You guys. I'm sorry. It's been a LONG time since you've heard from me. I do have some good excuses though.
1. I'm pregnant. :)
2. Work has picked up a ton. I'm grateful.
3. We've been traveling a lot! I spent some time in Ocracoke, NC for my brother's wedding in May, and then Beau and I spent his vacation in the French Alps (!!!) with our best friends and their family. It's been a great summer.
So yeah, speaking of travel...let's chat about it! Travel is a huge passion of ours and I feared that we wouldn't be able to do much of it during residency. Because, well, residents are poor (ha) and don't have a lot of time off. But I'm here to tell you that you can TOTALLY do it. And we've done a lot of it. Want proof?
In the past 3 years of residency, we've:
1. Backpacked and hiked through Glacier National Park in Montana
2. Skied and snowboarded at Whistler in Vancouver, Canada
3. Backpacked the Napali Coast and visited a dear friend in Hawaii (and then I went back one more time without Beau. Oops?)
4. Visited some friends and did some great hiking in Denver, Colorado
5. Road tripped down the California coast with stops at Big Sur, San Francisco and Sonoma
6. Back to Denver for some skiing and another visit with friends
7. Spent a few days at Priest Lake in Idaho with residency friends.
8. Rented a beach house in Southern California with some of our best friends from college
9. Road tripped through New Haven CT, Portland ME and Boston MA to visit some of our best friends from medical school.
10. Adventured through northern and central Vietnam
11. And most recently, that ol' trip to the French Alps
This list doesn't even include an annual trip back to Georgia to visit our families for Christmas (and I usually go solo at least 1-2 additional times per year). Not to mention numerous weekend trips to nearby destinations such as Bend, the Oregon Coast, Hood River, Smith Rock and Seattle.
If you're a current or soon-to-be resident, I hope this list encourages you! And while you may want to punch me in the face after reading that, I promise you, we are not wealthy (far from it) and Beau only has 3-4 assigned weeks of vacation per year. Want to know my tips on how to make this happen for yourself? Good, cause imma' tell you.
That whole money thing
It's true. Sadly, you need money to travel. And even more sadly (cool grammar usage, Lindsay), if you're anything like us, you probably don't have a lot of it. Contrary to those rumors about the luxurious life of a doctor's wife, I was the SOLE financial provider for four years during medical school. We even had to have my parents co-sign our lease on a 1-bedroom ON CAMPUS apartment in Virginia because our landlord said that I didn't make enough money to reliably pay for rent (we did, thankyouverymuch). So that was fun.
While you do receive a salary during residency, it probably ends up being a few bucks an hour if you break it down to how much you're working vs. how much you're being paid. And then there's the whole $100,000-$200,000 in medical school debt. Which is a whole 'nother story for a whole 'nother day.
I feel like I've gotten the point across. The travel budget isn't huge.
So, my first tip is to figure out your priorities. We value travel, so that's where our expendable income goes. We don't buy organic or shop at the fancy grocery stores. We go out to eat MAYBE once a week. I shop for clothes around twice a year and I've never been able to justify paying more than $30 for a shirt. Most of our furniture came from ikea or craigslist. You get the picture.
Second tip: camping is your friend. We genuinely love backpacking and camping, so that's been a GREAT way to avoid spending money on hotel rooms.
Third tip: visit your friends! Chances are, many of your medical school friends dispersed all over the country (did I mention my friend in Hawaii?). Take advantage of that! Visiting friends is a win-win-win...not only do you have a free place to stay, but you also get to spend time with WONDERFUL people who you likely haven't seen in a while and get a local's perspective on wherever you're visiting. Do it.
(note that as a result of camping and visiting friends, we only paid for lodging on 4 of those 11 trips I mentioned above. WIN.)
Fourth tip: go to Vietnam. Okay, that sounds ridiculous, but let me explain. It cost us $200 LESS per person to fly to Vietnam than it did to fly to Atlanta for Christmas. And then when we arrived, our mid-range hotels (which included breakfast) were $10-$14 a night. Beer was 50 cents. Dinners out were $3/person. THIS IS NOT A JOKE. While it sounds so extravagant, Vietnam was one of our least expensive trips we've done. Look for affordable destinations...I assure you that they're out there!
Fifth tip: Say yes to opportunities. Sometimes you just get lucky and your best friend invites you to the French Alps with her family. SAY YES TO THIS. Obviously this isn't a tip that everyone can necessarily follow, but I think the heart behind it is to be willing to say yes to traveling. Residency is tiring and time is tight. If travel is a value for you, you have to make time for it.
That whole time off thing
It's true, you don't have a ton of time off during residency. The other strange thing is that you're typically assigned WHEN you can take a vacation. But here's how residency has benefitted us — because your time is limited, you value it more.
We've been trained to take no free moment for granted. Heck, even a weekend when Beau has both days off is CELEBRATED and lived to the full. I think we've squeezed more "life" into less time than we ever did before we started this whole medical journey. And that's awesome.
Plus, I honestly think that Beau's program has a fairly generous vacation policy. We get three weeks/year (assigned...so you can't necessarily choose when) + 5 days of a holiday block (meaning you either work the 5 days around Christmas or New Years, but you get the other 5 days off). I don't believe that's much different than many jobs in other industries. Be encouraged!
That whole planning ahead thing
Plan ahead, my friends! Beau's schedule for the following year comes out every Spring. And we usually have our entire year of vacations picked out shortly thereafter. Mostly because we're both insane, type-A freaks, but, I will say that it has truly helped us commit to places we want to go and make the most out of our limited time together.
I have more time on my hands than Beau does these days, so I've stepped into the role of family trip planner. I'll typically email friends who have visited our destinations in the past, search around the internet (tripadvisor.com! travel guides from trusted sources!), and for bigger trips like Vietnam, we'll often purchase a Lonely Planet book.
We usually have no more than a single week to spend in these places (the fact that we did Vietnam in 8 days is kind of insane), so we end up packing a lot of activity into a short amount of time. And the reality is, that requires planning ahead. We didn't waste a second of our time in Vietnam sitting around and wondering what to do, because we had made the majority of those decisions (and pre-booked a lot of the associated logistics) beforehand.
Moral of the story? You can totally do this. Being a resident (or being married to one) doesn't mean that you have to miss out on adventure. I promise. :)
Oh, and P.S., if you ever want any specific travel advice about any of the destinations I mentioned above, I'd be happy to chat! I even have some pretty type-A google docs that I'd be happy to share with you. Just shoot me an email or leave me a comment on the social medias.
Get out there and see the world, my friends. It's always worth it.
Love & Respect,