Nomadic Vet: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (in Florida)

Dr. Nikki Johnson, DVM
December 21, 2023

I know I’ve talked about it a lot in my previous articles, but my absolute favorite thing about being a traveling relief vet is the work-life balance I get by working where I want, when I want — that includes spending the holiday season in sunny Florida with my family. While I know some people’s minds go to sweaters, fireplaces, and snow-covered hills for the holiday season, I picture our yearly boat ride to the sandbar on Christmas eve or kayaking through the springs throughout December.

Travels that take you “home” for the holidays

Piccolo and I are both Florida girls, born and raised (and Tabitha, my van, for that matter, is a SoCal girl herself). What this means is that we really love warm weather, water, and not having to wear shoes. I spent the first 27 years of my life living in Florida, and I’ve never lived further North than North Carolina, so you can imagine the kind of warm blood I have. When I finally moved away from Florida in my late 20s, I never imagined moving back. So much so that I let my Florida veterinary license expire (that wasn’t super fun or cheap to get reinstated when I started van-life).

But over the past several years, coming back “home” only for holidays or certain occasions, I’ve started to realize how much I miss my family, being close to the water, and my hometown. Watching my cousins have kids that are growing up so quickly and seeing my grandma growing older each time I visit, I’ve missed being around. So when I started making my plan for full time on-the-road vet life, I knew Florida had to be one of my holiday destinations. 

The value of quality time with friends and family

Even as much as I love the warm weather, Florida in the summer is truly brutal. After living on the West coast, where there’s always a cool breeze, coming back to the humidity and 90 degree beach water is not desirable to me. So my plan this year, and for the years to come, is to spend the holiday season with my family. I’m so grateful to have this time around Thanksgiving and Christmas with them; we all get together and celebrate, take time to go kayaking, and spend time outdoors in what really is the most beautiful time of the year. 

So far this season, I’ve gotten matching piercings with my cousins (sorry, moms!), joined my family for the annual Christmas parade in my hometown, gotten to celebrate birthdays with friends that I’ve known since elementary and middle school, made cookies and dinners with my grandma and aunts, and really just gotten to have that day-to-day quality time with my family that only comes from living in the same place. With our family always growing and getting older, it’s so valuable to me to get this time together. 

The gift of work flexibility during the holidays

With my flexible schedule, and especially with Roo, I’ve been able to schedule a lot of vet shifts while I’ve been back in Florida, replenishing my bank account with a stable home-base. I’ve also been able to make some adjustments to my van and reorganize to prepare for another year on the road! I’ll be posting some photos and videos soon to show some before and afters of my van organization as well as an overall walk through!

The great part about coming home is appreciating it while it’s here and then being able to leave to explore my own opportunities when the time is right. This year, I’ll be traveling to an amazing Van Meetup in the Arizona desert in January, so that will be when I head back out into my nomadic life. Piccolo and I are truly enjoying the comforts of home, and we are also excited for a new year of exploring and seeing the people and places that make us so happy. Getting to work along the way isn’t too bad either! 

Wishing you and your chosen family the best holidays, no matter what you celebrate or where! I can’t wait to dive in deeper in 2024 with everyone!

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