Travel Therapy With a Spouse Who’s Not a Healthcare Professional

Guest Post by Ryan Eldridge for Travel Therapy Mentor

We often get questions from healthcare professionals who want to travel, but they are unsure if it’s feasible for them due to having a spouse or significant other who isn’t a healthcare professional. Fortunately, we know many travelers who have made it work traveling with their partner or family. Everyone’s situation will be different, but there are many options to explore to allow your partner to join you on your travel healthcare journey. Some travelers are in situations where their partner may not need to work and can come along for the journey, but many are interested in learning how their partner can still work and earn income while on the road. We asked our friends Kayla and Ryan to share their story on how they have been able to make remote work possible for Ryan, a software developer, while Kayla, a Physical Therapist, takes travel contracts around the country! Check it out below to see what Ryan has to share!


Traveling for work is such a rewarding lifestyle. Life can’t get much better than being able to see the world and having amazing adventures while still earning a living. Whether you’re a solo healthcare traveler, or traveling with a friend, a significant other or a family, you get the opportunity to have these incredible, unforgettable experiences. In our case, we are a married couple that travels together, and we feel very fortunate to be able to share these experiences together.

What We Do for Work

I am a software developer and my wife, Kayla, is a traveling Physical Therapist. We started traveling about a year and a half ago in late 2020. It was a fairly easy transition for me as I fortunately have a job that allows me to work remotely, so that I was able to travel with her without having to figure out an alternative solution.

After working for my company for a few years, more and more people started to leave and work from home, so I took advantage of this and did the same. Initially, it was just to save on time and money from the commute, but it worked greatly in our favor since we decided to start traveling.

Suggestions for Finding Remote Work

Try going remote at your current job

The easiest solution to finding remote work is to try to work your current job remotely. This doesn’t apply to every job, but if you think your job can be done as well remotely as in the office, then I have a couple of suggestions.

Before asking your boss, get prepared. Have concrete examples and actual numbers. 

Try researching the topic. I particularly enjoyed the book “Remote: Office Not Required” by Jason Fried. This can help you come up with good examples of the benefits of remote work that you can share with your boss.

Develop a communication plan

Lack of communication is oftentimes the reason why bosses may not want their employees to work remotely. Propose a solution ahead of time, such as daily updates in emails, or short meetings, or maybe a weekly catch up meeting to go over goals and how things are going. Having suggestions ahead of time shows you’re serious and are willing and able to make it work.

Leverage time or status at company

If you’ve been at the company for a long time, or have an important job that is tough to fill, make sure to leverage that. Let them know you’re serious, and if they don’t let you work remotely they could lose a valuable employee. However, be prepared to walk away from the job if they disagree.

Look for a new job

Even if you’re trying to keep your current job, it may be beneficial to look for new jobs in the same position that hires remote workers. You can use them as leverage and show that other companies are doing it, and you can get a head start on finding a new job if modifying your current job doesn’t pan out.

Can’t Work Remotely?

If you’re looking for new work opportunities, there are many options out there. Keep an open mind and maybe try a few different ones to find what works for you.

Work Camping

Some campsites, National Parks, and RV parks offer Work Camps where you can do seasonal work for them. This can be a great option for those that travel in an RV. Oftentimes this means you can work for a few months right at the park where you are staying. This could include cleaning and maintaining the park, or being a full camp host that stays on site to help out guests and manage reservations. Keep in mind that if they offer you to stay on site at no cost, you are still required to pay duplicate expenses to meet tax home requirements if your significant other (travel healthcare worker) is receiving non-taxable stipends, so be sure to factor that thought into your plans.

Seasonal Work

Seasonal work options could include painting houses, landscaping, shoveling/plowing snow, theme parks, and Amazon or other shipping warehouses especially around the holidays.

Apps

Driving jobs through Uber, Lyft, Doordash, etc are another option. These work better if you have a fuel efficient vehicle. There are also some lesser known apps out there for things such as Pet Sitting, Dog Walking, or random tasks like putting together furniture from TaskRabbit.

Freelance Work

If you have a skill that you can monetize, you can try freelancing. You can start a career in freelance web development, graphic design, UX design, writing, and much more by building a couple solid pieces of work and networking. You could try doing your freelancing through sites such as Upwork, but I’d suggest only using it to start building a portfolio and networking, as it’s infamous for people taking reduced pay from cheaper cost of living countries. You could also create and sell products on Ebay or Etsy.

Other options

There are many other options out there you could explore for either remote work or temporary work at your travel locations. Do your research and see if there is an option out there that could work for you!

Logistics of Remote Work

RV vs. Short Term Housing: Workspace & Internet Access

After determining the job situation, you have to decide how you want to travel. We decided to buy an RV, and one consideration with this decision was that it needed a good workspace. We found an RV with a mid-bunk room that I was able to modify and turn into my office.

The bunk room did not have enough space for a normal desk because the slides come in during travel, so I designed and built a desk that swivels out when we are on location, or swivels in over the built-in cabinets during travel. 

Another option is removing furniture in the living room or dining room to build a workspace. If you don’t need the extra monitors, keyboard, etc. many people just bring their laptop to the kitchen table. But personally, I wanted a separate work space from my living space to improve my work-life balance.

One of our challenges was figuring out what to do for internet. Getting consistent internet is a big can of worms coming from an RV perspective. RV parks have spotty internet and are rarely reliable enough for full time work. We’ve found that using mobile hotspot data works the best. Having multiple plans with multiple carriers ensures we always have a connection no matter our location. You can put those plans in phones, hotspot devices, or what we use is a mobile connected router that can take multiple SIM cards and creates a WiFi connection you can use just like you would in a home connection. Plus it gives the ability to connect a robust antenna to get more range than you would from just a hotspot or phone.

If you need to have video conference meetings frequently, another great option would be a tablet plan. Most carriers have plans for unlimited data on tablets that may require digging to find but are actually quite affordable. Then you can use your tablet for video conferencing without worrying about data limits. The downside is that it is harder to boost the connection as you can’t attach an antenna, but you can use a signal booster.

Signal boosters are different from a mobile router and an antenna as they can boost the signal of your phone or tablet wirelessly. It also boosts the signal of your phone allowing better reception for calls and hotspot data. The downside is they are less reliable and will often show no benefit. 

If you’d like to read more in-depth about how we set up our internet on the road, check out our blog post on mobile internet strategies here!

The cost of set-up depends on your needs. It all depends on how much data you need, where you plan on going, and how reliably you need to stay connected.

If you choose the short-term housing route, this could be simpler. Make sure your short term residence has a comfortable workspace for you. The internet may already be set up and included in the cost of renting. Sometimes it is not and you have to set it up yourself, but don’t forget to cancel it when you leave. If you don’t use much data, a simple data/hotspot plan and tablet plan could be a good option since short-term housing will likely be in areas where you won’t need advanced antennas and boosters to pick up a signal. This means you won’t have to get it set up again every time you move.

Transportation

If you travel with two vehicles, transportation won’t be a problem. We only have one vehicle, which is our truck that we tow our fifth wheel with, which Kayla usually drives to work, so I am usually without a vehicle during the day. We try to stay within walking or biking distance to her work so we can share the truck more easily. When we cannot stay close to her work, and I need the truck for the day, I will drop her off and then find a place to work from close-by. I usually work from a library, a coffee shop, or sometimes her workplace has a room they are willing to let me use for the day. I have also used the bus systems in town for transportation when needed.

Time Off Between Contracts

Kayla will usually take time off between Travel PT contracts before starting her next contract. So far she has only taken 1-2 weeks off, but this summer she will be taking 4-5 months off so we can go on a road trip!

If she was traveling alone, she would have to figure out a plan for her health insurance between contracts, but since she is on my employee plan, she is covered during this time, which makes things easier for her.

One downside of her taking this much time off is that I am not able to take the same amount of time off with my job. Since I am not able to take that much time off, I try to utilize my work time as efficiently as possible so that we can still have most of the day to go out for adventures.

When we’re traveling from one location to another, Kayla does most of the driving while I sit in the passenger seat working. This works well for us because Kayla enjoys driving and has no issues with towing our fifth wheel, plus it allows me the time I need to do my work.

We have run into some issues though, mostly towards the beginning of our travels when we were getting accustomed to this lifestyle. Kayla prefers to take the scenic routes whenever possible, but this often means losing signal en route and I am unable to work. We have a signal booster to help with these instances, but when driving through the mountains we still don’t get enough reception, so we have to stick to interstate driving to avoid this issue.

I always inform my job ahead of time that we are moving locations just in case the signal cuts out. We try to plan our travel days/times around when I have meetings so that I don’t accidentally miss something important at work. We also try to visit places and get some hikes in while traveling between contracts. Oftentimes this means working at odd hours either at night or on weekends so that we can explore during the day.

Is Traveling Feasible for You?

Traveling for work can be tricky, but if you’re creative anything is possible. This experience has been so worthwhile. The number of places we’ve been and the experiences we’ve had in just over a year of traveling is far more than what either of us had anticipated. We initially thought we would only travel for 1-3 years, but after experiencing how incredible the lifestyle has been, we don’t see ever staying in one place again!

We definitely encourage you to look more into this way of life to see if it’s right for you!

If you would like to hear more about our specific experience including how we made the decision to travel, buying our truck and RV, and the places we have been, visit our website eldridgeexpedition.com or follow us on Instagram or Facebook @eldridgeexpedition.

Written by Ryan Eldridge
Guest post for Travel Therapy Mentor

Finding Short Term Housing vs. Living in an RV as a Traveling Healthcare Provider

Finding short term housing vs. living in an RV

*This is a Guest Post that Whitney wrote for Furnished Finder where she discusses the differences in housing options for travel therapists, including some of the pros and cons of each! This post should be helpful to those of you trying to decide what’s the best housing choice for you as a travel healthcare provider!


Finding Short Term Housing vs. Living in an RV as a Traveling Healthcare Provider

One of the major concerns for many healthcare providers looking to pursue travel careers is how they will set up housing. There are many housing options out there for those of us who travel for work, from using sites like Furnished Finder to secure short-term furnished housing, to having the travel agency set you up at an extended stay hotel, to choosing some form of tiny living on wheels like an RV!

During my 5 years as a traveling physical therapist, I have utilized a few of these housing options and have had the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each. (And let me tell you, any option is going to have pros and cons!)

So let’s dive in to some of those pros and cons to considering these different options for housing, and maybe some of my insight will help you along your own travel healthcare journey!

Logistics and Considerations

When you’re considering what option to choose for housing, you will first need to take into account your own personal situation. Are you traveling solo, with a significant other, with children, or with a pet? Do you feel comfortable sharing accommodations or would you rather have your own place? If you’re thinking about tiny living/RVing, do you feel comfortable with the maintenance and upkeep involved with owning a home on wheels, plus towing it around the country?

In addition, you need to consider the location of your potential travel contract(s). Are you interested in traveling to big cities or more rural places? Some quick internet searches can reveal a lot for you as to how easy or difficult it’s going to be to secure short term housing on your own vs. having the travel company assist you with the process. It will also give you an idea of whether finding campgrounds/RV parks in the vicinity of where you might travel will be feasible.

For me, I am a traveling physical therapist and travel with my significant other who is also a traveling physical therapist, so after weighing lots of options, we decided to buy a camper and lived in it for about 3 years! This worked well for us overall as a pair, rather than finding short term housing for the both of us; however, we did end up renting a short term furnished place on a couple of assignments. More on our journey below and how we chose between short term housing and the RV life!

Company Provided Housing

This is actually the only housing option I have not utilized. Generally speaking, it seems that most travel healthcare providers choose to accept the housing stipend from the travel agency and then set up their own housing, rather than letting the company handle housing. There are some travelers who choose to let the company set up housing for them though.

I think generally the best time to let the travel company set up housing for you is if in the area where you’re traveling, you are having a lot of difficulty finding housing on your own, or you are short on time to be able to set this up yourself. Also, some travelers may just find it easier to have this weight lifted off their shoulders and let the company handle it.

The pros of letting the company set up housing for you would be that you have less worry and headache in getting the housing set up. You also probably won’t be on the hook for any rent/lease issues, in case your contract gets cancelled early. However, the cons are that, you may have less control over your accommodations, and you may end up losing money on your weekly pay because they take out a lot for housing instead of giving you the housing stipend!

Finding Short Term Housing On Your Own

I would say this is the option that the majority of travel healthcare providers choose! In your pay package, you will have the company allocate part of your pay as a housing stipend (hopefully tax free if you qualify by maintaining your tax home– hooray!). Then you will utilize different websites, like Furnished Finder; ask around in online forums and groups; call realtors and apartment complexes; and so forth until you can identify some good short term housing options!

The pros here are that you can usually find housing that’s cheaper than what the travel therapy company would take out of your paycheck, so after you pay your rent, you should come out ahead by keeping the extra money! (Who doesn’t like extra money?!) You also have more control over choosing your accommodations, such as proximity to work/attractions, as well as how many bedrooms/bathrooms, and other amenities at the accommodation!

Cons are that it is sometimes difficult to find places that offer short term rentals near where you’re going to be working. I’ve definitely run into this in the times that I had to search for short term housing. A lot of apartment complexes and personal ads for housing do not allow any shorter than 12 month leases. Also, lots of the places you find won’t be furnished or have utilities included, which leaves you with another problem to solve.

I will say that Furnished Finder has solved a lot of these problems for us. They only list places that offer short term leases (or even better, month to month!) for us as healthcare travelers. And all of their listings are already furnished. I can’t stress how much hassle this removes in terms of setting up leases, getting stuck in leases if your contract is cancelled, setting up utilities, and furnishing a place for only a couple months!

But, unfortunately there is never a guarantee that a property on Furnished Finder will be available for the location and dates that you need, so alas we must sometimes use the other options like Craigslist, Airbnb, VRBO, apartment complexes, extended stay motels, realtors, etc!

In my experience, I’ve rented two different places I found off Craigslist for two different assignments. Both were semi-private, meaning that they were part of someone’s home, but we had our own “suite” if you will. One was an over-the-garage studio apartment, but we had to share the kitchen and laundry in the main house. The other was a fully furnished basement with our own kitchen, but we had to enter through the main door and share the laundry upstairs. Overall these were good experiences, and we were very lucky to find furnished, short term rentals, with utilities included in the price, on Craigslist! Because Craigslist can definitely be hit or miss, and sometimes sketchy!

But unfortunately during our searches, we did find that there were extremely limited options for short term housing in the areas that we needed, with the criteria we wanted in an accommodation. When searching for short term housing as a traveler, you are definitely at the mercy of what’s available. So sometimes you’re either going to have to skimp on your ideal setup, or raise your budget, or possibly both.

Another consideration when choosing to set up short term housing as a traveler (whether on your own or with the company’s help), versus choosing an RV, is packing and moving often. This was a big thing we were trying to avoid by buying an RV. In an RV, you always have all your stuff with you, so you don’t have to constantly pack and move in and out of places. But, those travelers who do choose short term housing (again- the majority of travelers) do end up becoming pretty good at packing their cars and being minimalistic! And although it can be a headache sometimes, it’s just part of the traveler lifestyle and you get used to it!

Tiny Living or RV Life

Tiny living, van living, and RVing are definitely becoming more popular options for traveling healthcare providers. There is certainly some appeal to having your own home on wheels with you all the time, and traveling from place to place. To be honest, a lot of RVs now are just like little apartments, and you are by no means “camping outdoors” when living in an RV! However, tiny living is very much a lifestyle choice and not to be pursued by just anyone! It’s difficult to even compare it side by side with the alternative short term housing options, because it’s so different! I recommend not looking at this like option number 3, but like taking a left turn and pursuing a completely different path!

We chose to buy a camper pretty early in our travel PT careers, and there were several reasons why we thought this would work out better for us.

  • First, we thought it would make life easier to leave all of our stuff in the camper and just move it from place to place, without having to always pack, move in, and move out of places every 3 months or so!
  • Second, we thought finding campgrounds/RV parks would make the housing location search a lot easier than finding short term housing accommodations.
  • Third, we thought we would save a lot of money by buying the camper, staying cheaply at campgrounds, and then selling the camper when we were done.
  • Fourth, we thought it would be a cool adventure!

All of those were true, to some extent. However I don’t think it was exactly the all-around-perfect life choice that we envisioned when all was said and done.

Not having to pack and move all the time, and having all of our stuff in the camper with us all the time, was for sure a huge perk! We only had to do minimal “packing up” each time to make sure things didn’t fall down inside the camper. We could usually easily load up and move to a new place (if it was within driving distance) on a weekend, then get set up within an hour or so at the new place, and be back to work on Monday if we wanted!

The campground/RV Park finding process was easier than short term housing to an extent. However, it does sometimes limit the locations you can travel to. For example, it’s not as common to see RV Parks that allow long term (month to month) stays near bigger cities. We had pretty good luck finding them in suburban and rural areas, but it did limit us from going some places. The way we maneuvered this was, when presented with a potential contract to apply for, we instantly did a quick Google search to see if there were even any RV parks nearby before we submitted our applications for the job. That part made it a little more feasible. Because as compared with short term housing, you can’t always do a quick search to know whether there are places to rent readily available for the dates you need, before submitting for the job.

Financially, having the camper usually saved us on our monthly rent costs, with most campgrounds we stayed at costing between $300-900 per month. Whereas depending on the area, short term rentals could run you anywhere from $500-2500 per month! But, with an RV, you still have to account for the upfront cost of buying an RV, the costs for maintenance and repairs, and the depreciation on the vehicle if you plan to sell it afterwards. When all was said and done after factoring in these costs once we sold it, we probably about broke even over the course of 3 years. If you planned to keep it for shorter than 3 years, you’d most likely come out behind financially based on our calculations.

As far as adventure goes, it was certainly a fun experience and something we will be able to talk about for the rest of our lives! But it’s not for everyone. The part we didn’t really take into account were the maintenance and repairs. It’s like owning a house, but one that’s on wheels, with little parts that can break, and you can’t always easily find the part to replace or a repair person who knows how to fix it like at a normal house!

All in all, we are glad we chose to do the RV life for 3 years. But it did not come without its hassles and headaches. In the end, we were glad to sell it and not have the responsibility anymore! So this is a huge thing you need to take into consideration for yourself. Are you going to be the type of person who wants to maintain and upkeep your home on wheels? Or would you rather just rent short term housing and not have a place to worry about all the time?

What Type of Housing Is Best for You?

So what’s the best choice for housing as a traveling healthcare provider? I don’t think there’s one answer to this question. You really have to consider what type of person you are, and what you’re comfortable with. As I mentioned, most travelers will choose to go with short term housing and set up their own accommodations. But there’s always the option of letting the company set up housing for you for an assignment and seeing how that goes. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, or already know you like the camper lifestyle, maybe you decide to jump into RVing/Tiny Living, but just make sure to do your research before making any big purchases!

I hope this information has been helpful to you in terms of deciding what types of housing will be best for you as a traveling healthcare provider! Happy Travels, and enjoy the journey!

 


Written by, Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Whitney has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015 and travels with her significant other and fellow Travel PT, Jared Casazza. Together they have a personal blog titled “Fifth Wheel PT,” which got its name from their 3 years traveling and living full time in a fifth wheel camper! Whitney and Jared have traveled for PT work up and down the east coast, and in their time off between contracts have traveled all over the world! Together with Jared, Whitney also mentors current and future travel therapists at their website TravelTherapyMentor.com. You can follow their travel journey on Instagram or Facebook @TravelTherapyMentor.