Here at Travel Therapy Mentor we often get questions from clinicians who are considering travel therapy but who are wondering if they can make it work with their spouse and/or kids. Fortunately, we know many healthcare travelers who have hit the road with their family and found different ways to make it work.
You can check out this post where travel nurse Alex discusses how her and her husband, a physical therapist, travel with their kids and alternate taking travel healthcare assignments. Or this post, where Kayla, a physical therapist, discusses traveling with her spouse who works remotely.
Below, we are excited to bring you Michael’s story. Michael is a physical therapist who travels with his wife and two kids, and his wife takes care of their children while they travel. We hope these stories will be inspirational to you and give you insight if you’re considering pursuing travel healthcare with your spouse and/or family!
Pursuing Travel Therapy with My Family
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I am sure I can speak for many people when I say that working as a healthcare provider, especially in the hospitals, was utterly exhausting. I love what I do as an acute care physical therapist, but the feeling of burnout really started to feel overwhelming as we were pushed to our max, with little hope in sight that weekend requirements and work-life balance would improve.
It was at this time in the early months of 2021, that I began to sincerely feel a change needed to be made. Shortly after I had started to feel this stirring for something different, my wife, Tessa, suggested one night the idea of doing travel therapy. Tessa expected me to say something along the lines of, “No way, you must be losing your mind!” But unbeknownst to her, I had already been considering it.
I was both surprised and a little scared, if I’m being honest, about the real prospect of leaving our permanent positions to pursue the travel therapy life. But, WOW, am I glad we took a chance and decided to embark on this new adventure together!
One of the most important factors for us as a family was ensuring our “why” aligned with this transition.
We realized that travel therapy could help us towards our ultimate goals:
- avoiding burnout professionally
- our desire to travel and explore this beautiful country rather than waiting for our “some day”
- continuing to make progress towards our financial goals of paying off student loan debt and saving for a house
- allowing Tessa to spend more time at home with the kids during these important formative years, without completely sacrificing our income
- and seeking opportunities which offer a better work-life balance to open up the door for more quality time as a family
As we more seriously considered this opportunity, we began to dig deeper into researching what we would need to do to prepare ourselves to make such a transition. From me leaving my permanent acute care position, to my wife deciding to leave her PRN nursing position, we decided to say “YES” to our new adventure!
Making it Work: Logistics of Traveling as a Family
Getting On the Same Page
It may sound cliché, but I truly believe the most important first step in making a transition to travel healthcare, if you are married, is to ensure that you and your spouse are both on the same page. Tessa and I promised each other that we must both be in agreement that this is the right step, since this wasn’t just going to affect the two of us, but our two young kids, Luca and Marley, as well.
Telling Our Families
We knew telling family would be tough, and it was, as they were sad that we would be gone for several months at a time. With the kids having grown up no more than ten minutes away from all our Ohio family, we knew that being away from family for possibly half a year at a time would be extremely difficult for everyone at first. However, after the initial shock our intentions sunk in, they were very much supportive and understanding of why we were pursuing this lifestyle change.
Deciding on Housing
Once we were committed to pursuing this journey, we started doing research on the housing type that would best fit our needs. RVing was something we were strongly considering. This led us to joining a few full-time living RV Facebook groups to learn about family life in an RV, what we would need, and how to take care of an RV. The more we discussed and researched, the more we felt ourselves leaning toward getting a camper instead of navigating short-term housing. We ultimately decided it was important for us and the kids to have consistency when it came to “housing,” so the RV life it was!
Buying Our RV & Truck
We decided on a fifth-wheel camper (33 ft 2012 Keystone Cougar), which meant we would need a truck to pull it. In order to stay on budget, and to meet our goal to not go further into debt to start this endeavor, we made the tough decision to sell our beloved Ford Explorer in order to purchase our camper and truck. We did a lot of research on trucks as we wanted to ensure we had “enough truck” to safely pull our camper from the east coast, through the Appalachian Mountains, or even as far as Arizona. After much searching and patience, we settled on our 2008 Ford F-350 dually, which we have been incredibly pleased with throughout our travels.
When traveling, I will drive the truck, pulling the camper, while Tessa and the kids follow behind in our Honda CR-V. Once at our campground location, I drive the CR-V back and forth to work, while Tessa and kids have the truck available if they need it, but typically there are enough things to keep them entertained at the campground.
Getting Prepared to Start
If anyone is a very “Type A” personality like myself, you will understand the stress and worry that goes into preparing for such a big transition. I am definitely one who researches and plans as much as possible beforehand, so this is why I was so relieved when I found out that Jared and Whitney had created a comprehensive, everything-you-need-to-know travel therapy course to get us started. Their course gave us the insight and guidance we needed to go into our first travel therapy assignment well prepared and confident. It also personally gave me such peace of mind that I was doing the things I needed to ensure my first assignment was successful and a good first experience.
Day-to-day Life, Adventures, and Making Memories
Tessa and the kids have found fun things to do during the days while I’m working. Depending on the area, Tessa will occasionally take the kids to a local library for group activities, story times, socialization, or to simply read books. Between bike rides, playgrounds, swimming, visiting other campground friends, playing outside (or inside on the rainy and/or cold days), and our kids’ always-favorite golf cart rides, there is usually plenty to keep the kids entertained during the day.
It’s no secret that Tessa has the harder job, entertaining two highly energetic kids, while managing the cooking, cleaning, and also performing regular weekly emptying of the RV tanks if it needs done during the day. Outside of managing all that, Tessa takes advantage of nap times (or “quiet time” for our 4-year-old) to exercise, including walking/running outside around the campground, cardio workout videos, or body weight exercises (inside or outside weather permitting). Depending on the location, a few campgrounds have had workout rooms, but if not, another option has been for Tessa to look for workout facilities that offer childcare (ie. YMCA, Crunch Fitness).
Some people considering a transition to the travel life may fear feeling alone or isolated with no friends or families to connect with during assignments; because I know we did in preparation for our first assignment. But we have been so blessed to have met so many wonderful families and people whom we now consider great friends. We even had previous campground friends from North Carolina come to visit us for a week while we were on assignment in East Texas. The ”regulars” at campgrounds definitely promote a family atmosphere, and as such look out for each other, especially those with young kids so that new families to the area feel safe and supported.
Outside of the campground and day-to-day life of living in a camper, we have had so many great experiences exploring the beautiful areas of the places we’ve been. Thanks to some of my assignments allowing me to work four 10-hour days each week, we have been fortunate to do some fun site-seeing. While in the Carolina’s, we took advantage of the beautiful landscape to experience some amazing hikes and checked some state and national parks off our list. While in Texas, we experienced the Stockyards (highly recommend if you’re ever in the Fort Worth area), the Dallas and the Fort Worth zoos, and of course some amazing BBQ.
However, don’t let some of our highlights give the impression that you have to spend a lot of money to have fun. We are also diligent to look for “free fun” and budget-friendly activities most of the time, such as parks, picnics, and hiking. Our kids have loved all of our adventures so far, and many weekends will ask, “Can we go on an adventure?” as they look forward to doing something new and exciting. We are thankful for these times we’ve had exploring different parts of this beautiful country, but the most important part of this experience is the valuable memories we have made together as a family.
Suggestions for Others Looking to Travel as a Family
Depending on the size of your family, and the ages of the kids, you may decide, like we did, that consistency of environment is an important factor and lean toward getting a camper/RV to begin your travel healthcare journey as a family. This option also provides an easier route for transporting items such as books, bikes, swim toys/inflatables, bedding and stuffed animals, kitchen items and utensils, and more.
One of the most important factors to making a successful transition to traveling if you are considering getting a camper/RV is to do your research ahead of time. Some may be in a position to make this transition happen sooner, but for us, this meant spending several months researching, learning, planning, preparing, and saving money before we could begin our journey.
Based on the needs of your family, you may decide to be pickier when it comes to camper layout. For us, having a separate bunk room for the kids was important so the kids can have their own space for toys and clothes, and also provide a quieter place for nap times, or “quiet time” if they are growing out of naps.
There is a lot to learn about living in a camper, whether it’s a travel trailer, fifth wheel, or drivable RV. Plus, if you don’t have, plan on having, or are unable to afford a drivable RV, you will definitely want to research dependable truck size (and power) to ensure you have “enough truck” to pull your camper weight. You also want to determine what types of areas you might look to travel. Are you wanting to stay more local, within your state or maybe only 1-2 states away? Or are you open to, and possibly considering, going anywhere and everywhere? You want to consider some of the possible distances you might cover, and if you’re going to be going through mountains to get there.
A great resource is to join Facebook groups related to full-time RV/camper living (ie. “Full-time RV Families”, “Full time RV Living with Kids”). These groups provide a wealth of knowledge from individuals and families living life in a camper/RV. You will learn some very useful tips and tricks, especially recommendations and lessons from people who have “learned the hard way,” helping you to avoid similar mistakes.
Some areas may even have Facebook groups that can provide helpful information in regards to alternate campground vs. housing options (possibly outside of the typical platforms of AirBNB, Furnished Finders, Vrbo, etc.), or recommendations for family-friendly things to do or see. When considering short-term housing vs campground RV living, finding and moving to short-term housing may be easier at times, but campgrounds will typically always be cheaper. Although, buying a truck and camper will be a bigger up-front cost, so I recommend crunching the numbers and determining the potential cost-analysis based on how long you may potentially travel.
Looking Toward the Future
Overall, we have been very happy with our decision to pursue travel therapy as a family, and very happy with our choice to travel in a fifth wheel camper. We have had amazing experiences as a family and made many life-long friendships in the process.
As for the future, we are definitely discussing when we may settle down vs. continuing to travel. In regards to school for the kids, Tessa currently does pre-school level activities with Luca who is 4 years old. Marley is 2 years old so we have a while before school will be a concern for her. We have talked about the possibilities of home-schooling the kids for a time, but haven’t completely decided how long into school years we will travel. We are currently saving to buy a house, and possibly might settle down by the summer of 2024, which would be a good time for Luca as he starts school. But, we are still open to extending our travel adventures if we decide it’s still what we think is best for our family! Home truly is wherever we’re together!
About Michael & His Family
Hi, I’m Michael. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but my family moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio when I was 6 months old. I transferred high schools going into my Junior year, which is where I met and started dating my now wife, Tessa. We got married in 2016, after dating for nearly 9 years. I got my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Then I completed my Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree in 2017 from THE Ohio State University! I started out my PT career in acute care in a level 2 trauma hospital in Columbus, Ohio. This August (2023) marks 2 years since my family and I started doing travel therapy, but I still hold two PRN positions at a few hospitals back home in Ohio, which allows me to pick up shifts any time I am home. Tessa and I have two wonderful kids, Luca (4) and Marley (2), and they LOVE the travel life and all the places we get to explore. Marley was only 10 months old when we started traveling, so travel life is pretty much all she’s known.
Feel free to follow along with us as we continue our adventures! Follow us on Instagram or email us if you have any specific questions or just want to connect as a fellow travel family.
- Instagram: Hedrick.fam
- Michael’s Email: Michael.email@example.com
- Tessa’s Email: Tessa.firstname.lastname@example.org
Ready to Start Your Own Travel Therapy Journey?
We here at Travel Therapy Mentor would love to help! Our free Travel Therapy 101 Series is a great place to start learning some of the basics. If you’re ready to dive deeper and learn everything you need to know to be a financially successful travel therapist, take a look at our comprehensive travel therapy course.
If you’re within a few months of starting your journey, you can fill out our Recruiter Recommendation form to get connected with the best travel therapy recruiters. Feel free to message us if you have any questions!