Rachel Is A Marketing Specialist & A Travel Blogger Who Empowers Ambitious Women To See More Of The World
What is GAFFL?

GAFFL connects solo travelers with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time as you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

In this post, we are featuring Rachel-Jean Firchau (just Rachel for short!), a marketing + advertising specialist and female travel blogger who empowers ambitious women to see more of the world through her website, RachelOffDuty.com.
22nd Jun | 9 min read

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    At GAFFL, we love to publish inspiring travel stories from adventurers around the world. You can connect with adventurers from 170+ countries on GAFFL, meet up, and explore destinations together.

    In this post, we are featuring Rachel-Jean Firchau (just Rachel for short!), a marketing + advertising specialist and female travel blogger who empowers ambitious women to see more of the world through her website, RachelOffDuty.com. Offering a spin on the Mon - Fri, 9-to-5 churn of corporate America, Rachel believes your adventurous life can exist right here, right now, wherever you’re at in your career. 

    Be sure to check her out on Instagram @RachelOffDuty and visit her website, Rachel Off Duty, for all kinds of travel and career tips! 

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    How I Was Inspired To Start Traveling

    I’ve always traveled, for as long as I can remember. But, it wasn’t until my early twenties that my appetite and approach to travel really evolved into what it is today. 

    Having grown up in Hawaii with parents who were born and raised elsewhere (the Philippines and Michigan), I began flying young. My first passport was printed when I was 6 months old, so my mom could transport me 11 hours to the Philippines to meet my cousins. When you grow up on an island, the idea of planes and ‘elsewhere’ has a really interesting allure to it. I became fixated on the idea of seeing big cities and new countries and made the choice to go to college on the mainland and to study abroad in Europe. 

    During my 6-month stint in Florence, Italy, I started my 1st (well, 2nd if you count Tumblr!) of many blogs, documenting my day-to-day experiences as I moved through my very-unfamiliar new surroundings. When I got back to the states from Florence, I immediately landed several internships in quick succession and found myself graduating 2 years later with a full-time job already locked in. It was an ideal scenario, no doubt, but I quickly found myself asking questions.

    Why do most companies start people off with hardly any days of PTO a year? How many years do I need to work until I can even think about traveling for more than a week at a time? 

    Is this just the way it is? 

    In the end, I decided that these are exactly the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves in order to live a more fulfilling life. I decided that the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me travel was more important to me than just an ‘escape’ was one I should probably listen to. Once I realized that I knew I had to prioritize travel and find ways to make travel a reality, even while I was working full-time

    My Travel Frequency & Things I Like To Do When I Travel

    In 2019, I traveled 25 times in a calendar year while maintaining my full-time job. Through a combination of day trips, weekend getaways, bleisure trips (tacking on an extra day or two on top of a work trip), PTO, and working remotely, my travels took me to places like Bali, the Philippines, Mexico, France, Canada, and countless cities and national parks throughout the US.

    I can be really scrappy sometimes, and I love finding out-of-the-box ways to afford trips, whether it’s through travel credit cards, work-related expenses, or staying with friends and family. 

    If I’m not working remotely (which I often do to help me ‘extend’ my trips), I love seeking out crazy adventures, going hiking and camping, finding unique places to stay, and learning about local cultures and languages. I’m a sucker for a local cooking class! 

    How I Choose Where To Travel Next

    I’m the kind of person who’s truly down for anything. If there’s an opportunity to go somewhere, whether it’s through work, my blog, my friends, my family, or even if it’s just a cheap flight deal that catches my eye, odds are I’m already considering it! I’m not picky, and when I can’t find someone to travel with me I am more than happy to travel solo. 

    My trips vary from weekend getaways to month-long stints in new cities where I work remotely and plan my activities around my work schedule. I always have, at the very least, an itinerary of where I’ll be on any given date, what I’d like to do while I’m in the area, and any booked commitments I need to remember. I plan all my trips on good old Google Sheets so I can reference it on my phone whenever I need to. 

    How I Pack For My Trips

    While I can easily carry on-only, especially when I’m going somewhere warm, I don’t mind bringing a checked bag for longer trips or colder destinations. Packing cubes are my best friends! 

    A good book, earplugs, my camera, my work gear, and my reusable water bottle are the main constants on my packing list. I’m very intentional about the clothes I pack on each trip and often do research about local fashion and appropriate ways to dress ahead of time, so my wardrobe is always changing! 

    Some Of My Favourite Memories Meeting New People Abroad

    Meeting new people is one of my favorite parts of the travel experience. When I’m home in Los Angeles, I often find myself falling prey to the go-go-go mentality of always needing to be doing.

    It’s incredibly energizing, but burnout can happen (and has happened) really easily that way. Travel has been so good for me because it pushes me to remember who I am outside of what I do. 

    When I’m on the road, that version of myself is so talkative! Some of my favorite memories of meeting new people have been going to a full moon party in El Nido with a group from my hostel that I introduced myself to a few hours before, planning a ‘goodbye party’ with all the travelers I met after just seven days in Oaxaca and flying to the middle of the Baja peninsula with a group of strangers-turned-friends to experience gray whales up close

    I think one of the most truly transformative things there is about travel is the opportunity it gives us to (re)learn who we are outside of the expectations of who we’re ‘supposed’ to be. You may be surprised to learn how much more talkative, inquisitive, or likable you are when you aren’t bogged down with tasks and to-do lists! 

    Why I Started My Blog

    My blog exists to empower women to live more adventurous lives, and to show people like myself that there’s a different way to think about travel than corporate America taught us. I write a lot of travel guides to help familiarize people with places they may not have previously considered, and career tips to guide people towards different perspectives around work and travel. 

    Can you travel more with only 10 days of PTO? Can you negotiate more vacation days instead of, or in addition to, a raise? Can you add another day to your work trip so you can finally explore Chicago or New York?

    These are the questions I hope my blog helps others to really consider! I’m out here living this life, and while I’m truly still figuring it out as I go, I want my presence to show women like me that a life like this is possible. 

    Countries I’ve Traveled To So Far

    I travel a bit slower than some since I do have a career I’m building that involves a good amount of time and location-dependent work. With that said, I’ve been to 26 countries so far, and try not to think of them as a ‘bucket list’ to cross off. I have no issue with going back to a country or state that I loved over and over again (in fact, I’ve been to one of my favorite countries, Mexico, 8 times!). 

    Depending on how the next couple of months unfold, I’m really hoping to be able to go to Morocco, Lebanon, the Netherlands, and Colombia next! 

    How I Think GAFFL Can Help Travelers

    There are so many benefits of solo travel and I am all about it because it empowers you to do what you want on your own time, and grow as a human because of it. 

    But it does stink sometimes when you want to travel and you have no one to share your experience (or your travel costs) with! I wish I had the resources available now when I was just starting to travel solo, because finding a community of like-minded people who love travel just as much as you do is priceless. 

    Heck, even if you don’t travel together, just having people in your corner that understand your priorities, your experiences, and your challenges can make taking the leap into solo travel that much less daunting. 

    Tips For How To Travel More Without Quitting Your Job

    I have tons of tips on traveling more without quitting your job! While traveling 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 important 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 traveler working in a corporate setting, it’s important to be a team player. Step up to cover your coworkers when they take time off, and they’ll usually be more inclined to return the favor. 

    Some Things I Wish I Had Known When I First Started Traveling

    I wish I had been more observant as a younger traveler. And, I wish I’d taken a year off after college to travel, find new hobbies, and volunteer before starting my career. If you’re a college student reading this and considering a gap year, take it! 

    In short, travel has taught me time and time again that:

    1. The reality I’ve chosen isn’t the only reality that exists (there are so many other possibilities out there!) 

    2. We all have so much more in common than we think 

    3. I am much, much stronger than I think 

    Don’t let your what ifs and your reservations keep you from exploring. With all the resources and communities out there these days, and with the slowly but surely changing mentality towards work-life balance (in the US, at least), it’s honestly a fantastic time to start solo traveling. You’ll never know until you go!

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