One Year of Freedom! (What I Would Change About My First Year as a Travel Nurse)

Can you believe it!? It’s been one whole year since I decided to take the plunge and become a travel nurse! A whole year since I packed up my car and left for Alberta for an unknown adventure that would soon change my life. A whole year since I decided to start saying “YES” to new adventures and opportunities. A whole year of working on myself and discovering how independent and strong I can be as a woman. A whole year of making new friends across the country. A whole year of feeling free and exploring beautiful Canada.

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Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

This is going to be a very honest blog post. I get asked so often about travel nursing and it’s so hard to put the experience into a few words in a message reply. Maybe this post will help explain some of it and help you decide if it’s for you? Maybe you’ll understand why I am doing what I’m doing? OR…maybe it will just help me to sort through my random thoughts about this past year!

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Old Quebec

I completed three nursing assignments this past year- eight weeks in Bonnyville, AB, five weeks in Bracebridge, ON, and six weeks in Dawson Creek, BC. Looking back, that doesn’t seem like many at all when you factor in an entire year. I truly wish I would have done more. I also did vacation a lot during this year. I went on many trips in between contracts such as the Dominican Republic, California/Las Vegas, a road trip through South Dakota, Montreal/Quebec, the East Coast, and many other weekend trips here and there. That’s about 8 to 9 weeks total that I’ve been travelling, not counting the 18 weeks that I was out on assignment. I picked up casual shifts all summer at my home hospital to stay closer to home and spend more time with my boyfriend which has been lovely. Looking back, I don’t regret a thing. The only thing I would change is to squeeze another short contract or two in there. One thing that may have set me back in that sense was the lack of med/surg assignments available in Canada. If you’re considering being a travel nurse in Canada, just know that med/surg is a bit more rare than ER and ICU contracts.

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Montreal

Deciding to become a travel nurse was the best thing I ever did for myself. The money is good, the adventuring is amazing, and the self-growth is impressive. When it comes to money, sure I made a lot of it. I had all these goals to pay off debt and be far ahead financially. That’s a bit hard to do when you travel all the time though. I paid off my car loan right away and was laughing…but then I got in a circle of booking trip after trip with the higher income I was earning and now a year later I am in the exact same place financially as I was when I started.

I’m sure you weren’t expecting me to say that, right?

Fifty bucks an hour sounds like SO much money until you see how much tax is coming off of your checks. Then while you’re on assignment, you travel around the area and have small trips here and there- they add up. Flying home and back for a weekend every so often adds up too. My schedule at some hospitals essentially encouraged me to travel around. A 4 on-5 off rotation is both a travel nurse’s dream and nightmare. Why would I sit in my housing for five days when I could drive to Banff in that time or meet up with people in Toronto for the weekend!? I rarely had the opportunity to pick up overtime which would have been the ideal situation financially. So do I regret it? No, absolutely not. But I do wish I would have been a bit smarter with money so I had a bit more of my debt paid off. The memories and experiences outweigh that of course, but just something to think about if you are considering this type of career.Β  If I continue to do it, I will change my mindset a bit and be more work oriented instead of travel oriented and then I think I could for sure snowball some debt to get ahead.

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Patricia Lake, Alberta

Another thing that was different than I was expecting is my relationship with my boyfriend. Andrew is very goal oriented and I am a lot more free spirited. If I hadn’t become a travel nurse, we would most likely own a house by now. We were pre-approved for a mortgage and then we backed off a bit until we are 100% sure on where we want to settle down. Some would say that we went backwards in life and should be settled down etc. That makes me so angry to think that because clearly we did not do things traditionally. I hate when people compare us to other couples and the social expectations of young families today. We even find ourselves doing it at times. Poor Andrew had to compromise and sacrifice this for me and I love him so much for doing it. We are still so young and have our whole lives to “conform to society’s standards”. Right now, I am starting to crave structure and that feeling of settling down and we are working towards that. I want nothing more than to have a dog but I have to make sure we are ready first. I am slowly finding that balance between work and play!

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Yosemite National Park, California

When I look back at who I was a year ago compared to who I am right now, I see so much growth. I’m a much stronger individual today. I traveled solo a few times this year and even that is such an eye opening experience. I learned a lot about myself and who I want to be. I feel that I am a better woman too and there’s a whole lot more to show for this year than some Instagram posts and stories to tell. I love myself and I have a whole new realization for self care and taking care of me instead of others first. It’s hard to pour from an empty glass; sometimes you have to relax and let that glass fill back up again. Especially as nurses when we constantly give, give, give. It’s okay to be a little selfish now and then and regroup.

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Joshua Tree National Park, California

Even just considering the people I have met in the past year makes me so happy when I look back. The fellow travel nurses that I have worked with, explored with, and lived with have taught me so much. It’s so amazing to get out of your little comfort zone/bubble and challenge yourself socially and mentally. I’ve been so many amazing women and men in all different areas of life who have taught me so much. Some of them will be friends for life! I consider myself so lucky to meet these people.

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Tumbler Ridge, BC

So can you do it? Can you become a travel nurse? Be prepared for some loneliness but be self aware enough to know when you need to be social and chat with your roommates. Be prepared to make money but be tempted to spend it on your days off. Be prepared to work on your relationships with your spouse/partner because being away from them is very hard. Be prepared for one of the greatest experiences of your life and to explore your beautiful country. If it was easy, we would all be doing it.

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Jasper National Park

Thanks for reading!

xoxo

Hales

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