Working Tourist: Dreaming of California

Jessie Johnson has been enjoying the travel nursing lifestyle for the past three years and is currently on assignment in the Bay Area. It has been a great opportunity for her to help pay off student loans and travel the country as a Working Tourist. After traveling to new locations across the country, she’s happy to consider San Francisco her new home away from home.

Born and raised in Orlando, FL, Jessie saw travel nurses come and go through her hospital when she first started out as a nurse. After working for a few years, she decided to make the leap to become a travel nurse herself! One of her best friends had recently moved to Boston, so she took her first travel assignment in Worcester, MA to be close to her. “It was the perfect little push to get me into travel,” she said.

Considering travel nursing closer to home can also help you get started. Jessie has been able to visit home while on a travel assignment in Sarasota, FL. That way she could be near one of her sisters living in south Florida and her family back in Orlando.

Beyond the travel destinations, she has also found benefits to her nursing work. “Nursing-wise, they have like a lot of resources: they have extra staff for us, so it helps us keep a good patient ratio so we can properly give care to everybody [and] if you have a lot of COVID patients, they’ll have extra nurses on to help you,” Jessie explains. “That’s not the case everywhere, because my old co-workers in Orlando, that’s not the case for them.”

With all her travel experiences so far, nothing has topped travel nursing in California. From hiking in the forest to cliff-side beaches to snow in the mountains, Jessie has been able to experience a lot during her time in the state. “You would never even think that this kind of place exists outside of movies, like the terrain is just so different,” she says.

When COVID-19 hit, housing for healthcare workers was difficult to find, so Jessie wound up staying at a Double Tree for a few weeks for free through her nursing association discount. With housing already being difficult in the Bay Area, she was quick to jump on another place that was in her price range and close to work when the opportunity came up.

Despite its housing challenges and cost of living, Jessie thinks travel nursing in San Francisco is still a great option. “I think everyone gets scared hearing that the cost of living is high, so they think they won’t wind up with more money in the end, but you really do. It’s well worth it.”

For anyone looking to become a travel nurse, her advice is to find a convenient moment to start traveling, like at the end of your lease or to visit and friend in another location, and just try it out! “If you don’t like the traveling lifestyle, you can always go back. It’s only three months.” She also jokes, “Us nurses know that you can deal with anything for three months!”

Jessie also has some great advice for overcoming the lonely phase a lot of travel nurses face. She uses group activities like Airbnb Experiences to help get out into new social situations. “I love to book activities like group kayaking trips or city tours or stuff like that because the people that are doing that, they’re all new to the area too, you know,” she says. “And they must also like those same activities since they booked it!”

While she may be looking to stay in California for a bit longer, Jessie is still looking forward to new adventures and travel destinations in her future. We can’t wait to see what she does next! You can follow her travels on @messyjessielee and check out more Working Tourist stories like Jessie’s on the blog.

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