As part of my physical therapy program, I had to do four internships. As I looked through the list of potential sites, it occurred to me that I could use this as an opportunity to see another part of the country. This is something us renaissance souls do quite a bit – we use what we have to get something we want. I had to do an internship. I wanted to travel. Bingo.
I had done my fair share of traveling as a child. Their were army reunions every two years for the group my dad was in Heidelberg with during Vietnam. They took us to Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee. There were trips to Dairy Queen conventions (dad’s business) that brought us to Florida, Hawaii, and Washington D.C. In high school, I traveled by myself for the first time – as an exchange student for a summer in Switzerland. From my host family’s home outside of Fribourg, I traveled wherever the train would take me.
But it wasn’t until college that the idea of plopping myself down in a place where I knew no one became crystallized. I don’t recall what prompted me to choose Portland, Oregon – perhaps it was the farthest place on the list.
When friends heard I was doing an internship far from our northeast Pennsylvania university, their first question was, “Do you know someone out there?”
“Nope,” I said simply.
There are a lot of people out there who can’t imagine traveling alone, let alone spending eight weeks in a place where you know no one. I credit my four siblings with giving me the craving to be on my own at this point in my life. (See earlier post on doing things alone).
It turns out that outside of Portland we had distant relatives with whom I stayed for my first week. Then, I moved into housing on the medical campus and was on my own. I spent every spare weekday moment talking to friends in the dorm and planning my next weekend trip. I drove down the coast one weekend, drove the Columbia River Gorge another, saw Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen’s. I don’t know that I spent one weekend in the town of Portland, though it was a nice town.
Five months after leaving Portland, I moved to Asheville. I knew no one there. I lived with two medical students – one very sweet North Carolina native, and the other an orthopedic resident with the last name “Cash.” Mr. Cash sat around the house shirtless with an electrical stimulation machine on his stomach to work his abs. He thought he was God’s gift to women. His two roommates didn’t think so.
I toured the sites of Western North Carolina every weekend – the Biltmore, Carl Sandburg’s home, Chimney Rock. Each week my colleagues at the hospital would give me suggestions as to where to go next – often to places they themselves had never been but had heard were great. (The same way there are plenty of New Yorkers who have never been to the Statue of Liberty.)
A few months after my return from North Carolina, I found myself graduating. I was one of just a handful of us PT majors who had a job to go to after graduation. It was the only job I applied to. Actually, I didn’t even have to apply. I called a facility at which I had worked one summer and asked if they needed any help. They said yes. It was that easy. The entire class knew that since my sophomore year I hadn’t wanted this degree. And here I sat with something they all wanted but most didn’t yet have: a physical therapy job.