“Why did you become a traveling PT?”
This is easily the most frequently asked question that I’ve seen since I started traveling, but that’s not what people really want to ask. Sure, it’s great to be interested in someone else’s career, but what I really think needs to be answered is “why should you be a traveling therapist?” That’s the real question, right? The Grand Canyon-sized first step to becoming a traveler is intimidating, and people need to know why. After all, we all need evidence before we make a decision for a patient’s wellbeing, why not require the same for our own career path?
So here we go, potential travelers. Take a look at one guy’s list of reasons why YOU should become a traveling therapist.
Everyone’s seen it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: the beautiful, scenic pictures with the word “wanderlust” stamped across the middle in some creative font. Well it’s real. Go for it, people. See things. Do things. Meet people. It really does not matter where you are in the world, as long as it’s not where you are right now.
2. You are not ready to take your dream job just yet
This was big for me. I can’t put a finger on why, but I wasn’t ready yet. It wasn’t for lack of preparation or confidence; I had a plan. I just couldn’t take the job that I’d always wanted. Call it what you will, but I needed to do something more. That’s why I write, research, and travel. If you’re feeling the same thing, you have my recommendation.
3. You’re looking for a direction
Maybe your situation is the exact opposite of what we just discussed. Maybe you don’t have a plan. Most of us have had a predetermined educational plan since preschool, so I think it’s okay to spend some time deciding the next move. If you want to get paid while deciding, or maybe you’re hoping to find your answer abroad, then traveling may be for you.
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4. You don’t know what setting you like best
Outpatient ortho? Skilled nursing? TBI? Wound care? Cardiac? Pediatrics? Home health? Everybody has a favorite, but you don’t. I’ve heard this a lot from fellow travelers. You loved acute care, but you also excelled in orthopedics. Try them both! Why not take advantage of traveling and jump between your favorite settings for as long as you’d like.
5. You want to be a better therapist
Continuing education may be what counts for your license, but you’d have to be crazy to think that learning to work in different settings with different patients, staff, cultures, state laws, documentation systems, and languages every few months will do anything but make you an excellent therapist. Don’t forget that every few months you get to learn new treatment approaches and techniques from your coworkers. You will be better, I promise. And I guarantee you'll learn the truth behind #3 on Aaron Swanson's 5 Clinical Lessons You Need to Know.
6. Student loan debt (or anything financial… save for a house/car/whatever)
Yes, you heard correct. I cannot lie. Traveling does pay well, and it makes paying double student loan payments pretty easy. I hate focusing on the paycheck as a reason for traveling because I know people who have gotten burned by this line of thinking. Let me stand on my soapbox for one sentence and say that money does not guarantee happiness. Okay, now that I’ve given a disclaimer, I can safely tell you that traveling is a smart financial decision. I’m from Buffalo, NY, and the PT job market there is so saturated that the new grad salary offers would make your skin crawl. If that sounds like your hometown, traveling might be something to look into.
7. You want to visit a friend or family member
Have cousins in Michigan? An aunt and uncle on Long Island? What about a college roommate from North Dakota? Go say hi for 3 months (or more), sleep on his/her/their couch for a while, and get paid while doing it. This would also solve the undying debate over whether to take free housing or the monetary stipend, but that’s an argument for another time.
8. The people you will meet
This would not have been on my list when I started or even in my first or second week, but now that I’ve been in the game a while, it’s number 1. You will meet people and make life-long friends. Who knows, maybe you’ll find someone who makes you stay? I can’t tell you how or when it will happen, but it will, and that’s a great reason to travel.
In a Nutshell
I could go on all day about why I travel, but you need to pick a reason for yourself. Whatever your reason, I wish you the best. I'll just leave you with the best advice I was ever given when I was considering my life as a traveler:
You will never look back one day and wish you had traveled less.
Good luck, fellow new grads, and happy traveling!