• meme quitting nursing

“I Want to Quit Nursing to Travel” Tips for My Fellow Nurses

This post is for all my nursing readers. I know some of you are struggling with your jobs, or nursing school because you e-mail me about it, usually saying, “I want to quit nursing!” “I want to drop out of nursing school!” “How did you do it?” “Was your family mad?” I understand your feelings because I was there once not that long ago.

I remember being in Europe in the summer, dreading going back to school. Each quarter the teachers would say something like, “Maybe geriatrics won’t be your thing, but next quarter we’ll do pediatrics. Eventually one will grab your heart and you’ll know which type of nurse you want to be.”

I never had one really grab at me, but I did love working with the babies. I was a nurse aid for 2.5 years on a postpartum unit. I loved my coworkers and swaddling and rocking those newborns was like a form of therapy! I truly loved that job.

meme quitting nursing

*Stay tuned to the very bottom for the tips to keep your resume fresh while you take a “break” from saving lives.

My Background in Nursing & How it Led me to Travel

Because travel was my priority, I knew after one year of resume building, I wanted to travel nurse. I talked to some agencies and they all concluded that cardiac telemetry was the minimum amount of critical care to be able to get the majority of good jobs.

I worked in Charlotte, NC on a cardiac tele floor for a year. My resume was finally looking real! I quit that job, went to India for a few months, and came back to take my first (and last) travel nursing job.  Because of meeting Ben, I went back to India.

meme quitting nursing charlottewhen I took my first nursing job in NC, I met Britani! She was my travel buddy in the U.S.

The truth is, if I hadn’t met him, I would have taken another assignment. I had a great plan to work 3 months with overtime, then travel until I ran out of money (at least six months), then take another assignment. Repeat.  I didn’t get very far down my path.

Do I miss nursing? Not really. I miss the money. I miss night shift. I miss the emergencies. I miss the stability and the days off. But the “nursing” part I don’t miss.

With my new life plan, giving massages and trying to get this website a popular source for travel to India, I still get those free days- just not the money, yet. On the bright side, I don’t argue with morbidly obese type two diabetics with heart failure about fried chicken and mac n’ cheese. (mmm, fried chicken!)

 For those of you still in school, but hating it…

My advice is to finish school. I won’t ever e-mail my readers back and tell them to drop out.

After you graduate you HAVE to work for a year before you can take off traveling (if you are in the U.S.). It’s very difficult to get a hospital job if you don’t and you’ll end up in a nursing home or on a rehab or med/surg floor.

This is why you really should work as an aid during the school year and take advantage of your summers off to travel.

Really consider travel nursing. I would still be doing it if I hadn’t had the interesting experience I did in India. Travel nursing will fill your pockets with more money than you know what to do with and because contracts are up after 13 weeks, you can take time off as you want before you take another assignment.

meme quitting nursinga couple photos from my assignment in Washington

meme quitting nursing

Don’t take as much time as you want though. No more than a year. After a year, you can’t get a travel job in the U.S. unless you’ve got quite a lot of experience under your belt. After a year of no work, you can still get a job as a nurse- just not as a traveller. It’s almost all travel nurse agencies policy in the U.S. and abroad (Middle East & Asia).

I happened to meet Ben on my first trip to India. It could have been different. I knew travel nursing was only until “something life-changing happened”, and luckily it happened on my first trip after quitting my first nursing job. It could have been the third or fourth… who knows?

As a nurse, you have amazing options for travel which is part of the reason I think you should 100% finish school. I didn’t love nursing, but I didn’t hate it. Working 3 months a year at a job I was “ok” with in order to travel the rest of the year was a sacrifice I was super happy to make. It wouldn’t have bothered me ONE BIT to keep doing travel nursing on and off while I saw the world. My girlfriends I met travel nursing are still doing so in Hawaii, Alaska, and California. They are living it up and take expensive trips all the budget knowing budget isn’t a huge concern. It’s an awesome career path if you’re not bummed out staring at the clock every 12 hour shift you work.

meme quitting nursingSo, for those of you who want to quit your job but aren’t sure…

No reason to be miserable. My advice to you is to try travel nursing in the U.S. before you go off on an international adventure. It’s fun to move to another city. Because you’re a traveler you don’t have as much responsibility within the unit, and you won’t be in all that “nursing drama”. Most likely they won’t make you be charge nurse (unless you took my assignment in which case you would “tag team” charge nurse with other travelers & train the new travelers coming in. Scary!) You get in and out.

If it’s a good facility, they usually should give the travelers a fairly easy set of patients since we aren’t trained more than a couple days (or in my case 1 day). You might find that the vibe of being a traveler suits you more and you might even start to like nursing. Who knows?

Use that opportunity to save up some money for your trip abroad. Three months flies by! Taking just one assignment gave me enough money that over a year later I still have some. Keep in mind I’m in India though not Paris.

meme quitting nursing

For those who say, “But, I want to travel now!!”

If you’re sure, you’re sure. Go for it! Although leaving school isn’t ideal, it’s your call.

meme quitting nursing

Ok, so you’ve quit- now what? 

FYI, your paycheck is gone. I hope you’ve thought of this you crazy people! ;)

I’ve mentioned in a couple posts that I don’t see my degree as a waste. I see it as a back-up that helps me sleep at night. This is why I tell people not to drop out of school.

You guys have asked how people reacted. My friends were supporting. My bestie, who I was doing travel nursing with, of course was bummed I was leaving. She has since been traveling through California causing me envy with every mojito and concert photo she posts with all her new nursing friends! She’s having a killer time out there.

My family was/is worried. I mean no parents wants their kid to leave the career they helped them get.

I had a nice paying secure job. Our parents come from a generation where you don’t leave something like that. Our generation switches jobs every year almost and outside the U.S. there is less “loyalty” to your employee and more switching for “something better”. You have to follow your heart.

meme drop out of school to travel

You can still get nursing jobs after being out of work for a while, just not your ideal job. We do lose skills and surely now, if someone went into an irregular rhythm and I needed to start a code or even titrate a drip, my heart would stop for a few seconds while I panicked and tried to remember everything.

There are some things you need to take care of so that your degree doesn’t become useless. 

  • Keep your primary license active. I only keep Ohio active. If you take another travel job, they will pay for your new licenses, so I didn’t keep my Washington or North Carolina.
  • Make sure you have your address up to date with the nursing board. I have everything sent to my parent’s house in Ohio. They’ll send a reminder when you need to re-new.
  • For Ohio, to keep it active, I have to pay money every two years. Keep this information written down and stored.
  • To keep a license active, you have to follow your states’ rules on CEU’s. For Ohio, I have to do 24, one being specific.
  • Keep your certifications active. When I was home in May, I had a class booked to renew my ACLS. That also gave me 8 CEU’s. Do the same with your BLS or whatever else you have. Having these active will help you get a job after some time off. It shows you take initiative and didn’t let your skills slide. Actually, in many cases you can’t even apply to a job without these active.
  • If you can volunteer abroad, then you should at least once a month, It’s something you can put on your resume. It’d also be nice to bring up in an interview. I haven’t found a place in Goa, or maybe I haven’t tried hard enough.
  • If you’ve had multiple jobs, you have to combine your retirement papers? 401k? I’m not quite sure. My parents helped me with this- well, their tax guy did!
  • Lastly, even if you find yourself in Fiji when tax time rolls around, you still have to file taxes one last time if you let your income go. If you find a way to make money after that (blogging, massage etc) you should file taxes have to file taxes even if you don’t live in America! Fuck.

meme drop out of school to travel

Did I go too meme crazy!? Did you enjoy this post? Let me know in the comments or by sharing it with the social media links! I’d love to keep giving you travel tricks & tips so feel free to subscribe by e-mail in the big purple box below. Don’t forget you can follow me on facebook, twitter, instagram & bloglovin‘.

2016-10-13T10:07:15+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing to live on the beaches of Goa, India almost four years ago where she is now a travel writer. Her website gives advice on the 35+ countries she's been to but has become the go-to site for India travel, focusing on offbeat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine, Tripadvisor, and Thomas Cook. Her blog is one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world based on traffic. She also enjoys writing for BravoTV.

35 Comments

  1. Christine @thetraveloguer August 11, 2014 at 3:50 am - Reply

    Excellent advice Rachel! Being a travel nurse sounds like an ideal way to afford a life of travel, why didn’t I think of that?! x

  2. tempesst August 11, 2014 at 8:53 am - Reply

    thank you for this post!! do you think it’s any different for psych nurses being able to get a job after returning from a trip (as they don’t use their skills as often as other types of nurses)? i graduate with my bsn this december, leaving on a trip in april and returning in august. i would like to get a psych nursing job when i return. i also plan to work as a nurse in thew few months leading up to my trip!

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm - Reply

      I actually think you might have an easier time because there is such a high demand for Psych nurses, especially in the travel nursing world. I do think you might have a hard time working as a nurse only a few months before my trip, because typically as a new nurse you’ll have 9 weeks or so of orientation /mentor programs and it won’t really make a lot of difference on a resume. Hope that helps.

  3. Heather August 11, 2014 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    Not a nurse, but I love hearing about your nursing background and how you started traveling–it seems like you made a responsible choice to find something you liked (maybe not loved) to do in the event you needed to go back to work.

    I do wonder how a nurse, with such common sense, didn’t take better care of herself when she had dengue, though :)

    Kidding–I really found your dengue posts interesting, but I do hope you are a bit more careful now!

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm - Reply

      Hahaha very good point Heather! They say nurses and doctors are the worst patients, and in this case it is 100% true.

  4. Mridula August 11, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

    What a balanced advice and great to know a little more about you. I have still not quit my day job. I get a lot of opportunities to travel but I see very little money from blogging.

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:26 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mridula. I also don’t see a lot from blogging yet, and have to make ends meet with Thai massage which I offer here in Goa. Blogging alone wouldn’t cut it! Goa is very expensive also in comparison to other areas in India- it’s similar to city prices.

  5. Michelle | Lights Camera Travel August 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    Not a nurse but I really like how you broke this post down! It was a great insight into your life, too, and the decisions you made to get to where you are now. I’m sure many people will find it inspiring!

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:23 pm - Reply

      I get a lot of e-mails asking how I ended up where I am, and I thought it would be good to finally explain exactly what choices I had to make in leaving my career. Thanks Michelle.

  6. Nadja August 11, 2014 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Awesome post! I’d love to be a travel nurse- at the moment I work in Australia for a nurse agency all over the country:) I’d love to continue that in Germany- working as a travel nurse. But unfortunately I think that’s not possible there. But I try to find out on google. Thanks for the inspiring Post:)
    Greetings from Melbourne,
    Nadja

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Hmm I wish I knew if it were possible or not, but I also don’t know. I would’ve also done nursing in Australia if I hadn’t moved to India.

  7. Justine August 12, 2014 at 12:16 am - Reply

    I’m not a nurse but I really enjoyed reading this. Being a travel nurse sounds like pretty awesome way to work, save, and travel! Most careers make it pretty tough to travel. So if travel is a priority, being a travel nurse sounds like the perfect gig!!

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      It really is the perfect gig, nursing is hard though so I know it’s not for everyone.

  8. Laura August 12, 2014 at 1:01 am - Reply

    haha! I liked your last comment, you didn’t go too meme crazy! The first quote was definitely my favorite though! We’re never too old to change our minds and do something different. My parents used to worry about me frittering away my degree, but they’re more content with my decisions now (4 years later!) because they see how happy I am. Good for you for following your dreams! (and keeping a safe backup too!)

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:20 pm - Reply

      Thanks Laura, I’ll keep doing meme’s then haha as long as people like them! I’m glad your parents can see you made some good decisions looking back.

  9. S A joshi August 12, 2014 at 1:27 am - Reply

    i like when u said “mmm fried chicken” . reminds me of homer simpson. even he repeats food names after finishing sentence, is it an american thing??

    • Rachel Jones August 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      Lol, it’s a fat person thing- fat on the inside that is ;)

  10. Victoria August 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm - Reply

    I’m not a nurse (I studied Political Science), but I loved your post too Rachel. I also liked the way that you still encourage your nurse students to finish school, a lot of bloggers don’t. As far as I can remember the only other bloggers who also encouraged it were Wandering Earl (who’s ill with dengue fever at the moment), and Nomadic Matt: both fantastic and long-in-the-blogging-game guys!

    I never actually used my degree for politics (although I loved all that stuff. I still do!), but it sure opened doors. I live in Germany and without paper qualifications, and that includes most of Europe, outside of Britain, you’re not going to get far.

    In fact, because of my degree I ended up training Politicians in Berlin, lawyers, engineers, doctors, accountants, and big-time entrepreneurs. It’s never boring around here!

    • Rachel Jones August 17, 2014 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Thanks for the comment Victoria! I know a lot of people don’t agree with this, and it’s a little “boring” for advice but I had to say what I really thought!

  11. elaine December 27, 2014 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Im glad that I discovered your blog. Im a licensed nurse and truthfully I am quite burned out and already have some physical problems due to the job, not to mention nursing was not my first choice but was forced upon me for security. I love helping people but I feel like I lose myself everyday. I wanted to open up a spa and yoga studio and i was thinking of going to massage therapy school. I am pretty much scared for this leap if i do decide to do it. But its nice to know that im not alone. Thank You!.

    • Rachel Jones December 27, 2014 at 5:34 pm - Reply

      Hi, I hope that your find a job that makes you happier – it’s so hard especially with other people watching and judging.

  12. Alyssa March 1, 2015 at 2:00 am - Reply

    I had no idea you were a nurse before you left the states! I too am a nurse, and planning to leave after xmas to stary my around the world trip! I do plan on quitting my job, but I know the company I wor for will alaways welcome me with open arms, even if its just PRN shifts when I come home to visit (I am a Hospice RN Case Manager). I do have India on my list, I want to stay in an ashram and deepen my yoga/medication practice but would also like to explore. Any suggestions?

    • Rachel Jones March 2, 2015 at 6:20 pm - Reply

      thats cool they’ll take you back and will prob help you relax on your trip. I wrote about an ashram in rishikesh (you can use the search bar on my site) but it wasn’t ideal. I haven’t stayed in many but maybe you would like vipassana classes (10 day intense meditation!)

  13. gerry April 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel,its great that you have been able to find a work life balance, but don’t dis nursing or encourage others to leave it just because you didn’t enjoy it. Nursing is not only rewarding, but to care for others is inspirational & humbling. To be able to live in Goa sounds dreamy, but you still have to massage people, its still a job. We whop choose to work & pay taxes and work to make ends meet are still useful in this world. While we might not have the time to sit down an write a blog for a living (if you can call it that) we still chose to live out lives the way we do. I still work, still travel & still love my nursing, having some stability is for me piece of mind. I’m not a hippy chick, but I can still be free, no matter where i am. Please enjoy your easy life style, but please don’t encourage nurses to leave a vital profession & service to humanity. I would encourage you to offer yourself as a charity nurse, surely must be heaps of work for that in India?

    • Rachel Jones April 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm - Reply

      I wrote that nursing is an “awesome career path” and I encourage nurses that want to quit to try travel nursing first. I said I love travel nursing & I also encourage people to finish school. I would never tell discourage someone from nursing. All my friends from nursing school love it. I think you need to re-read the article. It’s for people who don’t like nursing and WANT to leave. Also, not sure what you mean by “if you can call it that” about how I make my living. I make enough of a living from my blog, that I have quit massage except the occasional female traveler (and btw, thai yoga massage is a form of physical therapy). Also, I pay taxes too… !

  14. Elise May 1, 2015 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel!
    Great article. I found it at the most opportune time because I have been driving myself crazy deliberating the pros and cons of leaving my nursing job to travel. The loss of a steady income is the number one thing holding me back because I have student loans to pay. Travel nursing seems the ideal solution for me to be able to travel for months at a time and return to a stable income when I run out of money. Can you recommend any travel nursing companies that you or your friends have used in the past?

    • Rachel Jones May 28, 2015 at 12:26 pm - Reply

      darn i wish i could remember who i used! it’s been ages now and i forget. it’s good to sign up for a bunch and do all the paperwork so you can switch around

  15. Maddie February 24, 2016 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    This a great post! I also am a nurse. I was planning to work for a year and then travel nurse, like you, but then I had an accidental boyfriend (also like you!) that I happened to meet at work. I’ll have been a nurse here in the ICU for two years in July. I want to do an online nurse practitioner program, and I’m still thinking about travel nursing… I just don’t know how I’d deal with being away from my boyfriend!

    I hate how most bloggers just live a nomadic and “traveler” lifestyle, honestly. It’s fun to travel, but it’s also fun to have stability. I agree that while we’re young we should take advantage of all our energy, but when people start to get into their 40s, I think they’ll definitely wish they had something like a college degree to provide their stability. I think people greatly underestimate how amazing a lifestyle nursing can be… 12 hour shifts, 3 days a week, plus overtime and shift differential? Multiple times I have traveled in the U.S. without taking a single hour of PTO, because I’m able to finagle my schedule around and still maintain all my hours! Plus, of course, there’s always the option to travel nurse. I’m glad there’s someone out there I can really relate to, instead of most bloggers who brag about not having a permanent address in 4+ years.

    • Rachel Jones February 25, 2016 at 11:41 am - Reply

      Hi Maddie, you’re so right having a nursing job gives you SO much time off work. I used to feel like I never worked when I had a job in Charlotte!

  16. rachel July 27, 2016 at 12:59 am - Reply

    love this, I qualified as a nurse in 2014, and headed straight off on a 14 month trip to asia, australia and new zealand. I was lucky enough to come home back to England and pretty much straight into my first nursing job to start building a resume, this involved a move down south to London!! Now 12 months later I am planning another travel trip starting in January, to include India, Nepal and other places. We are lucky as nurses that we will always be needed, can use our skills all over the world and can usually find work quite quickly. Cant wait to start searching your blog for india inspo!! Im glad you encourage others to finish unversity!!

    • Rachel Jones July 27, 2016 at 6:14 am - Reply

      Hi fellow Rachel! Great to hear from you – so happy that you’ve found what works for you!! :) I hope you LOVE India!

  17. Erica August 22, 2016 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    I love this. I am a NICU nurse but my ultimate passion is traveling. You gave great advice!

    • Rachel Jones August 22, 2016 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      Thank Erica! :) NICU was one of my favorite rotations.

  18. Sarah January 3, 2017 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Love your blog Rachel! I am a nurse in PA who has her eyes set on traveling more. 3 and half years into my career and I’m ready for a change (or retirement) lol. In 2016 I was in Canada, Alaska, California, and Colorado visiting 7 different national parks, camping, hiking and exploring on the cheap. Loved it!! Thankful that nursing lets me work when I want and take time off without having to use all my vacation days. 12 hour shifts are a blessing in disguise! My current motto is “will work for travel”. Trying to save up but ideally start out by keeping a job while still getting to travel to the places I want, more than a week at a time.
    I’m interested in hearing more about what travel agency you used for your nursing assignments when you were back in the states saving $$
    Interested but don’t know where to start.

    • Rachel Jones January 4, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

      I would love to visit the US as much as you have. That’s wonderful! You would be a great candidate for travel nursing. I worked with TaleMed but things change so much that I would do research to see who is the best right now.

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