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  • Kirsten Conrad

Why I Became an International Travel Nurse

Five months ago, I packed up my life in Austin, Texas, leaving behind my friends, family and a job I loved, to fly across the Atlantic and start a new life in England. I get asked all the time why I did this, and some days I wake up and ask myself the same question.

I grew up in a small suburb near Houston called Spring. I lived in the same house, drove along the same streets and bumped into the same people for over a decade. While I’m so grateful that I had the stability of a happy warm home to grow up in, streets I felt safe to play on and a joyful community of people where I made some lifelong best friends, I was seventeen and the monotony was killing me. I was bored and ready to bust out.

For college, I moved away for four years to a big school in a tiny town. Different scenery, but the same small town feel. While I mainly enjoyed my time there, after four years I again felt heavy with the monotony of driving the same four roads, bumping into the same people, and having the same weekly routine. Again, I occasionally go back to that town and I love to reminisce about my first home-away-from-home; my tiny dorm room and the friends I made there, tailgating for football games with cheap beer and smoky barbeque, the building that taught me the fundamentals of nursing, and going into the sticky bar I worked at that taught me how to make margaritas by the gallon (a useful tool). However, while I have fond memories of my college town, during these four years I experienced the hardest and most traumatic times in my life to date, and when graduation day came and left, I went with it and I never once looked back.

Soon after graduation, I headed for Austin. Ah, Austin. In contrast, while I couldn’t leave my college town fast enough, I couldn’t get to Austin quick enough after! I had wanted to live in Austin so badly that I signed a lease for a year-long contract before I even filled out a job application. A risky move for some, especially my mother who called to tell me she did not put me through four years of school so that I could continue to work in a bar. However, everything in me was telling me to go to Austin and I trusted that instinct. I spent two years living in Austin and life there was so sweet. I landed my dream graduate nursing job as a NICU nurse in the heart of the city, where I helped a lot of tiny lives and made great friends. I moved into a homey apartment in a sketchy part of town with a friend who became like family to me. I went to Austin’s music festivals, shopped on south congress, ate tacos from food trucks, got carried away on 6th street. I finally was city living and life was good. So why did I leave?

Back when I was that bored seventeen year old with big dreams to leave my small town, I had the opportunity of a lifetime that rocked my little suburban life. My parents were going to let me skip a week of school to go to Paris with them for a work conference that my dad was attending. I was ecstatic. Everything in Paris was dreamy and everywhere I looked seemed like it could be a still in an artsy movie or the cover of a postcard. If you didn’t know this about the Eiffel Tower, which I didn’t until I witnessed it, it lights up at night and then twinkles every hour on the half hour for about a minute. I found this out when I turned a corner and the Eiffel tower came into view, shimmering in the Parisian night sky. It sparkled and my eyes sparkled and the champagne sparkled and I fell in love with this dreamy, sparkly city. I declared then and there that I had to live there at some point in my life, even if only for a month.

Well, I still haven’t made it to Paris, but another famous European city made more sense for me. Although I loved my time in Austin (and would happily move back someday! Who knows?) I still had moving on my mind. During my time in nursing school and through working in a hospital that saw a lot of travel nurses come and go, I spoke to a lot of nurses who had spent part of their career travel nursing. I KNEW this was something I wanted to do at some point. I loved the idea of living somewhere new and being able to make an income doing it. I loved the idea of the short commitment in case it didn’t pan out. Also, travel nurses make great money (USA only, sorry to any nurses interested in the UK). While Texas will always be home to me, I have always thought it would be a great experience to live somewhere other than Texas for a time in my life. The timing felt right because I’m not married and have the flexibility to move. While I initially had my sights set on the west coast, a part of me still thought about how cool it would be to live overseas. Cue Tomas. I met my boyfriend on a trip to London, and my young dream of living in Paris and my current dream of travel nursing combined into becoming an international travel nurse in London! Close enough, right?


Cheers y'all!


Kirsten x

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