Who am I and why did I choose traveling?
Hi, my name is Jennifer Tsai and I am an optometrist practicing full time in Manhattan. One of the most common questions I get is how do we as young ODs find a way to balance our career and another hobby that we enjoy? I made a promise to myself early on before committing to a career as a healthcare professional, that I would never sacrifice something else that I loved like for work. For me, that love is traveling – a bigger desire to see and experience the world. For others it might be sports, cooking, or playing music. I believe that when you pursue your career, you should always have a good work-life balance. Being well balanced is not only important for personal growth, but it’s also important to being a well-rounded practitioner.
What inspires me about traveling?
I love traveling because every time I leave for a different country, I get to bring a piece of it back with me both mentally and emotionally. If you allow yourself, the experience you feel when you travel can change your perspective, allow you to be more introspective, and even more creative. It allows me to become more adaptable to different situations, different religions/beliefs, different people, and generally more culturally diverse. It makes me more appreciative and humble, and also continues to spike my inner curiosity of always wanting to learn more about the world. I believe all of these traits are important, as a healthcare professional to communicate and relate to my patients.
How do I make it work and arrange work conditions/take time off?
Ultimately, if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it a priority. You are in charge of your own future and you can make the choices to live the life you love. Nothing is ever easy, but if you put in the effort you will see results, this can be applied to finding ways to travel. There are conditions that I arrange so that it allows me a lifestyle where I can work full time but still travel once a month. I will work 9-10 hour days so that I can have a three day weekend instead of the traditional two day weekend. I generally take short but action packed trips that are 4-5 days domestically or 6-7 days internationally. This means I plan my trip itinerary in advance so that I can do everything I want in a shorter amount of time. When I know I have a trip coming up at the end of the month, I will work extra days and weekends in advance leading up to it so that I can make up the patient care hours. Sometimes this results in grueling 6 day work weeks for an entire month! How can you create the flexibility in your schedule needed to make these adjustments? If you are in a big city like New York, you can easily find fill-in positions for extra days. If your office does not have this type of flexibility, you can arrange yourself as a part-time doctor at two practices if you wanted to. You can request to work less hours but structure your pay on volume produced and commission instead of by day. If you start your own practice, this will allow you freedom as well.
How are ways to make traveling more affordable/hacks?
I plan a list of places I’d like to visit each year in advance based on seasons, weather, and activities. Then I will go on Google flights and Hopper to track which month is the cheapest time to fly to that location. I will look to see when it is shoulder season, when tourist crowds tend to be lower, to maximize the chance to find cheaper flights and hotels. Hotels will typically upgrade your room if they are at low capacity during off seasons. Sometimes, I find ways to have hotels and restaurants cover my stay as well as meals since I have a travel lifestyle blog on the side. Booking work trips that are sponsored by companies like contact lens brands, continuing education, or frame companies can also help get you to places you’d love to explore without having to front the travel costs. It also helps to network so that you have friends in different cities if you need a place to stay. Traveling may seem like all glitz and glamour but it definitely takes work to plan and make it work.