One thing about me: I’ve had my fair share of disappointing travel experiences.
Buying overpriced “handmade” souvenirs, only to later realize they’re everywhere and clearly mass produced? Been there.
Going to a massive museum that I honestly have no interest in, and more importantly no context for, ultimately wasting my day and my time just because I felt like I was obligated to go? Done that.
Trying to pack 4 different cities into a week-long trip, leaving me exhausted, burnt out, and with essentially no actual experience of any of the four places? Never again.
At this point, I’ve had enough underwhelming, over-crowded, less-than-memorable experiences to spot the next one coming a mile away.
The upside? All the letdowns have helped me figure out what it is I am seeking when I travel.
Through a lot of trial and error, five years (and counting!) living abroad, and taking every opportunity I can to hit the road, I’ve gotten really good at getting to know a place—even in a relatively short period of time and even if it’s my first visit.
I’ve also gotten really good at having real experiences that feel like mine.
And I don’t believe that you need to be a backpacker, digital nomad, or full time traveler to figure out how to do that too.
What makes Rachel IRL different from any other travel blog out there?
I created this blog as a space to help real people have real experiences while traveling.
Around here, that means being real (and realistic!) about:
We’re de-prioritizing the top 10 things to do according to Trip Advisor, and re-prioritizing the things we want to do, that make us feel like we’re living.
I’ll empower you to create itineraries that feel entirely and uniquely your own, based on the stuff that actually makes you happy (instead of the obligation you might feel to tick certain boxes that really just leave you feeling exhausted and bored).
Biting off more than we can chew with our budget, trip length, or group size is one of the best ways to have a massively disappointing trip.
I’ll help you think realistically about what you’re working with to plan an amazing trip that lets you slow down and smell the roses.
Travel is magical when it gives us new and exciting experiences we could never have at home, but that won’t happen if you expect the place you’re visiting to feel just like home.
I’ll teach you how to plug into the rhythm and particularities of any place, appreciating different ways of life and adapting to a new culture in a way that’s energizing and respectful, but also realistic for you.
It’s important to remember that we’re visitors when we travel; other places aren’t theme parks for us to consume while inconveniencing everyone who lives there.
With travel increasingly exacerbating social issues like housing, access to public space, and transport around the world, it’s critical for all of us traveling today to be mindful about our impact and engage ethically with our destinations.
So what about me?
Since 2015, I’ve visited over two dozen countries on four continents, and I’ve lived in four major cities across three countries. After a lot of trial and error—and developing the confidence to do things on my own terms—I started to, unwittingly, craft the method of travel that I now live by.
Over the years of documenting my travels and sharing my advice with friends and family, I realized that I wanted to share everything I’d learned about with a wider audience.
It has always shocked me how many people say to me, “I wish I could move abroad,” or “I wish I could travel to as many places as you do”—because the truth is, if I could do it, so can you.
I grew up in a household where money was tight and the idea of a vacation was driving to stay with my aunt a few hours away. Travel had always been something I aspired to, but it was something that didn’t feel attainable for me until I took matters into my own hands and found a summer au pair gig that allowed me to get a taste of what else was out there.
That was the summer I learned to solo travel, budget travel, make friends on the road, immerse myself in local cultures and go where the wind took me. It was also the summer I learned that travel can be disappointing if you simply follow what every other tourist is doing.
Little by little, I started to figure out what I love to do while traveling:
Wandering around a niche museum. Trying foods I wouldn’t normally eat. Being the only person in a thrift shop who doesn’t speak the language. Sitting in a park, reading a book about the city I’m in. Eating later than I normally would.
Trusting a stranger’s recommendation. Seeing where the day takes me.
In hindsight, I was using travel to “meet” myself, and I loved the person I met.
That’s how I came to believe that travel should help you get to know yourself.
I think we feel this intuitively, but so many of us fall short when we try to actually achieve that because it takes practice, experimentation, and courage to plan a trip that can make it happen.
In our real lives, the majority of us have little time to cultivate interests, or really, just be. Capitalism keeps us busy and the time we have left is usually spent unwinding or keeping up with social obligations. But, when you’re traveling, you’re free of the other things that usually keep you from exploring your interests, hobbies…yourself.
I want to make sure you always know yourself better when you get home from a trip.
Travel is your chance to find out more about what you love and who you are, and that can happen just as well on a three day city break as it can on a month-long adventure. I hope that as you explore this blog you’ll begin to learn how.
Some important notes on what you will and won’t find on this blog:
I’m a city girl through and through. I love cities. Love them. I’ve lived in San Francisco, New York, Madrid briefly, and London. I think cities are magical places and I definitely like to center my travel plans around them. Small towns are similarly enchanting to me, just not a place I could ever settle. On the flip side, you probably won’t find too much nature, camping, or hiking content here. When I said I’m a city girl, I meant it.
I left my backpacking, hostel staying, eating and drinking on a shoestring budget travel lifestyle behind years ago. My itineraries and guides are absolutely applicable for anyone on any budget, but you won’t find many specific tips about backpacking or budget travel here.
What you will find are my real experiences in places I’ve loved, my true opinions about any destination, and city guides designed to balance seeing the sights with relaxing like a local.
If you’re planning a trip sometime soon, explore my most recent posts here. And if you’re interested in learning more about how I plan trips and live while on the road, check out my ride or die travel resources here!
I hope to see you around here often ✈️