Rachel-Jean Firchau is a marketing specialist and female travel blogger based in Los Angeles. While she spends her days working a 9-to-5 as an account executive, she also runs a travel blog to empower fellow ambitious women to see more of the world. She advocates about making travel a lifestyle. If you’re one of those who thinks of how can travel be your lifestyle, Rachel has a lot of inputs that you can apply.
Even though she was born and raised on the island of Oahu, she is often difficult to locate. Even while she’s at work, she spends her time travelling and working remotely from anywhere she can find cheap airfare. She recently spent time in Mexico, the Czech Republic, and Hawaii.
We had a conversation with Rachel about how she shows fellow ambitious women that it’s okay to want both a paycheck and a passport and empowers career-minded travellers to venture farther than the boundaries corporate capitals have set.
You were born and raised on the tiny island of Oahu, Hawaii. What encouraged you to begin travelling? Did your birthplace impact this in any way?
Oh, 100%! I think growing up this way totally fueled the way I travel today.
Having grown up in Oahu, Hawaii, with parents who were born and raised elsewhere (the Philippines and Michigan), I began flying young. I took my first international flight at the age of 6 months, hurling 11 hours across the Pacific to meet my cousins in the Philippines. My mom likes to remind me I never cried on planes, and I’d like to believe that’s true.
When you grow up on an island – the most geographically isolated island chain in the world – the idea of ‘elsewhere’ has a really unique allure to it. I was so enamoured by big cities and the idea of new countries. When I graduated high school, I immediately set off to go to college on the mainland and study abroad in Europe. My 6 months in Italy were some of the most formative of my entire life, and I had no idea at the time! I even started my first travel blog in Italy, though I buried it shortly after (bad writing, bad photos).
When I returned to the states from Florence, I immediately landed a handful of back-to-back internships from my sophomore to senior years and found myself graduating with a full-time job offer straight out of college.
It was an awesome scenario, no doubt. The kind every parent dreams of. But, I quickly found myself asking questions. Questions like…
Why do most companies start people off with hardly any days of PTO?
How many years do I need to work until I can think about travelling again?
Will I have to wait till I retire to start living life outside of my job title again?
Is this… just the way it is?
In the end, I decided that these are precisely the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves to live a more fulfilling life. I chose the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that travel and finding purpose both in and outside of a job title was one I should probably pay attention to.
I knew then that I had to prioritize travel and find ways to make travel a reality, even while I was working full-time.
For any young hopeful travel bloggers, what do you advise their first steps to success should be?
As simple as it sounds, it’s actually incredibly hard in practice – the very first step I think any aspiring blogger should take is to soul-search for your “WHY.”
Why do you want to start a travel blog?
What makes you uniquely equipped to start the kind of blog you’re envisioning?
Why are you so enamored with travel? What has it done for you?
Tons of people join this industry every day for all kinds of reasons, so there’s plenty of space for people who want it! But, blogging is a ton of work, and staying driven even when things aren’t easy means being hyper-focused on your “WHY.”
You don’t need to have all the answers right away. Heck, it took me 13 months of trial-and-error just getting my blog off the ground, followed by another two years of publishing content and hoping it would be seen, until I finally stepped into my value and visualized the community I wanted to attract.
Start with why. Be driven by your why. And you will find a path towards blogging that works for you!
With extensive travel, you have a 9-to-5 job in digital advertising. How do you manage to organize your time in order to do both? Any advice for readers with full-time jobs who would love to spend more time travelling?
I have tons of tips on travelling more without quitting your job! While travelling full-time is a possibility for some, I try to caveat that it certainly isn’t the only way.
Start by becoming incredibly familiar with your company’s vacation policy. Do you only have access to PTO days, or do you also get sick days, mental health days, federal holidays, etc.? What are the rules for using them? Can you get creative?
Also, it’s essential to consider that travel doesn’t always mean a passport and a far-off destination. Are you only able to go somewhere on weekends? Take a 2-day road trip to the mountains and rent a cabin with friends!
The last thing I’ll say is, if you are a frequent traveller working in a corporate setting, it’s important to be a team player. Be the first one to raise your hand to cover co-workers when they take time off, and they’ll usually be more inclined to return the favour.
So far, you’ve been to 26 countries, any favourites?
That’s so hard! I pride myself on having things I’ve loved and appreciated about every country I’ve been to. While I don’t feel the need to return to every country I’ve visited, I feel fortunate that I get to walk away knowing I’ve been impacted by every place that’s welcomed me in.
I’m also not a ‘country counter,’ per se, and I’ll gladly go back to certain countries again and again and again. The countries I currently can’t seem to get enough of, and want to know so much more about, include Mexico, the Philippines, Australia, Croatia, Costa Rica, Greece, Portugal, and Lebanon.
Also Read: Courageous & Creative: Travel Writer Megan
I also have an informal short list of countries I’d move to in an instant. That list so far includes Mexico, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Australia.
Have there been any regrets when traveling, or things you’ve learnt?
The blessing and curse of travelling as a type-A perfectionist is that I often do so much pre-trip research, so I have a very good idea of how I envision things unfolding.
While that’s a good thing because it means I always have an itinerary. But when plans get cancelled or deviate from the research I’ve done, it often becomes stressful. I am trying my hardest to be more of a go-with-the-flow personality. But it’s harder to be like that when I’m travelling and working remotely or managing creative work (when I am on blogging assignments), and need to depend on things like wifi, electricity, and maintaining a schedule.
I’ve learned – not without resistance! – that it’s okay to not have everything figured out, and that usually, unplanned things often have a funny way of working out for the better, anyway.
I don’t have many regrets from my travels, but I do wish I’d done these things when I was just starting out:
- Paid closer attention in my language classes in school
- Picked up a camera earlier and started documenting my travels
- Started a travel journal
- Said YES more often. Life is WAY too short for ‘someday’!
Being increasingly eco-friendly is on the minds of many, especially for the new year. During the pandemic, you blogged about ways to be more eco-friendly at home. Are there changes travellers can make to reduce their impact on the environment?
There are so many, and I am only just beginning to scratch the surface in my own life.
I believe that the best travellers don’t just see the world as a vacation mine. The planet isn’t full of ‘vacation destinations’. The planet is full of places with real people, real environments and real issues. As a traveller, it is our responsibility to leave the places we visit the same way we found them. And at best, leave them even better than before.
Personally, I think this goes beyond travelling with a reusable water bottle or metal straw, and thinking a bit more about the impact of our visits:
- Can we just as easily stay at a smaller, locally-owned, or eco-friendly accommodation?
- Why don’t we use local tour guides, dine at local eateries, and use ridesharing and meal delivery services owned and operated by residents of the area?
- Can we visit popular places in off-peak times to help reduce the impact of our visit?
- Can we volunteer our time, or donate our money, to causes directly tied to conservation of the places we love?
Growing up in Hawaii and returning now as a visitor, I have seen first-hand how tourism can change a place for the better or, the worse. I think, when we begin to see our role as a respectful visitor and the places we go as more than a ‘top destination,’ we can collectively begin to tread more intentionally.
You are a true advocate of female travel. Do you have any tips for solo women who might be nervous about travelling alone?
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my travel journey was to take the leap to travel solo!
My first big solo trip was deciding to study abroad in Florence, Italy at the age of 19. During that semester, I started off strong by travelling with friends on the weekends. But about midway through, those friends started tapering off or going to places that didn’t interest me. I realized that with or without companions, I had to grab the opportunity in front of me and just go. I spent the rest of the semester beginning to dabble in solo travel. My first solo weekend trip was to Lisbon, Portugal.
International solo female travel can be incredibly daunting. Study abroad is one of those incredible times that served as a gateway to getting me comfortable with venturing out. But in lieu of that, there are so many ways you can dip your toe into first-time solo female travel:
- Explore nearby cities in the country you live in.
- Take a business trip at your job.
- Sign up for a spot on an organized group trip (one of the quickest ways to make travel friends!).
- Stay in hostels.
- Try an organized work-cation trip.
- Join online solo female travel communities for inspiration and advice.
And, before you do any of that, you can also practice for future solo travels by getting increasingly comfortable enjoying your own company. Take yourself out to dinner (say it with me: table for one, please!), bring a book to a nearby park or coffee shop for the day, or try something new in your hometown without bringing a plus one.
Being comfortable by yourself will make any solo trip that much less anxiety-ridden. I promise, no one else is judging you for being by yourself – it’s all in your head!
What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming plans for travel or work?
My work has been fully remote since 2020. So I’ve been going back and forth between working in Los Angeles and basing myself somewhere else. My boyfriend and I even got rid of our apartment last year. It lets us be more flexible and just pick up and go (good riddance to our monthly rent).
Pandemic-pending, my upcoming travel plans include working remotely from Belize, taking a vacation in Dubai to see my best friend get married, and potentially leading my first all-women group trip (details still TBD, but you can be the first to know how to travel with me and other like-minded women by signing up for my newsletter)!