This is an installation of DocWife Stories. If you have a story to share about how the medical journey made you stronger as a person or a family, please contact me and I will feature your guest post!
As you know, each time someone gets accepted into medical school, residency, fellowship, or job, it usually requires a move. Most of these destinations were determined by the Match or the training program so you don’t even get a say.
Moving is a trait of the medical lifestyle.
What if I told you about a family who is both a medical AND a military family. What would THAT be like?
This is a guest post (which means no payment was exchanged for posting this) by my friend Kaitlyn. She is a sweetheart who moved 40 times for her husband who is in surgical training and in the military!
It was not easy for her to support her husband, but she started an amazing, profitable Airbnb business to make lemonade out of lemons. If you are planning to stay at an Airbnb for the first time, use this link and get $40 bonus to spend.
I had to beg her to tell this story for all of us. And I’m the first blogger she’s told this story to, so it is an honor.
Take it away, Kaitlyn.
I Moved Over 40 Times For My Dr Spouse
Sometimes our desires don’t match our partner’s or others’ in our social circles.
As the wife of a medical and military resident, I was always uneasy about the idea of not growing my career or having to put it on the backburner — or worse, give it up completely. After all, it was hard to hold onto a job when we were living in a new place every six weeks.
At the same time, friends and family members seemed to be confused as to why I was unhappy following my husband around the world for his medical and military career. They said I should relax for several years, especially before children would come into the picture, and that I was lucky to have this opportunity.
I didn’t feel lucky at all.
I loved work. I missed work. I felt like it gave me purpose. In addition, I didn’t want to let my degree go unused.
How could I feel okay about going to school to use my degree for only a year? But maybe there were right. Was there something wrong with me? Why was I so depressed? I felt so trapped in my situation.
Why I Needed To Find Fulfillment
Then I did it — I cracked the code! I took the Myers Briggs Personality Test and understood why I felt the need to achieve. Becoming aware of my personality type and new identity led me to understand what daily steps I would need to take to truly enjoy my life and to find meaning in it.
But how was I going to find that rewarding feeling while accompanying my husband on his ridiculously demanding medical and military journey? How could I feel in control when the military was allowing me limited responsibilities and decisions as a “dependent”? Most of all, how would I keep from getting incredibly lonely given my husband’s work hours and not knowing a soul wherever he was sent?
That was going to take an extra dose of creativity given our nomadic lifestyle. It would also take a lot of patience – something I would have to acquire.
One probably wouldn’t be surprised that as a natural planner and problem solver, I am finding happiness in the journey.
Our Medical And Military Journey
Right now, my husband is in his second year of his military general surgery residency. On average, he works 100 hours per week. That doesn’t leave him any time to help cook, pack and unpack, or clean — let alone research places to live while rotating, deal with our finances, or get enough sleep.
I chose to take a break from my teaching career in order to be with him as well as help him. Whenever he leaves the hospital, I want him to feel like he’s home and be able to relax. I also just really enjoy being around him.
Our medical and military journey is unique in that it has taken us to 18 different cities (quite a few more than once) and over 50 cities (with plenty more to come).
On average, we move every 6 weeks.
Our Schedule While On A Rotation
Our typical 6-week rotation looks like this:
Week 1: Unpack, clean, and research local gyms and churches. I specifically look for gyms with a lot of group fitness classes. I also look for churches that have several community groups.
The first week is all about researching what is out there so that I don’t start sulking over what I left behind and start my pity party about everything this journey is taking away from me. It also keeps the feelings of loneliness at bay.
I have become very proactive at avoiding what used to be my norm–that life “I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.” I usually don’t cook for a couple of days since the kitchen will be in disarray, and we enjoy eating where the locals eat. I am also on the phone with Tricare for a good eight hours over the next couple of days so that I can get my prescriptions and begin setting up doctor appointments. This is definitely my favorite part–NOT!
Week 2: By this point, I have chosen a church and a gym. I am actively throwing myself into at least one group fitness class a day and a couple of Bible study groups per week. I’m figuring out what I like and who I like.
Many times if I don’t already have a job lined up, I find one. I have been an office runner, office assistant, taco truck lady, event coordinator, substitute teacher, painter, interior decorator, babysitter, cook, chauffeur, fitness instructor… you name it!
Finding work or a volunteer position is actually enjoyable. It’s where I really get to meet people and find purpose. I am also figuring out where we are living next if given the option to choose our own place using Airbnb. I enjoy money talks and negotiations, often times getting homes for hundreds of dollars less per month than the original listing.
Week 3: I am putting together my weekly schedule and writing my goals for the month. I personally love Chalene Johnson’s 30-Day Push. (Side note: with her program, I learned how to design goals that cater to the way I want to feel rather than simply choosing goals because I feel like I am supposed to achieve them or because I want to impress other people.)
By this week, I am actively engaged with the community and starting to enjoy life again. Some things may change, but other than that, my schedule’s pretty set. Routine gives me a feeling of stability and comfort. Goals give me challenges that excite me.
Week 4 & 5: I now have my routine established, and I am running with it. Woohoo!!!
Week 6: This is my time to see new friends one last time before moving, visit restaurants, and make sure that I’ve visited all of the tourist attractions I wanted to see. I don’t buy any more groceries; I get creative with meals in order to not waste food. I start cleaning and packing our belongings again. Our packing system consists of several plastic tubs that I measured to fit our vehicle without wasting any space.
I make sure our future Airbnb hosts (more on this later) are ready for us. I find out what time we have to leave our current home. Sometimes if I’m not too busy I start researching the gym, church, and job opportunities for our next rotation.
We say our goodbyes. We’re thankful and appreciate the experience of a different town, and we drive to our next destination happy to be another step closer to finishing residency.
Why Did We Decide To Buy A Home!?
During our first year of being nomadic, we did not have a permanent residence. Everything we owned fit in one vehicle. Everything else was sold.
Now that he is in residency, we ended up taking out a mortgage and owning a home. We spend exactly half of his rotations at home. The other half, on the road.
Unfortunately, those six-week rotations at home are rarely ever back-to-back requiring us to move back and forth all of the time. The away rotations range from a couple of hours driving to as far away as flying to Germany.
Were we crazy buying a house? Probably. But we were buying in a low COL area, and it was a buyers’ market. We planned to start a new business adventure and become Airbnb hosts.
Airbnb: Our New Business
As a frequent Airbnb guest who has stayed in over forty Airbnbs over the last few years, I felt extremely confident being on the flip side. I knew exactly what guests looked for and how to market to them.
We intentionally chose a home that catered to Airbnb guests rather than to ourselves. We also knew we could rely on Airbnb if the house didn’t sell right away once my husband completed residency. We’ve also been successful hosts because we built a dream team consisting of a few housekeepers, lawn guys, maintenance guys, and supportive neighbors.
The profits we make from Airbnb cover the cost of our mortgage when we are away.
It’s all mindset; it’s silly, but it’s what works for us.
Had we rented a house or signed up for a house on base, we would be losing such an easy opportunity to create cash flow. In addition, I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving our home empty for several months each year because of the opportunity cost.
It’s a pain to leave our investment property all the time, but it definitely has its perks.
Finding Fulfillment While Constantly On The Road
As far as fulfillment goes, what I have now beats any level of fulfillment I had straight out of college working my dream job and side hustle.
Besides the random side jobs where I get to have fun making friends, I am now actively volunteering and fundraising for a non-profit in Mississippi called Jubilee Havens. Jubilee Havens is just getting off the ground, and I’m really passionate about its mission because it will eventually provide a safe-haven for victims of human trafficking along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Every day, I know I am doing something that matters. How blessed am I that I don’t have to say goodbye to my husband, I get to meet people everywhere, explore the world, and make a difference at the same time! What else could I ask for?
Well… okay, some parts of our medical and military life are still frustrating; it’s not all unicorns and rainbows.
However, it’s a life that has given me so many opportunities for personal growth. It has made me a better person.