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Nursing is a challenging profession – mentally, emotionally, and even physically! Nurses are burning out at an alarming rate from poor hospital systems and the compacting issues of COVID, causing our profession to leave the bedside at an alarming rate in search of jobs with less stress and more money. Gone are the days where nurses are accepting payments in the form of pizza parties… we want real change. But until that happens, how do you – as a nurse – take care of yourself, prevent burnout, and stay doing what you love?
After experiencing nurse burnout only one year into my career as a NICU nurse (read about it below), I went out in search of what exactly was causing my burnout, and how to get “over” it. What I learned was that filling my cup on my days off, doing what I loved, ultimately allowed me to return to the hospital and better take care of my patients. And thus the “8 Day Vacay” was born.
My Story of Nurse Burnout
I graduated nursing school in 2014 and headed straight to work in Kansas City as a new grad NICU nurse. (Yes, you can get a job straight out of nursing school as a NICU nurse). Only one year into my nursing career I felt the familiar pangs of burnout. Although at the time, I wouldn’t have classified it as burnout. I felt tired, irritable, and had a general sense of not wanting to go to work. I would look at nurses who had been on the floor for 30+ years and wonder, “How do they keep showing up?”
Fast forward two years after starting my career as a nurse and I left Kansas City to pursue travel nursing. While that filled me up enormously, I still had a nagging feeling that there was more out there. After signing two contracts in Omaha, Nebraska, I pursued the idea of being a volunteer nurse.
Fast forward to three years into my career as a nurse… I had taken a volunteer job as a NICU nurse in Skopje, North Macedonia teaching nurses how to use basic NICU equipment such as PICC lines, UVC lines, oscillators, and more. I realized that while I was working more hours and more days a week, I felt more refreshed than ever! As I took a deep dive into that, I realized that by doing what I loved – traveling solo on the weekends, exploring different countries, meeting new people, and learning about new cultures I was filling my cup, and thus returning to work as a better nurse both for my patients and my co-workers.
When I got back to the United States I decided to continue with the idea that traveling allowed me to be a better nurse and thus began my travel nurse journey that took me all over the United States. I focused on working six months a year and taking six months off to travel, but I also focused on how to still escape the mundane (at times) life of nursing while I’m on an assignment or if I were to be a staff nurse. And that is how the “8 Day Vacay” was born.
Do you want to be a travel nurse? Read about all of the states I’ve lived in as a nurse!
What is the “8 Day Vacay”?
So what exactly is the “8 Day Vacay”? In short, the “8 Day Vacay” is a way for nurses to step away from the bedside, see the world, and come back refreshed and ready to take on the week. It allows for 8 days off without any need to take PTO by working the first three days of week one and the last three days of week two. This means that if you’re fresh out of PTO, you can still take a vacation!
For more information on the “8 Day Vacay” read: A Guide to the “8 Day Vacay”
Tips for Making the Most Out of Your “8 Day Vacay”
I love nothing more than a spontaneous trip where you show up in a country and don’t have any plans at all. You fly by the seat of your pants and only go where locals tell you to go. But when planning an “8 Day Vacay”, I highly recommend putting a bit more thought into your trip so that you can make the most out of your 8 days on vacation. Here are my best tips for how to get the most out of your trip!
I have gone on many spontaneous “8 Day Vacays” by simply being flexible with my destination. Seriously, if it weren’t for my flexibility (or Going), I wouldn’t have traveled to Albania, Portugal, and other incredible countries.
By signing up with Going (there is a free version, premium, and elite), you get travel notifications straight to your inbox. You can then choose a country to visit based on flight ticket prices, thus saving you potentially hundreds of dollars on a flight! I used the free version for several months before I upgraded to premium and let me tell you – it was worth it. With the premium version you get tons more travel notifications and I’ve saved hundreds of dollars more than I have spent on my annual fee.
PLAN, PLAN, AND PLAN SOME MORE
As mentioned above, when I go on a short(er) trip, I like to plan everything out from start to finish. This way you can hit the ground running and ensure that you’re able to see everything you want to see during your trip. I plan in multiple stages and usually give myself at least a week so that I don’t get overwhelmed doing everything in one day (I typically plan one day out one day, another day out the next day, etc). I start by doing all of my research – reading blogs, reading travel books, watching travel TV shows on the particular destination I’m visiting, and going from there. I also make sure to research what the weather will be like, transportation, and hotels to stay in.
Once my research is done, I then plan day by day. I typically use my Google Maps and star everywhere I want to go. In this stage, I also make sure I know what area I want to stay in so that I know what is close to me and what is further away. I also do this to ensure I’m in a good part of town and won’t be too far from the sites I plan to visit.
Once everything is starred in my Google Maps, I then focus on the different neighborhoods I want to visit. Say I plan to visit Paris, I might want to visit Le Marais one day and Montmartre the next. When I’m in each neighborhood I search my map to see what I have starred and try to hit as many places in the area while I’m there so that I don’t miss anything or have to backtrack later.
(By the way, all of my “8 Day Vacay” itineraries are already all planned out for you! Make sure to check them out below).
While you can plan all you want, sometimes things just go… wrong. That’s why I always purchase travel insurance when traveling internationally. My go to is World Nomads which I use and highly recommend.
GO WITH THE FLOW
As every seasoned traveler can tell you – even when you plan out every minute of your day, something is bound to go wrong. You may miss your plane, train, or bus. You might get lost (scratch that – you probably will get lost). And you might even make friends that you decide are worth ditching the rest of your day for. No matter what happens your trip is only as good as your attitude about it is. If something goes wrong, smile and just keep moving! Chances are it’ll make for a great travel story later.
START SAVING MONEY SOONER THAN LATER
Another way to ensure you have a fabulous “8 Day Vacay” is to make sure that you have enough funds in your bank account to last you your entire trip. This makes your trip much more fun knowing that you won’t be stressed about money when you get home. I recommend not only saving money ahead of time but even budgeting a bit too. Decide what’s important to you. Do you like fancy restaurants? Do you prefer private taxis? You might be able to splurge in some areas and skimp in others. I like nice restaurants and fun bars so my money goes towards those expenses. I don’t mind staying in a cheaper hotel and I also don’t mind riding a bus or train around so I generally save money in those categories.
If you’re looking for money tips, make sure to read:
How to Save Money to Travel (and Stay Sane!)
How I Save Money to Travel and Build a Hefty “Travel Savings” Each Year
How to Manage Your Money As a Travel Nurse
BONUS TIP: SAVE NOTES/DOCUMENTS ON EACH DESTINATION YOU WANT TO VISIT
Even if I don’t have a trip planned, I have a document on my computer for each country that I plan to visit in the future. My document is broke up into “cities” followed by – “eats” – “drinks” – “things to do” – “stay”. Then, whenever I read something about a country or hear someone recommend something, I add it to my document. This way when I finally get to visit a certain destination I can pull up my document and make note of the things that I already want to see and do. This makes planning and researching so easy!
Travel has truly changed me for the better. I hope that any nurse out there struggling with burnout is brave enough to take the leap into exploring what will make them feel better. Whether that is travel, meditation, running, whatever! May you have the strength to tackle your burnout head-on and be brave enough to know when to step away from the bedside. Whether that is an “8 Day Vacay” or for good.
Tell me, have you taken an “8 Day Vacay” before? I’m always looking for new ideas!
Read about the “8 Day Vacays” that I’ve taken in the past to inspire your travels:
Barcelona + Madrid + Southern Spain
Boston + Provincetown + Newport
That’s a great idea about starting a document to list all the things you’d like to do during future trips to a new place! Would you mind making a blog post and sharing your document?
Hi Angela, thanks for the comment! I probably won’t make it a blog post but I am more than happy to send you one of my documents as an example! If you let me know your email address I’ll send it right over :). And if you don’t want to share your email address here please feel free to email me – firstname.lastname@example.org.