Joe and Kari are living the dream. Working as travel therapists, they’ve hiked through the towering redwoods, stared at the crater of smoky Mt. St. Helens, and helped patients along the way, with each other’s company throughout. And now, they have a six-month-old daughter who can join them on their adventures.
Helping People From The Start
Joe and Kari met as undergraduates in Buffalo, New York, when Joe was the president of the Colleges Against Cancer club and Kari was heavily involved in planning events for the club. Their relationship grew from there. Joe was a year ahead of Kari, so while he waited for her to finish her studies, he started his career with CompHealth in South East Alaska.
Joe works as a physical therapist, and Kari works as an occupational therapist.
“I always knew that I wanted to work with people, and I enjoyed learning about the body and things that go along with it. I was able to shadow one of the occupational therapists in my local elementary school and I fell in love with it. I thought it was a really great opportunity. I love the medical and social aspect of the profession,” Kari explains.
When Kari graduated, they explained that they only planned to do travel therapy together for about a year, but CompHealth kept coming up with the perfect jobs for them. Since starting five years ago, they’ve worked at 15 travel therapy jobs all across the country.
Exploring The Outdoors
During each travel assignment, Joe and Kari make an active effort to get outside and explore the area.
“We try to immerse ourselves as much as we can in the local community. If it’s in a larger city like when we were in Chicago, you do all of the touristy things, but in each city what do all of the locals do? What are their favorite things to do that let you really experience what living in that area is all about?” Joe says.
One adventure that stood out to them was climbing Mount St. Helens. Kari explains that the mountain meant a lot to her because her father was involved in surveying the damage after the infamous eruption in the 80s, so she enjoyed hiking the mountain she had heard stories about as a child. Joe described that although they’ve summited lots of mountains, Mount St. Helens was different.
“It’s almost eerie being there, because since it’s an active volcano, you see these plumes of smoke coming out randomly, and as you’re up there you can hear the crackle and gurgle of it. It’s an open crater and you’re just sitting on the rim of it,” Joe describes.
Joe and Kari also enjoyed a travel assignment in northern California, where they went on a different adventure each weekend, from skiing in Lake Tahoe, hiking in Yosemite, and relaxing in Napa Valley.
Working With Patients
Joe and Kari aren’t the only ones who have been on wild adventures. While they work travel therapy jobs, Joe and Kari get to know their patients and their stories.
One story comes straight from a storybook. Joe’s patient’s son was on a fishing boat near an Alaskan island, when he and his crew suddenly started moving backwards. A humpback whale had got caught on the ship’s anchor, and starting swimming to get free from it. As the whale got scared, it picked up momentum until the boat was traveling at 35 knots (that’s about 40 miles an hour). The crew cut the line to the anchor with a machete, and both the crew and the whale were okay.
“You hear of stories like that in Alaska, and I feel like everywhere else I’ve been in country, those just don’t exist. They’re so far-fetched in a way that they’re hard to make up,” Joe says.
To add more to the story, just two hours after hearing that story, Joe had a patient who worked for the coast guard and took the call for the whale stuck to the boat. He had a completely different perspective on the same whale of story.
When they’re not sharing wild stories, Joe and Kari’s patients also tell them about the best places to visit in town.
Spending Time With Family
While Joe and Kari love traveling across the country, they still appreciate the importance of being with family. Their lives changed six months ago when they welcomed a baby girl, Alana.
They were three days from leaving for an assignment in Fairbanks, Alaska when they found out Kari was pregnant. Following that assignment they wanted to be closer to home and family, so CompHealth found them an assignment back east. Now, they’re both in Cape Cod while Joe works and Kari spends time with Alana.
“At first we thought, well, we’re done traveling, we have to settle down, but we have talked to CompHealth about different assignments. They’ve kept an eye out for different areas that either have a location where there might be a daycare on sight, or different hospital systems where they know therapists who have had children before. They want to make travel work for us,” Joe explained.
The Travelling Life
As they have traveled to different places they knew a nice camera was a key component of any traveler. They have tried to document everything and everywhere they have been. In addition to collecting photographs they have also made a lot of friends of fellow travelers.
"We've learned that the community of travelers is smaller than you'd think. We had three travelers we met on assignments that were at our wedding! While in New Mexico, we ended up at the same hospital and then living with a traveler that I met in Ketchikan, Alaska," said Joe. "We had a dinner in New Mexico with six travelers, all originally from different states. While in Northern California, without planning it, we were about three hours away from a few other travelers including two other couples who we either knew through other travelers or actually from graduate school. We ended up taking weekend trips almost every weekend with about nine of us, all travelers. We'll even be at one of those couple's wedding in southern California this spring."
Finding The Right Agency
Part of what has made travel therapy so enjoyable for Joe and Kari is the fact that they found the right agency for them.
Joe and Kari explained that CompHealth has always accommodated them so that their assignments are at most half an hour away from each other, and often in the same facility. When things go wrong, CompHealth works to resolve the problem.
“Our provider rep, Jessica, has been fantastically responsive. I know at times I talk to her more than my family...you look at the services you’re getting through CompHealth, and you always feel like you’re connected and you feel like you’re covered. We’ve been in a couple of situations, one with housing and one with contracting, and CompHealth had our back 100%,” Joe says.
Want to go on adventures like Joe and Kari? Check out open travel therapy jobs with CompHealth