A woman went from nurse to nomad after feeling burnt out at her old job – and now travels across the US alone, leaving her husband at home.
Melissa Hungerford, 36, worked in a hospital for eight years after completing her nursing degree in college.
Feeling exhausted and tired of the constant work, she’s now ditched the 9am-5pm and embraced the van life instead — she’s visited 38 of the 50 US states and plans to until check them all off for the new year.
But it has affected their relationship as Melissa only sees her husband Todd Hungerford, 37, every four to six weeks.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and wanted the freedom to go places I’ve never been before,” Montana native Melissa told The US Sun.
“Life as a hospital nurse involved long hours and I worked nights so my sleep schedule was a bit messed up and I definitely had days when I was exhausted.
“I felt burned out in my work as a nurse because I didn’t feel I was being adequately rewarded for the work I was doing.”
But Melissa still loved nursing and didn’t want to give up her job.
Now she just travels the world while working shifts in children’s wards.
She said: “I worked with adults for four years before switching and working with toddlers.
“I always dreamed of becoming a traveling nurse but was afraid to take the step.
“It’s very scary to go somewhere that you’ve never been, where you don’t know anyone and it’s basically a risk.”
Melissa also lets her husband Todd meet him in the van wherever she may be as his job in the music industry requires him to be at home.
She said: “We see each other every four to six weeks.
“I miss him so much.”
“He wishes he could travel with me, but his job doesn’t allow it.”
“My husband and I actually had a conversation and said that if we ever bought a house, it would probably be a tiny home.
“The van showed me that you don’t need as much space as you think to be happy and have a fulfilling life.”
Melissa decided to spend $75,000 on an already renovated van after finding it through an RV app.
She spent another $10,000 to make it her own.
The nurse said: “I lowered the bed, added cabinets, countertops and a skylight.
“I also converted the toilet to a composting toilet and replaced the refrigerator.
“Then I ripped out the shower that I never used and built a couch that looked like a bench.”
Melissa also upgraded the van’s exterior with a roof rack, rear ladder, and installed solar panels, as well as Starlink, a type of broadband for travelers.
She said: “I was so happy with the result and I did a lot
the work itself.
“Life in the van is great, but it’s definitely different than living in a traditional home.
“You have to think about water consumption, human waste disposal, garbage disposal, smaller footprint and downsizing.
“Sometimes I miss the larger area of a traditional home, but that’s not enough to make me go back there.
“But something that surprised me about living in the van is how much stuff I don’t need.
“Downsizing feels great, and the ‘cleansing’ of things really puts into perspective what you can live with and what you can live without.
“Next, I plan to take a scenic trip through Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
“I’m also considering visiting Oregon, Washington and California.”
The Travel Nurse advises anyone thinking about a trip to do this trip and if you are really passionate about doing this nomadic style trip, buy a van.
She added: “I absolutely recommend my lifestyle! Just make sure you’re ready for it.
“Things break in the transporter that you have to fix in order to fix them
“You’re going to bang your head on things or break your toe, but
The key is not to let that distract you from why you chose this lifestyle.
“What you see online and on social media is part of van life, but it’s not always rainbows and butterflies.
“If you focus on why you chose this lifestyle and the freedom it gives you, you can deal with everything else.”