Being a Solo Travel Therapist

While we have always traveled as a pair, most travel therapists actually travel solo! We are excited to share a guest post from Traveling Occupational Therapist Morgan Lauchnor, who travels on her own. We hope her insights will help give you the confidence to pursue this path on your own as well if you think it’s right for you!


When looking into travel therapy, the ability to travel with a spouse, significant other, or with friends sounds like the ideal situation, but often times this isn’t an option for some people. That shouldn’t prevent you from still deciding to try out travel therapy though! In fact, a good majority of travel therapists are solo travelers. Some people, like myself, even wanted to travel solo. Venturing into it on your own might seem daunting and scary, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The world is way too big and life is too short to wait around for someone to go with you on this opportunity of a lifetime!

Benefits of Traveling Solo

Enhances Independence & Empowerment

Any time you follow your dreams, go after what you want, and face your fears, it’s going to be the most empowering feeling. Solo travel is the definition of freedom, independence, and living life on your own terms.

Builds Self-Confidence

Taking the leap to go into the unknown on your own is brave. There is so much growth that comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and there’s nothing that pushes you outside your perceived limits quite like traveling solo, because you really have no choice but to handle whatever challenges get thrown your way. You develop a ‘can-do’ attitude and become more relaxed and comfortable figuring things out on your own. And not just in the cities you travel, but any new job assignments you take on.

Gives You Total Freedom

On your own, you have the freedom to choose the states/cities where you want to take assignments. You also get to decide how you spend your weekdays, weekends, and everything in between, without worrying about disappointing or negotiating with other people. In traveler pairs, it often limits options because you have to find places that will accommodate both of you, and they might not want to go/explore the same places that you do.

Boosts Your Problem-Solving Creativity

Traveling rarely goes smoothly or according to plan: cars get flat tires, assignments get cancelled, you get lost (a lot in my case). It’s all a part of the solo adventure and the stories you’ll share of how you got through. The best stories never come from the things that went smoothly, right? And as healthcare professionals, we are creative problem solvers for our patients, so this skill can be carried with us into our practice as well.

Fosters Self-Discovery

Traveling solo is the best way to get to know yourself. Exploring new places and new cultures, outside your comfort zone, figuring things out on your own, you discover just how much you’re capable of.

Challenges of Traveling Solo & How to Overcome Them:

Being Alone/Lonely

One of my first assumptions as a solo traveler was that I would be on my own most of the time, especially since my first assignment was all the way across the country in a state where I knew no one. But once I was out there, I realized there are SO many opportunities to meet people. I ended up being surrounded by friends and mentors, some becoming lifelong friends. I also always try to take advantage of visiting any family/friends nearby who I might not ever get the chance to see otherwise.  

Ways to meet people:

  • Doing things with co-workers outside of work: There might be other travelers at your assignment that will go on adventures with you, or you might get to know the perm workers who are typically great assets to show you around your new city/give you tips on the best spots!
  • Connect through apps and social media: Travel therapy/nursing Facebook groups, following other travelers and travel therapy companies on Instagram, and apps like MedVenture, designed specifically for connecting with other traveling healthcare professionals, are all great ways to find people in your area and also to just have a supportive community to lean on.
  • Get involved with local organizations and community groups.
  • Just get out and explore the area! (This was a lot easier to do before the pandemic, but hopefully now that there’s a vaccine and more things are opening, this will be more of an option again)  

Another thing to consider if you’re worried about feeling lonely is bringing a pet with you on your travels! I got a puppy while on assignment in CA, and she’s now traveled with me to TX and NC as well. It definitely makes things a little more challenging, but I can’t imagine the travel life without her anymore!

Safety

This has never been an issue for me personally, but it’s always something to keep in mind traveling by yourself, especially for female solo travelers. Before committing to a new assignment, research the area to see if it is somewhere you’d feel comfortable living, look into the housing options available to make sure you’d feel safe, and always trust your gut if something feels off. When you’re on assignment, tell people where you’re going, bring mace with you on hikes and while out exploring, and ask the locals of places to go and if there are areas to avoid.

Boredom

Sometimes you might live and work in areas that are rural or with limited things to do. In cases like this, I focus a lot on hobbies and things I wish I had more time for—like CEUs, reading, cooking, planning future travels, blogging, etc. But ultimately, you’re choosing where you want to work, so if you’re someone who needs to be doing things and wants to be around people, consider choosing assignments that are in busier locations.

Costs

Traveling alone can definitely be more costly than traveling as a pair, since you are the sole provider. Housing is usually one of the biggest costs that you incur as a solo traveler. One way you can cut down on housing costs would be to consider living with roommates. Traveling therapist/nursing pages are a great way to reach out to people in the area to see if anyone is interested in splitting housing costs, or ask your supervisor if any of your coworkers have a room for rent or are looking for a roommate. This can also be another great way to meet people and have people to do things with!

Summary

Ultimately, I truly believe that the pros of traveling solo far outweigh the cons. If it’s in your heart to do travel therapy, don’t be afraid to take the leap. There’s a whole community of other travelers out there who are here to support you and help you along the way!

Even if you go for it and it doesn’t work out, you still win. You still had the guts enough to head straight into something that frightened you. That type of bravery will take you places.


About Morgan

I’m a traveling occupational therapist who started right out of school as a new grad. Originally from eastern PA, I got my Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to get my Masters in Occupational Therapy degree from the University of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, FL in 2019. I was introduced to travel therapy at a job fair there and knew right then that’s what I wanted to do. I completed my fieldwork rotations in Greenville, SC and St. Louis, MO, so I already felt like I was traveling before taking the leap. But once I did start my official travel therapy journey, I road tripped cross-country from PA to OR to begin my first travel assignment in Ashland, OR and have been traveling ever since! I’ve now been on five assignments in OR, CA, TX, and currently NC, and my pup Zoey has traveled with me since CA. We love exploring new cities, getting outside any chance we can, visiting breweries and wineries, and meeting the best people along the way!

If you’d like to connect, the best way to contact me is through social media: Instagram: @zoandmo_onthego or through email at mlauchnor@gmail.com. I am also currently in the process of starting a blog, The ChrOnic WanderlusTer, so keep your eye out for that soon!

How to Avoid Booking Fees for Short Term Housing as a Travel Therapist

The Logistics of Finding Short Term Housing as a Traveler

When you begin to look into becoming a traveling therapist, it can be a little tricky to figure out how to find quality short term housing and still be able to pocket some of your left over housing stipend. While travel therapy pays better than a lot of permanent jobs, keeping a good portion of the tax free income is what makes it more lucrative. 

When searching for housing, not only do you want to find housing that’s affordable, but you also have to find housing that has a shorter lease term than most rentals, and most travelers prefer to find something fully furnished because most of us don’t have the ability to bring larger belongings on the road. If you travel in a small car, it can even be challenging to bring basic items like towels or bedding along with all of your other basics, much less worry about furniture and bigger items.

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Using Vacation Rental Sites for Short Term Housing

Because of the need for travel therapy housing to be essentially ready to live in when you walk in the door, the original gold standard was for travelers to reach out to landlords of vacation rentals and explain their situation to see if these landlords would be interested in negotiating a “mid length” rental term. Most of the time, vacation rental owners are open to this idea, because it gives them the security of knowing that their space will be filled and bringing in income, without having to worry about people coming and going often or dealing with cleaning the unit between vacationers. 

However, vacation rental platforms are not designed for short term leases. They are designed to bring in revenue based on the number of bookings, and are priced to include cleaning fees, pet fees (sometimes daily depending on the space) and a vendor fee paid to the platform. Because they depend on these vendor fees, vacation rental sites absolutely need their travelers to book directly with them.

As a result, it can be hard to bypass the set fees, which can limit how much of a “deal” the landlord can truly give you as a traveling healthcare provider. Some of the fees the platform imposes cannot be adjusted. In addition, because these websites are designed to make money off of each booking, they don’t want you to easily bypass their system. 

So of course, travel therapists figured out how to work the system.

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Trying to Work the System to Your Advantage

Let’s be honest. The concept of a travel therapist living in a vacation rental for several months is mutually beneficial for the landlord and the traveler. The landlord receives guaranteed income, and the traveler feels safe knowing they are renting a property that has been visited by other travelers and has visible reviews online. 

The [likely] obvious solution to this problem of booking fees is to arrange a way to pay the landlord directly without having to pay the platform. This would be super easy if travel therapists lived near where they were planning to move for work. You could arrange a meetup in a public place, see the property in person, the landlord could feel secure knowing you were a real person as well, and then you would negotiate.

But, because we have to arrange our housing from a distance for travel assignments, this simply isn’t an option for most travel therapists. Most of the time we want to feel secure that our housing is arranged far in advance, especially if we are going somewhere where housing is hard to find and/or is pricey. The last thing you want to happen is get somewhere and have no place to live and end up dropping a ton of money on a hotel or other accommodation for your whole assignment.

Some traveling therapists will book these vacation rentals for a week or two at the beginning of an assignment to sort of “try before you buy.” This allows them to check the place out, meet the landlord, and perhaps negotiate a short term lease from there. The only problem with this tactic is, the more time you wait to finalize a spot, the more time other people have to book the property. Occasionally vacation landlords will be willing to cancel these bookings to accommodate a longer stay, but many will not and you will end up back at the beginning of your housing search.

To try to get around this, many travel therapists will message owners directly and explain their situation. They send a chat within the booking platform explaining what they are going to be in town for and essentially ask for a monthly versus nightly rate. If the landlord is willing to accommodate they can send a “special offer” through the platform.

There are two problems with this. First, you (the traveler) are still slapped with the booking fees. And secondly, you are at the mercy of the platform design for how you pay your rent. Rather than a monthly rate, many booking platforms will collect a lump sum. And while you definitely should have a decent amount in savings if you work as a travel therapist, most people cannot afford to pay for three months of a short term rental up front. Plus, if you have a contract cancellation, you are once again at the mercy of the rental platform, and a lot of the time you will get little to no refund for the amount you paid up front.

The absolutely icing on the cake of this whole scenario is, even if you and the landlord are willing to connect off platform and make a long distance arrangement, you will have a heck of a time trying to do so. The chat platforms on these websites are designed to detect and block any personal information being exchanged such as email addresses and phone numbers. Like I said before, they rely on you using their platform to host the whole transaction to make money on your booking. 

Luckily, there is a way to dodge the booking fees without sending encrypted messages via vacation rental websites.

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A Better Way to Book Short Term Housing

Furnished Finder and Travel Nurse Housing were designed to actually connect landlords and traveling healthcare providers directly without any weird hoops to jump through. Because these sites were created specifically for travel nurses and therapists, you don’t have to figure out how to work around limits set for other types of short term rentals. 

The main way these websites are different is they list the property contact directly on the listing. You are able to actually call or email the person listing the property and have a real conversation. Or, if you feel more comfortable, you can start by chatting on the Furnished Finder app.

These websites operate more as an advertising platform rather than a booking website. Meaning, they charge a fee to the landlord once per year to list, and they have no stakes in what you pay or how you arrange your lease with your landlord. This also means that you can discuss with your landlord directly any concerns such as potential cancellations, extensions, or even details like their pet policy. 

The other good part of this is that you can search for the property with filters that actually make sense for short term travelers. While most travelers don’t necessarily care if their rental comes with shampoo and conditioner, they definitely want to know proximity to local hospitals and if they have a washer and dryer available in the unit.

Furnished Finder also has similar safety features to those you would see on vacation rental websites. Guests can leave ratings and reviews, and there are different levels property owners can go through to reassure renters that they are legitimate. Every landlord is also screened by a staff member prior to listing, and property details are checked via public record to make sure they match up with what the listing says. Plus, if a property owner really wants to bump up their credibility, they are able to undergo a more thorough vetting process to alert travelers that they are verified, which includes adding a logo next to the title of their listing.

Another perk of using a website designed specifically for travel healthcare workers is that the landlords understand our profession and what our typical contracts look like. The landlords who choose to use websites like Furnished Finder and Travel Nurse Housing do so because they know what great tenants travel healthcare providers make, and they want to rent their property to more of those types of people. As a result, their homes are usually set up, stocked, and priced appropriately based on what they know is desirable for people in our field. 

And as one more added bonus, Furnished Finder provides several other tools that just make your life as a healthcare traveler easier. If you are short on time and don’t want to sift through properties, they actually have a Housing Request Tool that allows landlords to approach you. There is also a Free Owner Verification Report that can be used for any property, even if you don’t book on the Furnished Finder platform. And of course, there is a blog dedicated to all things related to travel healthcare housing, so you can empower and educate yourself on the housing process from top to bottom.

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The Bottom Line for Improving Your Travel Housing Search

While the vacation rental style of housing is exactly what a travel therapist is looking for in short term housing, the rental model is not. It is possible to make these types of websites work for our needs, but it can also be very time consuming to do so. By connecting directly with landlords via a site designed specifically for traveling healthcare professionals, travelers are able to save money, time, and frustration by skipping over booking fees and landlords who might not truly understand the needs of a traveling healthcare professional. 

Any savvy healthcare traveler will tell you that being in control of your situation is the best way to make and save the most money, and housing is no different. You do not need to rely on a third party platform to manage your rental agreement (and often that will just cost you more time as well as money). Find the right landlords who value working professionals, utilize tools that are actually beneficial to travelers, and avoid crazy markups on websites that are designed to make the most money out of their guests’ pockets by using sites designed specifically for us as traveling healthcare professionals during your next housing search!


Guest Post written by Alex McCoy, BSN, RN  

Alex is a pediatric travel nurse and the content manager of Furnished Finder After traveling for four years with her husband, a physical therapist, they recently welcomed a daughter, Jade, into their crazy travel family. Read more articles from Alex on Furnished Finder or Travel Nurse Housing, or read about her previous travels at her blog Fit Travel Life. Have an idea you would love to share with fellow travel nurses or landlords, or want to ask Alex a question? Be sure to email her at Alex.McCoy@FurnishedFinder.com.