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full time RVer and traveling nurse

Make Money and Travel – Traveling Nurse Eric

There are not many “normal”, with benefits, jobs that lend themselves to fulltime travel, especially with a family.

So, when Eric (the guy with the cute family in the pic below) agreed to give us the dish on his job as a traveling nurse for our Make Money and Travel series I was stoked!  It’s a super cool “normal” job that is perfect for sedentary lifeaphobics.

Eric and Sarah, along with their two kids, Michael (7) and Max (5), the dog Satchel (9) and lizard Ned (2) live and travel in their 5th wheel from one town (and nursing gig) to the next.  This is how Eric took his job on the road and now makes money and travels…

full time RVer and traveling nurse

We have been full time traveling in the RV since July 2010, with the exception of the beginning of this year when we all moved onto a boat while I worked as a nurse on a cruise ship.  My wife was a travel agent before being laid off.  We loved travel, but we thought since we bought a house, and have 2 kids (and pets) we were done traveling.  We couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

The Job

Describe your working situation and what line of work you’re in; If you have multiple streams of income that fund your lifestyle, tell us what they are.

Have you always had this job? At what point did you realize that you could bring in enough income to continually fund a location independent lifestyle?

I am a Registered nurse, working the Emergency Department. I have been a nurse now for 5 years.  I worked a staff job in Houston, TX for a couple of years before the hospital hired a few travel nurses to fill some holes left by recent departures.  I noticed these traveling nurses seemed happier than we were.  I started asking questions.  When I told Sarah about it, the conversation quickly turned from could we do it to how can we do it.

 full time RVer and traveling nurse

The Hours

How many hours do you put in a week and what does a typical workday look like for you?

I work three twelve hour shifts a week.  I have some say in my schedule and can contractually exclude certain important days if I want.  Some contracts want overtime, but once the contract is signed, I am guaranteed three twelve hour shifts, so it is entirely up to me if I work overtime.

 

The Pay

If you are willing to say, what is the average yearly salary for someone in your line of work? How long did it take for you to start earning a comfortable/typical living for this line of work? If you don’t feel comfortable giving numbers tell us, are you scraping by, are you able to put money in savings and pay your bills or are you raking it in?

It can depend on several factors.  Are you choosing locations based on pay or how cool the area is.  Some awesome places pay less because they are awesome.  Some traveling nurses take time off between contracts that usually last 13 weeks, these people are usually single with no kids though.  The pay can range from $1100 – $1700 weekly depending on the area, specialty unit and many other factors.  If you work overtime, and you’re really motivated, you can get into the six figure range.  I am not really motivated.

 

The Tools

What are the most essential pieces of equipment or programs you need for working while traveling?

RN license, ACLS, PALS, BLS, TNCC.

Nursing school can run the gamut from an associate’s degree (2 year program with at least one year of prerequisite classes) to a full Bachelor’s degree all the way up to a doctorate.  I went the two year degree route.  Once you finish school you will need at least 12-18 months working as a nurse in your preferred specialty (ER, Labor and Delivery, OR, ICU, etc.)

 

The Client

Who are your clients? Do you find them or do they find you and how? What is your rejection rate? How many clients do you pitch to finally win over one? You don’t have tell us who your clients are directly, just how you go about getting the work.

I have a recruiter (or two) who tell me what openings they have.  I pick my favorites from the list of available and submit an application.  I have probably a 40% chance of getting one if I submit.  I have worked with a few different companies and I recommend Jackson Nurse Professionals and Liquid Agents Healthcare.

 

The Up’s

What are the best 1-3 positive things about working while traveling? Those things that make you think wow; I really am living the dream.

I can teach my kids about the world by showing it to them.  My kid learned about volcanoes on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens and Kiluea.

Our smashed penny collection is the envy of all who see it.

If I am at a hospital I like, I am smiling because I am at a cool place.  If I am at a hospital I don’t like, I am smiling because I get to leave in a few weeks.

 

The Down’s

What are the worst 1-3 frustrating things about working while traveling? Any ways you’ve found to avoid or cope with this frustration?

“Reinventing the wheel is a pain in the behind”.  Every three months we have to find a new grocery store, a new laundry, car parts store…everything.

Things break.  We subject our home to a sustained several hour long earthquake every so often and things don’t always survive.  I have learned more about fixing things in the past three years than the previous ten.

Missing family.  We can’t always be there for holidays and special occasions.  With family so spread out, like mine is, I think we actually see more of my family than we would otherwise, but it is inconsistent.  And we almost never have a baby sitter we can trust as a result.

 

Hindsight

If you could go back in time and give yourself 1- 3 pieces of advice about starting in this line of work, what would it be?

Organize your paperwork better you slob!

Take a longer look at that toy hauler.  You could make it work.

Buy better tools.  Things break.

 

The Fantasy Job

What is one of the most creative ways you’ve heard of someone else funding a location independent lifestyle? The one that made you wish you had thought of it first!

Bumfuzzle.  To make a living writing is THE DREAM.  Then I could get that boat.  Nothing ever breaks on a boat…right?

 

So, what do you think, could being a traveling nurse be the solution to the traveling life you have always wanted?  Did you find Eric’s information helpful or inspiring? Want to be his traveling baby sitter?  If so, leave a comment below and let him know!  You can also follow Eric and read more about his traveling work life on his blogs:  http://adventurenickel.com/  http://egad-ybnormal.blogspot.com/

To read more Make Money and Travel interviews, click here.

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (39)

  • Katy

    I have a question for any Rv Nurses out there. I have already done the travel nurse thing years ago. They usually want a 3 month commitment use positions on acute (hospital floor) floors like medical, surgical etc… You have to obtain a license in the state you are in (I hold 4 licenses). They would probably not hire me because my acute experience is too old, nor do I want to spend money on a License in every state.
    Have the rules changed at all about obtaining a license? I am in a compact state so, I have reciprocity with other states. I want to utilize my nursing without working in a hospital. Has anyone done retaking or short term nursing jobs on the road. I go full time next July. Just trying to get my ducks in a row. Thank you

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  • Eboni

    Gypsy nurse here considering getting a RV for me and my dog. I don’t need a lot of space but I do need an oven… I bake, a lot. Mainly stuff I take in to work (who doesn’t like cake or cookies). What RV do y’all recommend?

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  • kaspar

    Do you have any video of that? I’d like to find out some additional information.

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  • Matt

    Great post! I’ve been an operating room nurse for 5 years. My girlfriend is going to nursing school now and we both really want to become travel nurses together. We were thinking of either a 5th wheel or a motorhome (towing a car). It seems like a great way to see the country until we find a place we both want to settle down.

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  • Marcos

    My wife and I are both traveling nurses. After our last assignment we got a wild hair to purchase an airstream and a truck. It’s definitely better to put our housing stipend towards the RV cost opposed to an apartment. We are now in San Francisco and loving it. It takes a bit of work but the comfort of having our home with us wherever we go is totally worth it.

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  • Stacy

    I am in nursing school now(2 year program) and plan to be on the road in about 10 years. I plan to work on my BSN and possibly MSN while the kids grow up and spread their own wings (a pesky time sharing agreement with a 50 mile tether will keep me here for another 8 years anyway).

    While I am waiting, I stalk RV blogs and forums.I try to decide what new RV’s today will be my used RV in the future, I even decorate them in my head/Pinterest boards.

    I will also be curious to see how tele-nursing positions/and technology evolve over the next few years and see how that type of position may work with full timing in an RV. Well not technically full timing, think I might keep a home base for tax purposes/kids who have wings but aren’t exactly soaring yet.

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  • Tammy

    Do they have traveling LNA/CNA anywhere? Website maybe?

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    • Marcos

      Yes, just contact agencies

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  • Dominick

    Hi Guys,

    My wife and I are traveling healthcare providers and I thought I would just pass this your way. This is an annual Travelers Confrence held in Vegas. This will be our first year attending but has great reviews on the forums.

    http://travelersconference.com/

    Dom Trentacosti, RRT, COTA

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    • Whoa! So there’s a huge network of Traveling Healthcare providers? So cool. Thanks for sharing.

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  • WanderWasi

    Thanks for posting! I have found it difficult to find stories/blogs about other RV + medical professionals. This is our plan as well, no later than November 1st! Along with my husbands military pension for income (and medical insurance), I’m an OT and plan to take travel contracts no more than 3-6 months of the year and travel the remainder of the year! Thank you Eric for sharing your recommended travel agencies also.

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  • Kristin

    Is there anyway to contact Eric and his family? Do they have a blog? My husband and I are considering this further, but would love to connect with a family that is a Travel RN with momma and the little ones at home.

    Thank you!

    Kristin

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  • Lisa

    Hi all!
    This is very inspirational. I want to do something similar as an LMT, but each state has a licensing requirement. Does Eric need a license in each state he practices? How does that all work?
    Thanks,
    Lisa

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    • Vic

      Yeah Lisa, every state needs a new license ($200 per license for 2 years). Your company usually reimburses this money.

      Also, Utah, along with 23 other states, participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact. The NLC is a a contract among states that allows properly registered and licensed nurses from one state to practice in another without needing to obtain an additional state license. Nurse Licensure Compact states are Texas, Mississippi, Arizona, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and Maine. Nurses whose main residence lies in a compact state but who work in Utah, such as travel nurses, do not need to apply for Utah licensure.

      Hope this helps you out.
      ~vic

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  • Victor

    hello, my wife and I are also full time traveling nurses. It was fantastic to finally ready about others that do the same as us. We would love to be in contact with Eric and try to get a crew of traveling RN’s together. We are now in San Jose, CA going to Palm Springs, CA for a 3 month contract. Hope to meet

    ~Vic & Maryori

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    • Awesome Victor, I’m sure Eric will see this post and respond. Great idea, traveling in numbers can be so much fun! BTW did you feel like we missed any good information with this MMAT post? Your thoughts would be welcomed with open arms.

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  • Judy k

    I was a traveling therapist. (COTA) for about 8 years and loved it. Pick and choose where you want to go. Do your job and explore the area your in. At times your asked to extend. That is your choice. My dream was to get an RV and continue to travel. I needed medical attention so chose to stay in one area. But I feel the urge to travel again. Another idea is to be part of a set up crew. While finishing my degree in OT I worked for Walgreens setting up new stores. When new stores are built they need staff to help set up and train new staff. Full benefits and travel. I’m sure other companies have similar programs.

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    • Judy, that sounds awesome and maybe a little less stressful than working the ER…maybe!?!

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  • John Russin

    Last year I had an eye exam at a LensCrafters store in Roseville, CA, and the optometrist who performed the exam “floated”. He would spend several weeks or months at a given location, depending on the need from LensCrafters. He resided with his wife in a Class A unit.
    He worked store openings, filled in during vacation times, and moved on when he felt like it. Full Benefits included. Other large chain operations might provide similar opportunities….Home Depot,Target, Outback, etc. Surely these and similar companies welcome company-explicit experienced employees.

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  • Nick

    That’s my uncle!

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  • This MM&T story really makes you think outside the box, even more than usual. When we were mapping out our full-time lifestyle, we only considered typically “mobile” types of professions, so many of which are internet based. Instead, Eric has a job that you would never think of as mobile. How great that there are recruiters out there placing nurses into temporary positions, keeping the work coming. I wonder what other professions could be done on a contract basis. Great story Eric. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    • Yea, who would have thought a “normal” job that lets you travel…and kind of on your own schedule. Very cool.

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  • Kristin

    My husband and I are both nurses with two little ones (8 & 3). We cannot wait to upgrade to our dream 5th wheel and hit the road when the kids are in college! Right now our benefits and pensions are too good to let go of! Thank you for posting Eric’s story, it gives me hope!

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    • It’s my understanding that Eric still receives benefits from his employer, I will ask him to elaborate. Good luck with your dream, who knows where the RV industry will be in 15 years when your kids are off to college. Very exciting.

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      • John E. Baker III

        I just hope the roads’ll be better. 😉

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      • Hi, Eric here. I get my benefits myself. I use more than one agency to ensure I have more options and taking benefits ties me to one more than I would like.

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        • Thanks for sharing Eric, we were wondering the same thing 🙂

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  • Jason

    This just confirmed that I’m on the correct path. Just got into nursing school and becoming a traveling rn has been my plan since day one. I’ve got the 5 year plan to get everything done and on the road.

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      • Jason

        Thank you guys! Your YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest keep a grin on my face and my eye on the prize. Can’t wait to start my adventure

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  • Sharon

    What a fantastic and informative article! I wish I would have had this information 10 years ago when I was so disgruntled and yearned for a way out of what I was doing and back into the O.R. Good for you!

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  • linda

    why the toy hauler?

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    • OK, there was a slight disagreement here. I really like the toy hauler idea because they are very stoutly built, the back garage area can have two retractable bunk beds (and is built to get dirty like a garage, great for the kids), and often can have the door folded down to make a patio you can screen in. Sarah, well, she wasn’t completely convinced. We are really happy with our Open Range though.

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      • That’s my favorite part about the toy haulers too: Made to get dirty, convertible space and the “deck” for happy hour!

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  • Thais

    Thanks for sharing…I had always wondered if there were ever any full timers who worked healthcare contracts. As an OT I constantly get calls about traveling positions and wondered if I could make it work by working contracts and traveling…good food for thought!

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