Bloughting Stories Travel Therapy

Travel PT “Bloughting” on Traveling as a Healthcare Professional

September 26, 2017
man with a tiger picture

Travel PT Alex Hart has had an incredible 10 year career (and counting!) as a traveling physical therapist.  He started as a new grad Physical Therapy Assistant and worked his way through a Doctor of Physical Therapy program while traveling. He went on to work in the US Virgin Islands, worked as a director of rehab, has worked across many settings in the US and now serves as a mentor for new traveling therapists.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Alex for a couple of years and calling him a good friend.  We took a trip together to Thailand in between assignments and spent a good majority of the time talking about travel therapy (go figure!).  Early in 2017 I asked him to write a piece for The Traveling Traveler about his experiences as a PTA going through a bridge program to DPT or working in the USVI.  Like many travelers, Alex is a gypsy soul who rolls to the beat of his own drum and sent me back a diatribe that he termed “bloughting” aka “blogging thoughts”.   His bloughings are light-hearted, humorous and meant to evoke a smile or giggle.

By popular demand, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of “bloughting” with Alex!  Thank you for your contributions and support here at The Traveling Traveler and to the community of travel therapists that you mentor and inspire!

2 people feeding an elephant

Alex and I feeding an elephant at an elephant rescue in Thailand

PART 1 Traveling as a Healthcare Professional:

The most common question I get asked is this, “How long do you think you will keep it up?”  My answer, “I don’t know.”

I’m a traveling physical therapist, a gypsy, a nomad, and I’ve been at this for a good while now.  I say only a good while, because I’ve met a few others, along my travels, whom have been at this much longer than I.  This is my tenth year in this crazy lifestyle.  To some, that may seem an eternity, but as I’ve eluded to, I’ve befriended a few others that have been at this so long that they applied for Medicare while on assignment.  Yeup, 20+ years as a traveler, and 40 total.  That was the first traveler that I met, on my first travel assignment 10 years ago.  Seems so long ago now, but I can’t imagine having stopped.  I’ve thought about it, but couldn’t really see myself stopping just yet.  Too many places to go, people to see, things to do, and of course, vacations to be had.  How do all you “normal” people live with only two weeks of vacation a year?  I’d pull my hair out and then someone else’s hair too!

The most common question I get asked is this, “How long do you think you will keep it up?”  My answer, “I don’t know.”  Then I shrug and throw my arms up in the air because I’m animated.  And, because I love what I do and love that I can travel while doing it.  See new places, meet new people, do new things, and if the wind is right, return back around to reunite with all those previously new things and friends.

Now, after reading this far into my journal-ish blog thingy, you’re probably wondering why I’m even jotting this down into somewhat comprehensible lingo and ink imitating pixels…Well, it’s because I believe good things come in threes.  One of the greatest basketball players ever wore number 3, Alan Iverson; not my favorite player, but definitely one of them.  Breakfast foods are great in threes.  I mean come on, eggs, bacon, hash browns.  Is there a better combo?  Maybe crepes.  I love crepes.  But this has to be a thingy of threes, so, crepes, jelly/fruit, and whipped cream.  Bam, another three!  My family calls them Palachinka’s.  I believe it’s Hungarian or Polish for crepe haha.  Comes from my mom’s Eastern European heritage and, well, let’s face it.  They got crazy awesome foods!  I love Palachinka’s…Did I mention that already?  Oh, and I also can’t forget probably the most universal set of threes that 99% of the population absolutely agrees with me upon.  (I say 99% just to account for those weirdos that don’t like fun and yummy things…)  WINE!  Wine with chocolate, other kinds of chocolate, and cheese.  Who doesn’t love those combos?

However, the most pertinent set of threes, for the purposes of this journal-ish blog thingy, is…Yes, you guessed it, crepes, chocolate, and wine!  Bahahahahaha!  Sorry, a little bit of mad Pavlov’s dog just came over me for a moment there…Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy.  Yes, PT OT SLP!!!  Such an amazing set of threes right there.  I am so lucky to have found a profession with such great collaborative potential across fields that are so very different in their approaches, and yet so fundamentally the same, in their quest for the betterment of our patients quality of life.

I think that’s why we are called Allied Health, instead of just health…

Anywho, what the heck does all this have to do with traveling?  Well, if ever you felt like you were even a little bit stagnant and becoming complacent with your position in your field/facility/life, then let me shed some light on you.  Whenever I’ve ever felt a little that way, [whether it be because I’ve been in the same setting for a while, working with the same population in a given region or even just wondering what else is out there to treat a given patient condition besides the same old same old] I’ve shouted out to any number of my traveling compadres to see how they are treating or seeing treatment performed for patients of the same, in their region.

I’ve learned something new at every facility, in every region, from every culture I’ve worked in and with.  There is not much complacency happening for me, save for the continuous moving out/in and packing up/loading out.  This set of Allied Health professions are a very fluid thing.  They are ever evolving, and I see no greater view of this than from a traveler’s perspective.  Just recently, one of my favorite clinics that I had the pleasure of working at, near the end of 2015, was happy to accept me back to fill another need just this past 2016-17.  That’s a fairly short turn around, all things considered.  That’s not the point.  The point is that the first time I was there, I had brought a new perspective and treatment style, along with different versions of exercises/techniques that the clinic had not seen before.  And, I learned so much from them as well.  Techniques, exercise styles and manual philosophies.  There was a running joke going around that if there was an exercise on the patient’s list that another clinician didn’t know what the name meant, that it must be one of mine…well, that is true, but equally reciprocated on multiple occasions.  And guess what.  When I went back this last time, I brought again new material for them and furthered the philosophy and intervention approaches mutually through the reciprocating benefacting (is that even a word? Sounds good…) awesomeness that is the wonder of being a traveler.  Sharing and learning fluidly and almost always anew.

I’ve learned something new at every facility, in every region, from every culture I’ve worked in and with

One just doesn’t get the same reciprocation and amazement through collaboration, when not in or exposed to a traveling position.  I guess I always knew that schools in different regions and different cultures, amongst the PT profession, tend to emphasize their different values upon the profession and in doing so, emphasize various aspects in their interventions, philosophies, and general approaches to care.

From being a traveler, all of these years, I feel that I have learned and earned the tools to be ready and able to handle any situation from any population and culture with grace and poise.  I’m not saying that a non-traveler is inferior to me or ill prepared, or even that I am just better.  I’m not saying any of that.  As a matter of fact, I have met some absolutely incredibly brilliant therapists that were not travelers, or tried it and ultimately returning to a perm position, after a short term.  I’ve learned some amazing techniques and insight from one such PT that not only studied under Mulligan, but has traveled and taught with him at his side.  Such a wealth of knowledge.  I digress…I’m just saying that traveling has been my pathway to incredible success, ability, and happiness in my profession.  It’s allowed me to spread my wings and fly in the pursuit of knowledge to assist others in their betterment of quality of life, and continually surprising and improving my own quality.

From being a traveler, all of these years, I feel that I have learned and earned the tools to be ready and able to handle any situation from any population and culture with grace and poise.

Take these thoughts put into words as you will.  However, I hope they have put some color, light, and happiness in your mind’s eye and inspire you to continue your complete pursuit of knowledge and evolution in becoming the absolutely very best Allied Health PT OT SLP bundle of awesomeness that you can.

I was once a PTA and traveling grew and inspired me so much that I returned to school in pursuit of my Doctorate in PT.  Travel.  Be inspired.  Inspire others.


PART 2 First International Trip for the Books – Chasing the Sun:

Well, here’s another one for you Julia, and all her readers.  As I’m sitting here on my final connection towards Bangkok to meet the very awesome traveling SLP friend and colleague of mine, I had just a few more thoughts breeze through my head.  First off, I had a very nice and much needed lengthy nap to start this seven hour-ish connection off.  Apparently I couldn’t sleep a wink on my previous connection…of 11 hours…from San Francisco to Tokyo.  I mean come on, it was like high noon weather outside the entire flight and yeah, feeling from the time zone I left, they expected everyone to go to bed at like 5ish in the PM…Really?  Then, before I knew it and after having watched a movie, draft up my first bloggy thingy for Julia, watch another movie, we get the announcement to start preparing for our final decent into Tokyo…just as I’m like, “yeah, some shut eye would be good…a little cat nap.”  Nope!  Not gunna happen!  All the cabin lights blaze on and I’m just like “oh come on…”

So yeah, I was very much in need of a nap, because by that time it was tomorrow already haha.  But anywho, I woke up, splashed some water on my face from the plane’s automatic faucet.  Yes, it had automated faucets!  Awesome!  I know right!  And then I sat back down, put the headphone back on and found a beautiful instrumental of Sound of Silence on the provided audio list at my seat.  It made me smirk a bit.  I love that song, no matter how it’s done.  Who doesn’t?  Then some thoughts started to meander through my waking head again.  I scrolled through, found a boat load of Beatles piano instrumental tracks and rolled the playlist on.  Turned up the volume.  My neighbor started to snore off/on…And here I am.  Bloughting.  Disclaimer: I like making up my own words sometimes…okay, like a lot of times.  But hey, it’s okay, I’m a doctor! Hahaha!  [Bloughting: blou – ting; blogging thoughts].  I even gave the what would be of the word from say like good old Webster hehe, if he was gunna say anything about it ;).

a man drinking a coconut

A little to comfortable with the gypsy life…

So, what the hell am I really putting all these pixels together, like digital ink, for?!  Well, for one, to just say how awesome it will be to post some amazing vicarious pictures on the webs for all my friends and family to continue living vicariously through me; two, to once again say how awesome it will be to adventure with the super cool Julia [I kinda feel like saying, “Mountains Gandalf!  I want mountains! – Bilbo, my good buddy ;)]; three, (again with the threes…golly jeepers huh!?) to help inspire others to chase the sun :), or at least the stars or dreams haha.

I don’t care what the heck you’re passionate about or dream about, but get out there and seek it!  Don’t merely just pursue it.  Get the hunt on and chase that sucker down.

I’m a gypsy, not just by trade or self-branding, but also by blood.  By gosh I’m a Gypsy!  Thanks mom :).  I swear I’m the only kid in the family that received those genes lol.  And, in such as being a Gypsy, I’ve long lusted for expanding my travels to the great wide world.  It’s been a dream of mine to chase the sun, as it were, and I had my first taste right after grad school and receiving my DPT.  An appetizer as you will.  Three months in the Caribbean!  How the hell can three months be an appetizer you say?  Well, because it was a work contract, in poor work conditions…living was great by the way, super relaxed and fun…but work was awfully stressful and the clinic I was at was very very very very (can I emphasize that enough?) very poorly managed and made my days hell…until the weekend hit! Of course ;).  That, and it was almost solely on the US Virgin Islands, which although amazing, didn’t really equate to getting over that precipice.  I had an absolute blast though!  Took my parents on an amazing 4 Island boat charter through the British Virgin Islands, made some very awesome and lifelong friends, found out I really really like Ultimate Frisbee and am good at it to boot!  Made the St Thomas All-Star team for the USVI Tri-Island Tournament even!  Oh!  And I got my first tattoo before I left the islands.  I was super stoked about that!  A kind of customized compass.  Got it on my right shoulder blade.  You know, right where I can see it, if I ever need to utilize its directional capabilities…haha.

I’m a gypsy, not just by trade or self-branding, but also by blood.

But, I digress.  I’m finally taking that leap into this great wondrous world and starting my main course.  I’m doing it with someone whom I have great respect for, both professionally, and just as a person in general.  I mean she’s awesome!  Just look at Julia.  You can’t miss the awesomeness!  And, well hey, I guess it takes one to know one right?!  Haha.  Yeah, I just called myself pretty awesome haha.  Hey, gotta get it while the gettin’s good!

So hey!  I don’t care what the heck you’re passionate about or dream about, but get out there and seek it!  Don’t merely just pursue it.  Get the hunt on and chase that sucker down.  Seek and destroy!  Or obtain…Yeah, let’s not destroy our dreams, or the sun…both would be very bad…Whether it be the setting you truly desire to work in, the state/region, getting that certificate in any number of areas, tracking down your fellowship goals, starting traveling in health care or finishing traveling in health care and finally settling down and grasping that one thing that grounds you and holds you so all is right in the world professionally and personally.  Seek it.  Even and especially if it has nothing to do with your professional life.  Our personal dreams are that much more worth seeking, because they both allow us to spread our wings and fly in freedom, and also ground us like nothing else can.




Alexander Hart, PTA, PT, DPT

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