Hello, world! My California contract has ended for two weeks now. We are preparing our journey back east, so it felt appropriate to check in and catch you up on the past six months.
Back in late January, my boyfriend and I drove both our vehicles from Boston to central California for my second travel assignment. Two weeks, 15 states, a handful of friend visits, a nighttime drive through a snowstorm(!) in Iowa, and $90 spent on Airbnbs later (we try to do these trips frugally — plus, the staffing agency I was working for didn’t offer decent reimbursement for travel/relocation expenses, but that’s another story), we made it to California only to be stuck in the Mojave Desert because of 75 mph winds that literally caused the highways to shut down. Cue the panic attack ...
We were only two hours away from our destination and I was scheduled to start work the next morning. Thankfully, we made it to a safe hotel off the highway for the night and, after several hours of stress and some words of reassurance, I finally started to feel myself let go of the events I was unable to control. Luckily, my new supervisors (two directors of rehab at their respective skilled nursing facilities) were incredibly understanding and supportive. I was able to start my contract a day late, no problem. Whew.
Long story short, I enjoyed my California assignment and the people I met at all three facilities — so much that I extended my assignment (that is, until the intense desert heat and homesickness started to get to the both of us).
Note: One potential downside of being a traveling SLP in tough-to-staff locations in the country is you will likely be covering more than one building every day, depending on your caseload, and you probably won’t be working with other SLPs. On the other hand, it breaks up your day, gives you overtime hours, makes you in demand at nearby (50 miles away) hospitals for per diem/PRN/on-call jobs, and keeps you busy, which helps make the days go by so fast and by the time you commute back home at night after a 12-hour workday plus 2.5 hours of driving, you are exhausted and ready to sink into bed with half-cooked dinner falling out of your mouth like blehhh-I’m-so-tired-I-can’t-even-operate-my-mastication-muscles-to-break-down-this-food-before-I-pass-out. (Just kidding!) But there is an end date! Really, it’s not that bad — if you aren’t a workaholic and have already learned daily work-life balance (I clearly still have training wheels for that and add on extra responsibilities because I have a hard time saying no when it comes to helping others).
Every weekend or two, I was able to spend time exploring a new part of California with my boyfriend or new friends, so that was fun — and my sister and my dad each flew out to visit me on separate occasions. I even fit in two week-long trips/breaks before my contract extension, which helped me reset.
I have read that increased commute/driving time correlated with decreased health. Maybe too much sitting and/or driving stress? The job I used to have before becoming a traveling SLP involved a lot of driving, as well ... Not fun. Something to consider for my next assignment.
Speaking of which, this time around, I have been in contact with different staffing agencies in search of more contract opportunities and better pay — gotta put a dent in that massive, nearly six-figure student loan debt, you know what I mean? Traveler tip: Instead of sticking with only one agency indefinitely and waiting for that one to have a potential assignment opportunity that meets your needs and desires, I recommend working with several agencies simultaneously and have them find you an assignment in a setting and location where you would prefer. Plus, now you’ll get to negotiate your pay better, knowing what is available and knowing your value as a travel SLP.
More updates on my adventures as a new travel therapist to come. Until then, may this summer bring you relaxation, faith that everything works out, and the ability to practice letting go.