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I have a terrible habit of tolerating tolerating tolerating something until I can’t handle it anymore, then I explode. I’ve exploded on nursing. I’ve been burned out on patient care for so long I don’t know if I’ll ever go back, and no part of me has any desire to do bedside nursing again. AM admit sounds nice, school nurse wouldn’t be too bad, assisted suicide nursing would be a dream job. I don’t mean that in a macabre way like I want to kill people for a living, but it would be a relief working with patients who are willing to accept death.
I guess some new study must have come out because while we were in Africa a few different non-Americans told us only 15% of Americans have passports. Isn’t that ironic? With the possible exception of my father-in-law, every American I know longs to travel. They yearn for it, ache for it, yet only 15% apparently have the courage to potentially leave the country.
Don’t get me wrong- we love the States. North America is by far our favorite continent. But there are other worlds out there- cultures, food, languages, scenery, different ways of living- and we’re the laughing stock because we work work work then never take any time off to enjoy it. And I’m not talking about luxurious international vacations- I’m talking about any vacations. Holidays, as the rest of the first world knows them.
I have nursing friends who sell their PTO (paid time off) back to the hospital. They have so little interest (or so little money) in actually taking a vacation that they give their vacation time back, and at a discounted rate. I suppose it all comes down to extra money, because if they cash it out that means they can keep working, but I’ll never understand it. Not that I get PTO anymore, but when I did I burned through it every chance I got, and then some. And don’t get me started on time off without pay- it’s unheard of! Which brings me to my next question:
Why do people work?
Greg and I have been asking ourselves that a lot over the last year. Why do we have jobs? To support our lifestyle, to support our things of course. But here’s what kills me: Most people work so that they don’t have to work anymore. Retirement. Isn’t that ironic? When we were in Africa, Greg and I made new life plans- for Greg to keep working for the airline so we could travel the world on their dollar, going home only to make enough money for our next trip.
Within a minute of driving away from the airport after we landed we said to each other “What the hell are we doing here?” Working jobs we don’t like in a town we don’t want to live to make enough money so that we can leave again. Isn’t that ironic? Why not just leave for good? Why not just quit working for good?
“But where will you live? How will you make money?” In our van, in a camper, in our parents’ basements, who cares? We’re not going to end up on the streets- we have way too many relatives for that. The money question always kills me. Gregory and I are not independently wealthy. We just spend less than we make and save the rest. We’re lucky that both of us had been doing that for years when we got together so neither of us brought any debt to the table, only savings, investment, and retirement accounts.
We save our money. And we blow our money. And then we save our money some more. People tell me all the time they envy our life, or even that they want our life. Some people are apologetic to me about the vacations they’re taking. “Well, we’re just going camping at Keystone. Nothing like what you’ve done.” “We’re having a staycation, not like one of your trips.” One time I told a cranky old nurse I was going on vacation to Portland. He said “That’s not a vacation.” I told him “Every time I step foot out of this building it’s a vacation.” Don’t ever apologize for taking time off work!
You don’t have to get an overwater bungalow in the Maldives to qualify as a vacation. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to camp out behind the Ihop in Sand Springs, Oklahoma for a weekend- that’s still a vacation! That’s vacating your normal life! I’ll stop yelling. I love that Gregory and I are just as happy going on safari in South Africa as we are backpacking in Montana as we are going to the farm in North Dakota as we are renting a cabin on Lake Keystone. Stop the ratrace, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses, and just enjoy life.
I deal with death and the dying on a regular basis and do you know how many patients have told me I should be working more and traveling less? NOT ONE. Not one patient has ever told me I should settle down and have babies. Not one patient has told me they wished they had worked more in life, or bought more things, or vacationed less. THEY ALL TELL ME: Do it. Do it while you’re young. Do it while you don’t have any kids. Do it do it do it. 100% of patients can’t be wrong! I’m not saying people shouldn’t have kids, or that having kids automatically negate all travel, but I am saying people should take a break more.
I’m sure some of you saw that stupid picture on facebook recently that said “If travel was free you’d never see me again”. Well if I made a hole in one every time I swung a club I’d be a professional golfer. If you truly long to travel, you can make travel work. Get a second job, work overtime, cut out your fancy coffees, take your lunch to work, ride your bike, open a savings account, cancel your cable, order water at restaurants, hit up happy hour, blah blah blee blah. Vacations aren’t just going to fall into your lap. You have to have the motivation and the courage to take them.
Does this come off as more of a rant? I hope not, it’s meant to be encouraging and empowering. I’m writing it for myself, actually, to get motivated to leave this mess of “real life” and a “real job”. Before we put in our notices last week I was dragging my feet, still trying to figure out ways to stay registry, have a back up nursing job, keep my skills fresh. I told Gregory I felt like I was standing at the edge of a cliff, like all the safety of work was behind me calling to me while this big scary blurry world was beneath me and I was too afraid to jump into it.
It is scary thinking about leaving an income. Our dull human brains go through all the what-ifs and the but-waits, but after talking to a dear friend about it last Monday night I changed those questions to why not and who cares? What if I leave nursing? What if I never go back to it? Who cares? Maybe I’ll be craving nursing after six months and will be back to work by December. I seriously doubt it, but it could happen. What about all that schooling gone to waste? Well what about it? It’s like when Rafiki hits Simba in the head with his stick. It’s in the past. What if we run out of money in three weeks? Then we’ll go back to work. What if the van breaks down? We’ll either fix it or fly back to North Dakota to get the Subaru and keep going. What if one of us gets sick and dies? They’ll be buried in the next town and the other one will keep going. None of those what ifs sound all that bad do they? But the what ifs about not following our instincts and our dreams are terrifying. Unhappiness, regret, resentment, bitterness.
We don’t need a big house, we don’t need a lot of things. As long as we’ve got each other and a little bit of money Greg and I will always be okay. A very wise man once asked me “Do you know what the definition of rich is? Having money for everything you need with a little bit left over.” Gregory and I aren’t millionaires- we’ll just live like it.