Have you ever wondered what it was like to watch Orcas swim near the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington? How about climb your first 14’er in Colorado? Have you ever been in Seattle when the Seahawks won a Super Bowl? I’ve been able to do all those things because I made the scary but exhilarating decision to become a travel PT. If you’re considering this option, but not sure about it yet, I’d like to share four superb reasons to make the leap into travel PT.
Reason #1 – Travel therapy is a great way to explore new places.
Maybe you’ve heard exciting stories about working in Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA, or Seattle, WA – where there are tons of things to see and do. And yes, big cities are great, but not all of us love the cement jungle. For example, I had the opportunity to work in Cortez, Colorado, a city of only 10,000 people. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until I packed up my car and moved there on a Friday from my home in Colorado Springs to start work on a Monday. Turns out it is one of the best places on planet earth! Cortez is located in southwest Colorado about 1.5 hours from Moab and forty minutes from Durango, CO. While in Cortez, I was working outpatient and inpatient at a small regional hospital and got to explore the local attractions like Mesa Verde, Dolores, CO and enjoyed some great mountain biking. I even got to learn a lot about Navajo and Ute Native Americans. I can still say “Hello Grandma,” in Navajo! I currently have an OT friend who just finished an assignment in Texas where her best friend lives, she will be in Washington state for the next four months to be close to her older sister, and then will head up to Alaska to be close to her younger sister. These kinds of adventures are possible, you just have to take that first travel job!
Reason #2 – You can have more money and time off as a travel therapist.
Nowadays, we all seem to graduate with a significant amount of student debt and I was no exception. As a traveling therapist I made a significant amount more money to pay back my loans. I would encourage you to talk to a trusted recruiter about how taxes, per diem meals/housing and bonuses work. Need some time off? This year I took a month long vacation (March 2015) to travel the west coast between assignments, and I didn’t have to request PTO! With a little extra coin in your pocket you can afford to live the lifestyle you desire without breaking the bank. This is not to say you will be instantly rich. Budgeting, financial goals and investments should be high priorities especially for new grads, but working as a travel therapist it is a good opportunity to pad the wallet and decrease that debt load.
Reason #3 – Travel therapists build a great network of interesting people.
That last paragraph may have your heart rate up and you may be looking at your bank account, car, or REI catalog thinking, yeah, I want the money. To be honest, though, the money is just a small portion of being a happy travel therapist. The BEST part of traveling is meeting new and interesting people. For example, at an assignment in Colorado I met an OT, with a PhD in communication who worked with me in the neuro/trauma ICU. We are friends to this day. His wife is a professional Freestyle ski Judge, pottery expert and they own an art studio. This OT has traveled the country, can keep his cool in any situation and lives a life that most envy. I’ve routinely meet people who work in industries that I was previously unfamiliar with; for example, a TV producer, a professional writer, professional ski patrollers, and professional mountain bikers.
Reason #4 – Travel therapy helps you decide where to settle down.
A great part of being a travel PT is finding your “place.” For me, I’ve found that mountains bring me excitement, joy, and recreation which is why I reside in Washington State. Other people love Southern California and the ocean, the Southwest and the desert, or quite rural Northern Michigan. You have to get out and explore to find the right fit. Being a travel therapist affords you the time, flexibility, and compensation to experiment with various locations.
Have I given you enough reasons to get out and travel?
I hope so. It has been a life-changing experience for me.
How about you?
Do you have any travel PT stories you’d like to share? Are there any reasons to becomes a travel therapist that you’d like to add to my list? I’d love to hear them….
Justin Johnson is currently living and working in Bellingham, WA. Justin graduated from Central Michigan University with his DPT in 2008 and earned his GCS designation in 2011. Justin has worked for large trauma 1 and teaching hospitals along with diverse settings as a travel PT for many years. During the winters Justin can be found sliding up and down mountains on his skis or at Mt. Baker where he is a volunteer ski patroller. During the months where there is no snow he can be found on two wheels. You can reach him at JMJohnsonDPT@gmail.com.