Nomad Life

Nomad Life as an SLP? Here Are 7 Realities No One Will Tell You

These days, Sam and I are living the nomad life. It’s been two months of driving, couch surfing, and crossing some destinations off of the travel bucket list. Oh and working, we’ve definitely been working. Life as a nomad sounds glamorous on the surface, but the truth is, we are both still full-time Monday through Friday. We’re often glued to our laptops just in different, sometimes exciting places. Anyway, while we are starting to feel more comfortable in this nomadic lifestyle, it was definitely an adjustment that didn’t come without several major stressors and bumps. That said, it has provided us with the exact thing we were looking for…freedom. Or at least more freedom. 

How to Become a Digital Nomad

Recently, I wrote about the general guidelines and essentials for how to become a digital nomad and start van life. Learning and implementing these tools will start you on the journey to remote work. Working as a digital nomad was important for us as we needed an income to fund all our travels and adventures. However, in this post, I thought I’d share my specific, very niche, transition into remote work for more context. 

How I Became a Digital Nomad as a Speech Therapist

As a speech therapist who graduated at the height of the pandemic, I finished my clinical rotation using Google Meet with elementary and high school students. Therefore, I was lucky enough to have some education and experience with online speech therapy before officially getting out in the field. Not to mention, telehealth was a hot topic in my graduate school classes even before the pandemic. All this is to say that I always knew telemedicine was an option. So, when we decided to spend time traveling, I made the easy transition from in-person to telehealth with my current employer. I currently work for a pediatric home healthcare company. Surprisingly, all I had to do was ask. Now, this is definitely not always the case, and telehealth speech therapy jobs are still not considered typical, but they are much more abundant following the pandemic and it never hurts to ask your employer what the options are. 

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that you don’t have to spin some elaborate scheme or save within an inch of your life just to start life as a nomad. Conduct research in your own field first and see what’s out there. Start where you can then pivot, grow, and build from there.

*I’ll add a final note here as licensure requirements are an obvious concern when considering nomad life as a speech pathologist. As it stands, I am licensed in and maintain a residential address and all other ties to Colorado. There are currently no state or federal rules and regulations affecting my licensure and ability to treat in Colorado according to ASHA. If you have questions about your state’s licensure requirements, visit the ASHA website

Pros of Nomad Life as an SLP

Location Freedom: 

Probably the most apparent answer…but, working remotely allows us to work from anywhere we want. So far we’ve worked in eight different states and two countries (Sam went to Spain last month). This location freedom gives us more time with family and more time to spend in the places we visit. As I write this, I’m staring at a lake in Pure Michigan. 

From a speech therapy perspective, being in several locations is always a way to break the ice with my older clients. They’re intrigued by my new background each visit we have. Who needs green screens, right? Not to mention, the topic of travel has allowed me to target conversation skills, executive functioning, descriptive language, and yes even play skills. Each destination reinvigorates my creative spirit and provides new ideas and perspectives that I can bring to a session. 

Better Work-Life Balance: 

I’m thankful that my current work schedule is more flexible. As an in-person pediatric home health SLP, I spent my breaks driving in Denver traffic or documenting in my car. Now, a significant pro of working remotely is that I’m getting a lot of time back into my life. When I have breaks, they’re typically spent outside, taking on new hobbies (e.g. paddleboarding), or catching up with friends and family. Sure, there are times when I have to document, handle the logistics of my schedule, complete some errands, and do chores, but at least I don’t have to wait until the end of the day. Not to mention, the amount of chores is significantly reduced in general. All in all, life feels a bit more manageable in this modern nomadic lifestyle. 

More Creativity: 

With a more manageable schedule, comes more opportunities to be creative. This includes non-work endeavors like writing and creating content. But as a speech therapist living on the road with limited belongings, I have to ditch many of the materials I used to rely on in sessions. Of course, I kept staples like Mr. Potato Head and several children’s books. Anyway, I’ve started to use my backdrop as my muse to create therapy topics and materials. For example, when we were at the lake in Northern Michigan, I spent a lot of my day outside. Topics for therapy sessions included insects, boats, swimming, trees, and geography…Once you have a topic, it can be much easier to search the web for accompanying speech therapy materials or give you the inspiration to use whatever is around you in a fun and engaging way. This lack of materials has also given me more courage to coach parents into using toys around their house instead. After all, early intervention is meant to use their natural environment.

Cons of Nomad Life as an SLP

Work Schedules:

For most people, travel means vacation and vacation means relaxation. However, In the nomad lifestyle, those lines are blurred. So, while you’re productive and get more time back into your life, you also wish you could spend more time exploring the new destination. 

We are currently in the Midwest, but our hours are in Mountain Time, so that means later work days. My schedule is a bit more variable than Sam’s and I may find myself working until 8 pm some nights with several breaks throughout the day. Sam has it a bit tougher with a more traditional 10-6:30 schedule. Basically, we are still feeling quite confined by these hours. Actual travel, experiences, and driving have to be saved for weekends, early mornings, and late nights. Still, it could be worse. 

Making Less Money: 

I’ll be honest, making less money is not ideal. Of course, this is not always the case, but unfortunately, both of our incomes took a hit. In the pediatric, home-health world there is just not a high enough demand for telemedicine services…yet. However, I’ll remind you that in this lifestyle (depending on how you do it) your cost of living should greatly decrease. So, while it’s tough to see lower numbers in the direct deposit, we have to remind ourselves that there is less being withdrawn. We don’t plan for this to be the case forever, by the way. Just a reminder that you don’t have to have everything figured out before you take the leap. 

No Home Office:

 This one may seem a bit contradictory as I discussed freedom as a pro to working remotely. However, when you don’t have a dedicated workspace it can make things a bit more stressful. While Sam is free to work from anywhere that has WiFi, my calls require a perfect signal, obnoxious singing of nursery rhymes, and HIPPA compliance…So, each place we visit requires some extra problem-solving and planning to make sure that I can actually do my job. One of the best decisions we made is Verizon Home Internet. This thing is an absolute beast. As long as I can find a spot to plug it in, I am never worried about my connection. 

Without a dedicated workspace, it’s easy to get distracted. Especially when you find yourself with family and friends. Be sure to give people you’re traveling with a heads up about your work day. You don’t have to feel rude for locking yourself in a room all day. I also like to give my clients a heads-up about where I am and apologize upfront if it gets noisy on my end. Noise-canceling headphones are a girl’s best friend at the moment. Just know that your work set-up on the road, while novel, is not always going to be ideal. You have to be willing to go with the flow. 

Lack of Routine: 

While on the road, your environment and schedule will constantly be changing. Each new day presents new challenges and distractions that can prevent routine. I have found that it’s important to keep steady in my work week so that I can maintain productivity and stay sane. To get started on establishing that perfect morning routine, check out these 7 Best Daily Routine Examples. Remember to make your daily routines on the road more simple. Something that you can do just about anywhere. For example, I can wake up at the same time every day, take a walk, and read or write from just about anywhere. At the end of the day, setting up a routine as a remote worker helps to keep you reliable and responsible. 

The pros and cons of working remotely and life as a nomad do not stop at this list. I’m sure as we continue our nomad life there will be new challenges that come up. However, we have found that so far the pros outweigh the cons. I am enjoying telepractice as an alternative career for speech pathologists as it allows me to simultaneously reach my travel goals while I learn and refine my specific skills as an SLP.  

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