It’s Monday afternoon and, after a slow day of packing, repacking, and downsizing some more so that I can fit my life into two 21-inch carry-on suitcases, I am reflecting on my first travel assignment.
I have warm, fuzzy feelings thinking about all the wonderful people I have met during the last five months. From the fun team of coworkers and patients who made work enjoyable to the hospitable Airbnb hosts who helped me feel at home, the universe definitely places people in our lives for a reason. And I am thankful.
Before deciding to pivot in my career and become a traveling SLP, I was well aware of the downsides to being a traveler — I might be viewed and treated as an “outsider,” I could be the only SLP in some buildings, and I could lose my contract if or when the facility finds a permanent candidate, just to name a few. Yes, daunting. But then I turned the downsides into a positive challenge: I will just do my best and I will be okay.
In retrospect, I couldn’t have asked for a better first travel assignment. First of all, the location: I was in a relatively safe (albeit costly) part of the country, I was in a familiar city that I had visited multiple times previously, I had friends who lived in the Boston area, I had a short commute, and I was working in a well-maintained facility. Secondly, the people: I worked alongside knowledgeable and super-approachable speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, and doctors, not to mention the diverse patient population.
Also, I unexpectedly made new friends through Airbnb, an online peer-to-peer service where people can rent out and find housing around the world. Note: If you are considering travel therapy jobs, it might be less stressful to find a staffing agency that will set up or provide accommodations for you; however, I preferred not to have the housing stipend taken out of my paycheck, so I took care of housing on my own for cheaper and it worked out well.
Overall, I learned so much so fast and am happy with my first adventure as a travel SLP. The people I met made the biggest difference. They completely helped shape my experience into a positive one. You can be the smartest, most independent clinician or employee, but when you know your coworkers have your back and are genuinely there for you, you truly feel like part of the team and are better able to learn and grow — probably my biggest worry before starting to travel was that thought of whether I would feel like part of the team or treated as the outsider. Traveling can be lonely and isolating if you don’t allow yourself to make connections with people.
More updates on my adventures as a new travel therapist to come. Until then, may this week bring you appreciation, friendship, and positive connections with the people you meet too.