After working 12 hours as nurses at the hospital, married couple Meg and Ty DeWitt return home in their van, where they live full time. After a three-day work week, Ty, 33, and Meg, 28, hit the road in their van to explore the surroundings.
In the past, that meant hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana, camping in Sedona, Arizona, or taking a road trip along the Oregon coast. As travel nurses, the DeWitts, originally from South Carolina, work on short-term contracts at understaffed hospitals across the country.
“Travelling the country and seeing what each state has to offer when it comes to adventure, and getting paid to do it…that’s why I wanted to become a travel nurse,” Ty says.
The DeWitts embraced the van lifestyle in 2019 to travel more efficiently and save as much money as possible to meet their long-term financial goals. Now the couple can save up to around $20,000 a month.
Moving into a van
Meg and Ty met by chance, because of their work. As of 2017, they were both working night shifts as staff nurses at separate hospitals in Charleston, South Carolina. One day, they crossed paths at the beach after work. “There were two people on the beach wearing scrubs,” Ty says. “You don’t usually see that, at this time of the morning. So yeah, we just hit it off.”
The couple married in April 2020. They bond over their shared love of adventure. “Every free day we would just organize mini trips and even local trips,” says Meg.
This led to the DeWitts quitting their jobs and becoming travel nurses in 2019. So far, they have entered into seven short-term contracts, each time working together at the same hospital.
“It’s not uncommon for a unit to have two positions open,” says Meg. “So we might have to wait a little longer and do a little more research to get two positions. But it’s definitely possible.”
After working two three-month contracts in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Auburn, Wash., the DeWitts felt exhausted from moving around. They had only two weeks to find accommodation before starting a new mission.
“Before we got the van, there were a few times we would drive into town, always phoning people, trying to find a place to stay,” Ty says.
Meg adds, “So you have to move all your stuff around the hotel or the Airbnb until your permanent space is, you know, ready to move in.”
Meg had been “in love with the van life” for years, so she pitched the idea to Ty, who didn’t need much convincing. The couple bought an old FedEx van in September 2019 for $26,000. They traded in their old Honda Civic, which brought them about $2,000.
The van arrived completely empty. Along with hiring someone to take care of their electrical needs, the couple renovated it themselves for around $4,000.
Traveling nurses typically earn between $2,000 and $5,000 per week
The van saved Meg and Ty a lot more on their travel nursing income. Traveling nurses are generally paid more than practical nurses, which encourages them to uproot themselves and move, temporarily, to a new location.
As personal nurses, the DeWitts each earned about $700 a week. As traveling nurses, they each earned up to about $2,900 a week.
The DeWitts avoided high-paying crisis contracts, in order to preserve their sanity. “The most money we’ve seen nurses make since the pandemic began was $10,000 a week, and we personally knew nurses who did,” Meg says. “They said it was pretty dangerous staffing conditions. They saw death every day, all day.”
Travel nurses typically earn anywhere from $2,000/week to more than $5,000/week, according to April Hansen, executive vice president of travel nurse agency Aya Healthcare and a former travel nurse.
This rate includes a non-taxable allowance for food and lodging. The average salary for registered nurses in the United States ranges from around $1,000/week to around $1,500/week, according to data from ZipRecruiter.
During the pandemic, the growing demand for traveling nurses has driven up salaries. Demand for travel nurses has jumped about 105% in 2021, according to data from Aya Healthcare, which attributes the increase to the pandemic, hospitals opening operating rooms and workers retiring or leaving the workforce. workforce due to burnout.
“Save a lot of money in van life”
“We actually saved a lot of money doing the van life,” Ty says. “Comparatively, you spend $400 a month on car payments versus the $1,400 a month you spend on rent.”
The DeWitts can save up to about $20,000 a month living in their van, while each earning about $2,900 a week. Much of this savings comes from reducing housing costs while working and traveling.
The couple are spending $430 a month to pay off the loan they took out to buy the van, which they say they have almost paid off. They spend between $400 and $650 a month to rent space to park the van, either at a campground or outside someone’s house.
The DeWitts save money on hotel or Airbnb fees when they go to a new assignment or on their days off. “With the van, we are able to check apps on our phone and find free accommodations in the area,” says Meg.
The couple spend less on food now that they have a full kitchen with them at all times. Instead of eating out, “we can park anywhere on the side of the road and cook a full dinner, lunch,” says Meg.
Monthly gas costs are around $200 to $400, depending on the length of their trip. To ensure they have access to showers wherever they go, the couple pay $20 a month for a subscription to Planet Fitness.
The DeWitts pay $300 a month for the loan of their second vehicle, which they drive alongside the van when they travel, in case of emergency.
With the money they saved, Ty paid off his credit card debt, while Meg nearly paid off her student loans. In the not too distant future, the DeWitts plan to invest more and possibly create more revenue streams.
“Our main financial goal that we’re working towards is just to bank as much money as we can, so we can buy a big piece of land somewhere, and hopefully build maybe a little house or several little houses. , and have passive income through Airbnb or campsites,” Ty says.
“We’re even talking about doing camping lessons or outdoor adventure tours – something along those lines, just to have a different source of income.”
“I will forever be a better person because of this experience”
The DeWitts have had their fair share of unexpected challenges, navigating travel nursing and van life.
“Nothing will ever go as planned,” says Meg. “As a travel nurse, your start date is going to get pushed back. You’re always going to have a problem – you know, with the hospital or with your contract. Just, unexpected things happen. With van life, you’re always having something broken.You constantly have to learn new skills.
She adds, “Especially when we’re traveling, we don’t know where we’re going to sleep that night. So, you kind of have to go with the day and take it as it comes. So I think I’ll forever be a better person thanks to this experience.”
The article “Getting paid to travel: Nurses embrace Van Life Bank for up to $20,000 a month″ was originally published on Growth (CNBC + Acorns).