Putting the “Gypsy” Back Into Our Life: 2017 Travel Plans

I originally started this blog to chronicle both travel nursing and fitness adventures. However, with us being stationary for the last 8 months, travel adventures have sort of taken a back seat in our lives. We have focused a lot on paying down debt, Keaton finishing school, and soaking up tons of time with friends and family before we hit the road this fall on our travel nurse/PT adventures.

Now we are just two (TWO!!) months out from Keaton’s official graduation we have started looking towards the fun trips/plans/ideas for the future. Well, I have. Keaton pretty much just gives a yes or no on the destination and tells me not to spend too much money 🙂

I will be doing FULL recaps of all of our trips on the blog, but for now I wanted to give a rough outline because well, I’m just really excited and would also love to hear any suggestions you lovely readers have for these destinations.

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First up: Nashville! We actually just made plans in the last week to go with another couple to Nashville at the end of April. It seems to be the perfect place for a weekend getaway, and Keaton has Fridays off this rotation, so we are going to leave Thursday evening to get a full 3 days in. We have an AirBNB booked in downtown Nashville, and other than good southern cooking, we don’t have any major plans yet.

Then, after Keaton’s graduation we are taking a mini vacay for a few days to explore our own beautiful state. I grew up camping a lot with my family and have a few state parks I want to take Keaton to. We love hiking and the outdoors, and camping is SO cheap, so this will be a nice getaway that doesn’t break the bank (still working on that debt snowball after all). Missouri State Parks has a wonderful website with information about campsites, hiking trails, and other things to do throughout the state that helps so much with building a getaway in the area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also has lots of campgrounds around all 50 states, and I can say from experience they are very well-maintained, safe areas to camp if you like getting outdoors!

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We have also been working our way around as many Missouri wineries as we can hit up, but we have fallen quite behind with staying in KC over the winter. You can actually pick up a map with every winery listed and plotted from your local Missouri winery, which has been really fun to use as a checklist for where we’ve been, and also helps guide some of our road trips. I think this trip is going to be a great getaway for us to relax and unwind a little before he has to start studying for boards hard-core, and we have to start getting our life together to travel full-time.

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A small sample of Missouri Wineries-these are the “wine trails”, but there are plenty of wineries not on a specific trail. Check out the website for a full list!

At the end of July, we will also be taking off on our annual float trip with friends. This is the third year this float has happened and it is always a blast. We typically do rafts, and load 6 or so people onto each raft. Last year there were also plenty of jello shots to go around, and several lost pairs of sunglasses 😉 This is just an all-around fun, memory filled trip every year.

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The last (planned) vacation on our agenda is California! This trip I am super, super excited about. This will probably take more than one paragraph to cover so here goes.

First, we are going to take the train out to San Francisco. We actually looked at routes out of Kansas City and out of Omaha and we ended up choosing the Omaha option for a few reasons:

  • Keaton preferred the route through the mountains in Colorado instead of through the more desert terrain of New Mexico/Arizona.
  • It was $130 cheaper.
  • The train leaves at 11 pm which will mean we sleep during the less-scenic parts of the trip (aka Nebraska).

For both tickets it was a whopping $244. SO CHEAP! And we can bring snacks, drinks, etc. on board. We looked at a roomette option but decided the extra $500 wasn’t worth it. We will see how sleeping goes on the train and maybe do it again another time.

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Also, because this has been asked, the trip takes about 40 hours total. We will probably sleep about 16 of that, and during the day there are viewing cars you can sit in and watch the scenery. Amtrak also has dining cars so we can go for sit down meals as well. While it seems like a long trip I think the experience itself will be so much fun, plus we kinda like each other so I think we can keep each other entertained during the daytime. I have taken the train a few times but Keaton has never traveled on Amtrak, so we are doing this partially just for the experience, which I think is so much better than sitting on a cramped plane for hours.

Once in California, our plan is to sight see around San Francisco for a few days, and go to a soccer game in San Jose. I am looking at staying near Golden Gate Park, but haven’t actually picked a place in San Fran yet.

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We (I) researched Sonoma vs. Napa and Sonoma just seems much more our speed. I have an adorable AirBNB booked, and it will be over our 2 year wedding anniversary which just worked out perfectly.

I am eyeing several restaurants for our anniversary dinner. Madrona Manor has a whole dinner experience that looks To. Die. For. but it is also quite pricey, so we may end up at a little more affordable place. I am also intrigued by The Girl and the FigDepot Hotel Restaurant, and Mama Tanino’s.

As far as wineries go, I haven’t even scratched the surface of researching those. I am also looking at the hot springs in the area, and we may try to hit up some hiking in between all the drinking of wine. SO many options, I’m sure we will have plenty to do.

In August/September we also plan to hit the road as a true traveling nurse and physical therapist duo. I am currently licensed in Missouri which allows me to practice in 26 states total, plus Kansas and New York. We honestly don’t have our hearts set anywhere specific, we just want to find a location where we can both land contracts within driving distance. Tentatively we’d like to travel for the next several years, and hit up the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii, the East Coast, and Guam if I can convince Keaton 😉 . In between we plan on road-tripping to and from assignments, and we would like to get out of the country at least once per year.

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Also still working on scratching off places we have visited together!

That goal would of course entail some sort of trip this fall or winter as well, so I will keep you updated! We just knocked off a huge chunk of our debt snowball thanks to taxes, so we are trying to keep a delicate balance between driving that number down while still enjoying life. But soon we will have two incomes to play with (so far all of our progress has been made on a one income lifestyle), and I have a feeling that is when we will make some KILLER progress!

Anyway, there is our rough plan for travel for the year! Over the summer we may try to stay close to home for a bit longer, just to see friends and family before the real crazy gypsy life picks up. Either way, this year promises to be an exciting one, and I can’t wait for all the adventures we have to look forward to.

❤ Alex

 

 

 

CrossFit Stole My Heart [Again]

So, I did a whole series back in the fall about my fitness journey, but have not really followed up on my current exercise regimen other than talking about goals for the new year. I mentioned in Part 3 that a huge turning point in my fitness journey was the discovery of CrossFit back in 2013. It allowed me to learn what it meant to feel the self confidence that comes with working towards a non-physique fitness goal, and also brought me into the huge, welcoming community I had no idea existed.

After taking a two year break, competing in a bikini competition, and attempting to fall in love with solo lifting, I decided to jump back on the CrossFit train.

It. Was. Terrifying.

We has actually been moved out of Bolivar and I had basically zero excuses for not joining a new box for about 2 months before I finally bought a Groupon to get myself started again. The first time I tried CrossFit, I had no idea what to expect, so I was just excited, not nervous at all. This time around, I knew how bad it was going to suck at first, so I was much more nervous.

After my first workout, I was pleasantly surprised at how not out of shape I was (thanks to my beautiful online trainer over the previous 18 months 🙂 ). Unfortunately, the place where I had grown to love CrossFit was just too far of a drive to justify regularly, and the first new box I tried was not my best fit. I tend to like smaller, more personalized gyms, so I knew a class size of 15-20 people was just not going to be the happiest place for me.


I finally found the perfect gym through a couple girls I knew from awhile back who had landed at the same gym. Class sizes are small, the coaches are truly invested, and the people have been so welcoming. The programming has been fantastic and I can tell I am getting stronger every day. I have also finally conquered my fear of doing a handstand (no judgment, I have a ridiculous fear of falling).

Anyway, this whole process has just shown me how much CrossFit truly is my “thing”. I did enjoy bodybuilding as a side hobby; it’s fun, you get to be girly and feel gorgeous and push yourself out of your comfort zone. However, it is a truly year-round commitment and requires a lot of mental toughness to work through bulking seasons, cutting seasons, prep, etc. Overall, I just don’t think it is something I wanted to commit myself to at the level of commitment it entails to be successful.

So, there’s a quick update on my fitness endeavors lately 🙂 Long-term, I really want to improve on my gymnastic movements: pull ups, handstand push-ups, and double unders are at  the top of my list. Coordination is NOT my thing, so while I can lift a barbell over and over, it takes a new level of patience for me to work on improving these more coordinated movements.

The point of this post? Keep trying new things and mixing it up until you find YOUR thing. Fitness is truly a lifelong endeavor, and consistency is the most important part of continually improving. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it is something you can keep up long term, even on days when you’re feeling tired or uninspired. I used to roll my eyes at people who had “exercise addiction” or “missed the gym” when they couldn’t go. But now, I get it. Even on days I work back to back night shifts, or days I get terrible sleep, I still love to get up and get to the gym. I don’t feel like it is a chore, and I miss it on days I can’t go. Our bodies were made to move, we just have to find the balance between mind and body that makes it easy to get up and do it every day.

 

For more on my ever-changing views on fitness and my different endeavors, check out:

Part 1:Part 2:Part 3:Part 4

How To Start a Budget

I was going to start this post as a tools for budgeting post, but I realized that in order to address the tools, we have to have a budget in place.

The word “budget” seems like a dirty word for many. But the fact is, following a budget is like starting an exercise plan (I’ve mentioned the correlation between financial health and physical health before). It sort of sucks at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes routine and makes a lot of other areas of your life less stressful. It’s not saying you can’t spend money, it’s just making sure that at the end of the week/month/year you don’t sit back and go “Wait, I spent HOW much money?”

I also 100% believe that our budget has strengthened our marriage, if not saved it. With two people sharing a future, money can become a huge road block or a great source for celebration between two people. We RARELY fight about money, but we have had many moments of celebration and triumph together when we meet or exceed a financial goal.

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Some questions I have gotten from a LOT of people since I have started talking about our Dave Ramsey Adventure: How do you start a budget? How do you know how much to budget for each category? How do you keep track of the money you’re spending? What if you go over what you thought you’d spend?

Let’s start with the basics. Our first step when we knew Keaton was going back to school and we were forced to combine finances was to spend one month writing out everything we spent money on. If we grabbed a 99 cent coffee at QuikTrip, we wrote it down. If I bought tampons, I wrote it down. If Keaton bought a card pack on FIFA, he wrote it down. You get the point. Every cent spent was tracked (without inhibition, we put no limits on the spending this month). This gave us an idea of how much we were spending in each area, and let us know where we REALLY needed to cut back (aka eating out, beer runs, and Trader Joes goodies).

Next, we sat down with this form and wrote out what we planned to spend on each category. For anyone with an irregular income, there is also a form for that! Since we were sort of starting from scratch with me starting a new job, we didn’t have much in the bank already to allocate.

However, if you’re starting with a bit of money already in the bank I’d say this: portion out the money to make sure you’ve got all of your imminent bills covered, then start to divide the rest of it towards your emergency fund (if you’re on Baby Step 1), and the rest of your bills for the month.

Then we divided our monthly bills between my biweekly checks. So I knew every two weeks I would put x amount of dollars into each category. We used pen and paper at first to allow for lots of scratching out and erasing :).

Another system I highly recommend is the envelope system. We used a coupon organizer from the dollar store, and had a tab for each bill we paid cash for. Groceries, oil changes, hair cuts, clothing, etc. We would go the Friday or Saturday the week I got paid and pull the set amount of cash from the bank, then sit down and divvy it up. Sounds tedious, but it truly only took 20 minutes or so if we swung by the bank to or from work.

Wanna make sure you stick to your grocery budget? Leave your debit card at home and take only cash. You will find out how easy it is to stick to your budget when you don’t want to be at the checkout without enough money to pay your grocery bill. Seriously, I did this. I also taped a sticky note to my debit card that said ONLY FOR USE WHEN BUYING ___. That way, I still had to embarrass myself if I wanted to untape the sticky note and use it at a busy register to purchase something I didn’t have cash for.

Personally, no matter when my bills are individually due, we set all of the money to be ready in our account by the first of the month. This is just MUCH easier on my brain. The money will just be sitting there waiting regardless, and sometimes I pay bills early if that’s an option as well. Otherwise, I just pay them as soon as I get the e-bill from the utility company or student loan service. If I sign up for a new service and get the option to pick a date, I always choose the first of the month.

The last tip I have for today is to remember that your budget will not stay the same forever. I am not the best at sitting down monthly and re-writing the whole thing, but it is a good idea to evaluate the different expenses you’re expecting to adjust where your money is going. Also, if your income changes (mine does every 13 weeks with a new assignment), then it is definitely time to sit down and re-write the budget.

Questions? Comments? Be sure to leave them below, find me on Facebook, or hit up my Contact Me form at the top of my page!

Uninspired: Working Hard on Days You Don’t Want To

So, I broke my New Year’s resolution. I missed a week of blog posting.

I think this is a common time of year for these things to happen. January is just far enough away for the internal fire to have started to die down, and we really forget the why behind our resolutions. It’s very easy this time of year to start down a slippery slope of excuses and pushing tasks to the back burner.

This wasn’t a conscious decision, but I did realize about halfway through last week that I just…didn’t have much to say. I was feeling blah about my workouts, my meal plans, and my goals.

This quickly led to me spending too much money, indulging in too much junk over the weekend, and skipping several workouts.

Sunday hit and I felt SO off. I was feeling sluggish, tired, and not prepared for the new week. I realized that if I chose to, this could easily become a cycle. If I gave into the tiredness and “blah” feeling, I would have started my new, fresh week without good food planned, my house a mess, and my workout schedule unprepared.

I remember as a camp counselor we had a slogan one summer: fake it till you make it. Even when we were working 24/7 chasing school-aged kids through the woods, playing games, and keeping our smiles plastered to our face, we kept going even when we didn’t feel as excited as we looked. This has stuck with me over the years, and helped me pull myself out of a funk every so often.

So I made a conscious decision yesterday morning to just STOP IT. Fight through the brain fog, eat some healthy food, plan my workouts for the week, throw in a load of dishes, pick up my house, and plan simple-yet-tasty meals that I could prep without too much effort.

I love how I feel when I workout and eat healthy. I love how nice it is to come home to a tidy house. I love feeling accomplished. I love writing on this blog and getting a warm fuzzy feeling when I get new followers (you da real MVPs).

But all of these things won’t work unless I do. I am ready to recommit, refocus, and continue perusing my goals and dreams, and I am determined not to let a few off days keep me off track 😉

With love and faking-it-til-ya-make-it

<3Alex

 

5 Myths About Travel Nursing

Soooo sorry for the late posting this week. I picked up extra AND Keaton and I have a bet going on for how many times we can work out this month, AND we did our taxes this week, so I had to re-prioritize my week a little. But taxes will be done Friday (yay for hiring an accountant), I have hit all my planned workouts so far this month, and we get to look forward to some extra money next week. Win, win, win.

I haven’t posted some travel nursing tips in a few weeks so I decided to address some questions I get from people who are interested in traveling, or topics I see often on the Facebook travel nurse page. I hope this is helpful to anyone considering travel nursing, because I think it is an awesome career choice, but all of the information can be overwhelming at times! This is all based on my experience of course, so feel free to ask questions or give any feedback you may have.

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  1. There is a set dollar amount you “shouldn’t go below”
    • I will probably get a lot of people who disagree with me on this one. But I think the dollar amount is VERY relative. Some nurses will say “I will not work for less than __”. To me, this is all relative. Location, personal lives, and personal preference all play into if a bill rate is worth it to me or not. I will say I have never made less than double my base pay as a nurse since traveling, but I have also taken lower-paying jobs over a higher-paying offer because of location and convenience for my life. Money is not everything all the time!
    • My only caveat: Research the area you will be living in to make sure that you will make enough to cover basic expenses there and at home. Even with my lower grossing jobs, cost of living was low in those areas so it made it worth it.
  2. You can only travel if you’re ER/ICU/Critical Care in general
    • This was a misconception I had as a new grad. I thought the only way to travel was to be this EXPERT NURSE IN EVERYTHING. Yes, ICU and ER jobs often pay better, but there are jobs in almost any specialty you are interested in. There are even traveling management jobs, infection control, and psych nursing. Certain specialties may be harder to find consistent placement in, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there (or you may have to be less picky on location when traveling for said specialty).
  3. You should pick one agency and stick with it
    • It is actually quite easy to set up profiles with more than one agency, and to maintain a happy relationship with all of them. Some agencies may have exclusive rights to a certain hospital, and you can compare the packages being offered to get the best deal for you. Be polite and professional with recruiters when choosing one contract over another, and you should have no problem working with more than one agency.
    • My only word of caution: If you carry company insurance be sure to check into the policy for lapses between contract start date and the date insurance kicks in. I ended up without insurance for a few weeks due to misreading some fine print!
  4. You’re going to make millions travel nursing
    • Obviously, this is an exaggeration 😉 But I think there is a  misconception that travel nurses are just loaded in general. Keep in mind though, that we have to maintain a tax home while traveling, so we incur expenses in two places to keep our tax-free money. Also, things can come up such as canceled contracts, illness or injury (which you won’t have PTO for as a traveler), or you may want to take a few weeks off to go home and enjoy your family you don’t get to see as much. You will definitely make MORE as a travel nurse as opposed to a staff job, but you have to be smart and cautious to not overspend while on the road, and keep enough in savings to make up for the lack of stability that comes along with the perks of being a traveler.
  5. It’s really hard to get started as a travel nurse
    • Nope. Surprisingly easy (and even easier if you have a good recruiter for your first assignment 😉 ). You fill out a profile similar to a job application, the company sends you any sort of pre-tests or reference forms they need, and they submit your profile over to potential jobs. After a phone interview or two, an offer gets sent over to the company, and you  accept or reject the offer. Once a contract is signed, it is a little tedious because you have to fax or email all of your certifications, license copies, payroll information, etc. But, if you keep working with that company you only have to do that once and then for future assignments they have it all on hand. Lastly, you are sent to do your drug screen, update vaccinations, get a physical, and a fit test if required by the facility. The company sends you paperwork for ALL of this, so you simply show up at the designated clinic and get it all done. While the first assignment can be a little time-consuming upfront, it’s easier than starting a new job elsewhere, and super simple considering you get to see a new place every 13 weeks!

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Hope these tips are helping! For other travel nursing resources and inspiration, be sure to check out some previous posts:

How To Find the Right Recruiter For You

5 Tips If You’re Considering Travel Nursing

Prepping for Travel

How Travel Nursing Gave Me the Courage to Compete

One Year Down

❤ Alex

Let’s Talk About Sleep

I was at work the other day, and inevitably as a night shifter, everyone’s sleep schedules became a topic of conversation.

I touched on my sleep scheduled a little while back in this post. I shared my sleep and workout schedule on a few nursing pages, and SO many people were appalled that I “only” got 6-6.5 hours of sleep in between shifts. Now, I do not disagree with these arguing 6 hours is not enough. However, after talking to some other people who work nights, I am confident that my sleep schedule is so much better than many other shift workers, especially if you consider that I also make time to prioritize working out in between shifts. I have recently been able to push my bedtime up a little because my commute time has decreased, so I have made it a goal to get closer to the 7-8 hours of sleep range if I can.

I’ve heard many people tell me they take sleep aids, or they stay up for 36+ hours after nights, so by the time they hit their bed they are in zombie-mode and just pass out. As someone who has worked nights for over 2.5 years, I can successfully say I have never used more than Melatonin (which I have used maybe a dozen times) and I rarely have days I can’t sleep.

Why? Because I take steps to ensure that I get good, quality sleep, and I prioritize sleep as much as I prioritize workouts and healthy eating. In addition, by striking an ideal sleep+exercise balance, you can limit caffeine intake and reduce stress, which also keeps cortisol levels at bay. This is key if you are trying to build muscle, and you can read more about cortisol and its effects on the body here.

Here is an interesting graphic on the importance of sleep:
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Some things I do to make sure I get QUALITY sleep, which is just as important as the quantity:

  • I have my iPad and iPhone set to turn to “Night Shift” at 0800. This switches the lighting from a blue hue to an amber hue, which helps the brain Business Insider published an interesting graphic on the importance of this, and I can say from personal experience that this has helped me fall asleep faster after I get off work.
  • Blackout curtains are also crucial. I am lucky in my new apartment that we have heavy-duty blinds and my apartment faces the courtyard so there’s less light anyway, but in previous places I’ve used even just simple blackout curtains from Target or Walmart.
  • Refrain from Facebook, Netflix, or other social media before bead. After a busy work night, your brain has a much harder time winding down when trying to engage in a show or on social media. Read a book or magazine to help your brain relax and wind down, or listen to calming music. This was another habit I had to break, but I noticed a huge difference when I did.
  • Make your bed extra comfy. Now, I am a bargain shopper to a fault. But I have found that having an excellent mattress, sheets, and pillows makes such a huge difference when it comes to sleep quality. I didn’t ever miss my bed as a kid (probably because my mom bought cheap “kid” mattresses). But ever since investing in a quality mattress, even the 5-star resort mattresses can’t compete with my bed at home. I’m super intrigued by this brand and may have to give their sheets a test drive soon (I’ll let you know if I do!).
  • Recognize that all night shifters have bad days. Some days, I don’t get off work until 8:30, so I sleep in and just do some mobility at home if I can’t get to the gym. Or my neighbor’s dog barks for 2 hours in the afternoon, so I call it a wash and drink some extra coffee. Regardless, it is consistency over time that makes a difference, so if you continue to rest and recover on every other day, the few bad days will not make a difference.
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Another handy visual on why blue light/electronic light is important to limit before bedtime. 

 

Tuition is PAID

Happy Friday! Not only is it almost the WEEKEND, but it is my personal favorite day of the week: payday.

Now, suprisingly, this isn’t because my shopping fund is refilled, or I can finally spend money on some fancy item I’ve been keeping an eye on. This is my favorite day because every Friday, I get to scrape a little more money off of our Debt Snowball.

I was also super excited to make our new board-but I may have to edit it since half of it was dedicated to tuition!


I’ve talked about Our Dave Ramsey Adventure before, and my last update was in October when we we hit $15,000 put towards debt for the year. I told you guys that our goal was to pay cash for Keaton’s spring tuition and we got so, so close to that! However, we had a LOT going on in January, and while we socked away as much money as we could, we just didn’t quite hit our goal by the time tuition money was due in February.

We had two options when we realized that we were short on our needed savings: take out a small amount of loans or enroll in a payment plan. Now, Dave Ramsey himself would probably have recommended a payment plan. However, I fully believe that half the battle to paying off debt is the mental game, and we are SO READY to start on our debt snowball, and I think we will really get rolling when we see those numbers go down every month.

Ultimately, we paid over $11,000 in cash for his school, which is $11,000 we don’t have to pay interest on! In a 10 year period that saves us close to $5,000 in interest at 6.8%! FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS SAVED!

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Now, we have our Emergency Fund in place, so we are able to start on our main goal: paying off my student loans. If you remember, our goal time frame for this is October of this year. This is probably a little ambitious due to the fact that we also want to take a few small vacations and have lots of weddings to attend (and Keaton is in two of them), but we are determined to get it done as fast as possible! I started with around $33,000 in loans back in January 2015, and am down to $27,000 with just barely overpaying on the smallest ones, so I think now that we are focusing on one main financial goal we can EASILY pay down 2/3 or more in the next 6 to 8 months.

So today, I sat down, re-did our monthly budget using this form, and found myself with a renewed excitement for what is to come this year! Keep in mind, there is plenty of room for fun in our budget, but sometimes you have to re-focus and remember what’s worth it to spend money on, and how great you feel when you accomplish your goals.

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Here’s to hoping and praying that we can stay focused, Good Ole Bess keeps behaving, and we get a nice tax return to throw at our debt snowball as well!

How To Get Sh*t Done When You Have Literally No Time

Let me start off by saying, I’ve got it pretty easy. I have zero kids, and a super low maintenance cat. I work a normal full-time amount of hours, and I do not have any super-imposing life or family issues that I have to manage.

However, I am a big proponent of the idea that if you do not like your life–DO SOMETHING TO CHANGE IT. I have worked with far too many sick and dying people to ever not be appreciative of the time I have. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control how to adapt and change to handle it.

Okay, enough with the heavy, let’s get to the point of this post.

One of my favorite blog posts that has stuck with me for a long time is How To Have It All by Stacy of Real Everything Blog (formerly Paleo Parents). I think this stuck with me because it is so simple, and so honest.

So as someone who has worked hard to build a life I love, including travel nursing while being happily married and training for a bikini competition while on the road, here are MY tips to keep your life moving in the direction you want, even when you feel overwhelmed or like there just isn’t enough time in the day.

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My unofficial advice–supplement no time with lots of coffee 🙂

  1. Make a list of things you need to get done
    • Do this DAILY. Even if it’s just a mental list (although I think a physical list has a greater effect). On super busy days, write down these items. It takes 1-2 minutes and keeps you moving in the right direction.
  2. Prioritize your to-do list
    • On work days, my priorities go in this order: Sleep, workout, healthy food. I don’t plan on doing laundry, running errands, or getting much else done because I work 13 hours, which only leaves 11 hours for driving, sleeping, gym time, cooking dinner, etc. I wrote a whole post about managing night shift schedules here.
    • One thing to note: “Healthy eating” is last on the priority list not because I don’t think it’s important, but because I know in a pinch I can get decent options in my current assignment’s cafeteria at 12 am. This isn’t always the case overnight at hospitals, but I’m pretty lucky right now in that aspect.
  3. Stay off of social media
    • I recently made a pact with myself to only use Facebook on my home computer UNLESS I have a super slow night at work, or I’m uploading pictures from my phone. This. Saves. So. Much. Time. I feel more engaged and focused, and I spend less time stressing over current events, or just mindlessly scrolling. I check Instagram and SnapChat 1-2 times a day, but those don’t suck time as much as Facebook (for me anyway).
  4. Multi-Task
    • I got home from the grocery store yesterday, and before I even put the groceries away, I chopped up some veggies for meal prep and turned on the oven. Then, while the veggies roasted, I put the groceries away, and cleaned up the kitchen. A simply step, but otherwise I’d be waiting 20-30 minutes at some point anyway for my food to be done cooking. I do this all the time, and find ways to “stack” tasks to get them done more efficiently.
  5. Learn to Say “No”
    • Also very hard for someone like me, and this is something I still struggle with. My coach actually challenged me one week to say “no” to one activity each week and it was SO HARD. I want to be everywhere, do everything. I HATE missing out. But practice saying no, and take that time to finish something hanging over your head, or just relax for an extra hour or two.
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It’s quite simple, really. 

Overall, you just have to figure out how to stay focused. The people you see who juggle great careers, a healthy lifestyle, and still manage to have meaningful relationships aren’t blessed with a special superpower or the ability to pause time, they just know what they want, and they utilize their time to best make that happen. Look at what you want, and ask yourself if your actions are getting you closer to that, or farther away.

Cut out the fluff, and the dead space, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can get accomplished in the time you used to think didn’t even exist 😉

 

One Year Down

February 1st, 2016 was the day I started my traveling nurse career! It is just crazy to me to think that a year has gone by already.

Although I have been lucky enough to work locally for the last 6 months, I am so thankful for my husband’s support in my initial delve into this world. After working a very stressful job for almost two years, it has been refreshing to see new hospitals, meet new people, and learn new ways of doing things.

I feel like a little reflection is in order to better sum up how much travel nursing changed our life.

In the past year we have:

  • Paid down over $17,000 worth of debt. Our average monthly contribution towards debt/school tuition was $1458! That is more than one bi-weekly paycheck at my staff job.
  • Taken an amazing trip to the Dominican Republic, one to St. Louis to see Blink-182, and a couple trips to Ohio to see family.
  • Moved home to KC. This has been great especially with knowing we plan to be on the move for the next few years, so we’ve savored time with family and friends.
  • Bought and paid cash for two cars, including putting a new transmission in one of them.
  • I competed in my second bikini competition, which was mentally and fiscally taxing, but definitely a lot of fun.
  • Survived 4 total travel assignments, including a combination of day and night shifts, and 2 that were two hours from home.

Honestly, I cannot be thankful enough for these opportunities that were afforded through travel nursing. Prior to traveling, I was worn out, stressed out, and working tons of overtime. By earning more money for my time, I have allowed my marriage to prosper, and given myself more time to work on bettering myself as an individual, because I don’t have to work overtime if I want to have money to do something fun or buy a specific item.

Our goals for this year include me staying close until July or August when Keaton will take boards, then we plan to hit the road as a traveling duo 😉 We really don’t have a specific plan beyond that, but we cannot wait to expand our knowledge of the US and work on scratching off some states (and countries in between) from our travel map!

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Where will we go next?!

 

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Cheers to the next year!

 

How to Find the Right Recruiter For You

Hey friends!

So I am trying to do some sort of weekly “advice” for travel nurses. I am approaching my one year mark, and I feel like I have learned a fair amount in that time. I have worked with several different companies either as a contract worker or for per diem, and I have started to feel out what I really want to see in a company that I work for. The beauty of travel nursing is the flexibility to do what is best for you!

That being said, one of the key people who can help make or break your travel experience is your recruiter. This is your link to jobs, to your travel company. Your go-between for pretty much anything you need while on assignment.

However, for many people, this role looks very different. Each company and recruiter is different, so here are some key things to think about when deciding what “recruiter style” works best for you.

  • How much contact do you want with your recruiter?
    • Weekly? Monthly? Some recruiters may just check in at the beginning of the assignment and towards the end to see if you are ready to find the next one. In between, there is often no need to speak with your recruiter unless you have a problem.
  • What is your preferred method of contact?
    • Many recruiters rely on texts and emails to keep in touch with their nurses. However, this may not work well for everyone.
  • What role do you want your recruiter to play in your traveling experience?
    • While your recruiter is ultimately responsible for putting you in contact with specific hospitals, sometimes as a nurse you can put in some leg work as well. I often reach out to fellow travelers to find out about jobs in different areas, and I also look at travel company job boards to scout out potential placements. I will admit I am a teensy bit on the control-freak side, so this may just be me being a little over-involved.
    • Similarly, some companies will utilize your recruiter as your go-to person for anything: paperwork, schedule or time clock issues, etc. However, larger companies often have different divisions and departments that handle each individual component.
  • Can you trust your recruiter?
    • Too often on travel nurse pages, I get a very strong “Us Vs. Them” mentality when nurses are talking about recruiters. While some surely take advantage, most recruiters know it is mutually beneficial to keep an open an honest dialogue with their nurses. One thing I would not handle well as traveler would be catching my recruiter in a lie, and I believe that most of them would try to avoid lying for this very reason.
    • Pro Tip: When first looking into travel nursing, I got quotes for the exact same job from two different recruiters. When one low-balled me on housing, I called them out. Almost immediately she “miraculously” found some “extra” way to give me some money. The other recruiter was upfront and honest, and the housing stipend came close to the GSA standards for the area. Obviously, I went with the more straight-forward recruiter. The shady one could have cost me an extra $600 a month in tax-free money if I had not asked the right questions and compared packages.

In the end, your relationship with your recruiter is similar to a business partnership. As nurses, it is such a blessing to have the opportunity to work ANYWHERE in the United States and its territories, but without recruiters this would be much more difficult. When beginning as a traveler, I encourage you to ask around for other travelers’ experiences, make phone calls, and compare different companies to find the right fit for you. Because we have the flexibility to do what’s best for us, do not hesitate to find someone who you can work with easily and who is supportive and listens to your plans and goals.

Happy adventuring, friends!