You got the job, the apartment, started working, got settled in, so now what? Traveling as a travel healthcare professional can be extremely exciting, but it can also be lonely and isolating if you do not utilize your down time in a way that works for you. It is important to keep a good work/life balance to keep you happy and fulfilled on your travel healthcare assignment.
As a solo traveler, a big hurdle for me to overcome was getting outside of my comfort zone and being able to explore and engage in my new environments. Here are some tips and tricks that I have found helped me to make my assignments more fulfilling and enjoyable.
1. Make a list and check it off as you go
When I arrive on an assignment I start to make a list of “Things I want to do” at this assignment. My list comes from a mix of things that I have read or learned about as well as things that my co-workers recommend that I do as a newbie. It may be restaurants to go to, street art to see, mountains to climb or a happy hour special, but I make the list and then check things off as I go. I pull out the list occasionally during my assignment and see what I have not done and then find a way to schedule it in.
I am often told by my coworkers that I have done more in their neighborhood in 13 weeks than they have done in a lifetime. By the end of my assignments, my coworkers may even ask me about things to do or places to see. I feel that is because I make a conscious effort to get out there and explore and really know my new surroundings.
2. Find your hobbies and what you are passionate about
When I started traveling I can honestly admit that I was not passionate about doing anything. I spent my weekends rather alone going to Whole Foods and the mall. Nothing really gave me the urge to get out there and explore.
Through traveling, I have met people who have introduced me to new things and I learned that I love to hike, mountain climb, do yoga, learn Spanish and practice photography. Having these things that I am passionate about gives me a purpose outside of work. When I get to a new place I immediately start asking about the best mountains to climb and searching for other hikers to share trails with.
As a traveler, I urge you to find what drives you and to do it. You may not know what it is at assignment one, but if you let yourself get out and explore you will discover it.
3. Join a group – Try MeetUp
Connecting with others who have similar interests or backgrounds is a great way to connect on assignment. Adults sports and recreation leagues, volunteer organizations, religious groups/services and college alumni associations are all great ways to connect with people in the community. As a graduate of a Big 10 school (Penn State) I have found that almost every major city in America has a “Penn State Bar” where the alumni get together to watch Saturday football games, which has been a great networking tool for me.
Meet Up is a great way to connect with people who have similar interests and hobbies. Meet Up is basically a website of clubs. If you remember going to a social/club fair in college and looking around at all of the different groups and organizations, that is kind of what browsing through Meet Up is like. Some of the clubs are free to join, others cost money and some have commitments while others do not.
4. Find deals and new experiences on Groupon
Groupon is a website and app that offers limited time coupons for goods and services. In any given community Groupon may have deals for gyms, spas, restaurants and outdoor activities. I frequently scroll through Groupon just to see what there is available. Thanks to Groupon I have been to restaurants, gyms and done activities that I would have never thought to do otherwise.
What I like about the fitness aspect of Groupon is that gyms will usually offer a 1 month membership without a long term commitment, which is perfect for a traveler. One month you can try a yoga studio, the next month rock climbing, next month bootcamp all at an introductory rate.
5. Invite guests to visit
Nothing can be better than experiencing a new place with family or an old friend. If it works for you, encourage your friends and family to visit and experience your new location. You can be the tour guide and share new experiences with your loved ones.
6. Take weekend trips
If there is a place you want to go that is not quite close enough for a day trip, but you could get to in a weekend; check it out! Maybe you even have a friend or family member in another city that could host you.
I have explored much of the west coast not because I have worked in all of the cities that I have been to, but because once I got to the west coast I started to take weekend trips to new cities that I wanted to explore.
7. Consider living with roommates
Living with roommates definitely has it’s ups and downs and I would not recommend it to everybody. Over the years, I have lived in many high priced cities where living solo is a bank breaker, so I have gotten used to living with other people and I have a pretty good screening process to determine if a roommate is a good fit or not.
That being said, if you are somebody that can live with others and find a good fit, having roommates can be a great doorway to a new place. I have had roommates volunteer to pick me up at the airport, show me around town and invite me to their events. Some of my former roommates (who are probably reading this) have become some of my best friends. At the very least, a roommate can be somebody to come home to and watch a TV show with or somebody to share take out and a convo at the end of a long week.
8. Take a class
Check out local community organizations or colleges for short courses in something that interests you. Maybe it is an art class, language class, photography or web design. I have been lucky enough to take different classes including Spanish and a professional growth series while on assignments.
9. Connect with other travelers
You may be lucky enough to meet other travelers at your building. If not, reach out to your recruiter and see if he/she knows of any other travelers in the area that would agree to being connected with you. Your recruiter could exchange your emails/phone numbers at your discretion.
10. Relax and enjoy the moment
No matter where you are, that is where you are meant to be in that moment. Enjoy and embrace the moment without fear or anxiety about what is going to happen next. Life is a journey and sometimes we get caught up in thinking about the past or pondering the future and not enjoying our current moment. For good or bad, embrace all of the moments, whether big or small, in travel.