Making Friends and Dating as a Healthcare Traveler

An article by Leah Sterneker, LPN Traveler

It’s Complicated – But also a Great Opportunity

My mom says making friends when you are older is harder than when you are younger. She also thinks that dating nowadays sounds miserable. Rather than dwell on the negative, I’ve taken these statements and transformed them into a two-fold challenge. I am determined to figure out and master both friendships and relationships while traveling. Working as a Travel Nurse lends itself to complexity within any relationship you are trying to build. I see the complexity as great opportunity to determine many things about who I am and how I interact with others.

Befriend Fellow Coworkers

If anyone is going to understand your somewhat complicated life, it’s fellow travelers. They understand the tension you might feel when you walk into a new facility. Not all staff within the facility you temporarily work in are going to be welcoming nor want to get to know you. However, your fellow travelers have been there. They can give you advice and provide a shoulder to lean on when you have a bad day. You also have someone to join you while checking out your new location.

Attempt to get to know coworkers. While on an assignment, one of the nurses overheard me talking about how I like to shoot pool and invited me out for a pool night at the local watering hole. He proceeded to wipe the floor with me — apparently, on his days off he’s a pool shark. But that is beside the point, a friendship was born that night. Another coworker invited me to go look at Christmas lights and to grab a bite to eat. Being willing to say, “oh what the heck, sure,” you may walk away with friends that you didn’t know were coming.

 Choose a Recruiter Who Cares

Not all recruitment firms are created equal – some truly care for you and your total well-being. For instance, TravelCare USA is known for listening to your needs and creating a custom compensation package. Need pet friendly accommodations? CareerStaff can provide you with that. Interested in a gym memberships and even grocery money included in your custom package? No problem, just let your recruiter know. Utilizing benefits such as these will automatically put you in a place for meeting new friends with shared interests.

Leah loves traveling with Roxy because it makes the drive not so lonely and it’s a friendly face to come back to after a long shift.

Taking your pets places is like a magnet for friendships. Having your pet with you can increase your over-all happiness, approachability and safety. Dog Park date anyone?

Once your pet is off the leash, all that’s left for you to do is start chatting with your fellow dog-parkers!

There is an amazing app called “Meet My Dog” for scheduling playdates. Your profile allows you to introduce both yourself and your pet – with pictures of course! It’s a location-based app that allows you to check-in if you are at a dog park and see which dogs are nearby. Private messaging with other owners lets you chat and swap tips about vets, parks, etc.

Grocery shopping can be viewed as a chore – or the chance to interact with people who have similar tastes! Reaching for the same item could instantly and easily indicate a common interest. If someone is grabbing for my favorite brand of peppermint mocha creamer, it’s an instant thought of “yep, this person gets me.”

Group fitness classes are another great way to connect with others. Pushing through a tough workout together, gives a glimpse into each other’s’ goals and provides an open opportunity to support and encourage one another. Side note: class instructor might be hot!

Get to Know Your New City and New People

I have no shame and embarrass myself daily. So, joining apps to meet people doesn’t bother me. I want to make the most of traveling as a nurse, so I joined Bumble/Bumble BFF (other options – EHarmony; and Tinder/Tinder Social). Bumble/Bumble BFF offers me the opportunity to meet girlfriends and do things girlfriends like to do. IE: yoga, coffee, movies, shopping, etc. Opportunities are endless as you can arrange co-ed groups, same-sex groups or of course, look for dates! A bonus, it’s super easy to change locations depending on your assignment.

Meetup works across thousands of cities. The goal is simple: help bring together groups of people with common interests. A quick sign up process and you can immediately check out what the local area has to offer. No matter what your interest, there should be something for you!

With Tinder/Tinder Social, you can hand select small groups, same-sex or co-ed. Once you form a group of 2-4 people, you assign a status to the group, like “Happy Hour, anyone?” or “Bowling tonight?” Then, let the matching begin. Once your group matches with another group, you can start messaging each other, which has the look and feel of a (literal) group text. Make plans to do something ASAP as your group will expire by noon the next day.

Foursquare City Guide helps you find the best restaurants and bars in the area, while also giving you insight into where different types of people may live around you. Of course, you still must approach people and say hi, but at least the odds are better that it will be worth your time. You never know until you try!

Some practical examples of what you will find using these apps include – taking a cooking class at a local restaurant, attending a wine/beer tasting, taking a do-it-yourself class at Home Depot, a craft class at Michael’s, or even volunteering for a cause you believe in, while meeting others who do also!

Dating as a Traveler

I refuse to date coworkers. Even if we aren’t in the same department, I won’t do it. Work is complicated enough without adding an emotional roller coaster like dating to it. There are a few advantages, however, if you choose to do so – like gathering insight from coworkers about the person’s character, dating style and history. You will also have a lot in common right off the bat to talk about and an understanding of one another’s day to day stress.

But again, if you are looking outside of coworkers, the apps are a great resource. I can safely peruse for guys in my sweats while watching Bravo. Some people say dating apps are shallow because you base it on looks. To them I say, isn’t it the same thing being at the bar? A person of the opposite sex is not going to approach you if they don’t think you are attractive. But I digress.

With dating apps, you can start up a conversation and see where it goes from there. If there is a connection and you don’t find anything bad on them from a quick Google search or a quick peak at their Facebook page – no shame in doing your research, we’ve all been there. Then keep the conversation going and hopefully go on a date or two. But if there’s no connection, then you can safely end the conversation more easily than if you started talking in a bar or other public places.

Be prepared for both good and bad experiences. Use the not so good experiences as a learning opportunity to figure out what you like and want in a relationship. Switch it up, don’t make “grabbing a drink” your default date. Meeting a local person allows them the chance to show you some of their favorite local attractions or help you compile a list of things you “must-do.”

As a traveler you have an expiration date, this should allow you to make dating more casual and fun. Yes, you can always extend a contract or find another assignment nearby. But make sure you are making that decision for the right reasons, you are truly happy and enjoy the assignment not because you’ve stumbled upon a new relationship. A company like CareerStaff has an assignment extension structure that makes the process easy and inviting to do so! Or, let your next assignment create some space to determine if the person you were initially so excited about has staying power over the long term. You and the person you are dating must be on the same page, having honest conversations perhaps sooner than you would if were permanently living in the same location. Be truthful about your agenda. You can meet great people and experience attractions in your new city that you wouldn’t have alone. I dated an amazing guy during my assignment in Minnesota. He took me to a concert of a band I had never heard of and it was one of the best weekends of my life. We both knew that I was going to leave. However, rather than dwelling on the negative, we enjoyed all the time we had together. To this day, we still keep in contact and I’ve gained a friend.

You never know when the love of your life is going to come along, so be open to new opportunities! My (mother approved) advice, avoid the jerks who only want to date because you are leaving in a few weeks. I value myself and time more than spending it with someone who doesn’t truly care about me. Sometimes your momma knows what she’s talking about!

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About the Author:

Leah Sterneker Leah Sterneker is a small town Kansas farm girl born in 1985, as one of 4 siblings. Her post-high school graduation plans included going into journalism/communications. But after her dad’s head-on collision in 2007, Leah changed her major to nursing and obtained her LPN in May 2015. She is currently working on her BSN. Leah is a proud dog mom of Roxy, who accompanies her on assignment. In her free time, Leah loves to explore the new places travel nursing has taken her. When back home she enjoys going shopping (especially garage sales) with her momma, going to the casino with her dad, getting together with Jessi and Brandy to binge watch Bravo, and attend wine and painting classes with Randi.

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