This month’s Travel Tale comes from an old friend I met while living in Boise. She was going to school to be a nurse and I was saving up to move to New Zealand. We worked together, drank together, and dreamed together. It’s great to see some of her dreams are coming true. Enjoy.
Don’t Allow Fear to Change Your Plans
I’ve been a Registered Nurse (RN) for four years, specializing in Labor and Delivery. I’ve also been a Travel Nurse since May 2013. What that means is that I go to hospitals around the US that are understaffed and work short contracts (typically 2-3 months) on their Labor and Delivery units. Travel nurses go to new cities and receive a shift or two of orientation to the unit before they’re expected to hit the ground running and take the same patient load as regular staff nurses. It can be chaotic, frustrating, and stressful at times. But the flexibility in where I choose to work and the ability to take weeks (sometimes months) off in between contracts, has allowed me to work at some unique jobs. Also, with some planning and saving money ahead of time, I have been able to volunteer overseas with a fantastic medical nonprofit called Preventing Cervical Cancer when I’m in between jobs.
Looking back at my time so far as a travel nurse, I’ve noticed a couple common themes in how people react to my work. Some people say to me: “I am living vicariously through you/I wish I had traveled when I was your age/etc.”
Other people tell me something that is usually along the lines of how crazy I am for taking a particular assignment or traveling to a destination. Some examples of what people have said to me are:
“You are nuts for taking a job near Phoenix in the summer.” (That was my first travel assignment: 13 weeks in Chandler, Arizona from May to August).
“You’re going BACK to the Bronx?” (I did four travel nurse contracts there on a very busy unit).
Or to my Mom: “Are you really going to let Sarah go to Kenya?” (To which Mom replied, “Well yes, she’s an adult, and she researches the places she goes beforehand, and again – she’s an adult.”)
“Aren’t you scared to fly now because of Ebola?” (This was on my October trip to India. NOT West Africa. India. The absurdity of this statement never ceased to provoke an eye roll from me.)
“You’re staying with strangers in London? WHY THE HELL ARE YOU STAYING WITH STRANGERS IN LONDON? You’re going to end up as somebody’s lampshade.” (This was when I decided to rent a room from two guys on Airbnb who had 50 five-star reviews from previous guests).
“Don’t you know that it’s COLD in Nome, Alaska this time of year?” (I’ve lost track of how many people in the lower 48 have voiced that concern).
Sometimes, the same person will tell me that they wish that they had traveled more at my age AND THEN they will give me negative feedback about the places I’ve chosen to go. I understand the critical comments, though.
You see, the thing I think holds a lot of people back from going on these adventures is this: The fear of change, the fear of the unknown, or maybe just anxiety about possibly being uncomfortable.
Like I said, I can empathize. I’ve been there. Traveling is NOT nearly as glamorous as it might look from a person’s blog or Facebook posts. There were nights in Nicaragua where I lay naked on my bed underneath a mosquito net, with a fan blasting on me, drenched in sweat and crying because I couldn’t sleep due to the heat. My mom and a couple close friends received some tearful phone calls when I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed out in New York. Sometimes I was lost in a city, exhausted, hungry, etc. and trying to seem confident enough not to attract unwanted attention as a solo female traveler. It can definitely be nerve-wracking showing up in a city where you don’t know a soul and be expected to work the next day, and have to be the “new guy” every few months.
But you know what? The last year and a half of traveling almost full-time has been one of the most incredible, rewarding experiences of my life, in spite of the challenging stuff.
That summer assignment near Phoenix? Yes it was hotter than hell some days, but I enjoyed my time at the hospital I was working at and made friends with coworkers I still keep in touch with.
The tough job in the Bronx? I saw more “out of the ordinary” things there in eight months than I would have seen in several years of working at a facility with a less diverse patient population, and I became a stronger Labor and Delivery nurse as a result. And as an added bonus, my proximity to Manhattan allowed me to enjoy many Broadway shows on my days off!
The guys I stayed with in London were phenomenal hosts (Enda made me fresh juice EVERY DAY) and they gave me excellent tips for exploring a new city.
I worked overtime shifts on my travel contracts so I could afford to go on volunteer trips with Preventing Cervical Cancer. With some planning and saving enough money, I got to go on a Masai Mara safari in Kenya, explore Nicaragua, and got to see the Taj Mahal in India after my volunteer service in each of those countries was done.
And now, I’m in Nome, Alaska which might be the most random and “different” place I’ve ever traveled to. YES it’s cold/windy/snowy/icy. And because I researched the heck out of this place ahead of time, I made sure I had the right snow gear before I arrived. So far, I have not minded the weather. If I had let the weather deter me from coming to the Alaskan bush this time of year, I would have missed out on an amazing opportunity to see a place most people will never visit and learn about the culture and way of life here.
So if traveling is your dream, don’t let fear prevent you from going! By stretching my own limits of comfort, climate, culture and geography, I’ve grown as a nurse AND as a person. I still feel anxiety about travel—even after all the travel I’ve done. But I think that anxiety is a good thing: it spurs me to do the things I need to do to be safe, well-prepared, and an expert global citizen.
I think that the main point of my experiences traveling is this (because it bears repeating): If traveling is your dream, don’t let fear prevent you from going! And don’t limit your destinations to those places that make you feel comfortable. That unsure/anxious/uncomfortable feeling you feel is the main component of personal growth. Of course, I encourage everyone to research your destination ahead of time and take necessary precautions that all travelers should take. Then go, explore, learn something new about yourself, enjoy the privilege and opportunity of being able to travel in first place. And when things go wrong, remind yourself that “travel disasters” make for personal growth, and entertaining stories afterwards.
About the author
Sarah Dorsey – a seasoned traveler for both business and pleasure, Sarah wants to leave no stone unturned. She spends her downtime catching up with friends all over the world, which most definitely involves drinking wine.