A Wrench

Tomorrow marks the end of Justin’s 13 week travel nurse contract here in Reno. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been spending a lot of time looking at maps with eager anticipation  and Justin has applied to nearly every opening that’s come up in Washington in hopes that we could call the PNW home for the fall months.

However. There was a wrench thrown into our plans.

At the recommendation of some other travel nurses, we reached out to Travel Tax, a tax firm that specializes in taxes for travel nurses (well, actually for anyone who travels in their job, but they really know their way around travel nursing- if you are thinking of traveling, reach out to them asap- they are seriously awesome). We simply wanted to make sure that we were doing everything right with plenty of time to course correct if necessary. We’re really glad we did as it turns out that there are some steps we need to take before the year’s end to be all squared away. Without diving into the tax code with you, suffice it to say that the most notable of the steps we need to take is that we must establish New Hampshire as our “tax home” by having Justin take a full 13-week travel nurse assignment there while we live at our permanent address there (i.e. at his parents’ house).

So. New Hampshire it is.

As you might guess, we were initially quite disappointed by this news. Not because we have a problem with New Hampshire or Justin’s folks- on the contrary, we adore them both! But heading home for three months before we were even a full year into our road life wasn’t exactly how we’d planned things, you know? So we let the “womp womp” of the news settle in for a few minutes and then we regrouped and started looking at our options for how to go about things. And here’s our rough plan…

The hospital here in Reno offered Justin an extension, so we will be here through September 30, another six weeks. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all that we want to do here, so we thought we’d continue to enjoy this backyard access to the Sierras and Lake Tahoe for another few weeks. We also have a 10-day trip up to Washington planned so we can get at least a quick PNW fix! Once this contract finishes, we’ll winterize our sweet little camper and store it at a facility here in Nevada and begin to make our way east. While we haven’t decided on a route yet, we are thinking an epic month-long road trip is in order for the month of October! We’ve got our sights set on western Montana (maybe via Idaho?), Grand Teton, and Yellowstone just at first glance and I’ll be sure to update you as we firm up what plans we’re willing to commit to. So that leaves November-January in New Hampshire to fulfill our requirements and we are excited at the prospect of having plenty of time to catch up with our community of family and friends in New England and to get ourselves a little fix of winter before heading back west to grab our home on wheels and head to wherever will be next.

This is what adventure looks like sometimes. Plans that go awry and the necessity to adapt and be flexible and search out ways to create new and wonderful experiences that weren’t even on the radar until a wrench got thrown into what was planned. We didn’t exactly embark on this lifestyle looking for certainty or guarantees and we find ourselves once again confronted by the many reasons we have to be grateful, not the least of which is a welcoming place to call home (thanks, Ma & Pa Gio!) and a lifestyle that allows us the flexibility to course correct when necessary.

So friends in New England and along the route there, be ready- we are coming at you and we should warn you: we hug like we mean it!

Redefining Home

So. Our house is under contract.

I haven't shared much here as Justin wanted to talk with his boss and co-workers about our plans before I "went public" but now that he has, I can tell you...

We are hitting the road, y'all.

We've been in the pre-planning stages for some time. Our plans have morphed quite a lot since we initially began thinking about what we wanted to do. It began as something grandiose and ideal..."we should save up and in ten years or so, we should sell everything and just play across North America for a few years." We wanted to take a few years "off" and just be 100% free to explore. Which would be amazing, I'm sure, but then...

We started thinking of it as a five-year-plan...how could we save enough money for ONE year of no work over the next few years?  Also, our dog, Tessie, is NOT a hiker. Like AT ALL. She pretty much thinks we are full-on punishing her when we take her so much as car-camping and just wants to go sleep in the tent the entire time and wants no parts of us or a campfire or anything else that is "outdoorsy." So we morbidly began calling it "Operation When Tessie Goes, We Go" (stop judging us). She's ten-ish years old (she's a rescue and no one really knows her age, but that's the vet's guess) and we didn't want to torture her final years with living out of the back of our truck...she's our baby after all! So we stuck with that idea for awhile. 

But then we were struck with reality. We aren't necessarily guaranteed that five years from now will be possible.

I am a cancer survivor. If there is one lesson that is driven home by being faced with a disease that wants to kill you, it is the idea that time is not something that is guaranteed to us. And not just in the sense of being struck down with illness or death or anything so dramatic. Why do we always imagine that "someday" will be easier or more financially certain than today? Why do we always think that "later" we'll be able to save more money or have more free time?

The reality is that "someday" will come with its own challenges. And that's assuming that we get a "someday."

We realized that life won't be any more accommodating for a trip like this later than it is right now. As a matter of fact, in many ways, THIS is the most ideal time for a big adventure. Our parents aren't likely to get younger or healthier than they are now. We aren't likely to become less entrenched in our work or community or life here. Simply put, it won't get easier to walk away from this life that we love by digging our roots deeper into it. 

So we began thinking about how to make traveling the country something we could do NOW. 

We are quite fortunate in the work that both of us do. Justin is a nurse and I am a hodge-podge of photographer, writer, teacher, speaker, candle-stick-maker. I can do my work from anywhere. And in the nursing world, there is an incredible thing called "travel nursing." For those of you not familiar, travel nurses work for an agency that works with hospitals across a region or even across the country. These agencies are called upon by hospitals when they have a shortage or nursing need that needs to be filled immediately and for a short-term period of time. Sometimes these needs arise because a nurse is going on extended leave (sabbatical or maternity leave, for example) and sometimes it's because a floor is having a high-turnover rate for whatever reason or the hospital has implemented policies such as requiring a lower nurse-to-patient ratio. There are hundreds of these jobs available across the country at any given time and usually last for about 3 months. The agencies usually provide benefits and either housing or a housing stipend. And, generally, they allow their nurses to continue to keep those benefits for up to 4 weeks between job assignments. So we'll be able to take a month "off" between jobs to play with total freedom.

Jackpot.

Our ideal of unencumbered flexibility has been supplanted by a plan that includes continuing to work full-time, but being able to actually go now rather than wait for "someday." And that's a pretty worthwhile trade-off in our estimation. 

So...we'll finish out 2016 here in Maine. We have a range of commitments that we want to see through and some logistics to figure out (not the least of which includes of disposing of 95% of our belongings). But early in the new year, we'll leave New England and head west.

At the moment, we aren't sure what, exactly, that will look like. Travel trailer? Agency housing? We just don't really know the answers yet. We'd planned to put our home on the market in the fall after figuring out some of those questions. But fate showed up in the form of fantastic buyers who knocked on the door and want most of our stuff as well as our home. When the universe throws you that kind of bone, you accept it and say thank you without question.

So here we go...the adventure begins 6 months before we will actually depart Maine.

It begins with how to define the idea of home. It begins with how to find "home" on the move. It begins by letting go of defining myself by my home and the things that I own. 

But perhaps, most importantly, IT BEGINS.