Saturday, May 10, 2014

On the journey to Travel Nursing

We are 8+ months into this life of Steve working as a Travel Nurse. I've been receiving many questions about his job so I'll try to give a decent explanation about it all.  I don't even know where to begin because the whole thing is just crazy, especially from the outside looking in. It took me over 6 years to get on this bandwagon so I completely understand if you disagree with our lifestyle decision. I am always looking for truth in everything we do and every decision we make. The biggest truth about daily living is that our days are numbered and life is short. We also know that this worldly life is temporary and only Heaven is forever. Life is an adventure and we can live it in safe mode or adventure mode. I've been in safe mode a long time and today I am thankful so say that we are on an adventure of a lifetime. How long will it last? I don't know. As long as there is still a need for nurses I guess. Travel nursing is a real career and for many nurses, this is a goal. As my husband repeated it to me over and over again, I finally understood what it meant to him...this was his dream job...his career goal.  Aaaah, it takes me years, but I slowly get a glimpse of the importance now. Since experiencing it first hand, I can say that this travel gig is neither corporate nor financially rewarding. He's not "climbing the ladder", we are not banking big money, it's other things to us now. Yes, us!!! I am happy to say...and yet it's still so hard for me to explain.  
Steve has only been an RN since graduating in 2006. I don't know how, but he juggled life around work, kids, home repairs, school work, and completed nursing school even landing a good job at a community hospital before graduation. He really wanted this more than anything and he even saw travel nursing in his future way back then. Me, um not so much! I look back and am amazed at everything he went through to reach this goal, but he did it and we saw God's hand in it all along the way.  During his last semester we nearly lost our home to foreclosure and I literally sold everything we had (but my soul lol) through garage sales, craigslist and Ebay.  So, after all the graduation hoopla, we look around and realize that here we are with 6 kids and we are broke as the day is long. Broke, really broke, no money, no savings...nothing. It's all gone and we are sitting in the money pit that's in foreclosure... really? The only way to start over now is to make more $$ and get more experience. Steve finds his niche in the ER and he works, and he works and he works some more, lots of OT. It bailed us out and now we are saving like mad. So after 5 years of that, he's tired and he's sick. He needs 2 full knee replacements.  He's off work with surgery and physical's hard and he's in pain, but he still dreams of hiking in the mountains... After his recovery he's back to work and yep, you guessed it... back to work means more overtime. So even though Steve maxed out his hourly wage working in the Texas Med Center and earns 6 figures now. It's for what?? remind me again. That's pay bills and possibly for nothing. Realizing that is like a blow to the stomach. We are conditioned to work hard, raise good kids, make money, own a home, etc... we are doing everything right and we are broke and sick and sad most of the time.  We become disillusioned with this lifestyle and some of our birdies start flying away, I agree that it's time. That was 2012. The time has finally come to execute Plan A, also referred to as Operation Freedom. At first, we do not even know what we need to do because we are not sure of what we have not seen but... we do have hope. Even so, we are scared. period. So, we simply pray and read our Bible. We commit our plans to the Lord in secret. We wait for confirmation and we live like people who have purpose again. Just a few months later our house is sold and we are debt free! Our travel nursing journey begins and it's scary...scary good.  
So, cut to the chase...Steve gives his notice and he is almost physically sick over it. Do you know how hard it was to let go of a really secure paycheck?  hard, very hard. The letting go of everything has been the hardest part of it all. All that stuff was our security, but not anymore. We now have a launch date, 9/1/2013, and it's time to secure a travel contract.
There are lots of Travel Nursing jobs out there and with that comes recruiters. Some will promise the moon, some not so much. We are really conservative in selecting a company to contract with, and while they are interviewing Steve, I'm secretly listening in and interviewing them, lol. We can be selective in committing to a contract and we have been. What does the contract look like? Most contracts are 8-13 weeks and most include med insurance, housing and travel expenses. We require housing since we have none, this lowers Steve's hourly wage overall, but it is rolled into the contract and included in the overall compensation package. We also require health insurance, too. Our housing comp includes a furnished apt or house, utilities and all deposits including pets. So far Steve's contracts have been requiring that he work 3 shifts, about 36 hours a week. 
and yes, we travel with 2 cats and so far it has been a good experience with pets. We have discussed purchasing a truck and camper in the future, too. This would give us a larger comp package as the hourly wage would rise and we would receive a housing stipend too, like 3k per month. It would also give us a "home" in between jobs and more time off in between contracts for Steve. We decided to give this travel life a year to see if we liked it and wanted to continue traveling before we made such a big cash purchase. Yes I said cash purchase, today we are still committed to staying debt free, and working our Plan A "operation freedom". So far for me, the biggest drawback we have experienced is the fact that we have no real place to go when Steve is not working. Sure we can head back to Texas and "visit" our family, and we have. We miss them so much everyday. So when the job contract ends, so does the housing. This really questioned my security overall and it could have been a deal breaker. Instead it forced me to trust my heavenly provider completely. We are on the lam, literally, and it's been just fine. Really it has... what do we do? whatever we want. We have vacationed and stayed in Laquinta pet friendly hotels on the way to new contract locations and just embraced the freedom that comes with travel. Our mailing address is at my parents home and once a month my mom packages my mail up and sends it to me. Our jeep insurance bill is on auto draft and so is netflix. I pay our cell phone bill directly  through the phone. We have 3 checking/savings accts with major national banks, so banking has not been an issue. Steve's compensation is direct deposited and all his communication with his travel company is done through emails. Our jeep is very small and we have few personal items and little clothing with us, that is why we are wearing the same clothes in all the pictures I post, lol.  We home school everyday all day long. We are nearing another contract end on June 7. Steve has already started interviewing with hospitals in the Colorado area. Once the hospital wants him then he negotiates the full contract including housing and all compensation. We will once again be thrust into the unknown for a few weeks before settling down in a new location for the summer. We are getting better at this and I'm actually looking forward to the road trip this time. I'm blessed beyond measure to be given another opportunity to experience such unimaginable freedom, to share with strangers and be a stranger, and to see God's magnificent handiwork! 
Travel is teaching us so much and we are all better for it.  
Today life is good and new and exciting...
We trust God's plan for us...and we find peace in his enduring promise to give us hope and a future. 

Jeremiah 29:11

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

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