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Meet Mike: Always on a mountain and on the move

Outdoors Across the U.S., Taking (Lots of) Time Off Massachusetts

The tranquil shores of Martha’s Vineyard are not the setting you’d expect for an epic battle, but that’s where Aya travel nurse Mike recently won the day.

Despite the fact that “tuna fight to the death,” as Mike says, he was victorious, reeling in a 9-pounder. A perk of living on a tiny island is that people high-five you when you run by work to fill up a patient care bag with ice to preserve your latest catch. “They’re so friendly, so happy-go-lucky it’s scary,” Mike says. He’s fully embracing small town life because like the tuna he fought, Mike tends to do everything to the death…or nearly, anyway.

When Mike describes his time off, which he spends traveling the world, mountain climbing and discovering new, often dangerous pastimes, you assume he’s completely fearless. However, you’ll soon realize that one thing that puts him in a cold sweat — stagnation. “If you work in one place, you’re limited to the knowledge of the people around you. The same four walls every day…that’s brutal,” he says with a shudder. Mike originally studied exercise physiology and gave up a job working with professional athletes and presenting at national conferences because he couldn’t see the real-life impact of his efforts. Then, his grandfather got cancer and Mike stepped in to take care of him. An ICU nurse, who lived next door, showed Mike a trick or two and inspired him to change careers. It was a long road that started with Mike working at the Starbucks inside his local hospital to get his foot in the door, training in phlebotomy and working his way up to become the fantastic travel ICU RN he is today.

It wasn’t long into his new career that Mike decided to give traveling a try. Around that time, two years ago, a Facebook ad for climbing Mt. Hood caught Mike’s eye. He hadn’t been hiking before, but nevertheless decided to conquer the 11,000+ foot peak immediately. He bought some gear, called up a friend and asked, “Want to do something weird right now?” Hiking hooked Mike instantly. He’s grateful that travel nursing allows him the flexibility to attempt the ever-expanding list of peaks he wants to summit: Mt. Fuji in Japan this summer, the Andes in 2020 and, since he’s headed back to California for his next assignment, all six of 6-peak challenge fame. “I love the mountains,” Mike explains. “I feel like I’m at home up there.”

At this very moment, his toes are black and blue from a recent climbing excursion in Iceland, but he says, “I would do it again even if I broke my leg. It was amazing.” He isn’t only willing to risk life and limb while climbing, he’s also an accomplished photographer forever on the prowl for new shots. He laughs as he describes how he almost froze his fingers off capturing the Northern Lights and plunged into icy water to photograph the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. “The water is crystal clear,” he says, awe in his voice. “It’s a sky blue that turns into deep navy blue and you can see down 150 meters.”

The Florida native hopes he can encourage others to follow in his ever-moving footsteps and give travel nursing a try: he doesn’t want anyone missing out. He believes, “If someone reads this and is inspired…that’s all that counts.”