Stories Beyond the 9-to-5: How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Jobs (Episode 1)

Rachel Off Duty: How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Careers - Episode 1

I get asked these questions all the time – how do you manage to travel as much as you do? Don’t you have a job? How do you balance it all? If there’s one thing I became painfully aware of as I joined the working world after college, it’s the tenuous line between “work and play.” Most of us call this work-life-balance. And for many of us, the idea of work-life balance feels like an impossible one to achieve. There are several reasons for this that I’ve encountered personally: 

1. Limited vacation days (the standard base vacation package in the US starts at just a mere 10 days per calendar year) 

2. Money and/or financial obligations 

3. Negative stigma surrounding taking time off 

4. Lack of time in general

5. Stress of maintaining, and growing, a career and achieving success

If you’re reading this blog post, I’d like to guess it’s because you are the kind of go-getting woman that wants to travel the world but isn’t as convinced about halting your career goals or losing a salary.

Maybe you do already travel a decent amount but you’re hoping to go even further.

Maybe you work at an office that won’t budge when it comes to granting time off, and you’re feeling stuck.

Or maybe, you own your own hustle but have a hard time disconnecting from work and focusing on taking time for yourself.

If you’re any of these women I just described, I am incredibly excited. You’ve come to the right place!

Why? Because no matter who you are or what situation you might be in – whether you are a woman in a new job with no vacation time, or a freelance entrepreneur struggling to find balance, or a full-time traveler looking to start a career without stopping the adventure, I can tell you that you are not alone. And that navigating your career or personal ambitions while prioritizing travel is an achievable, 100% respectable pursuit. 

But don’t just take it from me.

Every month, I’ll be sharing the stories of fellow women who own their career hustles and fulfill their travel dreams at the same time, no matter what it takes. You’ll hear exactly how other real women prioritize their travels, how they save for trips, what their tips are for finding balance, and how they combat negative stigma for taking time off. I hope that by sharing these stories, you will find possibilities and inspiration. Life is short, and there are so many ways to fill your time. If travel is one of those things that just does it for you, let it. Here’s how.

How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Careers

Episode 1

Rachel Off Duty: How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Careers - Episode 1 - Rachel-Jean Firchau
Rachel Off Duty: How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Careers - Episode 1 - Jessie Festa
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Rachel Off Duty: How These Women Travel More While Maintaining Their Careers - Episode 1 – Melanie Schaffer

1. Where are you based, OR if you’re nomadic, where are you currently?

Rachel: Just outside of Los Angeles, California in a port city called Long Beach. I’ve been here for 9 years, but I grew up on Oahu!

Jessie: I’m based in New York. I lived in Bushwick (Brooklyn) for a while, but a few years ago moved to the Upper East Side.

Meghan: Mammoth Lakes, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Melanie: I’m based in Montreal, Canada.

2. 9-to-5 hustle, self-made business grind, or somewhere in between?

Rachel: Somewhere in between! Not everyone might guess this who meets me online, but I actually work a 9-to-5 job in travel and advertising. When I’m not running my blog, Rachel Off Duty, I also manage a content agency with my boyfriend Jacob called Miraven. We do photo, video, writing, and influencer strategy!

Jessie: Self-made business! I actually run my travel blogs full-time. I run my business in a way so that my income has steadily grown year after year, which I’m quite proud of. When asked how I've done it, I credit a lot of this success to focusing on growing a community and then creating content -- and products, like New York photo tours and online blogging courses – that truly benefit my community.

Meghan: 9-to-5, but in the travel industry (I work for the convention & visitor’s bureau in Mammoth Lakes) so I think working in travel/tourism helps when it comes to asking for more time to travel.

Melanie: I have a 9-to-5 hustle. I have a very cool job; I get to be paid to watch cartoons every day! I’m a line producer at an animation studio. We do 3D animated movies.

3. What compelled you to make travel a priority?

Rachel: I was in an odd relationship after graduating college. The person I was dating told me he wasn’t sure he would ever have a desire to leave California (or, you know, even get himself a passport), and without even realizing it, I guess I subconsciously began to feel ‘stuck’ in this reality. After things ended between us and some time passed, I took a trip to Costa Rica. It was my first time being abroad since I studied in Italy as a college student. And I couldn’t believe it took me so long to remember just how good it felt to whip my passport out, head to an unfamiliar place, and take in the nuances of the culture, the food, the scenery, and the people. I get such a thrill out of it. Jacob and I also took the most epic camping trip to Big Sur in the Northern California coast that same year – my first ever camping trip – and I realized I didn’t always need a conventional hotel room to be happy on the road. I’ve been traveling as often as I can, in every conceivable way, ever since. 

Jessie: I traveled a lot growing up. My family did annual Caribbean cruises, or we’d road trip the USA in search of the best roller coasters. I enjoyed it, but it was when I studied abroad in Sydney that I was truly bitten by the travel bug, as they say. It’s when the trajectory of my life changed because I knew after that experience that I wanted — actually needed — to make travel a large part of my life. It’s when I knew that a 9-to-5 job with two weeks of vacation per year couldn’t fulfill me. 

Meghan: I love the way seeing new places makes my wheels turn. I'm the most creative and inspired version of myself when I'm just back from exploring somewhere new.

Melanie: Travel has always been part of my life, at the age of 3 my parents decided that we should move from Venezuela to France and since then, I have visited more than 20 countries and lived in three different ones.

4. On a monthly or yearly basis, how often do you travel? How do you navigate taking time off from work to travel? 

Rachel: Last year, I took 15 trips in 12 months. This year, I’m on track for 20+! I usually find myself traveling 1-4 times each month, both for work and for personal reasons. I’m not sure I would recommend 20+ if you have a full-time job (it can be hectic), but I guess if there’s a will, there’s a way!

When it comes to work trips, I always try to carve out a couple hours (even if that means waking up early or taking the latest flight home) or an extra full day to explore. I use up weekends on road trips and short, domestic trips. And I actually utilize all of the time-off policy I earn at my job.

Jessie: While I used to do three-to-four month backpacking trips, I’m engaged and have an apartment and a cat, so I hate being away for too long. Now I travel about once per month. Sometimes it’ll be a quick long weekend trip, like when I went to explore Plano (Texas) attractions, a week-long trip like my recent Antigua adventure, or more like a month, like when I did the Mohare Danda Trek in Nepal last month.

Meghan: I typically take one big trip for a couple of weeks every year and then plan long weekends throughout the year.

Melanie: I take big trips 2 or 3 times per year and I take a few 3 days trip scattered through the year. I use all my PTOs (3 weeks of paid vacation) and I smartly combine them with statutory holidays and the Christmas break. Also, I manage to do some overtime hours here and there during the year. These overtime hours get banked in exchange for days off. Most of the time, I am using these hours for long weekends or to add them towards a longer vacation.

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5. How do you finance and save for your travels?

Rachel: Three ways: 

  1. I use credit cards with travel rewards – Chase Sapphire Preferred is a card that I swear by and nab at least 2 or 3 free flights from each year (here’s my refer-a-friend link in case you’e had your eye on Chase!)

  2. I book direct on airline sites and create accounts so I can earn loyalty points. They accrue slowly but can definitely come in handy. 

  3. I extend work and family trips whenever I can, and I look for cheap options when I am paying for things out of pocket and have limited funds (think hostels, red-eye flights, group trips, camping, and road trips)

Jessie: I think it’s smart if you want to travel to put a percentage of your fun money into a special travel account, but to be honest my strategy is more about finding deals. For a free strategy, I’ll set up my Twitter notifications to get alerts to my phone when flight deal accounts like @TheFlightDeal and @SecretFlying post deals. I like these two accounts because they have a lot of deals originating from the USA/New York, where I’m based.

Meghan: I love spending time outside, and luckily, a lot of my hobbies are "free". When I'm home, I try to focus on the free fun I can enjoy and save my fun money for fun in other places. For example, I get a ski pass through my job, so skiing on the weekends in the winter is "free". In the summer, I really enjoy hiking, which is also "free" since I purchase a national parks pass every year and spend a lot of time on other types of public lands, too.

Melanie: My husband used to be a financial planner so he is in charge of this daunting task. We usually put money aside on a weekly manner and we add it in a special account. We don’t touch this money except for when we are travelling. Also, we do make travelling a priority so we might not spend money on other things. For example, we have been wanting to buy a new TV for years but every time we have the money for it we decide to take it and go travel instead.

6. What’s your biggest tip for balancing work and travel?

Rachel: The payoff for taking time off and filling your weekends with travel is that your work days will sometimes feel like hell. I have found myself in the office at 9 or 10 pm on a Tuesday night mad at the world for having to work so late, but I have to remind myself it’s because I chose to take the Friday off the week before. There isn’t always going to be perfect balance, and things will ebb and flow. When you find yourself frustrated with your job or your busy schedule, remind yourself how fortunate it is that you are earning money to travel and live a lifestyle you love, and the anxiety of trying to find ‘balance’ will lighten up.

Jessie: Set up a schedule. As someone who works online, I could easily work from sun up to sun down without looking up, because my business is my baby. But what kind of life would that be? To ensure I both enjoy the destination I’m in while also getting what needs to get done completed, I set up a schedule for myself the night before. This way I can schedule important business tasks as well as the tours and sightseeing experiences I desire.

Meghan: Don't be afraid to ask for time off. I have absolutely been guilty of agonizing over asking for more time off after just getting back from a trip. But I always have to remind myself that I have never once gotten a "no" as long as I plan around big deadlines and events for work. The anxiety around asking for time off shouldn't keep me (or you) from traveling often.

Melanie: Do whatever works for you! If you like to take 1 big trip per year or multiple smaller trips, this is completely up to you. However, don’t feel like you need to jeopardize one or the other. I do love my job and I believe that having a career that you like can be very gratifying. As for travelling, you have the life ahead of you to discover the world, so don’t get rushed with bucket lists and must do before your 30’s. Sometimes life works in unexpected ways and you just need to enjoy what makes you happy now.

7. What’s your biggest tip for working while on the road (if you do)? 

Rachel: If you need to work while you’re on the go, try to choose airlines that offer free or cheap WiFi, like Jetblue, SouthWest, or Delta. I am also not above using my wireless hotspot in the car on long road trips! 

I also am a firm believer in being understanding of coworkers who are covering for you while you’re out. Do your due diligence before you leave to make sure the people who need to keep your responsibilities in tow are looped in and can reach you, if they absolutely have to, in an emergency. If you want to keep traveling often, be a team player and volunteer to cover for your peers when they’re out of office, too. They will return the favor and make it easier for you to leave your laptop without worry!

Jessie: When at home or on the road, I advise against giving yourself too many things to do. I’ve heard this issue from my students in my blogging courses that they can never finish their to-do lists and I’ve been guilty of this, too. Choose one big goal per month and give yourself tasks with *reasonable* deadlines to complete that goal, while also sprinkling in a few daily and weekly strategies that work. You don’t need to do everything, and you certainly don’t need to do everything in one day. 

Meghan: Be very transparent about when you are and aren't available. I always let co-workers know exactly when I'm out of the office but working vs. out of the office and not available. I also make sure I know exactly where/when I'll have access to wifi by doing some research ahead of time (i.e. Is there access to wifi on the flights I'm taking?) to make sure I'll have a good connection when I say I'll be available.

8. Do you ever get any negative reactions to your travels from friends, coworkers, or loved ones? How do you navigate that?

Rachel: For the most part, those close to me in my personal life are nothing but supportive. I am lucky to have friends and family that know how much travel and spontaneity mean to who I am as a person. There’s definitely the occasional joke and banter about how I am ‘always gone,’ which isn’t a huge deal. Whenever I am met with envy, no matter how playful (to the tune of ‘wish I had the kind of money to do that too’ or ‘must be nice’), I simply reframe the conversation. It is nice! You can have that kind of money (it doesn’t take much). You can take time for yourself. Yes, you!

There have also been times (very rarely) that peers have used my travels as evidence of a lack of work ethic, associating my Instagram posts and social media updates from all over the world as grounds for not being a present enough employee or person. While I do believe that we’re currently in a time of increasingly liberal work environments and personal freedom, it's not lost on me that there can be a negative association or judgment associated with travel, no matter how many hours you put in either at your desk or on the road. I’d go as far as to say this reaction is even more pronounced towards women. To that, I say work hard, play harder :) Nothing is as good of a response as proving you can kick butt at your career and have a life while you’re at it. Friday morning meeting at the office and Sunday afternoon margaritas in Mexico? Yes please!

Jessie: Not so much now that it's full-time. Funny enough, when I started I got a lot of negativity. It was 2011 and the word “blog” was definitely not associated with the word “entrepreneur”. But I just listened to my own needs and carved a path for myself that would fulfill me. Now that my blogging business is full time and I make more money than many of my friends with 9-to-5 jobs, people are more supportive and often even ask me how they can do what I do.

Meghan: Since I live in a resort town, I often hear things like, "Why do you need to travel so much when you live in a vacation destination?" But I think the question usually stems from genuine curiosity, not negativity. While I do feel very lucky to have built a life where other people vacation, I still have a lot of the world to see outside of these mountains.

Melanie: Like most 9 to 5ers who have a passion for travel, I always get the “you are travelling again!?!” or “How can you afford to travel?!?”. I’m lucky that at work they never say no to my vacations. Just do your job right, on time and plan things in advance and you will not get negative reactions (or less).

9. Do you have a go-to travel partner, or do you prefer solo or group travel? 

Rachel: I do, and have done, it all! I love traveling with Jacob, and I’ll travel with my parents whenever they want to. But there’s definitely something unique about both solo and group (the kind with strangers!) travel that’s absolutely liberating. Without a familiar face, you are forced to confront everything that makes travel so interesting – unfamiliar customs, a new language, foreign foods – head-on. It’s exhilarating. My first multi-day solo trip after college was to Tasmania, and to this day it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Feel free to check out my advice for solo travel here.

Jessie: I love when I get to travel with my fiancé or friends, but usually, I’m solo. The beauty of solo travel is you’re forced to meet people in social situations vs hiding within your clique. Additionally, you get ultimate freedom over your itinerary — no compromise needed. If anyone is interested in solo travel, I actually offer a number of free resources from travelers and travel bloggers here, including a free e-course, Savvy Solo Traveler. It's aimed at helping people gain the confidence to travel solo. I created it because I had so many people emailing me expressing interest in this type of fear, but I could see fear was holding them back.

Meghan: I like a mix of solo and traveling with friends. Most of the time I find myself meeting up with friends in a destination and spending some time together before or after some time on my own.

Melanie: I do most of my travels with my husband, I could not ask for a better travel partner.

10. Any can’t-put-down reads (or podcasts) about either travel, career, or personal development that more adventure-loving women should know about? 

Rachel: Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which is honestly at its core about just how far a woman can go (literally) even when all odds are against her. The Joys of Travel: And the Stories that Illuminate Them by Thomas Swick, which I’ve just started but already love how it draws out and marvels at the pureness and delight that can be found on the road. For Podcasts, I listen to How I Built This religiously.

Jessie: I love anything by Jim Kwik, Hilary Rushford or Hal Elrod. In addition to these, I actually recently started a podcast that teaches travel bloggers bite-sized strategies to help them grow their traffic, community and income. It’s called the Profitable Travel Blogger Podcast.

Meghan: Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday helped me to focus on staying the course and not getting too caught up in the normal ebb and flow of successes and losses both at work and in my own life.

Melanie: I’m a podcast lover but the subjects are so vast. I love everything from Planet Money, Rough Translation, Science Vs. or 99%Invisible, to name a few.

11. Where in the world are you heading next?

Rachel: In November, I’ll be taking a part-solo, part-family trip through Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines!

Jessie: Next up is the Galápagos Islands! I’m actually working with a sustainable tour company, Andando Tours, to do a small luxury cruise around the islands. I've been to the Galapagos Islands before, but as a budget solo backpacker in my early 20s. I ferry hopped a few islands but certainly missed a lot. I’m extremely excited to return!

Meghan: Ski season is about to start (crazy, I know) so in addition to lots of skiing here in Mammoth, I'm also planning some ski trips to other destinations on the IKON pass which lets me ski at 41 resorts around the world, so it's a great travel motivator!

Melanie: This past August, I took one of my biggest adventures of the year along the Quebec coast – the Gaspésie region!

12. How can others follow your adventures?

Rachel: You’re already here! :)

Jessie:

Meghan:

Melanie:

#StoriesBeyond9to5

 
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