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