Living on the Road: Travel PT in an RV

May 28, 2019
9 min read
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Frequent travel can make finding a place to call home difficult. Settling into an RV can help you take your home with you!

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Have you ever dreamed of becoming a travel physical therapist but fear losing your sense of stability? Well, that was me and Drew a little over a year ago. As of today, we are currently on our second travel therapy assignment and have officially been on the road for five months. Initially, we had so many hesitations towards travel PT but those quickly changed to excitement after being introduced to the idea of full-time RVing.

Our story

We quickly realized that RV life could offer us an increased sense of stability and financial freedom while working as travel PTs. We spent months learning all about the different types of RVs, their layouts, and how to find one that best fit our needs. Despite the many challenges we have faced during our travels, we could not be happier with our choice to live in an RV while working as travel PTs.

Are you still considering travel PT, but you aren't quite sure if it's right? Check out our tips to find out if travel PT is right for you!

Drew and I had hesitations towards travel PT but that all changed when we discovered the possibility of RV living. When we first heard about travel PT, we were interested but thought “there’s no way we can deal with moving our stuff every three months and live without a sense of stability.” Just a few weeks later, I met a fellow PT student while on rotations in Phoenix, AZ. She was living in an RV at the time and that’s when the idea clicked! I spent about an hour picking her brain on the subject, as I had absolutely zero knowledge of RVs, let alone living in one! I went home, immediately called Drew, and asked, “what if we bought an RV and became travel PTs?” He was hesitant, but after we did some research, it all made perfect sense.

Our biggest goal after graduation was to tackle student loan debt and we were hopeful that by choosing to live in an RV, versus traditional housing, we could achieve our goal even faster. I explored potential short term housing options in different areas of the country, both rural and suburban, using sites such as Airbnb and Craigslist. What I found truly shocked me: I couldn’t find short term housing under $1,000 per month, even in rural areas of the country! So we sat down and ran a cost analysis: Could we purchase an RV, a truck, and find a place to park it all for under $1,000 per month? Much to our surprise, we could! After that, we knew that an RV was the way to go.

What is an RV?

RV stands for recreational vehicle. According to a recent article by the Washington Post over 1 million Americans live in RVs! There are many types of RVs, all of which are similar in the basic amenities they provide but differ in size and layout. Some of the most common types of RVs are pop up campers, travel trailers, toy haulers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes. Many people have even chosen to instead purchase and renovate vans and school buses and use them as they would an RV.

How do you choose the right RV for you?

We prioritized two things when we were looking for our RV, budget and layout. Since we had no experience or prior knowledge on RVs and we weren’t sure that we’d love the travel PT lifestyle, we decided to keep our budget low. When we started our research, we found that pop up campers are typically not very large and don’t provide the same durability as other types of RV’s. We also discovered that motorhomes are the most expensive, so we quickly eliminated them both from our list.

We narrowed our search down to travel trailers and fifth wheels. Some of the biggest differences between the two are that travel trailers are typically lighter in weight, less expensive, and more challenging to tow whereas fifth wheels are typically much heavier, require a more powerful truck, are easier to tow, and have higher ceilings.

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We knew we wanted an RV around 30 feet in length. So with our budget, we then had to narrow our search to used RVs. Originally we were looking at seven to twelve year old RVs however, we were extremely disappointed after viewing a few RVs in this age range. Many of them had water damage or other structural issues.

“We have met so many fantastic people in the few short months we’ve been on the road and are so glad we didn’t let being new grads stop us from considering travel therapy.”

Although water damage can happen to any RV, even brand new ones, we decided to shift our search to newer RVs between three and five years old. We also explored a variety of floor plans. There are hundreds to choose from including rear living, rear kitchen, bunkhouses, mid living, the list goes on. But we quickly realized we were drawn to rear living layouts. To us, they felt the most spacious, and we liked that the bedroom was in the front of the RV and separated from the living area.

Ultimately we found our RV from a dealership and even though we may have found a better deal from a private seller, we felt that as first time RV buyers, going through a dealer was extremely beneficial. They provided us with a full walkthrough and explained everything, from how to hitch the RV to the truck to how to operate the air conditioner, all before we drove off the lot. We are really happy with our choice to buy used because we were able to save some money for renovations and were able to make the RV feel like ours.

Where do you park?

The RV has given us a sense of stability and financial freedom that traditional housing could never offer as a travel PT. No matter where travel may take us, we always have a place to call home. We never have to worry about whether or not our animals will be allowed to live with us because this is their home too. Plus, RV parks are everywhere, so we have had no issues finding somewhere to park our camper. Sites such as Google, Campendium,and Good Sam have been our go-tos when searching for campgrounds.

No matter where your travels take you, let us be your guide! Check out CovalentCareers' Ultimate Guide to Travel Physical Therapy!

We have found that there is a large price range when it comes to RV parks that can range anywhere from $300-$900/month, depending on what season and what part of the country you’re in. So far, we haven’t stayed anywhere that cost more than $550/month. We always look for parks that have all utilities (gas, sewer, and water) included. Because of the low cost of renting space, living in the RV has even allowed us to pocket the majority of our housing stipend and given us more financial freedom. We are able to overpay on our student loans each month, while still being able to afford small weekend trips and adventures.

What are the challenges of RV life?

For all of the advantages RV life offers, there are still many difficulties that it presents as well. One of the biggest issues is that things break. When you live in a tiny house on wheels and are constantly moving from place to place, it’s only a matter of time before things will need to be repaired. It’s like owning a vehicle; routine maintenance is a must. For Drew and I, we had no close family or friends that knew anything about RV’s, and that made things quite difficult.

We reached out to other full time RVers through Instagram, and we were shocked at the sense of community we found. I cannot explain how amazing this tiny living community is! We have formed so many new connections and friendships and have received so much help and advice that we could not have gotten anywhere else. Now, we’d be lying if we said living in an RV is easy. There is definitely an adjustment period when you go from living in a home or apartment to a 200 square foot RV. We spent over a month downsizing our belongings and clothing; it was difficult but also incredibly freeing. Owning less led us to cherish the things we kept even more.

You ready to hit the road? Make sure you pack our Travel PT Financial Calculator so you can keep track of your loans, income, and expenses!

Travel PT has truly provided us with so many opportunities we didn’t even realize were possible. We have found a way to travel the country, maximize our paycheck, and grow as clinicians in various, fast-paced work environments all without sacrificing our sense of stability. We have met so many fantastic people in the few short months we’ve been on the road and are so glad we didn’t let being new grads stop us from considering travel therapy. If you’re considering travel PT and have any other questions please feel free to reach out to us, we want to be here to support you and your journey!

About Courtney McGee

Courtney is a Physical Therapist from Syracuse, NY. She earned her DPT from Duquesne University in August and began her career as a travel PT with her fiancé Andrew. Courtney and Andrew purchased a used RV, completely renovated it, and use it to live in as they travel the country for work.

Courtney has a strong passion for the geriatric population and specifically enjoys working with a variety of neurologic diagnoses. While not in the clinic, Courtney enjoys spending her free time hiking with Andrew and their dog Dempsey, exploring neighboring towns, and working out.

You can also reach her on Instagram @TheRvPTs!