We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel-Jean Firchau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel-Jean, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
It’s definitely changed in the sense that I am working so much more than I ever have before. I have a full-time job and I am the co-owner of a boutique creative agency, and in addition to this I run a blog called Rachel Off Duty which (true to my life!) is aimed at inspiring fellow women to get out and travel more, without feeling like they need to put their careers on hold in order to do it. It’s frankly, a lot. And I am doing so much more than I did even just a couple years ago. But in the world of side hustlers and multi-hyphenates, I personally believe work-life balance is a bit of a myth. But much like people who work 9-to-5 and go home to decompress, watch TV, read a book, and sleep, I think people like me who are trying to juggle it all need to understand that life is an ebb and flow. Long days or weeks of work are all too common in the world of driven people. If the work makes you happy, then the “myth” lies in believing that there is anything wrong with that! Of course, like with any individual, breaks, good sleep, and some boundaries are needed for sanity. In my case, I spent a long time in my earlier career rolling out of bed in the morning and working pretty much nonstop until 1 or 2 am. It wasn’t until recently that I established boundaries around working through dinner (I now use the time to catch up on shows I love) and checking notifications as soon as I wake up (my phone is now on airplane mode throughout the night). I will say, I think there’s an extra layer of pressure for women when it comes to the myth of work-life balance. Whereas men may have historically been thought of as ‘hard workers’ for working round the clock, women who work too much are considered to not be good moms or nurturers (or the inverse, women who are moms being perceived as not fully invested in their roles at work or worthy of promotions). Piece by piece, this narrative is changing. It’s important to recognize that anyone – man or woman – can be all the things they want, even if those things are not in perfect “balance.” Balance implies perfection, and in most lives when it comes to juggling careers and life and fun, there is usually anything but. In a lot of ways, that’s part of the excitement in it!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am the founder and editor of Rachel Off Duty, a travel blog helping women to see the possibilities of life lived beyond the 9-to-5. One of the biggest themes in travel is the idea of quitting your job to travel the world. While that’s absolutely possible and works for lots of people (including many of my personal friends), it’s not the only way to live a travel-filled life. My blog was founded on the idea that you don’t need to wait until you retire – or quit – to live the life you’ve always dreamed of. I created Rachel Off Duty in late 2015 to document my travels on the side while I began my career in social media and marketing. I was working at a small eCommerce company where I only had 10 days of paid time off per year, and even though I dreamed of flying all over the world, I didn’t want to put my ambitions on hold in order to do it. As my career progressed, I found new ways to seek out and prioritize travel, from taking on a new role with more flexible vacation time, to traveling specifically for work and conferences, to maximizing weekends and paid holidays and even working remotely. In the US, we’re conditioned to think of taking time away from work as a negative or stressful thing, when in reality, it should be anything but. Traveling while working full-time isn’t the easiest path. Juggling the expectations and responsibilities of work with being away from the office can create its own pushback. But I want to encourage anyone to stop letting life just pass by on the promise of “someday,” and start taking life by the horns. It’s been a true privilege building this blog into what it is today, and I love being able to combine my passion for writing and storytelling into something that resonates with so many other women like me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love taking anyone visiting Los Angeles for the first time to the Santa Monica Pier, LACMA, and a Hollywood sign hike to give them a taste of some of the city’s most iconic sights. From there, one of my favorite things to do is explore some of LA’s most lively neighborhoods on foot, like downtown, Abbot Kinney, and WeHo. I particularly love the Arts District in downtown and always have a great time at Angels City and Arts District Breweries (you can also grab a tasty bite here at Wurstküche or the Pie Hole)! In downtown, Guisados is the ultimate spot for a late-night taco and horchata. My personal favorite part of greater LA County is Long Beach. In Long Beach, you can get all of the great restaurant and bar quality of LA without any of the lines or traffic. Some of my favorite restaurants in Long Beach are Panxa Cocina, Lupe’s de la Mar, Ellie’s, Padre, and Thai District. And, last but not least, I always love Palos Verdes for anyone looking to experience nature while in LA. Palos Verdes is a beautiful Medditerranean-esque peninsula with rugged, craggy coastline and tons of hiking. I actually have a 2-day itinerary that I recommend to everyone, which you can find here: https://racheloffduty.
I have to give a shoutout to a handful of bloggers who I speak with on a daily / monthly basis. They push me to keep going, even when I feel defeated or stressed out balancing blog responsibilities with the responsibilities of a full-time job! They are – Mikkel of SometimesHome.com, Jen of JenOnaJetPlane.com, Lauren of JustinPlusLauren.com, Joanna of LoseTheMap.com, Laura of FindThePearlsTravel.com, Sarah of EndlessDistances.com, Ola of YourCruiseGirl.com, Jessie of JessieOnaJourney.com, Valerie of ValiseMag.com, and Sarah of AskaConcierge.com (though the list goes on and on). I also can’t forget about my other support team – my coworkers and managers at work who’ve believed in me since day 1, my boyfriend who helps me run my blog, and my friends who’ve grown with and pushed me along the way. Surround yourself with good people and the growth will be inevitable!