1. You choose which assignments to take. However, you may not be familiar with the area, so it can be a crap shoot. Most hospitals have at least a few travelers. You can choose to be close to home or go somewhere different.
2. Travelers make about the same as other nurses, but are contract workers, so no benefits, 401K/403B, and no protection with the unions. They are also often the first to be canceled on a unit, and there is no guarantee of hours.
3. I would suggest getting familiar with the housing market in the area before making such a big purchase. This sounds like a pretty risky plan, but to each their own. Others can probably better speak to housing money and how that works.
4. Kind of true, and different everywhere you go. You get the poop end of the stick, in that you get canceled first, and they may treat you like you're expendable. Some places will treat you better than others. It's hard to form relationships with the staff, because they know you're temporary, so people keep their distance. But like anywhere, you'll meet awesome people, too.
5. You need to know your unit. You need to be floor ready. They won't take new grads without experience. If you want to work in a specialty, you'll need some experience in that specialty first. I do know of one exception, a friend of mine who is a traveler in an outpatient surgery center. She was brought in as a new grad, they trained her, and they want to hire her on (she wants that, too), but it's been complicated because of her role as a traveler. This is all in the same town where we live and went to school.
6. Not sure. I imagine some managers like it, some don't.
7. Specialties are often most in demand, from what I have seen.
8. I wouldn't count on it. Again, I think it depends on the unit. Our unit has very little overtime.
Others may have different perspectives. Good luck!