Rachel Elizabeth is the author of Blond Wayfarer. She’s an English teacher suffering from travel bugs and flying phobias. Ouch. Blond Wayfarer was created to share her travel tips, love of literature, strength in face of her flying fear, and amazing personal growth overseas.
In The Beginning
I didn’t embark on my first international trip until 2009, but my love of travel began in my preteen years. I was a nerdy, book-loving kid so naturally I fell into the Harry Potter craze. As I absorbed myself into Harry’s world and wished for a Hogwarts letter to appear in my mailbox, I informed my mom that one day I would move to England and make a living as an architect.
Then, in high school, I took French for four years. I wasn’t the most ambitious student (understatement), but wanted to book the next flight to Paris rather than do my French homework. The cheese, the history, the museums, the Frenchmen (OF COURSE) called my name.
And yes, I’m still bitter my school’s French club didn’t take trips to France until after I graduated.
Fast-forward to 2009.
I had a rough first year at college and spent the remaining three years trying to raise my GPA to a somewhat acceptable number. I didn’t study abroad thanks to strict requirements for my double major. Plus I had a total guilt complex about upsetting my friends if I lived in a new country for weeks.
Not studying abroad has been my biggest regret in life.
Yet, during spring break, only weeks before college graduation, my mom and I took a trip to Bermuda. I fell in love with the warm people, pink beaches, and refreshing drinks. Bermuda was paradise. But more importantly, it was my first real brush with a world outside of New Jersey. A renewed desire to see faraway lands infused every pore of my body.
For many graduates, 2009 was the worst time to enter the workforce. I doubt I have to go into the reasons – especially for readers my age. So, instead of applying for unrelated retail jobs with my very practical English/sociology degree (ha ha ha), I returned to school to complete a teaching certification program and a Masters in English literature.
At the time, I figured teaching was a safe bet. After all, compulsory education wasn’t disappearing in the United States anytime soon. Besides, I was 22 and honestly had no idea what I wanted to do for a career. Teaching was better than nothing at all.
During these years my traveling horizons broadened. My mom and brother and I took on our first trip to Europe: England.
London, Bath, Brighton, Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon. We saw them all. Like most Americans, we opted for a guided whirlwind tour. I learned that England’s history and culture was far richer than just Harry Potter’s birthplace. The people’s dry sense of humor always sparked a laugh from me. The food was not horrible, and I learned that stereotypes about countries were not based in truth. Oh, and England’s literary history turned me into a giddy mess. I saw Charles Dickens’s grave in Westminster Abbey. I visited Shakespeare’s home. I walked the streets of Bath and hoped to crash into the ghost of Jane Austen.
On my last night, overlooking London from The Eye, I decided that I wouldn’t repeat the past and ignore my travel bug. I forgave myself for never studying abroad and planned to depart on a series of adventures, in spite of whatever challenges life threw at me.
My First Solo Trip
My family and I went on more trips together. My dad, who hadn’t been nearly as ravaged by the travel blog, came with us. We visited Italy, Belgium, and Luxembourg. Each and every trip touched my heart. Whenever we’d return home, delirious from our jetlag, I’d sneak away to my bedroom to plan my next adventure overseas. But, alas, no one pays you to plan your own trips.
At this time, I graduated with my masters and attempted to enter the workforce. I wanted to begin my career, earn disposable income, and move out.
I was a person who expected an easy life, one where point A always led to point B. At 14, I attended a rigorous prep. school. At 18, I went to my first choice university. At 22, I was accepted into graduate school. Now it was time to take on the professional world! Boy, oh, boy was I in for a ride.
Remember what I said about teachers always being in demand? Apparently that demand DID NOT extend to English teachers.
At the end of 2013, my confidence reached an all-time low. I accepted longterm substitute teaching work and vainly hoped that my devotion would result in a full time position. Yet, despite appreciation for my job experience and my amazing co-workers, I earned almost less than minimum wage, lived home with my parents, and faced losing health insurance.
For two summers in a row, I failed to secure a full time teaching position – regardless of my advanced degree and experience and applications sent all over NJ – and after several rejections, your self-esteem dies. You can say “oh, but it’s only the economy and budget cuts” until you’re blue in the face. But those realities don’t stop your brain from retorting with “no. you’re just not good enough.” It was also around this time that I developed my fear of flying, a devastating blow for a girl who loves travel.
Then one afternoon in May, I read a post on A Dangerous Business, about Haggis Adventures.
Haggis Adventures is a tour company that takes young backpackers to Scotland. At 26, I thought I was too old to travel alone in hostels. Besides summers were reserved for job hunting. My cellphone had to stay glued to me in case a school wanted to give me a chance.
However, in spite of my hesitations, I kept reading Amanda’s review about her Scottish adventure. The majestic scenery of the Highlands beckoned me until finally I booked a ticket to Edinburgh – much to the dismay of my bank account.
However, I wanted no more regrets.
To quote JK Rowling: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
I could deal with job hunting later. I wanted to travel for myself.
And it was the best decision I ever made in my life.
In Scotland, I met other backpackers. I wasn’t old at 26, either. In fact, on my Haggis Tour, my age was average and most of the group consisted of fellow solo travelers from around the world. We laughed, hiked, barbecued, and explored together. I developed strong connections with these people and the Scottish countryside that embraced me. My confidence, beaten and scarred, skyrocketed. I flew a transatlantic flight alone and didn’t break down. I walked the streets of Edinburgh in the midst of The Fringe Festival and laughed and cheered at performers from all over Europe. I posed on cliffs and saw puffins and ate Haggis. For some, Scotland may be a “safe” destination, but for a girl hanging on by a thread, it was like scaling Mt. Everest.
Life was beautiful because, unlike many of my peers in the United States, I had the courage to travel alone.
Attack of the Travel Bug
In November, only 4 months after my Scottish journey, I was in-between jobs and impulsively booked a solo trip to Paris; I guess subconsciously I was still bitter about not going on a French trip in high school. This time I didn’t hem and haw about the price of a plane ticket or a missed job interview.
Travel turned into my true passion, my number #1 priority in life.
Currently (2016), I have visited Bermuda, England, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Scotland, France, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, Portugal, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, and Iceland.
Suuuure, I haven’t been to many countries in comparison to the most prolific writers in the blogging sphere, but I’m determined to keep traveling at my own pace, in my own time. I am FASCINATED with exploring Europe, but one of my biggest goals is to reach every continent.
So why this website? I have always deeply admired travel bloggers for their passion, independence, and love of travel. I respect that these people live on their own terms, without following the rules and expectations that society has demanded for them to follow. This year (2015) I wanted to invest and develop my own travel blog. I hope to keep an active, thriving space for years to come.
My personal mission is to show others that no matter what challenges you face – whether it’s a lousy economy or stressful family situation or fear of flying – that you can still travel the world. Some people think you need to be super outgoing, single, brave, and responsibility-free to truly travel.
Well. I certainly don’t consider myself brave or responsibility-free, but I’m proof that you can travel too if your heart is set on it. In the United States, a common myth about the dangers and expense of travel batters our society, and it prevents many people from enjoying our diverse planet. I want to help dismantle that myth.
Additionally, I want to embrace and explore the concept of “literary travel.” I majored in English for a reason. I adore books. Books are the cheapest form of travel. Read the pages and you’re transported to another realm. Now I want to see, smell, and touch the places that inspired the world’s most influential authors and poets. I want to roam their homes, sip coffee in their cafes, pay respects at their final resting places, and wander their streets. My “literary travel” category covers sites of interest for us book nerds.
Thank you for joining me.
Other Facts About Me
- Although I joke about the “usefulness” of my English MA, I feel a lot more confident about my writing, editing, and speaking abilities. All those Cs on my grade 9 essays don’t phase me now!
- However, I am not a grammar wizard. What is a compound-complex sentence again?
- Unlike many bloggers, I don’t travel full time (yet) and currently reside in the United States.
- I watch “Locked Up Abroad” before every international trip I take. I’m so setting myself up for disaster.
- Growing up, I spent most of my summers at the Jersey Shore. Yup, I’m walking proof that we’re not all reincarnations of Snooki.
- I pretend I don’t have a NJ accent.
- I’m obsessed with Shakespeare’s tragedies, but can take or leave his comedies.
- If I could get away with it, I’d still totally go trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Although I accept press trips and gear/books for review, here are a couple important notes about my editorial policy:
- Freebies. If any products, services, or experiences have been provided at a reduced or non-existent rate in exchange for editorial coverage, that information will be clearly disclosed to my readers.
- Speaking of freebies… I’ll accept reduced/free trips and travel-related products only if they mesh with my own editorial goals. I have many stories to tell on this blog; most of these stories focus on literary and solo female travel as well as provide inspiration for anxious travelers. I won’t accept services that I wouldn’t be interested in myself. I only recommend products and trips of high quality. Remember: without my audience, I’d be nothing.
- Honesty. I’m opinionated. I tell the truth. No amount of money can change that. In other words, feel free to contact me for reviews and coverage, but also expect me to disclose my true feelings to my readers.
- I will not slander your competitors under any circumstances. Not in reviews, posts, discussions, etc.
- “The Plummeting Plane” on A Dangerous Business. Collaborative article is called “Bloggers and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Travel Day.”
- 5 Travel Blogs That Made us Pack Our Bags and Go on Travel Blog Success.
- Traveling Lives: Meet Rachel Elizabeth on A Traveling Life.
- Instagram: GORGEOUS photos everywhere!
- Official Facebook Page: Like me for travel updates, photos, tips, and other information about Blond Wayfarer.
- Twitter: If you have twitter, stay in touch here!
- Pinterest: I waste wayyy too many hours on here, pinning pretty pictures of faraway lands. Follow me if you’re interested.