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The Coolest “Country Folk” You’ll Ever Come Across

Bringing Along Family/Friends/Partners, Outdoors Across the U.S., Taking (Lots of) Time Off, Travel = No More Hospital Politics

“I feel like traveling is one of those things that you can always talk yourself out of,” Aya travel nurse Dakota reflects. “My advice would be… don’t. You can always come up with reasons why you shouldn’t, especially when you have kids, but it’s been good for us as nurses, as people, as a family.”

When new coworkers find out that Dakota and her husband Ronnie are traveling with their four-year-old daughter and one-year-old son, the first question they usually get is “are you guys crazy?!” but Dakota just laughs. Ronnie says they decided to travel because “before our children got old enough to start school we wanted to let them see different places.” Dakota adds, “as much as we love Mississippi and living out in the country, I think it’s cool for kids to see how other people live and not just settle in this one place and never know anything but that.” During just a few short assignments the kids have already seen quite a bit. Highlights include feeding giraffes at an animal park outside of Baton Rouge and playing astronaut inside a real space station at NASA in Houston.

From traveling with toddlers to navigating the big city as “country folk,” Dakota and Ronnie are no strangers to heading down unfamiliar roads. They spent their honeymoon backpacking across Europe and as Ronnie tried to get used to driving down the “wrong” side of Ireland’s narrow roads, Dakota firmly suggested that he try not to run her side of the car into the bushes. They both chuckle at the memory as Dakota says “but… we made it. It was the perfect way to start a marriage. We knew we could always figure it out.” Dakota has had the relationship “figured out” since the beginning but Ronnie…well, Ronnie took a little longer. They met four years ago in a Mississippi NICU, and Dakota was quick to initiate. “I started spittin’ game at him and he finally noticed. I was like oh my gosh I’m trying to flirt with you, you are so clueless!” Their romance was “quite the scandal at the time” as Ronnie jokes, but it wasn’t the only thing they enjoyed about the job. Both are passionate NICU nurses, highly skilled at saving tiny lives.

While there was much they loved about their high acuity NICU in Mississippi, the unrelenting pace was draining and it was time to take a bit of a break. They knew that no matter where they traveled, their workdays would be less hectic, and they have quickly learned that more measured days aren’t the only thing to love about travel nursing. As Ronnie only half-jokingly explains when asked what they like best, “I think we both like…not being staff.” Dakota cracks up, agreeing. “No one is asking you to be on fifty different committees and you get to do what you love. I just get to go to work, take care of my babies and go home.”

Going home for good is something that they will do…eventually. Even if it weren’t for their thick-as-molasses Mississippi accents, Dakota and Ronnie’s amiability would immediately give them away as natives of the South. Dakota says “our recruiter Kate is like y’all are so nice! And I’m like we’re from the Hospitality State, what do you expect!” After just a short conversation with these two, you might find yourself invited for a visit where they would “take you to a little juke joint and let you hear some Blues music.” And they would feed you too of course. Ronnie quips that with too much Southern cooking “you may have a heart attack” while Dakota adds “haha yeah, but you will enjoy it all the way until the end!” They may miss fresh okra fried with cornmeal, but they aren’t quite ready to settle down back home just yet. Montana is next on their bucket list, and for now, that may just be the perfect spot for former rodeo cowgirl Dakota to literally get back in the saddle, and for easy-going Ronnie to kick back with his family and strum a few bars on his guitar, the melody drifting over wide-open spaces.