Thursday, December 29, 2011

How To Tame A Monster

This week is very special for me.  I am privilaged to be able to share my love of travel and new places with someone very close to my nephew, Trae.  Trae is 9 years old and lives in the same area that I grew up in, in the mid-west.  It has a very small-town feel to it and people that live there, tend to stay in the area.  I'm certainly the oddity when it comes to leaving.  I've gotten accoustomed to being the odd man (or woman as it may be) out.

It's been a joy to be able to share all of the new experiences with my nephew.  The excitement in his voice while waiting for the train to bring him to thto the e 'city' was palpable.  It gave me the same excitement just hearing him.  The look on his face when he saw his first sky-scraper was priceless.  I'm enjoying every minute of sharing the city with him.

I feel very lucky that I am able to travel and I try to share my love of travel with others in my life.  My Mom and step-dad have been able to travel to see me in many new places, my daughter has more 'air' time than most adults that I know, my Son traveled with me for a while before he decided to plant himself for the time being.

In addition to family, I can now add my nephew to the (hopefully) ever growing list of those that have been exposed to the world of travel.  Several of my kids' friends have joined us on adventures over the years and each one of those times was special to me.  I loved being able to share my love with them and hopefully open their eyes to the fact that there is a big world out there to be explored.

Through all the joy....there is always a downside.  One that I have been able to hide away, locked up; like a monster in the closet... somewhere in the back of my mind.  It surfaces once in a while but I continue to push it back and try to forget that it's there.  This holiday season...the monster came for my daughter and hit me harder than ever.

What is my Monster?

It's the fear and the reality of being left out, forgotten, overlooked.  How-ever you want to look at it; it's the time when those that should be close and concerned ie family and good friends forget or neglect to think of you.  Forget to invite you to the holiday dinner....your usually gone anyway.  Overlook the thought that you might be available....even though you usually aren't.  Leave you out of the festivities and events....because they are certain that your celebrating with someone else.

I can deal with MY monster.  I've learned to make my own happiness.  When my monster rears it's ugly head, I can put it back in the closet with all the fond memories and experiences that my lifestyle has allowed me.  It still hurts; but I can deal with it.

But now....?   Now, my Monster and I have an issue....and i don't know how to tame it.  I can't push it back into the closet with MY isn't after me this time.

How do I tame a monster when it isn't attacking me?

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Round-up

Since it's getting close to the end of 2011, I thought it fitting for me to post a round-up of people, places and events that occured during the year.

I've worked in three locations this year.  Here is a summary of each:
  • Kansas City, MO ~ North Kansas City Hospital
    • High nurse patient ratio's 1:8
    • Largest unit I've ever worked on at 52 beds
    • Traveler friendly on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the best: 6/10
    • Busy...busy....busy!
  • Providence, RI
    • Average nurse patient ratio's 1:5-6
    • 20 some bed unit
    • Traveler friendly: 9/10 (These nurses were very welcoming)
    • Nice slow easy work pace
  • Chicago, IL
    • Average nurse patient ratio's 1-5-6
    • 20 something bed unit
    • Traveler friendly: 5/10
    • Moderately busy but not overwhelming
Places that I've traveled (I'll include my travel nursing locations here as well)

  • Kansas City, MO
    • Tons to see and do
    • Surprised me on it's diversity
    • COLD (I was here in winter)
    • I would consider going back (during warmer months)
  • New Orleans, LA
    • Traveled here twice this year.  Once for MG and again for French Quarter Fest
    • Always love NOLA
    • I WILL go back.
  • Minnieapolis, MN
    • Surprisingly fun city
    • Always something fun to do/see
    • Would go back to explore more
  • Louisville, KY
    • Stayed here with a friend to recouperate from surgery
    • Somewhat of a home away from home for me
    • Visited with friends and family
    • I'll always come back due to family in the area.
  • Road Trip across Pennsylvania (twice)
    • Loved the covered bridges
    • People were helpful and friendly
    • Great comfort food
    • Hated Hershey, PA
  • Hoboken, NJ
    • Went to see Carlo's Bakery (for Trinity)
    • Small town feel with all of the big city ammenities
    • Would love to go back
  • Providence, RI
    • Got robbed twice
    • First place I lived was ghetto...moved into hotel
    • People at work were the only redeeming quality
    • Would return but have to find a good spot to live
  • Chicago, IL
    • Always tons to do/see
    • COLD (winter in Chicago...not smartest choice)
    • Live too far from the 'city'
    • Would return if I could live closer to downtown.
So it looks like I managed about 8 states.  Not too bad for a girl that had two surgeries this year and was down and out for a good two months.

No international travel this year which is a bit disappointing but I'm heading to South America in how is a girl to complain?

Where did you go in 2011?  What was your favorite and why?  Have you been to any of the places I went in 2011?  If so, were your impresssions different?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Living Debt Free

When I share my plans for my upcoming trips to South America (Feb 2012) and RTW in 2013, I am constantly being asked "How can you do it" or being told "I wish I could travel like that."

How Do I do It?

- I don't own a home
- I drive a vehicle that is nearly 15 years old and paid off.
- I scrutionize EVERY purchase.
- I don't own a credit card.
- When I am working...I'm greedy; picking up extra hours as much as possible.
- I worked very hard to become DEBT FREE
- I choose half-price or discount tickets when attending an event/theater.
- I purchase clothing based on wether or not it will match at least 3 things already in my closet.
- I choose to eat out for lunch instead of dinner.

Do you wish you could travel like I do?            

You CAN.  It's all about what is important to you.  Only you can decide if traveling is right for you.  Only you can determine the things important in your life.  Only you can make the changes necessary.  It's up to you.  

I tell people all the time that there are penty of sacrifices that I make to live the life I have choosen.  I had to decide if these sacrifices were worth it.  To me, they are.  Maybe to you they aren't and that's ok.

- No pension when I am old.
- Retirement planning is up to me.
- There is no pay when I'm not working, no paid vacation.  I have to plan.
- I am constantly away from family and friends.
- I miss birthdays, special events and the day to day lives of those I love.

On the flip-side of the sacrifices are the benefits.  These are the things that make it worth the sacrifices worth it for me.

- Experiencing new places, food, culture and people
- Learning to not take advantage of life in America
- Facing my fears
- Being able to share my love of travel with those I love 
- Avoiding the feeling of being 'stagnant'
- Knowing that I am doing not just dreaming
- Replacing my retirement fund with a memory fund.

How did I manage to be DEBT FREE?

First, I STOPPED SPENDING.  Then, I made a budget and was able to see how my spending today effects my life next month or next year. This was very important for me.  It was encouraging to see my savings grow as I paid off debts.  Think of the carrot at the end of a stick.  My savings budget was my carrot; and still is.
  • Starbucks latte now  vs Water Puppets in Vietnam
  • Coach purse vs Train tickets in Italy
  • New Car (with payment) vs Airfare someplace exotic
  • Gourmet dinner/drinks  vs A week worth of meals in South America
You get the idea.  I think of every purchase now in terms of what it could/would buy me in experience someplace else.

There are a lot of web-sites, self-help books, seminars, etc. out there that will teach you how to be debt free.  I purused message boards, forums, and blogs for inspiration and advice, all of which were free as well as informative.

Do you live Debt Free?  What is your inspiration?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is Travelng Solo for me?

A recent post by a fellow female traveler Why Solo Travel Is Not For Me made me think about why and how I travel.  I'm scared to travel alone and scared to travel with thers.  With an upcoming trip to SA with a good friend in the final stages of planning; I'm nervous about traveling with someone else.  At the same time, my trip into Vietnam at one point, was very lonely and all I wanted was someone to share it with me.

I find myself constantly thinking about the 2013 RTW trip that I am planning.  Will I go through the same loneliness issues that I experienced iin Vietnam?  Will I thrive on being out there alone?  Will I be able to meet others?  With a good majority of backpackers under the age of 30 and myself much older than that, it is sometimes difficult to meet and interact with other travelers.

I enjoy being on my own and not having to clear my plans with anyone.  Being able to do exactly what I want to do.  But on the other hand,it's also nice to be able to have someone to share experiences with and also share the burden of travel arrangements and constant decision making.  Whch train do I/we take, where do I/we go to eat dinner, is this a good deal or am I/we being ripped off....  The day to day issues are endless. Sometimes it's a relief to be able to share these issues with others.

You can read about my trials in Vietnam here:

Do you 'solo' travel?  How do you balance being alone with spending time with other backpackers?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The 5 Year Plan

The past couple of days have been spent purusing through tons of blogs.  Reading about RTW (Round The World) travel, from those that have been there or are out there doing it. I do this a lot in preparation.  While reading, I realized that I have never shared my 5 Year plan.

A little background for you.  My initial international travel trip was to Vietnam in 2008.  The inspiration for this can be read about in the "About Me" section.  If you haven't read it, go ahead....I'll wait......

Finished?  Yes, I know it's really long but I really wanted to make it a point that I am not rich, did not come from a family with a 'silver spoon' in my mouth.  I'm a regular gal with an average American family.

Vietnam was so many things for me.  Inspirational, scary, lonely, dramatic, enlightening...I could go on but you get the idea.  Most importantly, it was during my Vietnam trip that I figured out my 5 year plan.

As I recall, I didn't spend a lot of time planning it out.  Didn't make my lists that I am so fond of.  I didn't mull it over.  I just knew!  One evening while sitting at dinner, I struck up conversation with an Australian couple; Bob and Clare at a table near me.  We ended up spending several days together exploring and getting to know one another.

I don't remember exactly the setting or the conversation but at some point Clare asked me about my future.  I didn't give it a second though and spilled out my 5 year plan to her.  I didn't even know I had decided on a plan, but there it was spilling out of my mouth.

Afterward, I wondered to myself why I told Clare all about this 5 year plan that I didn't even know I had?  Was I being a braggart?  Was I trying to be more adventuresome?  When did I even decide that I had a 5  year plan?

Ever since that day, the 5 year plan has continued to be a part of my longing.  I knew that this was something that I needed, something that was attainable, and something that I would DO.

So, what is the 5 year plan?

It's simple.  I told Clare that within 5 years, I wanted to be at a point financially that I could work for 6 months of the year and travel the other 6 months.

After coming home from Vietnam (2008), I continued to think about the 5 year plan.  I budgeted like a crazy woman, spent a stupid amount of money to take my nearly grown kids to Italy to backpack (see my travel blog: Treft Family in Italy),  budgeted more, spent an unfulfilling year in Germany (See: Travel Nurse in Germany), and never gave up on the 5 year plan.

So, where am I today?  How close am I to fulfilling my 5 Year Plan.

I'm THERE....or as nearly there as I could ever hope to be.  I've posted previously about my upcoming trip to South America.  This trip is only 2 months long, not 6 as my 5 Year Plan would intend.  However, I am gearing up for 2013.

What's special about 2013?

2013 is the 5 year mark for me.  I'm ready to take the leap.  Let me fill you in on the plan (I suddenly just got a sick feeling...just putting it out here feels like a huge commitment.  One that I am ready to make but putting it here brings the anxiety of potential failure).

I'm planning to book a one-way flight into Northern Europe April 2013.  The final route isn't confirmed or set in stone and I'm not sure that it will ever be really set in stone.  I want to leave it open to be changed, adjusted, modified along the way.  There are a few goals that I have and a couple of specific activities/events that I dream of completing.

May 2013: Hitchhiking Competition from Gdansk, Poland to Prague
July 2013: Compete in the Mongol Rally

I think that these are the only two time-specific items on my list.  Other things that I plan during 2013 would include:

(photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Take a freighter across a large part of the ocean (possibly China to Australlia)
  - Read more about this HERE.

Move slowly; taking several weeks/month at a time in choosen locations.
  - I am hoping that by traveling slowly, I will be able to extend my trip

  - I don't have any specific plans for this right now but I know that I want to give something back.  If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments.

Find Other Unique ways to get from point A to Point B
  - Again, if you have any suggestions; please post them in the comments below.
  - I shared my ideas with a fellow traveler at the 2011 MEET, PLAN, GO! event and he shared with me one of his favorite travel days.  Check it out: The Winding Road to Bulungula

I Feel like I have a ton of people to thank for being my 'inspiration'.  It's through other's stories/blogs that I have gained a lot of my inspiration to do this.  I have found that traveling isn't something only for the rich...but for anyone that has the desire.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sharing the Windy City

Being a Travel Nurse is a ton of fun.  The ability to travel to new cities and live there as a local is the draw that kept me traveling for the last 7 years.  The best part, however is being able to share the new city with others.  This weekend, I got to share the city with my daughter; Trinity. 

We braved temperatures in the teens, bundled up like little snowmen and went out to explore the city.  The 'cloud gate', State street lights, watched the ice skaters, and of course I drank lots of coffee. 

I've been able to intice Trinity to enjoy the theater and we saw one of the most interesting performances that I think I've seen to date.  "Let My People Come".

 This play was originally performed in NYC in the '70's and was controversial at that time.  Wow....I can see why!  It was an amazing exploration of sexuality, both personal and societal .   I can only imagine how this was accepted (or not) in the '70's when the general public was pretty prudish when it comes to sexuality, nudity, and alternative life-styles.  It was raw, vulgar, emotional, and engaging.  If you can step outside of societies boundaries and go with an open's eye-opening.

The train ride back home was nearly as engaging as the play.  Between the drunk blond that everyone was afraid was going to hurl on the train, the old black man screaming about "I paid $45 dollar for a cheesecake", the egotistical romeo sitting behind us, and the banter between the other sober passengers; it was a riot.  I think I laughed nearly as much on the ride home as I did during the play; maybe more.
There is an improv show somewhere here in Chicago that I had read about the is based on personal experiences on the  "L".  It sounded interesting before this engaging trip but now I think it's a must see while here in the city.  (Remind me to put this on my 'to-do' list).

Livin' life and enjoying Chicago....

Sunday, December 04, 2011


A great way to start out a day in Chicago or any city for that matter is to take some sort of 'free' walking tour. There are a couple of companies that I like to use.  For Chicago, I headed straight to Chicago Greeters Website and set up a FREE Greeter Tour.

The Greeter tours in Chicago are done by volunteers at the Cultural Center and are really totally free. There is no push for tips or donations. In fact, your not even allowed to tip your tour guide. The guides are locals. People living in Chicago that want to show you what makes the city important for them, what their favorite spots are, and/or anything that you have a direct interest in.

My tour was of the 'Loop" area of Chicago. It was great because it showed me places that I would have walked by without even giving a second glance. To start with, the Cultural Center. It's a destination. Not just for the tourist office that's located inside but for it's history and ambiance. There is free wi-fi and and very comfortable reading or studying area with comfortable chairs and tables. Like your local coffee shop without the coffee.

The cultural center is the city's old Library.  After the Great Chicago Fire, books were donated to the city of Chicago and believe it or not, the city had not ever had a library before.  So, one had to be built. (After doing some internet research on this; I found that this isn't true.  Chicago DID have a library.)

It's beautiful.  Go and explore.  The moaisc murals on the walls are made from glass and marble, and the Tiffany glass dome is reportedly one of (if not the) largest ever made.  It's outstanding.

I also learned a little of the architecture in Chicago; specifically the "Chicago window".  Check it out on Wikipedia.  We actually have a lot of the "Chicago window's" in my home town.  Interesting.

After the tour, I wandered around and found the Marilyn Monroe pictured above.  There is a ton of controversy surrounding Marilyn here in the city but the tourists (myself included) seem to enjoy it...especially some of the men getting up close and catching a little more than a peek at Marilyn's panties!

Check out my daughters Gallery for additional Chicago inspiration.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

How does one become a Travel Nurse?

A friend asked me today "How does one become a travel nurse?" I have given it some consideration and come to the following step-by-step instructions:

1. Divorce your husband. If you choose not to divorce him, realize that he will probably divorce you before your finished with Nursing School.

2. Give custody of your children to your parents or another responsible adult. If you think you'll have time for Nursing School and KIDS....think again.

3. Aclimate yourself to sleeping only 2-4 hours a day. Between the reading assignments, the studying for exams, clinicals, and two to three part-time jobs...this is all the sleep your going to get. If you did not follow steps 1 and 2 then plan on 1-3 hours of sleep.

4. Take a seminar on self-esteem. If anything can break a persons self-esteem it's nursing instructors.

5. Prepare for failure.

Wow....I wrote the above back in 2005 and never finished or published it.  I think the thoughts listed above are still quite correct.  In addition, I would add the following.

1.  Get two SOLID years of experience in your specialty before you even consider travel nursing.  Your going to be thrown to the wolves when you arrive in a new hospital because "your making the big bucks" so everyone thinks you should work harder to "earn your pay".

2.  Work as a car salesman for at least a year to get your haggling/negotiating skills in check; your going to need them when dealing with all the recruiters and different companies out there.

3.  Buy a good pair of shoes.  This isn't just for Travel Nurses, but nurses everywhere.

4.  Gather a good amount of emergency cash in your savings account.  If you want the reasons for this; just read:   The Recent Drama   or   Just a Simple or Not So Simple Rant

5.  Go with an open mind and an adventurous spirit and enjoy your surroundings.

6.  When things get hard, remember:  IT's only 13 Weeks!!

A Quirky Travel Companion

On my drive home from Providence, I had decided to stop by Gettysburg and visit the sites. As I was approaching the town of Gettysburg, my Dad called and we started chatting (via bluetooth) about how my trip had gone....etc...etc...

Next thing I know, I'm at the park and admiring all of the statues.  Dad asks about what I am seeing and as I'm telling him, he is looking it up online.  He then reads about the statue to me via phone and I got to hear about the history/significance of the statues as I was seeing them.

We continued this way for well over an hour....and even had a couple of drop-in companions when Dad's friends Dan and Doug showed up and Dad put me on speakerphone.

I know that this sounds really stupid to all of you out there.  However, this was quite significant for me.  I really enjoyed having Dad there with me (even if it was only on the phone).  I have wanted Dad to travel to see me forever and it has just never happened.  Somehow, having him on the phone was like him being with me.  I enjoyed sharing my thoughts and chatting about the different sites as I was seeing them.

I wish that he could have been there in person but I will always remember the trip that Dad and I took together to Gettysburg.

What is My Motivation?

Every day is an attempt to understand what makes Candy happy. What makes me tick? What is it that excites or motivates me? I used to be happy exploring as a travel nurse. Being able to go all over this huge country living, working and exploring used to motivate me and excite me. Now? All I can think of is leaving....the next trip, the next adventure, how can I travel longer, where can I go.

In retrospection I have noticed that I am much more willing to brave the elements and explore on my own when I am out of my own country. I feel less inhibited when no one around me speaks my language. I am happy to be wandering aimlessly amidst the locals when I am an outsider. I'll sit comfortably for an afternoon at a local cafe and watch the people pass by and think about where they are going or watch them carry on with their daily lives, watching them work or play. I love to engage in conversation or share a knowing smile or laugh at something going on. Why is it that I feel like I 'fit' better where I don't belong? Here I sit in Chicago..... No motivation to do much of anything. There is tons to do and see but I feel lost and alone. I don't have the motivation to go on my own. I long for someone to share it with. I'm lonely.

So, what is my motivation?

 Leaving.....going somewhere new......the feeling of an aircraft taking off.....the unusual sights of a new culture.....the smells of food unknown....not understanding the voices surrounding me......not knowing what to expect.

This is my motivation. My desire. The 'puts a smile on my face' moment.

February 11, 2011

What's significant about this?

I'm leaving....going somewhere new....going to feel the airplane take off....transporting me to a new culture....with new voices....not knowing what to expect!! There is a smile on my face just thinking about it. It's one of my moments....

The date/time-frame was set months ago. My plans have changed multiple times. Travel partners have come and gone for various reasons. Finally, I decided to plan it on my own. I picked a place I could travel alone. Decided that it was useless depending on others to travel with me. Besides, this was about me. Me being motivated. Bringing the smile back to my face.

So, where am I going? South America. It was decided after a friend mailed me a wedding invitation for Playa Del Carmen at the end of March. I needed to be somewhere that i could easily travel to the wedding. This is the person that inspired me after all!! (About Me)

Once I decided to make the leap alone, I was discussing it with a friend and she has decided to join me. Teresa and I will be traveling together.....I'm very excited. We are spending 7 weeks together in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.  Teresa and I traveled together last year in Scotland and had a wonderful time.  She is such a great travel companion and I'm looking forward to sharing some of Latin America with her.

For some reason, I never got a blog posted about out trip to Scotland, but here is a photo journey:

After exploring South America together, Teresa will fly home and I am onward to the wedding in Playa Del Carmen. I'm very happy to be included in such a special day for a special friend.

I keep running through the finances, the timing and everything else and I really want to extend the trip and spend some time on my own. i am tryiing to figure out how to add an extra month after the wedding to travel in Central America. I would like to try to settle into a place for at least 3-4 weeks and see what I think about living as a local in a culture so unfamilar to me. I want to see if it will bring the 'puts a smile on my face' moment.

I'll keep you posted......

Feeling Sorry For Myself in Providence

17.07.2011 - 27.10.2011 

So, I really want to get to where things are today and my upcoming plans...... But, first things first! Providence! Providence was interesting. On arrival at the location of my new apartment I was a bit, ok I was a lot intimidated. It's a very run-down neighborhood and didn't appear to be a safe part of the city.

I went ahead and took a peek at the apartment, was reassured by the maintenance guy that it's a safe place and fell in love with the loft type apartment. It was beautiful. If only it was in a different part of town.... Trinity helped me settle in and we explored the city a little. We were both worn out from the road trip and decided that neither of us was up for a whole lot of exploring. Too soon, she had to leave and I started work.

 Working at Providence VA was a great experience. The crew there is awesome! Love those nurses and will miss all of them. Unfortunately, I was working 8 hour night shifts and hated them. I used to having several days a week off to go explore and I was just exhausted working 5 days a week. So, I didn't do hardly anything of note during my time in's sad, there is so much to see and do in the area that I feel like I truly missed out. (Insert feeling sorry for myself, here)

I did meet some great people and feel like I made some life-time friends so all is not lost. Thanks to the crew at Providence for all the fun after work drinks and making me feel welcome.

If your interested, there are a few Providence pictures HERE

 - Quatro Fromagio Pizza at 0200
 - My Loft Apartment
 - The Night Shift Crew!!
 - Afterwork Drinks!


11.04.2011 - 11.07.2011 I arranged and planned to stay with my friend Lisa so I could have foot surgery in April after returning from New Orleans with Mom and Dad. Just a quick run-down of several months of much of nothing... April 15th: Surgery April 24th: I became a Grandma 11.04.2011 - 11.07.2011 April 25th: interviewed and got position with VA Travel Nurse Corp May 20th: Second Surgery June 20-29: Phoenix AZ for Orientation with TNC Most of April to June was spent sitting around on my ass trying to recouperate from surgery. I had a great time visiting with Lisa, getting to know my new Grandbaby, Charlotte, enjoying time with both the kids Corey and Trinity and generally feeling useless. Trinity decided to take a road-trip with me to my newest travel assignment with the VA TNC in Providence, RI. We had a great trip. My camera was broken but Trinity got some great photos along the way...she has yet to share them with me though! I'll have to get her busy on that. We were disappointed by Hershey, PA but enjoyed all of the covered bridges in PA.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Next Stop...NOLA, Again??

When I left New Orleans after MG, my Mom and Dad were getting ready to embark on a road-trip of their own. Mom mentioned NOLA. I was instantly ready to go. I knew that the New Orleans French quarter Festival was occuring during the time frame that they were considering so I suggested that I meet them there as an extension of my trip back toward home. My contract in KC was ending around this time and I was looking for something to do.

We made our plans and headed out planning to meet each other somewhere part-way. Note to anyone that is traveling with family: PATIENCE!! Mom, if your reading this....I still love you and always will!!
Our plans to meet were constantly changed due to Daddy's interest in taking the "road less traveled". I love him and I think that I get some of my wanderlust from him, but REALLY? Do you need to change your route every couple of hours?? I kept trying to figure out how to meet with them and they kept changing their route and making it impossible....

We finally met up together somewhere at a rest stop in the middle of no-where.....

The drive into New Orleans was stressfull for me as I was certain that Daddy was going to get killed in the traffic. He didn't (thank God). We made it to our hotel together all safe.

We spent several days exploring New Orleans together and I got to introduce Mom to crawfish (still not sure if she liked them or not). I got to see Trombone Shorty, one of my favorite New Orleans performers. I think they enjoyed themselves?

Click here to See Pictures