McAllen) and 2) my travel assignment must not be within commuting distance of my permanent tax home, and each travel assignment, including extensions and other assignments cannot be expected to keep me in the same general area for more than one year.
So you get why I need to keep my original apartment, right? You might think that the end result is the same- getting paid more while spending twice the amount of what you used to give away. And that it doesn't make sense at all if the salary barely changed. No, not really. I travel with my boyfriend so somehow we manage to cut the expenses in half. And I have a roommate in Mcallen so she pays half the rent as well. It's all good actually. I have saved more in three months than what I used to when I was still a permanent staff in my previous job. It's quite confusing I know, but to keep it simple, this travel nurse life works for me and my needs.
The question didn't sprout from money. It's from something else.
I was lying on bed when I saw Luis playing his video games. I suddenly thought of the important things he needed to give up just to be with me in this journey. He didn't want this life at first. He imagined his career to be close to his family, in the comfort of the town he grew up in, secured that everything he needs are just within reach. He can even close his eyes and drive to my place if he wanted to. He doesn't need GPS; he knows the roads by heart. I can only imagine all the things he'd do if we stayed in our previous jobs. It will look like this:
His mom will cook tostada for breakfast. He'll wash his face and brush his teeth in front of a big mirror with ceramic sink. His toothbrush, razors, towels, and creams will be at the same corner; he can do his routine without minding that another person will use the bathroom because it is his bathroom. And nobody will sigh whenever he forgets to flush the toilet. He will go to their dining area with plates already lined up, with food waiting for him, his mom ironing clothes and telling him random stuff. Then his siblings will walk across the room, or his dad, and it will be another day of going to work or church or someplace else. He will play his video games using his large screen. Oh, how he loves his Xbox! He will try to choose a game among his mountain of collections and he'll end up playing Fallout or Resident Evil. He will do this for hours and days and weeks and he won't bother that any of his routine will change.
And then one day, I told him about my plans of finally doing travel nursing. I was excited. I would tell him about this travel nurse working in our unit and convincing me to do the same. I would research about travel communities and blogging world and he'd just nod. I was into it. I was thrilled by the idea of it, but he was sad and hesitant. It came to that point when I told him I can go. Alone. Solo. And that would mean us breaking up. I know the idea is horrendous but traveling around every three months? With new people, new cultures, I mean all these changes are going to happen, and we both know we will be different people after.
We all know what happened next: He decided to come with me.
I used to have nightmares of him leaving in the middle of our contract and going back home. I was anxious that he might not like it because he'd miss his family so much. I was worried about our housing situation- how to find an apartment that will accept tenants on a short lease or how to function with limited furnitures. On top of this, it is a known fact in nursing community that couples and groups experience a little more difficulty finding jobs at the same hospitals or hospitals within a reasonable commute of one another. It's because some hospitals maintain a policy prohibiting couples from working at their facility at the same time. They cite problems that they’ve experienced with companies in the past as the reason. In addition, it’s always a little more difficult to land jobs for multiple people in any given location. That’s just the nature of the game.
My mind's exploding at the thought of him not being satisfied with our work environment. What if our new coworkers are mean? What if the place is chaotic and more toxic than where we were? How are we going to spend holidays away from home? What if the travel isn't worth it? What if I didn't make the right choice?
"What if he's not happy?"
I used to imagine his face with disappointment. I used to try so hard doing all things that would make him comfortable and not feel homesick. I look at him and I feel at home, but... what if he doesn't feel the same way?
Second week of February ended our travel assignment contract in Lufkin. This is it. The moment of truth. I finally had the courage to ask him what his thoughts are. If he still wants to go on, or just stop. There was tug of war inside my gut. I wanted him to say that he'd stay with me and travel some more but I don't want to be selfish. I just want him to be happy whether it's with me or not.
It's hard to gauge what a happy relationship means but in this lifestyle, I found out that having the same goals and plans is one way to start accommodating each other's needs. I still plan on doing this again and I don't see it ending soon. It taught me how to be a better nurse. It made me feel human again. I was high. It was amazing.
So when I asked him about his plans, he smiled and said he'll do it again in a heartbeat. I felt relieved.
What changed his mind?
At this point, I already made peace with myself knowing and finally believing that our relationship grew stronger than I could ever imagine. Maybe he got used to our arguments? By the way, when we're traveling, we argue a lot.
A LOT. I posted a whole other article for that here and we never had a problem that we couldn't fix since that day. From simple details to complicated ones, somehow, our spirits are less stressed. We see a different view and that helps our perspective. We became better people than our past selves.
We never lived together under the same roof before our travel assignment. Yes, we'd go on week-long trips like during that time when we went on cruise but actually breathing the same air freshener (and farts, lol) and compromising each other's privacy? Traveling revealed a lot about us. We discovered our weaknesses and strengths. And what came out of it? We perfected adjusting to our limitations.
Doing our weekly groceries has played a great part on how we communicate, too! Who would have thought that weighing which meal to cook, what guilty pleasure to buy and whatnot could bring us closer? It is really true that as humans, the indelible treasure in our hearts and minds when experiencing something new together can be everlasting. It is reassuring to know that there is somebody with me to share adventures with. Somebody was there when it was fun and when it was scary.
Judging from our past conversation, our sense of humor became more in sync. There are times when situations don't go as planned and things just go horribly wrong and you just laugh about it. It could be the disgusting food from the cheap hotel you booked online, or from nasty comments made by a stranger who didn't have anything to do with you. At the end of the day, no matter how terrible the day went by, both of you gained one more golden story to laugh about in the future.
After our first travel nursing assignment, YES, WE CAME OUT ALIVE! And OUR RELATIONSHIP IS STRONGER THAN EVER.
My experience may vary from other travel nurse couples out there because Luis and I are both nurses who only accept same hospital contracts. If you're a travel nurse couple but with different set up, read on.
Retired spouse or significant other of a travel nurse
If your spouse or significant other is retired, then the challenge is greatly reduced. Most people have thought about what they will do when they are retired (like travel) so now is the time for your spouse or significant other to look into those interests and hobbies that have always been on hold. This is also a great opportunity to travel in locations close to the kids and grandkids. If they are retired and bringing in extra income is not a huge priority, then a retired spouse or significant other is in a great position to take care of the issues like taxes, finances, your house back in your hometown and you (hey you’re the one still working so make sure they take care of everything at home so you can relax).
Spouse or significant other who is also a travel nurse
This is the easiest situation, but does present some of its own challenges as far as finding assignments in the same city if not same hospital at the same time. This will require a great recruiter and travel nursing company and a lot of pre-planning on your part. Another challenge of this is to make sure that you try to get your schedules as closely synced as possible so you don’t miss out on the chance to enjoy your travel location together. You don’t just want to transfer a life where you don’t see each other to a new locale; you want to enjoy all the benefits of a travel nursing job. So make sure you work with your recruiter and nurse manager to see how often you can work the same schedules or at least coordinate one or two days off together a week. And hopefully you can avoid a situation where one of you is working the night shift and the other the day.
Another option here is to take turns working the travel nursing jobs. Instead of you both working during one 13 week stretch you could alternate. And another option is to both work a ton for 2-3 assignments a year and have 3 months off together. By then you should have seen enough of each other enough that going back to work sounds like a vacation.
Non traveler spouse or significant other of a travel nurse
The challenges of having a spouse or significant other who is not retired or a traveler while you are a travel nurse is really keeping them busy and productive away from home. If you have already made the decision for them to leave their job or career behind while you use travel nursing to make extra money and see the country then hopefully the two of you have thought through what they will do while you are at work. But if you haven’t or you have realized that you need or want them to supplement the household income then are some cool job options for spouse or significant others of travel nurses.
Some other options are working with a temporary staffing agency. Many industries rely on staffing agencies just like nursing does so be sure to check out that option. It is a great way for them to gain new skills and broaden their career network while you travel.
Another option for them is to go back to college online. There are tons of great online university degree programs all you need is an Internet connection, time and motivation. Just search for online colleges and you will find tons of resources.
A few other rewarding options I have seen spouse or significant others of travel nurses take:
- Substitute teaching
Links for spouse or significant others of travel nurses
- Does your spouse or significant other/SO travel with you? AllNurses.com Forum discussion
- Adventures in Travel Nursing
- Travel Nurse: Have Husband, Will Travel
- Food, Fitness, & Fun in All 50 States: A Travel Nursing Survival Guide Blog: Our Journey, Advice, & Dieting Tips from the Road
- Fast Facts for the Travel Nurse: Travel Nursing in a Nutshell
My travel agency is Medical Solutions. If you've been wanting to join the gypsy nurse life and don't know where to start, feel free to message me for referrals. 🙂 If you have questions about Travel Nursing in general, you are welcome to join our Travel Nurse Group on Facebook! Have a good day everyone!
Psalm 32:7-8 For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you."