My husband is a medical traveler. He fills in at hospitals all over the United States that are short-staffed. Contracts typically start at 13 weeks long, but sometimes they can get extended for up to a year.
It's a very different life. I like to say it's a little like a substitute teacher only with temporary relocation. Sometimes those locations are absolutely amazing and sometimes, not so much; but, it is always interesting. I have discovered so much beauty in areas of the United States that some people might think they would never want to visit. We have been very lucky getting some great locations, so I have no complaints!
Everything is backward for us; we never really "go on vacation." Our life is a little like being on a permanent vacation, at least on the weekends. If only work didn't keep getting in the way, it would be the perfect life! I guess that's called retirement! LOL
A vacation for us is going home to see family. It also includes unpacking and repacking, lots of shuffling of belongings in preparation for the next assignment, doctor's visits, good food. I'm Italian, so you can't forget the food! Also, toss in working an odd job or two; and in a couple of very rare instances, a lot of praying that the next assignment will come through and soon. While it is always great to see the family, our "vacations" are a bit stressful and aren't as much fun as the real ones I remember taking so very long ago. Quite frankly, it's always complete chaos!
There is only one thing I can count on with every trip home. It hasn't changed in our 11+ years of traveling. I call it THE QUESTION. The question normally shows up right after the obligatory hug and kiss from any family member or friend we haven't seen for a bit. It sounds so innocent, "So, where to next?" but for a traveler, it's a "deer in headlights" moment!
It's very seldom that we know where we are headed before a contract ends, and not that unusual to be home for a week and still not know the answer to that. The hunt for a new assignment normally starts about two weeks before the current assignment ends. That's typically how far in advance a hospital knows they have a need. If you plan to take a week or two off between assignments, like we like to do, job openings for those dates may not even start posting until the last day of the current contract.
Back when we were so very new to traveling, and our very first travel assignment was finishing up, I wrote this cute little story as a way to tell my friends where we were headed next. Two things are very obvious, I didn't understand the process myself, and it was and still is a very stressful time...
A month before we were leaving Montana, a job opening came up for Maui. We were very excited and asked to be put in for it. The recruiter Paul was working with told him, "There's no way you will get that job. Six companies are fighting over it, and each company has at least ten applications submitted. You haven't been on the job long enough."
Those were pretty strong words but very true. At the time, Paul was only 18 months out of school and was completing his first four-month assignment. Paul told him to put him in any way. We tried not to get our hopes up, and I would say we were both just downright sad. We quit talking about Maui and started looking for other interesting places to go.
Three weeks before we were set to leave Missoula, the travel company started forwarding all the job openings. For the first week, every job Paul put in for was taken. We put in for Nashville, Tennessee; it was taken. Kansas City, Kansas; gone. Another location between Nashville and Memphis never even received the okay for hiring after they notified the travel company. In my opinion, there weren't any good jobs left. I was panicked! Keep in mind this was our first experience with the process. But, to be honest, it hasn't gotten any easier. I just don't panic as quickly now.
Finally, he put in for Bangor, Maine, and Syracuse, New York. We didn't hear anything for another week. When they finally responded, Bangor wanted at least two years of experience, and Syracuse was a government job in a bidding war. There was no way they would be making a decision by the time we needed a job. By now, I'm frantic! In a week, we aren't going to have a job, and we're going to be living in a box, translation homeless!
Three days before we are due to leave Missoula, the recruiter calls. There's an opening in Muncie, Indiana, that's a sure deal. Paul agrees to take it. We aren't very excited; quite honestly, that's not one of the locations very high on any traveler's bucket list. A friend that had traveled for a while told us always to take the spots near home since you never knew how long it would take to get that close again. At only 6 hours from home, Muncie seemed like the thing to do.
Zach told Paul an interview would take place the next morning. Thursday morning came and went with no call. Paul calls Zach mid-day. Zach said, "Don't worry; they wanted to call your references first. They'll call you later in the day. The contract is ready, and the interview is just a formality."
Paul's schedule is packed, and he doesn't even have time to take lunch. The interview gets pushed to Friday.
Late afternoon Thursday, Paul gets another phone call from Zach.
Zach: "You got a minute."
Paul: "I can give you five max. I have a guy on the treadmill."
Zach: "You want to go to Maui?"
Zach: "Hey, man, you still there?"
Zach: "Yes, you're still there, or yes, you want to go to Maui?"
Zach said that Maui had filled the contract but discovered the guy they hired didn't have the correct license while completing the paperwork. Paul just happened to be the fastest traveler they could get there that had the proper credentials.
Paul had his interview that evening on the drive home from work. I didn't even know about it until he arrived home that night.
Friday at 6 am, the phone rings and wakes us up. We didn't catch it before it went to voice mail. It was Zach. Paul rolls over like he's going back to sleep, "I'll call him when I get up."
"Up...what do you mean...UP!" I could kill him! I know what this call is about! I'm wide awake, and there is NO WAY I'm going back to sleep!
6:05 am the phone rings again. Paul answers this time; it's the recruiter for the Muncie job. "Muncie is ready to do an interview. Have you talked to Zach?"
Paul says, "No," and gets transferred to Zach.
Zach: "Maui wants you."
TO BAD MUNCIE, I'M GOING TO MAUI!!!
We have to be on a plane in 6 days. Paul still has to finish his last day in Missoula; we have to pack the two cars, drive them over 1800 miles home, unpack, condense everything down to two suitcases and hop a plane by the next Thursday. And, I thought I was stressed out before!
So, in the future, if you ask me THE QUESTION. I hope that you'll understand a little better; because sometimes I don't even know where I'm going until I get there.
I am the 8th photographer in 4 generations of my family. Back in 2006, my husband accepted a job traveling, and I jumped at the chance to go with him.
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