Many healthcare providers decide to embark on a career in travel nursing or travel therapy. Experiencing different cities, cultures, and adventures while growing as a healthcare professional is definitely desirable, and for our occupational therapist Lacey, the travel therapy experience became far more than visits to new cities. Lacey found an incredible love story waiting for her on her first travel assignment.
Lacey's Inspiration Behind Becoming a Travel OT
Lacey began her career as an Occupational Therapist in 2012. She had a deep desire to help people get back to living their life. "I saw life as more than exercise sets, and wanted to help people pursue more functional goals, such as feeding themselves and cooking a meal," she said. Before leaping into the travel world, Lacey worked at a permanent job at a level one trauma rehab center. Although she had a passion for this work, she "knew something was missing," and that she wanted to explore and experience life. Being single and without kids, Lacey felt she had the perfect opportunity to travel. "It was just my dog and me!" Plus, who doesn't want to get paid to go on adventures to cool places? Lacey shared a few of the cool places she has visited, including Craig, Colorado; Chico, California; and Las Vegas, Nevada.
How Lacey's Travel Therapy Career Led to Love
One of the coolest places Lacey visited was Craig, Colorado. The scenery, the weather, and the opportunity to take snowboarding lessons drew her in. Jumping into the unknown, Lacey chose Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to take lessons, about one hour from her place in Craig. She arrived at her first lesson late - which she blames on the mountain, GPS, and an inadequate explanation of where to park - but it must have been fate. Her snowboard instructor "was not amused by my tardiness," Lacey says. But we're pretty sure the instructor forgave her because he turned out to be Justin, Lacey's now fiancé!
After two more lessons with Justin, the snowboard instructor, they exchanged numbers, and Justin asked Lacey out for drinks. Wouldn't you believe it, Lacey had to turn Justin down! She had to get back to her dog! But Lacey told Justin she'd give him a call if she were ever in the Steamboat Springs area again. Luckily, about one month later, Lacey decided to move to Steamboat Springs because many of her coworkers lived there. Lacey reached out to Justin shortly after her move; they went out for drinks, and "the rest is history," she says.
The unexpected love story continues with a wanderlust-worthy proposal in Maui. The couple were vacationing in Maui between Lacey's assignments and went out to dinner and the market one night. "Justin was adamant and rushed me out of the market for a sunset beach walk," Lacey remembers. They finally made it to the beach to watch the sunset when Justin got down on one knee and proposed! This next step in their love story meant figuring out how to navigate Lacey's travel career and their lives together.
Tips for Navigating the Travel Life with a Non-Healthcare Worker
Lacey and Justin have worked out a great system to allow Lacey to travel to assignments and for Justin to join her. Lacey chooses healthcare facilities where she can get travel therapy extensions and places where Justin can find a job. They have a general rule that they will only apply to jobs that are in larger cities or vacation destinations, and they like to stay longer than 13 weeks. This allows Justin to find a job with less difficulty and not have to worry about changing jobs as frequently. "Most importantly, we always make our decision together," Lacey shares. She says finding housing within budget is probably the most stressful part of the process. But they have gotten much better at avoiding scams and inadequate housing. They use Facebook groups, Furnished Finder, Airbnb, and VRBO to find travel housing when preparing for Lacey's assignments.
Lacey and Justin have been navigating life together for some time now. They have several great tips on how to travel with a non-healthcare working significant other. When it comes to packing, Lacey and Justin each have a car, and they only move with what will fit in both cars. They use walkie talkies for the long-distance car rides that put them in locations without cell phone service. They have also learned that liquids do not travel well at higher elevations and mountain passes, so going without or double-bagging liquid items is helpful. Lacey compares packing the car to "a real-life game of Tetris." They also share that they have two cars because it helps Justin be more flexible with finding a job and the hours he works. Lacey shares that for travel therapy and nurses, "extensions are your friend!" This helps Justin be able to stay at a job longer than 13 weeks and spend less time and effort finding new jobs so frequently. Extending travel therapy assignments is also helpful for saving money, she says, "This has proved to be the best financial option for us."
How Working with a Healthcare Staffing Agency Helps
"I wanted to broaden my experience as a therapist, but I did not want to find assignments on my own or secure my own contracts, insurance, malpractice, and connections," Lacey shares. "Travel therapy has expanded my professional experience more than I ever thought it would have when I started." The most important aspect of working with a staffing agency for her was finding a recruiter she could trust. While incidentals like health insurance benefits and housing are absolutely necessary, it was the bond with her recruiter Josh that allowed her to travel more freely. "My recruiter has always gone above and beyond for me. Josh respects my decisions, and advocates for me during all my assignments," Lacey says. "He always finds the best assignments for me and takes Justin into account, which shows he cares about us as a non-traditional traveling pair."
For those on the edge of making the decision to take on travel therapy jobs, Lacey’s advice is to go for it! Despite "fear of others" projecting she would only work in bad situations, this travel therapist has it good! "Living and working as a travel OT is amazing and the best professional experience I've made yet. I met my fiancé on my first travel assignment, which was definitely not in my plans. However, life happens at the most unexpected time!"
Lacey stepped into the career of travel therapy with a desire to travel and experience life differently. Now she's found more than what she was looking for and shares her adventures with her fiancé, Justin!