SLP Month Spotlight: Maija M. MS, CCC-SLP
A Travel SLP Making the Most of Life on the Road
Meet Maija M. MS, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist from Michigan who is currently wrapping up her first travel assignment in Colorado. In the spirit of SLP Month, Maija gave us a first-hand look at life on the move and shared why the lifestyle her travel career affords is so valuable.
After graduating from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI, she had a choice to make about the next steps in her SLP career.
“I have a close friend who has been a travel SLP for a few years. I was having a hard time deciding between moving out west for a full-time job or staying local. She knew I had a love for adventure and told me ‘You should try travel therapy.’”
Spending much of her life in the Midwest, Maija has always loved traveling—a spark that helped set her sights on working somewhere else in the country. Not knowing exactly where she wanted to (eventually) settle down, she “saw travel therapy as an opportunity to explore new places” for shorter periods of time and immersing herself in different communities.
So, Maija packed her bags and ventured off to colorful Colorado—stop number one on her travel SLP adventures.
Getting Comfortable in a New Place
The excitement was palpable—an opportunity to experience the attractions of a brand-new place that aligns closely with her love of the outdoors. Maija’s journey west wasn’t without some initial challenges, though.
“Probably the biggest challenge was that I moved somewhere I knew no one in the area for my first placement,” she says. “I grew up in the Midwest and suddenly moved out to Colorado, where the closest person to me that I knew was six hours away.”
Hailing from Michigan where she knew everyone in her community, Maija was back at square one in her new home. This obstacle would be short-lived, as her sociable nature and hunger for activity helped quickly immerse her in the community.
“I joined volleyball leagues, went to get togethers hosted at local breweries, and things like that to try and meet people.”
It didn’t take long before she was making new friends from different places—and even some from familiar ones, a whole group of new friends from her undergrad alma mater having also made Colorado their home.
“Probably the best story I have is I was driving home from work, and I was at a stop light—in the car next to me, this girl is signaling me to roll my window down. So, I rolled it down. I was like, ‘Can I help you?’ And she asked, ‘Did you go to Northern Michigan University? And I was like, ‘yeah, I did.’ She's like, ‘so did I! I saw the stickers on your car.’”
It’s safe to say that Maija’s outgoing approach has helped her carve out a true home base in the Rockies. Her group of 15 or so Michigan friends? They’re known around the area as the “Mitten Mafia”, and we can’t think of a more fitting name.
Putting the ‘A’ in Adventure
Whether solo or with friends in tow, Maija hasn’t wasted a second of her stay out west, soaking in everything Colorado has to offer.
“I’ve been to every corner of the state,” she says. “I’ve been to all the national parks in Colorado since I moved here, and I’ve been able to scope out cities that I feel like I could come back and live in [long-term].”
Some of her favorite places to explore in the area are Crested Butte, Handies Peak (her first 14er), Colorado Springs, and Blue Lakes (near Telluride).
“[Blue Lakes] was my first hike in Colorado and I’m doing it again as my last hike before I leave—it has the most beautiful blue water I’ve ever seen. The color rivaled Moraine Lake in Banff.”
Maija has also had the opportunity to venture outside Colorado’s borders during her time here, spending time in Moab, Utah—only a 3.5-hour drive from Colorado’s Western Slope—and visiting friends in Arizona during spring break this year.
What’s the secret to her adventuring success? “Well, the first thing that I did when I got here was go to the visitor center—I was asking for trail maps, what the best sites to go to were, what events were going on in town,” she says.
Maija emphasizes that other potential travelers can enjoy a similar experience if they get used to doing things on their own and putting themselves out there to others. “Just seek out opportunities to create conversations with people and discover some of the hidden gems [in your area].”
Advice for Prospective Travel Therapists
When offering advice to other SLPs deciding whether to travel or work a permanent position, Maija put it simply.
“What do you want your life to look like?” she asks. “Decide what kind of lifestyle you want and go get it.”
In her eyes, travel therapy is an excellent path toward professional development, allowing you to learn from different people in new places—both on the job and in your personal life.
“I knew I wanted to become a speech therapist, but I also wanted to have the ability to experience the adventures that I wanted in my off time. I wanted to go hiking; I wanted to be able to go mountain biking; I wanted to do all my other hobbies,” she says. “Because a job does not define your entire being—your job does not define you as a person, it's something that you enjoy doing for work, but there's so much more that makes up a person.”