Hi friends! The Marriage & Medicine series is back with another guest post and I couldn't be more excited to introduce you to Christine Diaz! Christine and I met...get this...on a cruise in Halong Bay, Vietnam this past February. While Christine and Hery were also in Vietnam for vacation at the time, these two have turned travel into a full-time job. Hery is a travel nurse, meaning they are packing up and moving every few months. As you can imagine, this has some serious positives and a handful of negatives as well. When Christine reached out and offered to to write about their experiences and give some advice, I jumped at the chance. I know that anyone in a similar situation (whether you or your partner are a travel nurse, member of the military, or in ANY job that operates on short term contracts) will strongly relate. Alright, enough from me...let's get into Christine's essay. Enjoy!
I’m the wife of a pediatric oncology travel nurse – and if you don’t know what a travel nurse is, don’t worry! I didn’t either until my husband became one. Here’s a quick intro: A travel nurse works for an agency (or sometimes multiple agencies) to fill short-term contracts, providing temporary support. These contracts range from one to several months, with the typical contract (in our experience) lasting 13 weeks. Travel nurses have several years of experience and have a specialty – this is crucial when you’re jumping into a new hospital with only three days training and orientation at most. We accept assignments across the country, and with my husband’s specialty, we tend to end up in children’s hospitals located in major metropolitan areas.
Now why would someone want to become a travel nurse? While it definitely grows you professionally and provides a cool opportunity to see the country, the major reason for most, in all honesty, is the pay. Travel nurses fill in for a critical need and are compensated accordingly. In addition, they are offered generous moving, housing, and living stipends. This was the dominant factor in Hery’s and my decision to pursue travel nursing, as he acquired a significant (understatement) amount of student loan debt in undergrad.
Hery accepted his first contract as a travel nurse in late 2014, three months before our wedding. I was finishing up in graduate school, so he sojourned in Omaha, Nebraska on his own while I focused on my thesis and wrapping up the final details of our wedding while living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since then, we have lived in Alexandria, Virginia; Arlington, Virginia; Denver, Colorado; and Los Angeles, California. We’ve taken the past 4 months “off” to travel abroad, but we’re gearing up for a new assignment when we return to the States in May.
Now I know Lindsay already wrote a post about moving for your partner’s career, but I think I can add to the conversation as someone who moves up to four times a year. First I’ll address the practical – how do we even handle the logistics of this? Then I’ll finish up with a little raw, honesty about the pros and cons of this lifestyle. Hopefully this will help any of you who are considering becoming a travel nurse but wondering how it will impact your family or your partner is interested in making this career move (moving pun shamelessly intended).
Quick logistical tips on relocating every three or so months:
1. Hold off on adopting Lassie (or Mr. Ed or Grumpy Cat).
Short term housing is tough enough without having to worry if it’s pet friendly or not. The frequent moves can also be stressful on your furball, causing issues with potty training or behavior.
2. Embrace minimalism.
This one is fun because slow-living, intentional and responsible consumerism, minimalism, and capsule wardrobes are all trending topics right now – and can really enhance your life! I can’t stress enough the importance of whittling down your physical belongings to the essentials. Packing up all you own into boxes, toting them up or down several flights of stairs, stuffing them into your car, becoming a contortionist to fit the boxes in said car while you drive to your new home – possibly hundreds of miles away – and then unpacking those boxes four times a year is tough. Moving day is not my favorite day. But the less you have, the easier it is. Plus, renting a U-Haul every time will add up. If you’re in this career for the financial gains, living with less will not only save you money (and headaches) during moving day, but the habit will also help you achieve your long term monetary goals, as you’re likely to spend less over the course of the year. Suddenly you think twice about acquiring those boots, that flower pot, or another book when you know you’ll have to cram it into your car on moving day. That being said, don’t deprive yourself of books (obtaining a local library membership is a priority for me as soon as we move!) and things that make your apartment feel homey and familiar. Do make space for a favorite potted plant, a framed photo or painting, or your beloved KitchenAid mixer. But choose just a couple of these special items to take with you to make your house a home. Consider donating or selling unnecessary items, or store investment pieces that you’ll want in a later season of life in a family member’s storage room or garage if possible (I’m looking at you, wedding china). Check out Un-fancy, Becoming Minimalist, and Be More With Less for resources and inspo for your minimalism journey.
3. Rent furnished apartments with month-to-month leases.
Not having to move furniture is imperative. We have travel nurse friends who rent unfurnished apartments, bringing a bean bag chair and an air mattress with them as their only furniture. They’re tough stuff. I’m not tough stuff. I want to be relatively comfortable in my own home. So if you’re like me, look for furnished apartments. We’ve had luck with longterm rentals on Airbnb, finding month-to-month furnished apartments on Craigslist, or sub-leasing. I find subleasing to be most successful in university areas, as there’s a constant flux of people moving in and out for temporary periods like a sabbatical, an internship, a fellowship, a summer at home, etc. To make the place feel more familiar, I always bring my own linens, regardless if the owner is offering or providing their own. It’s a priority for me to sleep in my own bedding, on my favorite pillow, and use my soft, plush towels. Figure out what’s important for you!
Okay, now for that raw bit I promised you:
1. Making friends is hard.
Or at least, it takes time, and it’s not quite as simple as it was in college. You have to be intentional about it. For me, this means I quickly identify a church to attend every weekend and see if there is a small group that caters to the 20s-30s crowd. I also try to find a yoga studio and get a monthly membership – I might become friends with the regulars after a couple weeks of classes. I check out my social media network to see if any old friends or acquaintances are now calling this same city home – and if so, I take the initiative and invite them to an activity. Finally, I give myself permission to be a tourist in my new city – BY MYSELF. Chances are, I’ll be more open to having a conversation with a random person at the local art museum or café if I attend alone, and we probably have a common interest. I’ll be honest, I struggle with this one because it takes time to find “your people,” and three months isn’t very much time. But it forces me to connect with and potentially impact the lives of others that I probably wouldn’t have normally in my own close, comfortable circle of friends.
2. Work online.
If you want to pursue your own career while your partner is a travel nurse, it will be worlds easier if you’re able to work remotely. This is great for freelance writers, editors, and copywriters (ahem, me!); freelance graphic designers, illustrators, and developers; self-employed individuals (artists, consultants, bloggers, etc.); those who work for remote companies; those who teach or tutor online; etc. There are really tons of possibilities in today’s working culture with social media, the internet, digital project management and communication tools...You just have to be creative and persistent.
3. You’ll grow closer to your partner than ever before.
This is super sappy and cliché, but home becomes where your loved one is. When you don’t have many close friends or family nearby, you turn to your beloved for friendly convos, advice, and fun outings more than ever before. You really learn to rely on each other, spend time together, and to communicate with each other – you have to in order to survive this crazy career choice! You also have the chance to explore new places together – three months is a great amount of time to dig into a location and get to know its character and community. Who knows, you might even find the place you want to settle down, buy a house, and adopt Lassie!
We’re just one example of a couple living the travel nurse lifestyle. There are many others, some with kids, some with traditional careers, and even some with pets. All in all, you have to commit to being creative, open-minded, and adventurous. And if you have any questions about living as the spouse of a travel nurse, shoot me an email or find me on Instagram! I’d love to hear from you!
CHRISTINE. I cannot thank you enough. Your advice is gold and surely so helpful for others in a similar situation. Thank you for your honesty and for taking the time to be a part of this community. Oh, and happy travels to you and Hery! :)
Love & Respect,