Julia Kuhn is the Traveling Traveler and you guessed it… she loves to travel! Julia has combined her love for her profession as a speech-language pathologist and love for travel. She is the founder of a successful and highly engaged Facebook group just for travel therapists. Julia shares with me the not so glamorous side of travel therapy- the parts that many staffing companies try to hide so that they can deceive you with how amazing it is when you haven’t even graduated yet (that happened to me in school!). She shares her story, the ins and out of travel therapy, and the routines that ground her considering that she lives a fairly nomadic lifestyle.
Here are the biggest takeaways from our conversation:
FIND YOUR OWN WORK-LIFE BALANCE.
Julia was born with an injury on her eyelid and had several major reconstructive surgeries. Spending a lot of time in the hospital, she observed healthcare professionals and thought about that healthcare as a career. At eighteen years old, she decided to become a speech-language pathologist. From a young age, she determined that she valued work-life balance even before she knew exactly what that meant. For Julia, work-life balance meant that she could be independent in her career and craft a life on her own terms- aka, traveling and being flexible.
“If you’re not happy with the job you’re in, set your skills ahead of others and make yourself a better clinician. ” – Julia Kuhn, CCC-SLP
WHEN BURNOUT OCCURS…
Julia began to feel burned out recently working in a skilled nursing facility setting. When you feel like a machine or a warm body, it can feel defeating. She experienced that early in her career and was able to manage that through traveling. As she advanced with her skillset, she was able to get trained in unique skills that made her a viable candidate that valued her more so for her clinical skills instead of just filling in a spot. She focused on honing her professional skills and feeding her travel bug to manage her feelings of burnout. More recently, she described burnout to come from working 80 hours a week working as a clinician and maintaining her blog. When Julia is working in her Facebook group, she becomes lit up helping others and doing something that matters. Get better at what you do and find something that gives you life. Whatever that is, do it consistently and do a gut check by asking yourself, “Does this light me up?”
“Set up routines that make you feel like you’re at home [during travel assignments]. ” – Julia Kuhn, CCC-SLP
GET REAL WITH WHAT TRAVEL THERAPY IS AND ISN’T.
Some of the biggest challenges in travel therapy is finding a job and finding affordable housing. The quality of the travel assignment you get can be the worst job ever or maybe the best job ever, and there’s no real way of knowing beforehand. As a travel therapist, you are filling a spot for better or for worse. Look for places that you can learn from to see if there is an opportunity to gain a new skill set and ask a lot of questions on your phone interview so you can gain insight about the job and the environment. Be aware of the pace as well- do you enjoy the comfort of a steady schedule or are you ready to pick up a fast pace with little-no training?
SET UP FAMILIAR ROUTINES TO STAY GROUNDED.
Being a traveling therapist means you can be, well, traveling for years and have this sense of not having roots or a home. You can be on a quest to find a home and be on the search for something that feels like it’s missing. What has worked for grounding Julia for so many years is sticking to familiar routines. Even going to a new grocery store can be overwhelming. Julia loves to get up two hours before she has to leave the house to have a slow morning, eat the same lunches, and participate in the same hobbies (photography, yoga, and hiking). Julia had to learn to develop hobbies when she started traveling, because she didn’t have any. As a result, she was a loss as to what to do. Once she found what she enjoyed, she found her game plan and helped to make her more at home.