Working as a Travel PT in the US Virgin Islands

We love to share unique travel therapist stories, so today we’re bringing you Marcela’s story about working as a Travel PT in the US Virgin Islands! We’d like to note that it’s not very common to see travel therapy contracts in the Virgin Islands, and most travel staffing companies do not staff in the Virgin Islands. But on rare occasion you might see a job opportunity pop up there! If so, hopefully Marcela’s insights can help you learn what to expect from a contract there!


Good day, you guys!

My name is Marcela and I’ve been a Physical Therapist for 7 years and a Travel PT for 5 years. I went to PT school in Virginia– the same school that Whitney went to actually! I’ve worked in multiple settings including acute care, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and outpatient. So far, I’ve worked in Virginia, Texas, and St Thomas. In this article, I want to share the details about my assignment in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands with you all since it’s a unique contract location!

How Did I Land an Assignment in the US Virgin Islands?!

It was pretty simple really, but mostly by luck and good timing! One day while scrolling on Facebook, I saw a job posting on the Facebook group Travel Therapy Job Opportunities for an outpatient PT assignment in St. Thomas. It was with a company and recruiter that I had never worked with before. I reached out to the recruiter, set up a phone interview with the clinic manager a few days later, and got the assignment!

The Licensure Process

My next step was to get my USVI PT license, which I didn’t know at the time is infamous for taking a really long time. I’ve heard of one PTA that took 6 months to get his license! Upon signing the contract for the assignment, I was given the contact information of an island PT, Erin, who has a side business of helping people expedite their USVI PT licensure. At the time, Erin charged $1,000 — but it was absolutely worth every penny! She helped me get my license in only 4 weeks. At different times in the process, she was able to go into the licensing office and figure out what was slowing down my licensing application. She truly did shorten the whole ordeal, as I had a few snags which were totally out of my control. Without her help, it easily would have taken 6+ weeks, and the clinic in St Thomas was holding a spot for me which I did not want to miss out on! If you need help getting your USVI license expedited, you can contact Erin at: erindavidson13@gmail.com.

Housing on Island

While Erin was working hard for 4 weeks to help me with the licensure process, I then turned my attention to finding housing. I usually find cheap furnished housing by renting a room in a home for my travel assignments. I am okay with cheap housing and living with others, as I’d rather spend my money in other categories. Well, unfortunately for this assignment, I quickly found out the islands are not a place for cheap housing. Almost all places cater towards tourists, so you’re going to get tourist prices. Expect to pay about $2,000/month or more if you want a clean place with the amenities you’re used to on the mainland. My landlady is currently not renting rooms anymore, so I sadly don’t have any current housing leads to share.

I want to add something else about housing that will be very important to know. The USVI has one utility company and its infrastructure is dated. In 2017, two category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, hit the islands and further damaged the already struggling infrastructure of the utility company. Because of this, it’s very common to lose power on island. One week I was there, we were without power for 30 hours. If you’re there during hurricane season, just assume you won’t have power for a while after a storm. I grew up close to the Southern US coast and have experience living through hurricanes and without power before. You either have to be okay with living like this or willing to pay extra to stay at a place that has a backup generator.

My PT Contract

I ended up working for 4 months on island at this contract. It was a private practice outpatient PT clinic. I had the opportunity to work a schedule of 4, 10 hour days each week, which was great for having 3 day weekends and being able to explore. As far as pay, the pay tends to be a bit on the lower end than what I’ve seen for mainland contracts. But it’s kind of like taking an assignment in Hawaii: you don’t go there for the pay, you go for the experience! And contracts in Hawaii usually tend to pay on the lower end as well. In addition to my weekly pay, I did also receive reimbursement for my flight to the island.

Insights on Island Living

Public Transportation

St Thomas does have public transportation, but the route is limited. The type of public transport is called a “safari” which is essentially a diesel pickup truck with covered open-air benches in the back.  It’s a great way to assimilate with the local culture and enjoy the wind. But like with all public transportation: be patient (haha)! The hours are limited and so are the locations to which they travel. St Thomas is very rocky, so the safaris don’t go up the hills. If you plan to live up a hill, you’ll have to get a car or walk a distance to get to a safari. I did not want to have a car on island, so I relied heavily on safaris, walking, and taking taxis.

Resources

Another thing to take into consideration is that you’re living on an island that does not have the same resources that the mainland does. Lots of things are imported and therefore the cost of food and other supplies reflects that. The islands also don’t have the same variety that the mainland does in terms of resources. But, you should totally enjoy the food that the islands do have to offer. If you eat local food, it greatly helps! Plus, you get to eat all kinds of tasty fruits, juices, and sea food!

The People

Many people in the Caribbean like to call themselves West Indians. West Indians are probably the nicest people I have ever encountered. Once you learn the proper way to greet in the Caribbean, people will easily give you directions, help you with a ride, and share food with you. It’s truly a village mindset. Everyone’s also on “island time” there, so don’t expect anyone to be prompt. Haha. As patients, they have been the best population I’ve ever worked with. They are respectful and hard working. I often found myself telling them to stop doing extra sets to allow their bodies to rest.

The good stuff!

Now onto the super fun stuff about living and working in the Virgin Islands!

The beaches are to die for! Sand so white it glitters, water you can see straight down into for yards, sunsets you can frame, waves so calm you can soak and float, and water activities for everyone! Snorkeling, kayaking, waterskiing, parasailing, regular sailing, yachting, scuba diving, sea planes, and hiking! (I know, not a water activity but would be a shame to not list). Each island has its own vibe, so visiting all three major USVI islands is required. And many more islands in the archipelago are also worth visiting! Depending on which island you’d like to visit, most can be reached by boat/ferry, but some of the further islands require private boat or a flight.

If you think you can handle life in the islands, then I recommend trying to get an assignment there. If interested, I can give you the name of the recruiter I used. You can reach me here via Facebook.


We’d like to thank Marcela for sharing her insights with us about her travel therapy contract in the US Virgin Islands! Please feel free to contact Marcela via Facebook or message us with any questions!

Achieving a Positive Net Worth in 2 Years with 6 Figures of Debt: Yonas’s Story

We’ve written extensively about how travel therapy, among other strategic financial choices, has helped put us in an amazing financial position. But we’re not the only therapists who have taken advantage of this career path to achieve financial freedom! Today we’re bringing you a financial success story from a fellow traveling therapist who was able to achieve a positive net worth (assets minus debts) in only 2 years after graduating with his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree! We hope Yonas’s story will further inspire you about the possibilities in your career path as a traveling therapist! Check out his story to learn more:


Achieving a Positive Net Worth in Two Years with Six Figures of Debt: Yonas’s Story

Background

I am a 28-year-old Doctor of Physical Therapy, and I graduated in May of 2018 with six figures of debt. I recently achieved a positive net worth after strategically making simple moves within two years.

I still have student loan debt but have chosen to not rush to pay this debt off, while instead focusing on investing for my future. The amount of assets/money I have is now more than my debts, which equals a positive net worth. I would have never thought I would be this excited to be above water, but here we are today!

How Did I Get Here?

Below I’ll discuss the simple moves I completed to achieve a positive net worth in just two years out of school. These may or may not be easy depending on your goals and situation. Everyone comes from a different starting point, and each person has different goals, life situations, and opportunities.

Personally, I am a first-generation Eritrean. I do not come from a family of wealth. As the son of immigrants, I was instilled with the values of working hard and saving. I never thought about debt or finances until recently. I became interested in how to manage my debt, so I started listening to audiobooks and podcasts on my commutes to work, which is where I learned about most of the tools to help set me up for financial success.

With a bit of research, hustle, and determination, anyone can improve their financial situation.

Here are the 5 steps I used to reach a positive net worth:

  1. Live below your means
  2. Increase income
  3. Automate
  4. Be consistent
  5. Surround yourself with like-minded people

Let’s dive into each one of these steps to see how you can utilize these strategies too.

Live Below Your Means

Spend lavishly on things you love and save immensely on things you do not care about” — quote by author Ramit Sethi, from I Will Teach You To Be Rich

I am pretty low maintenance and do not value many expensive, material things. I do value experiences. I save a good chunk of my paycheck and splurge occasionally on experiences.

For example, during a recent weekend, I went to Yosemite National Park and rented out a cabin with friends. I am living my best life and saving money as well.

I also give credit to my Instant Pot. I am able to cook nearly anything in it. It is great because I can make affordable meals, it makes large portions, and it saves time. As a solo travel therapist, I have lived in places that do not have stovetops or full kitchens, often allowing me to save money on housing costs. Even with these accommodations, I have not had a problem eating well with the Instant Pot. A big “money saver” food is rice as a side. I have eaten over a hundred pounds of rice over the years. My staple dinner is cooked chicken, vegetables, and rice. Yummy for a good price.

This may sound extreme to some, but I am happy with how I am living my life. These are just a couple examples of how I am able to live frugally and put aside a lot in savings. You need to figure out what is your savings comfort level, and make moves accordingly.

Increase Income

Unfortunately, the job market for physical therapists doesn’t always allow for the highest paychecks depending on your setting and location. However, thus far in my career, I have focused on only taking higher-paying jobs in order to improve my financial situation.

I am flexible on setting, location, and am open to moving anywhere in the country. My first job was a permanent job in a large teaching hospital. It was a great learning experience for my first job, but I could not stay there if I wanted to reach my financial goals. I put in my one-month notice and applied for higher-paying travel PT jobs. I have also worked higher paying Per Diem jobs.

In my short two years as a PT so far, I have worked in the ICU, CCU, SNF, ALF, LTC, home health, outpatient, and acute care settings. I have been exposed to many settings from the many travel contracts and PRN jobs I have taken. There is always something new to learn, and if you’re strategic in choosing your positions, you can find high paying jobs while experiencing a variety of settings and learning new skills.

Automate Your Decisions

In order to stay on track financially, I automate my savings, my payments on expenses, and my investments. I automate everything to where I do not have to think about it, thus making it easier to reach my financial goals, be sure not to miss any payments, and having money automatically directed towards savings. This strategy psychologically trains me to not even expect the extra money from my paycheck that is automatically allocated to my bills and my savings accounts.

I am currently saving about 60-70 percent of my paycheck. As part of my savings, I maximize my Roth IRA retirement account. I invest in the same fund every month and plan to do so for as long as I can. This money will benefit me in retirement, and some of it can hopefully be passed down to my future kids or beneficiaries one day. Outside of my retirement contributions, I currently do not invest in any additional brokerage accounts, as I want to hold money to invest in real estate for now. This is a personal decision to diversify my savings.

Remain Consistent

It is important to have an end goal and motivation to stay consistent. What’s the point of making money if you do not have any intrinsic motivation?

I hope to one day be financially free, allowing me the freedom to work because I want to, not because I have to. I also love volunteering and would love to have more free time for this.

Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

It’s important to hang out with finance rock stars or like-minded people. You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with most (~Jim Rohn). Since the pandemic currently makes it tough to hang out with anyone in person, I try to listen to people who not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk in the finance world. I do so via audiobooks or podcasts, so I can internalize their mindset on money which helps me in my own life. Everyone has an opinion, and it is best to listen to people who have a track record of success. Growing up, I was the kid who never read a book unless if it was for school; however, I am currently on track to read/listen to at least 24 books this year because of the valuable content I have gained.

During the first few months of my first PT job, I had the mindset to pay off my loans ASAP and put the majority of my paycheck toward loans for peace of mind. There is nothing wrong with this, and it’s a great strategy for many people. However, after listening to many podcasts and books, I have changed my mindset and prefer to use the money toward investments and not rush to pay off my loans. I would rather pay myself first and set myself up for a positive financial future, than rush to pay back my student loans at this time.

Future Goals

I am unsure of what the future holds for me. I am currently saving a chunk of my paycheck in a high yield savings account and maximizing my Roth IRA retirement account. I know that in the future I do plan to invest in real estate. I would like to live in a unit, and rent out the others. Hopefully, I can buy property at least once a year and see where the investment goes from there.

Recommended Resources

Below are a couple of life-changing books that changed my mindset on finances. I would recommend checking these out if you’re looking to get into a better financial situation!

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

A resource I wish would’ve been available to me as a beginning travel therapist is “Rate My Therapy Company” Facebook group. I created this community to fill a need of therapists not knowing what kinds of companies they would be signing contracts with. This group allows therapists to rate companies and provide valuable information on factors like pay, setting type, and company culture.

I love talking about my story, so if you have further questions about it, you can email me or send me a Facebook message—I am an open book.

Best of luck to you as you pursue your own path to financial freedom!


Yonas Tekeste is a travel physical therapist originally from Chicago, Illinois. He graduated with his DPT degree in May of 2018. He is currently taking a month-long break from travel contracts to spend more time with family in Illinois. He enjoys listening to podcasts, playing sports, hiking, and attending social events in his free time. The best way to contact Yonas is through Facebook or email at Yonastekeste@gmail.com


We would like to thank Yonas for sharing his story with us! Please feel free to contact Yonas to learn more about his financial strategies. You can also contact us if you have more questions about starting a career in travel therapy to help set yourself up for a better financial future, as we and many other traveling therapists have done!