The morning Stasha and I left our home to begin our adventure has been permanently engraved in my memory. I had just finished making sure the trailer we rented was secure and all the lights were working. I jumped in the front seat, put on my seat belt, and sat there looking at our house in the driver side mirror. “What are we doing?” I thought to myself. We had only lived in this house for seven years but it was our first house. We loved this house. We had worked on a major project every year we lived in it to get it the way we wanted. Now we were just going to leave it for some crazy dream of traveling the country? I looked into my wife’s teary eyes and she told me “Get me out of this driveway.” I choked back my own tears (OK, I cried like a little girl), and we pulled out of the driveway and onto a new path in our lives. It’s amazing how well you remember defining moments.
Although our lives were about to change dramatically, we were not on our way to our first travel assignment yet. Stasha knew she wanted to get into a bigger hospital and get some better experience before she began to travel. We decided if we were going to move, we might as well go big. Stasha’s uncle had a house for rent near Clearwater, Florida that was ten minutes from the beach. That sounded pretty good to us so we jumped on it. We lived there for six months and had a blast. We bought kayaks and took them down rivers, in the ocean, and out to private islands. We were both working to make ends meet though and often our schedules didn’t offer us as much time together as we would have liked. We were ready to start traveling. In January Stasha was offered her first assignment in Laguna Hills, CA and our real journey began.
It’s hard to put into words all of the emotions we had as we prepared and made our way to the west coast. We were scared to death and bursting with excitement. We arrived at our apartment in Laguna Hills after a five day journey that included a two night stay at a hotel near the Grand Canyon. We signed a few papers in the leasing office and were handed the keys to our one bedroom apartment. We were pleasantly surprised when we walked through the door. The agency had already arranged for our furniture to be delivered and it had been set up the day before our arrival. The apartment was almost 900 square feet so we had plenty of room for my wife and I and our two Lhasa Apso dogs. We unloaded the car, unpacked the essentials, and ordered a pizza.
I don’t know that we could have picked a much better location for our first assignment. We were located in Orange County, one of the most beautiful and upscale areas in California. Needless to say, it was a far cry from western Ohio. Our apartment complex had a walking/bike trail that connected to the Orange County biking and hiking trail. It was really nice to be able to just hop right on a trail without having to load our bikes on our vehicle and drive to the trail. Below is a video of the apartment complex and both trails. At the end of the video, you can see our apartment on the corner of the complex on the second floor.
I love my mountain bike and taking it on scenic trails, but Stasha gets more excited about the ocean and especially whales. After some casual sight-seeing and learning our way around, we chose a whale watching tour as our first big adventure. We only saw a few whales and they were pretty far away. It was still worth it to see the beautiful coastline from the water and the dolphins swimming along the boat. Below is a video of the dolphins keeping up with our boat as it sped away.
Our next adventure was our first kayaking trip in the Pacific. I can tell you from first-hand experience, it is a lot different than kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico. On the west coast of Florida, the water is so calm you have to wait for the wake of a boat to get any waves. As we were gearing up for the first time in California, I could tell it was going to be a little challenging. The waves were cresting at about four to five feet and the water was freezing cold. An hour later Stasha and I returned to our car with a true respect for the power of mother nature. Both of us had our kayaks rolled by the large waves more than once and everything in our kayaks including ourselves tossed out like rag dolls and washed up on the beach. At one point, a wave picked my kayak up, turned it sideways, slammed it into the water, and I found myself kayaking upside down as my head was being raked along the sandy bottom. We lost a water bottle and a lot of pride on that trip. We didn’t give up though and tried it once again on a much calmer day and on a beach that was not prone to large waves. Our experience was much more enjoyable.
We only stayed in Laguna Hills for an eight week assignment but we definitely made the most of it. The rest of our stay included lots of trips to the beaches nearby including the famous Laguna Beach. We made a few trips to Hollywood and Los Angeles and spent a day at Universal Studios. The apartment was great, the drastic change in scenery made for a very dramatic experience, and overall I think it was everything we had hoped for. We realize now that not every assignment is going to be as spectacular and adventurous as our first one. If for no other reason, most of us can’t afford to live a vacation-like lifestyle all year. I would recommend to anyone that is thinking about becoming a travel nurse, do everything you can to set yourself up for an awesome experience. Pick an exciting destination and try to have enough money saved back to enjoy it. If you have as much fun as we did, Stasha and I think you will be hooked like us.