Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston by telwink, on Flickr

When picking a new travel assignment, you can compare the “cool” factor of cities across the country.  Forbes ranked 65 American cities based on how cool a place they are to live. Cities with abundant entertainment and recreational opportunities, large number of restaurants and pubs (excluding chains), young diverse population, significant migration into the city, and low unemployment rate were the factors used to compile the list.

Houston’s strong economy has spurred its enviable growth. Residents and visitors enjoy world-class arts, pro sports teams, award-winning cuisine and loads of shopping in the nation’s fourth largest city.


  • •Buy a $2 METRORail ticket and go explore Houston’s Museum District. With 19 museums and a 50-acre zoo, the intellectually curious will find a range of satisfying topics from the Holocaust to postmodern art.
  • •Bike or hike on trails inside the 10.4 acre downtown Sesquicentennial Park or kayak through Buffalo Bayou during a four hour urban excursion.
  • •Play at the number #1 ranked children’s museum in the country or take the kids to the Health Museum—it’s part of the world renowned Texas Medical Center.
  • •Shopaholics can spend days in the Galleria with more than 375 stores. Take a break at the indoor ice skating rink.
  • •Spend an evening at the 17-block Theater District. Reserve a seat at the Alley Theater, the Houston Grand Opera, or Houston Symphony.
  • •Sports fans can back their favorite pro team. H-town has its own football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey teams.


The top ten coolest cities in America are:

Houston, Texas

Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles, California

Dallas, Texas

Seattle, Washington

San Diego, California

Boston, Massachusetts

Orange County, California

San Francisco, California

New York, New York

Jim Twardowski, BSN, RN, CMSRN, is a travel writer based in Louisiana. His work has been featured in AAA Home & AwayGlobal Traveler, and QUEST magazines.

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Happy Labor Day, everyone! While everyone’s favorite September holiday tips its hat to the economic and social contributions of American workers, it also also signifies the unofficial end of summer/beginning of fall. And of course, it is often celebrated with friends and family, and a variety of food-related festivities—from brunches and barbecues to potluck suppers and picnics.

As a traveler, you get to experience new beginnings every 13 weeks or so. You also have the opportunity to try regional fare and unique dining options in countless locations throughout the U.S. and beyond. Odds are you’ve discovered some pretty amazing and tasty treats along the way. You know, the kind of stuff you may never have stumbled upon if it weren’t for your mobile career.

We would love to hear about your picks for the best restaurants and takeout places in your assignment communities. We’d also like to learn about great eateries you’ve discovered en route to a contract destination.

To kick things off, I thought I’d tell you about one of my favorite haunts in New York City. If you find yourself in or close to the Big Apple during a travel assignment, consider a trip to Britain. No, that’s not a typo; I’m talking about Little Britain, the wonderfully Anglo-centric slice of the city’s West Village. It’s where you’ll find Tea & Sympathy.

Tea & Sympathy (right), situated in New York’s West Village.

For more than 20 years, owners Nicky Perry and Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett have provided New Yorkers and out-of-towners with the opportunity to enjoy a “proper cuppa” and traditional English fare. Once you set foot in this charming, authentic British café, you will be swiftly and happily transported to Dear Old Blighty. The atmosphere is intimate and cozy, the service impeccable, and all of the staff hail from the United Kingdom.

My recommendations? A proper bacon butty with HP brown sauce and of course, Tea & Sympathy’s famous scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream. As you may expect, there are a plethora of options for tea lovers, from black currant, to Chai, to my pick, Typhoo.

A delicious bacon butty!

Tea & Sympathy’s famous scones with raspberry jam and clotted cream. Yum!

A variety of teas in the sweetest little teapots.

Tea & Sympathy also serves spot on bangers and mash, and the best treacle pudding this side of Tooting Broadway. Located at 108 Greenwich Avenue, it is open Monday through Friday, 11:30 am to 10:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 am to 10:30 pm.

Happy travels,


Bobbi Harrison is content channel manager for Healthcare Traveler and LocumLife.


Like to recommend a great place for a bite? Contact Bobbi Harrison at bharrison@advanstar.com.

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Ceramic pots are heavy and hard to transport

When you’re moving into new digs every few months, it’s important to make the place feel like home. Few things bring a generic apartment to life more than houseplants: ferns, cacti, blooms, and greenery breathe freshness into your surroundings — literally.

But carting plants from location to location can take a toll on them. Even the most hardy species fall victim to travel overload.

Before you ditch the real thing for silk or plastic impersonators, check out these simple packing and transportation tips to keep your plants alive and well from one assignment to the next.

• Use plastic pots

You may prefer the rustic look of ceramic pots over the more nondescript plastic ones, but they’re heavy and hard to heft in and out of your car. What plastic pots lack in artistic value, they make up for in portability.

Lighten your load with plastic pots

• Examine for bugs & mildew

A few days before you depart, assess your houseplants for bugs, mildew, and diseases. There are several reliable websites out there to help you return your plants to health (try Guide to Houseplants).

This is important because some states have strict regulations about what you can and cannot bring across their borders. California and Florida, for example, both have restrictions. For specifics, check out the state’s department of agriculture website.

• Prune, but don’t overwater

Trimming actually promotes growth in most plants, but it also prepares them for transport. Not only are they more compact, taking up less room, but you can remove fragile pieces.

Be sure to give your plants a good watering a day or so before the trip, too, but easy does it. If you overwater, they could grow fungus in warm weather or freeze in frigid temps.

• Take extra precautions

If you want to protect flowers or branches from breakage en route, cover your plants with a large bag. Prevent them from sliding around in the car by placing nonskid material on pots, or contain them in open boxes. Never pack live plants in the trunk because carbon monoxide can build up in it, which can be fatal to the greenery.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be able to keep the feeling of “home” alive wherever you go.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Photo: Michelle Meiklejohn

What began as a group of friends playing music and eating potluck suppers on Friday nights, soon evolved into the Tucson Kitchen Musician’s Association. Now with more than 300 members, the nonprofit organization sponsors the annual Tucson Folk Festival. Celebrating its 27th year in 2012, the festival will be held May 5 and 6.

About the Festival

Drawing more than 10,000 viewers annually, the free festival attracts people from all walks of life with the promise of live acoustic music performed on five stages. Other activities include a song writing contest, and workshops ranging in topics from native flute making to Hootenanny.

Headlining the festival on Saturday, May 5, is BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, a band that has received 11 Grammy nominations during its 30+ year career. In 2009, the band won a Grammy for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album for “Live at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.”

Where to Stay

In celebration of Arizona’s Centennial, the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa is offering guests a two-night stay at the best available rate, and a third night for $19.12, in recognition of the year Arizona became a state.

Guests can also receive 25% off the following resort amenities:

  • All resort and food beverage outlets including: AZUL, Janos, and J BAR
  • Red Door Spa products, an Ultimate Facial, and any 80-minute body treatment
  • Green fees for golfers
  • Regular priced items at La Paloma Country Club and Racquets
  • The Essentials Gift Shop and the Sunsations Shop

Reservations can be made online or by calling 866.716.8137. For the above discounts, use promotion code ANW (valid through Dec. 31, 2012).

Other Tucson Tourism 

Receive two-for-one admissions and discounts at popular attractions when you purchase a Tucson Attractions Passport for $18. The Passport can be bought online, and is good for 45 attractions including the Biosphere 2, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Fox Tucson Theatre, International Wildlife Museum, Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Titan Missile Museum, Tucson Museum of Art, and more.

Jim Twardowski, RN, is a travel writer based in New Orleans.

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Photo: hin255

In Hot Springs, Arkansas, a city known as the official Birthplace of Spring Baseball, a one-of-a-kind attraction was recently opened to the public.

Starting March 29, the historical “baseball trail” will allow visitors to tour a series of 26 historical landmarks, taking tourists on a journey to where America’s baseball legends played and trained during the sport’s golden era.

According to an article on the Hot Springs website, Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, says that more than 45 percent of Major League Baseball Hall of Famers in Cooperstown, N.Y., either played baseball or were associated with baseball training in Hot Springs National Park. 134 out of the current 295 Hall of Fame members can now be associated with training, playing, visiting, or simply being in Hot Springs, Arrison says.

According to Arrison, five baseball historians worked to document Hot Springs as the birthplace of what eventually became known as the sport’s spring training. As the historians dug deep into newspapers, archives, and other sources across America, they uncovered increasing information about the popularity of spring baseball in the area. Now more than 300 players, managers, owners, journalists, and other famous names can be associated with the sport in Hot Springs.

On the trail, tourists can stand in the spot where Babe Ruth hit a home run that traveled 573 feet and landed in a pit on a nearby alligator farm; and flip a coin at the site of The Eastman Hotel, where Ruth did the same in 1921 to determine his salary with the Yankees for the following year.

Brochures are available to visitors who can independently tour the plaques along the trail, and smartphone users can access audio narration through a free mobile app.

For more information, visit the Hot Springs website. Fans of the national pastime might also like to read “Shining Diamonds in the April issue of Healthcare Traveler.

Jim Twardowski, RN, is a travel writer based in New Orleans.

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Photo: New York Public Library via Flickr.com

There are some amazing perks to living in Southern California: proximity to the beach, mountains, and legendary tourist sites. There’s a lot of fun in the sun to be had, but getting to the beach, mountains, or attractions means driving and filling up at the pump. At $4.29 per gallon (the posted price today), that makes for a costly day trip.

According to GasBuddy.com, California claims the highest gas prices in the country right now and my wallet knows it all too well.

Californians are not alone in feeling pain at the pumps. Other regions have experienced sticker shock, too. Higher gas prices also tend to trickle down to other areas, like food prices going up or airfares taking off. It seems like the ripple effect impacts many areas of everyday life.

While there are certain financial advantages to working as a healthcare traveler—namely having your housing, as well as some utilities and travel expenses covered by your staffing company—it doesn’t mean you don’t incur certain costs while on assignment.

You still have to drive to work, right? You have to eat, too.

We want to know what YOU think are some of the more expensive aspects of life on the road. And, more importantly, how do you cut costs?

Do you ask for housing closer to the hospital?

Do you eat in more often?

What are some of your tricks for keeping cash in your wallet?

Drop us a comment below. Then, watch for a compilation of all the tricks and tips to saving cash while on the road in the next issue of Healthcare Traveler.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer based in Simi Valley, Calif. 

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Photo: Jim Twardowski

During March, healthcare professionals visiting or living in San Antonio, Texas, should see an original play: “I’ll Remember for You (Yo Me Acuerdo Por Tí).”

The bilingual show is the story of a Mexican-American woman’s life as a caregiver to her mother who has Alzheimer’s.

The poignant story reveals the daughter’s experiences dealing with her mother’s dementia and memory loss. Lisa Suarez, who wrote the play, performs the role of her 85-year-old mother.

Despite the heart-breaking subject, the play is filled with humorous moments and the audience spends most of the 90 minute performance laughing. Told with compassion, respect, and love, “I’ll Remember for You” is a compelling look into one caregiver’s life.

The play is showing at the six-acre Blue Star Arts Complex, an innovative adaptation of historic warehouses on the southern edge of downtown. The arts-centered, multi-use development is home to four on-site galleries, performance spaces, retail shops, and eateries, as well as artists workspaces and apartments.

Before the curtain rises:

  • Visit the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center‘s current traveling exhibit, “Passage to the Future.” Curated by The Japan Foundation, the exhibit features work created at the beginning of the 21st century by eleven different artists.
  • Take a stroll and watch the sunset on the San Antonio River, which borders the complex.
  • Have dinner at the Blue Star Brewery, where the eclectic menu ranges from burgers and brisket tacos, to tortilla soup and homemade double chocolate cake.

General admission tickets to the show are $15. For more information about the nonprofit theater, visit their website or call (210) 227-5867. For more general information about San Antonio, visit the official San Antonio tourism website, which also includes maps and moneysaving coupons.

Jim Twardowski, RN, is a travel writer based in New Orleans.

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If you haven’t heard of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, then chances are you don’t work in healthcare. U.S. News & World Report has named the renowned medical institution one of the country’s best hospitals 20 years running. The prestige intrigued Nancy Coney, RN, BSN, an emergency room nurse with experience in surgical recovery care.

“People from all over the world seek treatment there,” she says.

It was a prime opportunity to add the revered teaching hospital to her résumé.

Once in a Lifetime

Practicing in such a preeminent facility was not something to pass up. So last spring she agreed to a contract in the emergency department at The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, a 560-bed hospital within the larger Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore, Md. Both assignments were secured by Clinical One, a staffing firm located in Wakefield, Mass.

After 13 weeks, she moved onto the surgery recovery unit at the system’s main facility.

“They do a lot of research and are on the cutting-edge of medicine,” she says of her choice. “Plus, the two hospitals share some of the same programs, so I thought it would be an easy transition instead of starting a new contract somewhere else. And, I like the city.”

More than Medicine

Thanks to Baltimore’s convenient locale, Coney and her boyfriend — who flies in on his days off — have taken in the sights of surrounding cities. Some, of which, she has been eager to see.

“We have been to Washington, D.C., Mount Vernon, Annapolis, Md., and Ocean City, Del.”

Before the assignment wraps up in April, she has considered exploring areas of Pennsylvania and taking a day trip to New York City. But her most memorable experience to date was meeting her first grandchild, born last fall.

“My daughter had a scheduled caesarean section, so I requested some time off,” remembers Coney. “My managers worked with me so I could spend about a week with my grandbaby. Both mother and infant are doing well.”

As for future bucket list must-dos, Coney remains open to possibilities. She may go to another coastal community, or visit family in Texas. One thing is certain, there will be plenty more trips to see her grandbaby.

Check out more travelers’ bucket list stories online or in the March issue of Healthcare Traveler.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer based in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Every year, people of all ages join forces across the country to walk in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure fundraiser. For the past six years, Leah Palyu’s stepmother participated in the Seattle event, walking 60 miles in three days in support of breast cancer research. Palyu had always wanted to walk, too, but she was usually away on an assignment.

The September 2011 event was different. The medical/surgical and telemetry nurse found herself back in the Pacific Northwest, just in time lend her efforts.

“This was a dream of mine,” says the traveler with HRN Services Inc., a healthcare staffing company based in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I always wanted to participate in the 3-Day with my stepmom.”

Going Mobile

When she first set out on a mobile career, Palyu didn’t have a steadfast list of ultimate destinations or extreme adventures to mark off her bucket list. Palyu simply wanted to experience various communities.

“I wanted to see different subcultures in the Southwest, Northeast, and South because each has its own reputation. I thought there would be no better way to do that than by living there,” she explains.

Over time, however, she accumulated more dreams and wishes. For example, Boston held a fascination for her.

“I’m almost half Irish, so I wanted to check out Beantown. I had it all planned for when I was presented an assignment there: My family would come visit and, because my stepmother has always wanted to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we would take a trip to New York City for the holiday.”

Indeed, it looked like that’s exactly what would happen. Except, Palyu had met someone special while on assignment in Texas. He was attending nursing school at the time, and couldn’t join her on the road, so Palyu faced the decision of whether to head north or pursue a relationship.

“I decided to live in Texas until Chris graduated from nursing school. I didn’t stop traveling because he wanted me to, but because living apart was not an option for me — I did tell him that he still owes me Boston, though,” she says.

So Palyu temporarily retired from the mobile lifestyle.

Back on the Road

About a year ago, she resumed life on the road — now married to Chris, who practices as an emergency room nurse. First, on her to-do list, was to enter the fundraiser. Next was to celebrate the holidays with her relatives.

“For the past six or seven years, I have not made it home for the holidays. Once we were up here, I made sure I could take time off from my travel contract so I could be with my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she comments.

Although happy to have reconnected with relatives and old friends, Palyu and her husband are anxious to chase their new bucket list dreams. For example, Chris has an interest in racing.

“He owns a few road race cars, so I’m sure we will make some stops in California, like to Laguna Seca Motorway near Monterrey,” she offers. “I would like to go back to Charleston, S.C., because we did a lot of our courting while I was on contract there, but I’d also like to see some of the national monuments,” she concludes.

Check out more travelers’ bucket list stories online or in the March issue of Healthcare Traveler.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a freelance writer based in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Although it may only happen every three months or so, one of the coolest parts of travel nursing is the road trip to your assignment. The best way to enjoy it is to first and foremost make sure you plan ahead to give yourself time to see all the cool places along the way.

With that in mind, here are four great planning resources to help you get the most enjoyment possible out of your next road trip.


The goal of MyScenicDrives.com is to help you discover great drives. Each one includes a detailed overview, an interactive map, weather forecasts, and GPS directions.

The site is easy to use and offers differing levels of interaction, from simply clicking “Find a Drive” to creating an account where you can track and tag your drives.

Currently MyScenicDrives.com seems focused on western parts of the U.S., but new drives are always being added so you need to check it regularly. If you sign up for the newsletter and subscribe to the blog you can get the latest updates sent to you.

You can read more about MyScenicDrives.com for travel nurses here.


RoadTripAmerica.com is an awesome site for planning your travel nursing road trip. In addition to its great Road Trip Map Wizard it also offers cool tools and resources for your road trip planning, including sections that cover:

  • Routes & trips
  • Destinations & attractions
  • Fun stuff & inspiration
  • Dashboarding
  • Tips for roadtrippers
  • Maps
  • On the road

Use the site’s three different RSS feeds to subscribe to:

  • RoadTrip America’s Articles and Funny Signs
  • RoadTrip America’s Funny Signs (only)
  • The Great American RoadTrip Forum

You can also subscribe via email for RoadTrip America’s Articles and Funny Signs and RoadTrip America’s Funny Signs.

You can learn more about how useful Road Trip America.com is for travel nurses here.


RoadtripPlanning.com is not as big as the previous two sites, but it does offer informative articles and some fun stuff like route planners and road trip games.

You can read a little more about RoadtripPlanning.com here.


Cost2Drive.com is a great planning site that does one thing, but that one thing is so useful for a travel nurse planning a drive that I had to include it; telling you how much the drive will actually cost you.

All you do is enter the start and end points of your trip and the kind of car you drive. Then Cost2Drive calculates:

  • How much you will spend on gas
  • Your Carbon Footprint
  • How much it would cost to fly
  • Where you will need to stop for gas

Learn more about Cost2Drive.com for travel nurses here.


So before your next assignment think about how much fun your road trip could be, plan accordingly, and check out these sites to make it happen.

Jeff Long is the Marketing Manager at Medical Solutions, one of the leading travel nursing companies in the industry. He has never been a nurse and is not a recruiter; his goal is to help you meet your career goals by sharing information, advice, and the benefits of travel nursing with you.

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