In some ways, exploring a new travel nursing destination is like exploring a new vacation spot. Except that when you’re on a travel nursing job, your workplace provides a built-in way to get to know the locals and the inside scoop on your new town. If you’re the spontaneous type, you’ll just want to get to your apartment, unpack, and head out for an adventurous drive. Still, many of us believe that we can better experience a new place if we do a little research in advance.

Surf the web

You’re on the web now, so you obviously know what a great resource it is. So many great travel websites! From the edgier LonelyPlanet guides, to the more traditional Fodors … these travel sites can tell you a little bit about almost any city or town in the country. I especially like sites that provide an “ideal day” sightseeing agenda. (Something like: Start out with breakfast at Bob’s Bakery, and then try shopping at Ye Olde Antique Mart on Main Street, and finish up with an afternoon sail on the bay at Salty’s Boats.)

Avid travelers will love Thrillist travel guides to the hottest and hippest spots in major cities.

If you’re looking for more detail on the local attractions, every city and town in America offers a Tourism Board or Convention and Visitors Bureau online. Some are more useful than others, so look for sites that offer a little background on popular local attractions, and not just a random collection of local merchants.
Bookmark the links you like, and make notes on some of the things you’d like to do in your new location. And when you get there … do them!

Go analog and visit the library or bookstore

While the Web offers an abundance of travel information, sometimes there’s nothing like curling up with a good, printed guidebook. And if you find a guide you really like, it may be worth it to buy yourself a copy. Slip it in your knapsack, and take it with you everywhere. That way you’ve got all the phone numbers, maps, and walking tours right at your fingertips.

When you get there, go on a walkabout

When we travel, even if it’s a working day, we make a point of taking a little time out every day to do something new. Go to a new coffee shop, or take a different way home – hey, getting lost is half the fun! Ask your co-workers about the “can’t miss” thing to do in town. They’ll all have different ideas, so try a few. Some of your colleagues might not have visited those home-town attractions in years, so they may want to join you.

Scenic drives are great, but a good long walk is one of the best ways to get to know a new location. Even a low-key stroll around your travel nurse apartment is going to give you the flavor of your new locale. Many travel nurses hitch a bike rack on their car. Biking is a terrific way to explore any new location, and get a workout.

Remember, exploring the unknown is one of the major motivations for choosing a travel nurse job. Commit to it, and you will reap the benefits!