Travel Nursing

Pro Travel Nursing Tips from a Fellow Travel Nurse

February 2, 2023
Kaitlyn Grabove

Travel Nursing has provided me limitless opportunities. Things beyond my wildest imagination have presented themselves before me because I put myself out there. I leaned into what scared me and broke my self imposed glass ceilings. Being away from home has its pros and cons; yes you’re away from what is comfortable and familiar, your routine has been given a shake up, and you don’t have your usual support system around you. But! You’re now in a fabulous position to edit your life. 

I mean “edit” in a positive way, not edit out the bad but more focus on what makes you authentic and genuine. Pour your energy into you and those who you want in your life. Take opportunities to learn more about yourself - say yes to things you’d pass over and, perhaps, say no to things you’d otherwise routinely do. Being away from home innately adds an element of autonomy and with that, an element of mystery. The great unknown awaits! 

Embracing opportunity

You’re in a new environment and if it suits you, you can practice doing things you otherwise wouldn’t at home. Make new habits and try new things - go out more often, stay in more often, track your finances strictly, spend more money on your enjoyment, learn to cook, take a class, practice doing things on your own, or practice including yourself in other’s activities. 

This is a chance to be the person you want to be. By embracing opportunities you otherwise may not have you’ll: not have regret of inaction, learn more about yourself (did I like it, did I not like it, will I do it again etc), and regardless of how the opportunity goes you’ve added to your life’s resume a unique experience and also have a story to reflect back on. 

Basically, practice saying yes! For some of us that “yes” is an external thing we must voice and act on, for others a “yes” is an internal realization and change in attitude or point of view. Both can be celebrated equally. 

Opportunities take all shapes and sizes - lean into or shoo away as you please: 


  • Hiking/backpacking
  • Camping
  • Skiing/snowboarding
  • Touring/splitboarding
  • Skating
  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowmobiling 
  • Dog sledding
  • Quadding
  • Roadtrips to destination locations - hotsprings, waterfalls, cliffs, oceans
  • Swim in the ocean, a river, a lake, a frozen lake, a glacier melt, you name it!
  • Hot springs
  • Nature and wildlife preserves 
  • Canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding
  • Rock/ice climbing 
  • Mountain/road biking 
  • Paragliding
  • Drop-in athletic clubs and events
  • Horse trail and backcountry rides


  • Museums
  • Beading 
  • Radio Bingo
  • Antiquing 
  • Painting 
  • Art nights 
  • Choir groups
  • Book clubs
  • Pottery studios
  • Knitting competitions 
  • Poetry and open mic nights
  • Cooking challenges 
  • Photo editing
  • Video making
  • Blogging

Not gonna lie, I’ve done a majority of these. I found many quite satisfying (to my surprise) and others I learned didn’t align with me. So it goes as we try new things!

I’ve also:

  • challenged myself to memorize word for word full episodes of Seinfeld
  • completed a Sudoku and Word Hunt book in entirety
  • faced the fact I needed to budget and tracked every dollar coming in and going out while making a plan to meet my financial goals
  • Made a challenge to not eat or drink out (including tea/coffee!) at all while away
  • made a routine of dancing wildly for 5 minutes within 30 minutes of waking up
  • developed a Candy Crush addiction 
  • … broken an addiction to my phone 

And, in doing all these things I’ve become more confident, humble, self-assured, forgiving, spontaneous, conscious, and caring. I’ve found a niche where I thrive. I’ve found communities, both geographically based and interest based, where I can learn and grow and participate as an impassioned, welcomed member. You can too if you haven’t already. 

It’s (just) you - have fun with it!

How do I deal with being away from home? 

Well. It’s not always easy. I won’t pretend that it is. But, it is what you make it. I know that sounds cliche, but I’ve found it to be true. I’ve gone on assignments where, for whatever reason, I faced a lot of “I don’t wanna leave xyz” feelings. And that cast some shadows on the experience I had. But!! If this is something you fear, I have a tried and true tip for you! It’s all a mind game. Fool yourself. Change the way you talk to yourself about what’s happening. You can acknowledge how you’ll miss things “at home” while also psyching yourself up for an awesome assignment and an excellent adventure. It’s okay (and normal) to feel both! 

I’ve learned to change my internal narrative from a focus on the negative to a focus on the positive. Yes, I miss my friends terribly and wish I was there with them. But! I also have excellent friends to miss. 

I have friends who send me memes and photos of home when I ask them to, and they even (perhaps because I aggressively reminded them to) video-call me on holidays or events out #NYE2021 when they took me, via video-call, on a bar-hop and I showed them northern lights on an ice bridge. 

Other ways to deal with being away from home can include: diving into nature - explore what’s around you! Walk around town, pop into odd little shops, try local delicacies, ask locals where the best brunch or view is. I’ve learned so much just by being out and about. I’m a big fan of sending postcards. I always bring a booklet of stamps with me and fire off postcards to my dad, grandparents, partner and other friends/family. I sometimes send them to myself to capture a feeling or moment (plus its like a little gift to myself when I get my mail weeks to months from then and have a little pile of postcards from myself). 

A different angle on not missing home can be what you bring with you! Favourite items of mine usually include: 

  • Photos of what’s important to me (photos capturing my essence, of my partner, family, beautiful landscapes on past assignments, pets etc) 
  • A pillow from my bed and/or soft and fuzzy little blanket (Vacuum pack so they take up less space ;) ) 
  • A clipboard and origami paper 
  • AppleTV or Roku/Comcast etc for TV 
  • A small potted plant (if I’m driving) 
  • A candle or two 
  • Little jewelry dish painted like a greedy raccoon 
  • Spices for the kitchen!!

How do I prepare for a contract? 


I am a chronic google-maps’er. I love google maps-ing everywhere and everything. To the point where a passerby may think I’m planning a heist. But… I google everything, so it’s not really out of character for me at least! Anywho, yes. I google/google-maps all the things! From large airports so I know where to go, to where the hospital is compared to the grocery store. I go on satellite view or google earth and creep the streets, I look at local parks or frequently rated attractions to look at photos and decide where I want to go and/or how to get there. I loooove google maps and google earth - something about it brings me great joy. 

I also prepare for contracts by doing the gritty “work”. Comeon, I’m an ICU trained nurse - I like organization and straight, untangled lines with no crossover and clear labels so It’s no surprise to hear me say organization is key. This may just be me, but I keep a folder on my laptop organized with my contracts, licenses, receipts, kilometers, certificates, resource pages, ID copies. I literally have a folder called “frequently needed docs” and it’s got everything from N95 mask fit tests to all my immunizations to my PALS cert to my resume.

Pro tips: 

  • Bring a fannypack on the plane. Clip the fanny pack to the seatbelt and tuck off to the side and you’re not digging for stuff or worrying about leaving stuff behind. I keep all my often-grabbed items here. Airpods, passport, gum/mints, mask, sleepmask (highly recommend the manta mask fyi), snacks of course, charging cords and battery bank. 
  • Empty water bottle and empty leak-proof hot drink bottle for the plane. Fill waterbottle at a fill station (or ask starbucks to please fill it in the tap for you/give you a cup of water). And pour that hot drink in your leak-proof thermos to take on the plane and avoid the fear of spilling your coffee during boarding and takeoff. 
  • Eyemasks and earplugs. I think both are truly underrated. This said, I can sleep through anything without either of these, but goodness the peace and serenity you feel unplugging on a plane of people by pulling down your eyemask and retreating into the hood of your hoodie is unparalleled. I love my manta mask. 
  • Always screenshot or save to your phone (not the cloud, not the inbox etc) important documents you may need. You never know when you’ll need something and won’t have service. Service always waits until you need it to take time off and you’re stuck with a black screen where your document should be, no cell service and a rotary-landline at 1:30am after a day of travelling. No bueno. 
  • If driving/exploring backcountry (vehicle or foot) I highly recommend a satellite/GPS device. I have a Zoleo and love it. They save lives. 
  • If camping in the wilderness be wildlife smart and aware. Keep food in safe containers and store properly. Carry bear bangers and spray. Sleep with car keys beside you. Tell friends/family where you’re going and how long you plan to be there (ie, I’ll be driving without cell service for 5 hours and will send a Zoleo check-in with my gps coordinates half way through, around 1pm). 
  • Get health/travel insurance. 
  • Pack layers and for the weather. Don’t underestimate bugs or mock bug net suits. I’ve been there and rocked one. 
  • You don’t need a big brand name winter jacket. I love my 550fill thigh length winter jacket that I bought for $150 (on sale). 
  • Take photos! I’m an iphone photographer, an embarrassment utilizing my gopro but confident and comfortable with my drone. Have fun with it! You never know what you’re gonna see! 
  • Know how to pack a suitcase. They will make you unpack your 100L rubbermaid oversize checked luggage tote to find the lighter you didn’t realize was in a jacket pocket. It was embarrassing but I now check all pockets thoroughly before packing. 
  • Oversize luggage may not come out at the carousel. Look around or ask where to find it at your destination. 
  • Drones/go-pro batteries go in carry on. They will make you take them out and put them in a separate bin for security. 
  • You can take sandwiches and snacks through security to eat while you wait or while on the plane! 

“Opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly from arse-holes, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.” - Tim Minchin, University of Western Australia Commencement Address, October 2013. 

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