Why I Chose Travel Therapy

SarahTravel Therapy36 Comments

Why I Chose Travel Therapy

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I have been working as an Occupational Therapist for about 4 years now, and I LOVE being a travel therapist. For healthcare professionals, there are two main routes you can take for careers. One is the traditional full-time permanent position, the other is a non-permanent contracted position. Technically speaking, a travel position is a temporary contracted position. This means the professional is contracted to work for a set period of time at a facility/organization either independently or through an agency. The actual facility/organization does not need to pay the contracted employee any type of benefits, only salary.

There are pros and cons of each type of career path. I have been a travel Occupational Therapist for most of my career. As of now, due to my current goals and priorities, travel therapy is the best fit for me. Here’s why!

Why I chose Travel Therapy

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I get to travel!

One night my junior year of college, I was talking to a roommate about how I wished I could take a year off before working to travel. I knew with the $20 in my bank account and the accruing student loan debt that this would not be possible. I was aware of traveling nurses but I was not aware that there were traveling Occupational Therapists. After a little research, I quickly learned I wanted to be a travel Occupational Therapist. This way I could travel around the U.S. while beginning my career and earning an income. So far, I have lived and worked in 5 states as a travel Occupational Therapist!


A travel therapy position offers a lot more flexibility than a permanent position. A permanent position typically has set days off for an employee. With travel therapy, you have the luxury to work when you want. I often take one or two weeks off between jobs to take long road trips between locations as well as to visit friends and family. When I work as a travel OT, I work on average 10 months a year and make more money than I did working one whole year at a permanent position. I should mention that as a traveler there is no paid time off. However, I discovered the “no work, no pay” that is a part of travel therapy, is made up for by the increase in pay when you are working.

Why I Chose Travel Occupational Therapy

Cross country skiing on a frozen lake while working in Alaska!

More money

Working less and making more money is appealing to me, as I am sure it is to most. When you are a travel therapist you are in high demand, which drives up your salary. Since you are a traveling employee (at least 50 miles or more from your permanent residence) you are entitled the nontaxable stipends, including housing, meals, and travel. The hourly salary for a traveling healthcare professional is actually lower than a permanent position but the nontaxable stipends are how travel therapists make most of their money!

Less drama

When you are a travel therapist you are needed and expected to work very hard. Unfortunately, some employers will take this to an extreme. The way they see it, you are costing them A LOT of money so they want you working and expect outrageous productivity rates. However, there is a positive outcome to that mentality that I have found, and that is fewer meetings and less drama. Every workplace has drama and when you are a temporary employee you tend to be left out because “oh you’re leaving in a few weeks.” When I am working as a travel therapist I rarely attend meetings because no one wants to pay me to sit and not see patients. I go to work, provide my patients with skilled treatment and my undivided attention, then I go home. Yes, I work very hard and at a much faster pace than I needed to at my permanent gig, but I feel like I am 100% more effective as an OT. I find work a lot less stressful when I get to avoid all the drama and politics of a workplace!

Why I Chose Travel Occupational Therapy

Hiking in New Mexico while on assignment in Texas

The opportunity to help communities in need

There tends to be a pretty steady need for OT, PT, and SLPs (as well as many other healthcare professionals) across the U.S. simply due to the fact that there are more jobs than there are therapists (yay, job security!). However, some communities suffer more due to the lack of available therapists in their area (i.e. underserved and rural areas). For example, a facility in need in San Diego is going to have a much easier time filling a position than Barrow, Alaska. Travel allows you to temporarily work at a place in need and to be able to help underserved communities. Healthcare workers provide a public service to which, unfortunately, many residents in the U.S. have very limited access. Travel healthcare positions allow these communities to have access to health services that are desperately needed.

Who should be a traveling therapist?

If traveling, flexibility, more money, less drama and helping communities in need sounds appealing to you, you might want to consider a traveling healthcare professional career. I took a break from travel therapy for 15 months and I found myself counting down the days until I could get back into traveling therapy. I truly am happy I decided to take a chance on travel therapy!

Would you or do you travel full time for work? Leave a comment below!

About the Author


Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. I am a former traveling Occupational Therapist who lived in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito) full time for almost two years. I am collecting experiences, not things while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

36 Comments on “Why I Chose Travel Therapy”

    1. Hey Courtney!

      I’m not sure, but I would definitely recommend it if there is!

      Thanks for reading 🙂


  1. Hi Sarah!
    This is a great post. It just makes the traveling OT sounds more awesome than I thought.
    I was wondering if you’ve had any challenges as a traveling OT, such as, housing, consistently looking for next position/facility, non-stop interviewing with different employers, etc.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Sanya,

      There are definitely some challenges with travel OT. The biggest challenge is the instability as opposed to a permanent job. Housing was never a huge issue to find it was an issue to find affordable housing! Now that I have the van its’s pretty simple to find a campground or somewhere to park. Lately, there have been noticeably fewer travel jobs and frequently canceled contracts. This is mostly like due to Medicare changes come. Whenever changes like this happen there is usually a lull and then it typically will bounce back. Lastly, there are lots of phone interviews you will have to do for travel jobs, but they are not nearly as intense as in person permanent job interviews! At this point, I still prefer travel OT over permanent :). Let me know if you have any more questions, and thanks for reading !

    1. Hi Hannah,

      In order to be an Occupational Therapist, you need a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy, which is typically a 2-year graduate program.

  2. Hi there,
    Do you get to choose what field of practice you work in? I am a new grad (before NCBOT), also, how long typically do you work in one place? thanks

    1. You don’t have to pick a specialty to travel if that is what you mean. If you travel as a new grad I would look for setting similar to your fieldwork setting. A contract typically is 13 weeks.

  3. Hi there! I’m hoping you can give me some insight on whether travel therapy would work for me and my family. My husband can work from anywhere, but ideally I would want jobs near nice locations throughout the US where we could sight see on the weekends. We are 37 and have two kids below 2. We would really only travel to a location e.g Colorado for say four months in the summer and then I’d want to come back home and work locally so the kids can get back to school. Is this possible? Or are most jobs so far from nice areas that it’s not really an exciting time while working?

    1. Hi Carissa,

      If you are open to exploring new locations I think you would really enjoy travel. Colorado is difficult as its very saturated market but still possible. I have spent time in California, Maryland, Texas, Arizona, and Alaska and always made the most out of my locations. Depending, where you are located I’m sure you could pick up local contracts and PRN during the school year and travel in the summers. Assignments are typically 13 weeks so I’m sure with some planning you could make it work! Good Luck

  4. Hi Sarah,
    I am glad you are doing what you love and having such great adventures. I am an SLP considering working as a travel therapist in schools starting in my home state of NM. Alaska is tempting and we are going on our first vacation there in June. Have you stayed with the same agency? Some of the recruiters seem like such sharks and there seems to be high turnover. Any advice? I also share your pain of a mountain of student loan debt , but after becoming an SLP later in my career. Thanks.

  5. I know you said that more “fun” cities like San Diego have their OT spots filled more easily than smaller and more rural towns, so: How hard would you say it is to land a job in a generally desirable city? I would love to land something in NYC, but I imagine it might be hard to get due to competition. I’ve never done travel OT before, so I don’t know how realistic this dream is haha. Any insight?

    1. Hi Erica, it also is dependent on your experience and what setting (ie peds or adults). I have never been interested in going to NYC so I am not 100% sure but I would imagine it would be quite competitive. The most type of jobs I have seen in NYC have been schools and home health. I would talk to a few recruiters to get a feel for the market there if you are really interested!

  6. Hey! What are your thoughts about new grads doing travel therapy? Do you think the mentor support they offer is the same as a permanent job position? I am used to traveling solo but do want to be a competent therapist whatever setting I’m in.

    1. Hi Christine! I started as a traveler as a new grad. Although it was challenging, it’s not impossible. In our profession, we have many months of essentially working but under supervision (fieldwork). Thus, it’s not like we graduate, finish classes and then start working on our own. This makes the transition a bit easier. There are some travel jobs that offer mentorship but is few and far between. I would recommend being more patient and flexible to find that type of job for your first assignment if you decide to go that route. Good luck!

  7. ok so I like traveling , but I was wondering what do occupational therapist do? like do they help people work exercise on the body? Can you maybe tell me a list of stuff they do with there clients. and I love your post it is very helpful , I would like to help people and the truth is I have been searching a lot on a job that is easy for me that allows me to travel. I am kind, a good organizer, I have a few designing skills but not extreme , I work my very best , would this job be perfect for me or should I look into something else. I don’t really have a lot of info on this job , like will they tell you were to go on your first assignment? Do you or can you ask for help till you get a hang of it? sorry about all my questions lol I hope you don’t mind.

    1. Hi there! As an Occupational Therapist, we help people be as independent as possible despite physical, mental, and/or cognitive limitations. This can mean many very different things. I work with adults mostly and help people be able to be independent with daily activities as well as meaningful activities despite many physical limitations. I would recommend checking out the American Occupational Therapy Association website has lots of information too. Thanks for reading!

  8. Hi, I’m interested in doing the same thing. Any tips on top recruitment companies? I’m interested in CA but also WA, OR. If you could email me? Thanks!

  9. Hi Sarah,
    All sounds great, but what about the license? Can you practice in different states with the license of one particular state?

    1. No you have to be licensed in any state you practice, most companies reimburse you for the licensing fee.

  10. Hi Sarah!! I’m just graduating undergrad and will be going to school to get my Doctorate in ot next year! I then plan to travel once I get all of my schooling done. I know this is a broad question… But do you have any advice? Thanks so much for this post, it’s been helpful and I can’t wait to start!

    1. Hi Kaylee. My best advice for a new grad would be to ask your recruiter for jobs that are new grad friendly. It is hard to find and you may have to be more patient but you want to make sure there is at least 1 other OT at your job site that can be there for guidance. Good luck :).

  11. I am writing a paper for my Ota class and one question is there any legal concerns about being a travel OT/OTA. Any help would be appreciated. And yes when I pass the test in march or 2020 i want to travel.

    1. Hi Dennis, I don’t believe there are any more legal concerns with travel therapy than a permanent position. There are restrictions regarding taxes. Good luck with your schooling!

  12. So, I am really interested in your housing situation. Did you live in Vanny Devito while you were working or did you get a short term rental while you were set with an assignment? I’m looking to take the leap to travel therapy next year and I was curious what you experience was like from that perspective.

    1. Hey Emily, when I first started traveling I used short term housing, but the past two years I did live int eh van full time during assignments. With the exception of winter in Alaska, I rented a room from a friend.

  13. Hey Sarah thank you for the info. We are about to be empty nesters and we are looking for a small RV and are looking to begin traveling OT. We are ready to simplify our lives. My life goal is to do more Overlanding while not working! I do have a question, What should I look for in a recruiter/recruiter company? What has been your favorite assignment?

    1. Hi David, recruiters recommended by other travelers is a good place to start. I am adding a few recruiter reviews to my site, so stay tuned. My favorite assignment was Alaska 🙂

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