So Much To Do – So Little Time
How to maximize your experience in a new location
I’m sure all traveling clinicians have their own reasons for loving to travel, whether it is the variety in working environment, flexibility of schedule, or increased income (or all!) But we all do it because we love to experience new places and explore our world, right?! Taking a short-term contract in a new location is one of the best ways to do this – it gives you the chance to truly feel like you’ve experienced the area. The overwhelming part is squeezing in everything that you want to do and see while you’re there!
Maximizing our experiences in every new location is one of our main priorities. Here is how we do it!
Start gathering ideas
Usually when we pick a new location for an assignment, we have already done at least a little bit of scoping out the area and have a few ideas floating around in our heads– that’s part of the reason for choosing an assignment, right? But I always find that between wrapping up our last contract, arranging for travel plans in between jobs, filling out required paperwork, and locating housing, we always find ourselves arriving at the new location without much of a plan!
Depending what your interests are you can find ideas from a lot of different resources. Other than relying on our own research of the area, we gather ideas from friends who have visited (or live here!), and anyone we meet in the area. We have followed ideas from people we met on a trail, at the dog park, in line at the grocery store, co-workers, wait staff, and surprisingly – patients! They are often the best resource, as we tend to spend a significant amount of time with them they usually can come up with some great ideas that interest us! We also love to visit local gear or running stores… here in Washington we stopped in to the flagship REI store and picked up a few books and maps for trail guides.
Since we have dogs we are usually most interested in finding outdoor activities that are dog friendly, but we also try to keep our ears open for indoor activities as well which come in handy for weekly date nights or weekends out. Here in Tacoma, WA, some of the things we still have on our list are:
- Explore as many trails as possible either through hiking, running, mtn. biking, skiing, camping, or backpacking
- Try local ethnic restaurants, breweries, and vineyards
- Experience some of the Seattle music scene
- Local specific trips: Kayaking/camping the San Juan Islands
- See all of the National Parks that are close by – Olympic, Rainier, North Cascades
- Check out local neighborhoods in Seattle and surrounding towns as well as touristy destination spots like Pikes Market, the Space Needle, and Snoqualmie Falls.
- Adventure to nearby “regions” – The San Juan Islands, Vancouver, Leavenworth, Portland, Olympic Peninsula, Eastern WA, the Washington coast, etc.
Luckily, we were able to extend our contract from winter/rainy season through the summer, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we can check most of this off our list.
Prioritize your list
Let me preface this section by saying that I am NOT a Type-A planner, and neither is Steve! But we also know that those who fail to plan, plan to fail… With that being said, we have found that sketching out a rough idea of what we want to do together while in an area is a great way to start, and then let the details fall into place. Usually this plan works, although it may or may not lead to frustration in one party or another on occasion 😉
I like to write out a rough draft of our time frame wherever we are. A visual aide really puts into perspective the brevity of a 13 week contract and keeps us from wasting valuable time! This can be elaborate, in a bullet journal, or usually what I like to do is just make a list on lined paper and write every weekend or weekday we have off , while leaving room to sketch in our ideas. Start by writing down everything you know you have planned – like holidays, pre-arranged days off if you have to fly home for a wedding or holiday, etc.
We also like to sort out our ideas out by time frame.
- Short: If the distance is close by like 30 min or so we can fit it in on a work night. Local parks, trails, restaurants… We have a great 3-5 mile loop on trail that we can hit up on weeknights. There are also some awesome ethnic restaurants right in our neighborhood that make great date nights!
- Medium: If the distance is 1-2 hours, we can do that on a one day trip – we’ve been able to check out some hikes in the Cascades, Whidbey and Orcas Island, the Olympic Peninsula, Olympia, Leavenworth, and downtown Seattle/Pikes Market with day trips.
- Long: If we have to travel much over 3 hours, these trips are best for at least an overnight – whether that be a campground or hotel. We wrote a 4 day weekend in our contract back in February that was supposed to be for a running race, but we ended up skiing in Whistler instead – being flexible worked out! In our extension, we have a 5 day weekend for our anniversary that has yet to be planned ☺ Plus there will be plenty of camping trips if it either slightly warms up or stops raining (or both!)
Say Yes to Adventures!
Once you get your ideas rolling, sort them out by feasibility of time, location and weather – start plugging them onto your calendar and let the adventures roll! The one thing we have learned is it never helps to wait around for the perfect time… if you wait for it to stop raining in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll NEVER get outside your apartment! Go get some water-proofing spray for your jackets and just go for it! If you’re in Alaska and you want to learn how to fish – sign up for a trip! If you live near the beach and want to learn to surf, sign up for a lesson! Don’t get tied down in the details… make a plan and go with it!
I really believe that one of the beautiful things about traveling is truly experiencing your area and making it home. Because, it’s not all about the job, but about really making the most of where you are. Now that we’ve been traveling for 3 years, I can look back at every assignment with wonderful memories of friends we have made in the area, and all the adventures that really made each area feel like home – from Berkeley, to the wilds of Alaska, to central coast California, and now here in Washington. We don’t just get to hear about these places or see them on a screen, but get out there and LIVE it.
Hopefully these ideas will help you strategize if you’re already a traveller, or ignite your interest in being a travel healthcare professional if you’re just considering traveling! Here’s to many more adventures to come ☺
Written by: Ellen Stockhausen