Written by: Jared Casazza, PT, DPT
Different Types of Travel Therapists
The majority of therapists choose to pursue travel therapy for somewhere between 1-2 years. There are a variety of reasons for why this is the case, but for many it is due to either (1) wanting to break up the monotony that is usually a part of permanent positions, or (2) to make extra money to pay down debt more quickly. It’s also sometimes a combination of both of these things that causes a therapist to become interested in traveling.
There are some exceptions to this though. Some therapists choose to be “career travelers,” and never truly “settle down” into a permanent job. It’s possible to make a full time, or part time, career out of only working travel jobs. That could mean traveling continuously around the country to various locations, year round, taking about four 13-week contracts per year with minimal time off between contracts, or taking a more laid back approach with 2-3 contracts per year and more time off.
We here at Travel Therapy Mentor definitely consider ourselves Career Travelers. Let me tell you a little more about my and Whitney’s career path as travelers.
We were originally interested in travel therapy for both of the reasons mentioned above (higher pay to pay down student loans, and avoiding the monotony of a permanent job). We initially planned to travel for 4-5 years to not only pay off debt, but to save enough money to have a decent nest egg of investments. After the 4-5 years, we planned to settle down and work a permanent job in either our favorite travel location or possibly back in our hometown.
Right before graduation and beginning to travel is when I developed a strong interest in personal finance and investing, and I discovered that investing instead of paying down our student debt (opting for income driven repayment of student loans) was actually the better choice for me, and Whitney agreed with my analysis. Since our student loan payments are extremely low while traveling and on the REPAYE income based repayment plan, we had a lot of extra money to put toward investment and retirement accounts.
After a couple years of saving and getting good investment returns, it became clear that if we just traveled full time for a few years, we could then easily live off of 1-2 travel assignments per year combined with investment returns, rather than settling down to a permanent, full time job after we “finished” traveling. So, that became our new plan, at least for the forseeable future! In later years, we may still choose to “settle down” somewhere, and take part time/PRN jobs in one location. But for now, we’re loving the 1-2 travel contracts per year!
Only working 1-2 travel assignments per year (which we are now currently doing) allows us a ton of flexibility to travel internationally and also enjoy more time with family, which were two things at the top of our list of priorities. We consider this a “semi-retirement” since we have 6-9 months per year free to do whatever we want each year!
As a traveler, it is actually possible in many cases to make about the same amount as a full time permanent therapist when only working two contracts per year due to the higher pay and lower taxable pay. So even with all of the free time, we are still able to make plenty of money to support ourselves, and our adventures!
With this in mind, I think making a career out of being a travel therapist is a great lifestyle choice that would work for many adventurous people that aren’t excited about settling down somewhere ‘permanently.’
Another advantage of working only a couple of travel contracts per year is that we are able to be more picky with the assignments that we do take. When we were working back to back contracts for the first three years while saving and investing heavily, we did our best to minimize the amount of down time we had between contracts. This was great for us financially, but got exhausting after a few years and led to us settling on a couple of assignments that didn’t really fit us very well during that time.
Now that we’re settling in to a much slower travel pace as “career travelers,” we don’t feel the need to rush and accept sub-par jobs, because we know that we’ll make plenty of money in the couple of contracts that we work each year to cover the downtime, and we also have our investments growing in the background.
Most travel therapists choose a more laid back approach to traveling from the beginning, choosing to take time off between each assignment to relax and unwind. This is a great idea and more balanced overall than how we started out. But, even so, working 45-48 weeks per year is common for many career travelers who do it this way, and when considering that some of that time off between contracts is looking for new jobs and moving, it doesn’t leave much time to relax or take long trips for leisure. After a few years of working at that pace while paying down debt or saving/investing, as long as you’re in a good place financially, is a great time to transition into a slower paced schedule focused on working less and relaxing more.
“Not Everyone Can Travel Forever”
Of course, we know that the travel lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and it may not be feasible for everyone to do this their entire careers.
“What about having a family?” –you’re thinking.
Travel therapists have families. Babies and young kids; cats and dogs; aging parents and grandparents; nieces, nephews, and other family and friends they want to be near!
In many cases, you can make travel therapy suit your lifestyle. Some choose to travel and bring their kids and spouse along. Some choose to leave home for one or two assignments, leaving family behind, then have a PRN job at home for the times they’re at home (or just not work during the time at home). Some choose to take travel assignments in different parts of the country where they do have family they can visit.
There are lots of options. And again, we know it’s not for everyone. But it is a great lifestyle for a lot of us!
Is Being a Career Traveler Right for You?
Travel therapy offers the unique benefit of being able to choose how long you want to take off of work after a contract as long as you can afford to do so, and the higher pay while working the contract makes that possible. This is why I think being a career traveler is a great option. Being a travel therapist doesn’t have to just be a 1-2 year thing to adventure and save money, it can be a permanent thing with great pay, more time off, and a life full of adventure!
Are you interested in just traveling for a couple of years or is this something that you would consider doing long term? Let us know in the comments! Contact us if we can help you get started on the journey!
Written by Jared Casazza, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Traveling Physical Therapist of 3 years. Jared travels with his girlfriend, fellow travel PT and fellow Travel Therapy Mentor, Whitney.