Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
Kathleen Gaines, MSN, RN, BA, CBC
July 6, 2020 - 5 min read

How These Travel Nurses Paid Off $60K in Debt in 1 Year While Living in an RV

Chase and Lindsay Garrett are “a married travel nurse couple living in an RV on a mission to see the world and become financially free!” These travel nurses have traveled the US in their RV with their cat to work in some of the busiest CVICUs in the country. Lindsay, originally from Pennsylvania, and Chase, from West Virginia, met while attending nursing school at WVU and married in 2015 after several years of dating. They recently quarantined in Florida before accepting their next travel nursing contract.

According to their website, www.wereoutnabout.com, Lindsay and Chase chose travel nursing for three main reasons:

  1. Adventure
  2. Money
  3. Freedom

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A common trend amongst travel nurses, Lindsay and Chase, will often take several weeks off in between contracts in order to travel the world. One of their goals is to visit 30 countries before their 30th birthdays. So far, the couple has traveled to 20 countries together including Spain, Malta, Italy, Greece, Iceland, and Norway.

They share their travel nursing adventures on Instagram as @wereoutnabout.

Kathleen Gaines (KG): How has COVID-19 impacted your travel nursing contracts current and/or future?

Lindsay and Chase (L&C): As travel nurses, one of the main reasons we chose this lifestyle was for the traveling part. Between contracts, we usually take a month or two off and travel internationally. We had travel plans made for a trip to Thailand and Cambodia in April which was canceled due to COVID 19. Aside from our fun travel plans, we have found it increasingly difficult to find contracts. As a result of the pandemic and hospitals canceling elective surgeries, multiple travel nursing contracts were canceled and jobs were few and far between. Personally, we have been without a contract since April and are finally starting to see an increase in job needs. The competition for each job is more than ever before because there are so many travel nurses in the same situation as us who are eagerly searching for a job.

KG: Has there ever been that moment during a contract that either of you has wanted to stay and put down roots?

L&C: We absolutely loved working in Savannah GA. The unit we worked on felt like home and if we were ready to end our travel nursing careers, there’s a good chance we might have put down roots there.

KG: What do you wish you knew before starting the travel nurse life?

L&C: We did a lot of research for about 8 months before we started, so we felt pretty prepared. There are definitely certain things you can only learn as you go. We definitely recommend working with more than one company. That ensures that you have multiple recruiters job searching for you which gives you access to multiple jobs and opportunities. We also would advise to make sure you are reviewing the net/take-home pay package rather than the gross pay which is before taxes are taken out. Another tip, if you don’t get something put in your contract before you sign it — it’s not guaranteed. That applies to shift times, request offs, and floating guidelines.

KG: With COVID-19 dampening plans for travel nurses, what is a professional goal you have for the remainder of 2020?

L&C: Professionally, we are both certified critical care nurses and are always looking for opportunities to grow as nurses, learn new skills, and stay up-to-date with the newest therapies.

KG: How much student loan debt did you have upon graduation?

L&C: We had a combined debt of just over $100,000. When we started travel nursing we had $60,000 remaining. We made it a goal to pay off our debt in just one year of travel nursing and thankfully accomplished it. Now we are working on paying off our mortgage.

KG: If you could change one thing about travel nursing, what would it be?

L&C: We come from a state that allows us to have a compact license which makes life so much easier as a travel nurse. However, we wish that all states honored and accepted compact licenses. We’ve all passed the same NCLEX regardless of where we were educated and feel as if this is one of the biggest inhibitions for us personally when we make a decision of where we want to take a contract. If we choose a state where we have to apply and pay for a new license and then keep up with it per the state’s nursing board protocol, it’s less likely that we’ll choose to travel there.

KG: Do you work with one recruiter and travel nurse company or multiple ones?

L&C: As we mentioned previously, working with more than one company is one of the best ways you can increase your opportunities as a travel nurse. This increases transparency because you can compare contracts and pay packages for the same job. If one company is offering you more than another, you are able to negotiate rates to ensure you’re making the most you can as a travel nurse. It also gives you access to specific jobs that other companies/agencies may not be contracted with.

KG: What sacrifices did you make in order to pay off your debt?

L&C: We built a budget prior to travel nursing and worked hard to stick to it. We also focused on buying what we needed and eliminated some of the wants and materialistic things that would have been fun to buy. We’ve always valued experiences over things so although we saved when it came to shopping, we’ve definitely spent money on traveling without regret!

KG: How did you successfully pay off your debts?

L&C: We have a lot of information on our blog (www.wereoutnabout.com) and on our Instagram @wereoutabout where we address this topic quite frequently. The first step is building a budget, evaluating how much money you need to live off of each month, and doing your best to stick to your specific budget!

KG: What experience did you have prior to becoming a travel nurse?

L&C: We both had four years of experience, BSN degrees, and made sure we were certified critical care nurses prior to traveling as it makes you more marketable. We also came from a level 1 trauma center, magnet teaching hospital so we received tons of experience as staff nurses prior to traveling. One of the most important things to consider before traveling is your level of experience and confidence when it comes to being an independent nurse.

KG: Do you feel like asking for similar contracts and schedules as your partner has ever limited opportunities?

L&C: Absolutely not. We worked as CVICU nurses together as staff nurses prior to traveling. We’ve always chosen to work the same shifts because that allows us to have our days off to live our lives and explore the area. When we’re at work, you would never be able to tell we’re a couple or married aside from us having the same last name. We keep it strictly professional at work and our patients and their families are our focus and number one priority. Working together has only helped strengthen us as a couple and as nurses. As far as job availability goes, we’ve always been able to find a job where there are at least two needs for the same specialty and unit. We actually think it’s easier to find two of the same positions rather than if we were both seeking different specialties.

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