“Firstly, stop dreaming about it and start planning for it. Just say to yourself. ‘I’m going’. There will be so many unknowns and you really just have to make it up as you go along. Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?”
– Rachel Bale
Travel Writer and Blogger
Rachel Bale is an Australian Travel Writer who moved to Berlin three years ago. She found herself in a job that crushed her inspiration and creativity and made the huge decision to put everything on the line and quit her job. Rachel transitioned into full-time freelancing life, growing her popular travel and lifestyle blog, The Department of Wandering, and focussing on her career as a writer. She now writes for a number of print and digital publications including New York-based fashion, Travel and Lifestyle Magazine and Electrify to name a few. Read on to find out more about Rachel and her work.
Tell us about The Department of Wandering and your journey so far.
I had always wanted to write (I majored in Professional Writing at University) but ended up initially pursuing an English teaching career instead. After teaching for almost five years in Melbourne, my partner and I moved to Berlin for his work and I took on a teaching position there too. The Department of Wandering was launched around the same time, primarily as a creative outlet for me, but I didn’t realise at first how it would unlock such a passionate creativity in me. Concurrently, while I was burning out in my teaching job and really struggling for many reasons, all I wanted to do when I got home every night was write and work on The Department of Wandering. It was growing fast and more and more opportunities were coming my way and so I took the plunge, quit my job and began giving it the attention it deserved. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and for the first time in my life, I feel totally fulfilled, inspired and happy.
What thoughts were going through your head when you decided to leave your job to move overseas?
To be honest, the only thought in my mind was ‘how many more days until the flight?’ I had been stuck in a rut for a while before my partner and I decided to take the leap and move and I honestly couldn’t wait to get away and go off on a big adventure. It was quite stressful leading up to the move, however, with packing up our apartment and managing the emotions of others around us.
Favourite place you’ve ever travelled?
This is a tough one because every destination has been so different and has made its own imprint on me. I’m tossing up between Paris and New York City – two cities I could live out my days in a heartbeat.
What helped you in the process of following your dream?
The most important thing that led me in the right direction was working a job I hated in Berlin. It was such a battle to drag myself out of bed every morning and I would constantly be asking myself, ‘Don’t I want more than just… this?’ Friends would suggest ways I could better cope at work, but I would always come back to the idea that I wanted to feel fulfilled and inspired by my work and that I really shouldn’t need to implement coping strategies just to get through the day. A few events happened after that that I clearly saw as the universe’s way of pointing me down a different path and before I knew it, I had handed in my resignation and had taken the shaky first steps in the freelance world.
What inspires you?
Instagram is a huge inspiration – I’m always discovering new and beautiful destinations here. Surrounding myself with other bloggers or creatives is also hugely inspirational because they just ‘get it’, you know? It’s so valuable to bounce ideas off one another. I also love following other travel bloggers and reading their travel stories. Everyone has such a unique way of seeing the world.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
Working for yourself comes with a huge range of challenges. You really need to be motivated and inspired in order to remain productive. You don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder – it’s up you to motivate yourself! I also find that when my routine is disrupted, I can’t get into the right headspace to work. My partner also works from home, which is great for our lifestyle, but is also dangerous for distractions. We need to have our own very distinct working spaces and follow our own rhythms for us both to be productive.
Have you encountered burnout and if so how did you deal with it?
I definitely encountered burnout in my last job, which was part of the reason why I resigned and began to pursue The Department of Wandering full-time. I haven’t experienced anything remotely like burn out as a freelancer though, which tells me I’m definitely heading in the right direction. Whilst I used to dread Monday mornings with a passion, they’re now my favourite time of the week – the week ahead is just bursting with opportunity!
What message are you trying to share with your work?
You don’t have to live your life the way society or other people expect you to. Take risks and create a life you don’t need a vacation from.
How do you deal with criticism?
If it’s constructive criticism, I’m all ears, but if it’s just negativity, I brush it off. It’s impossible to please everyone and I wouldn’t want to! I just do what feels right for me and if not everyone loves it, that’s completely fine!
What is it that you love about blogging?
I love every aspect of the creative process of blogging. From the writing to the photography, the interaction I have with readers to working with brands and tourism operators – it’s so fulfilling to be able to create content that generates a positive connection with my audience. The days I spend sitting down to blog are some of my most favourite.
What advice would you give to people considering making a big move abroad?
Firstly, stop dreaming about it and start planning for it. Just say to yourself. ‘I’m going’. There will be so many unknowns and you really just have to make it up as you go along. Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ The worst thing will be that you won’t like living abroad, but then you can simply come home. Chances are though, that it will be one of the greatest experiences of your life.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
Trust what feels right. Your heart knows.
What are you most excited for in the future?
I’m super excited to see where The Department of Wandering goes from here. This year, there are some big, new launches happening and I’m so excited to see it expand! I’m really excited to see my brand continue to grow and to make the most of all new opportunities that come my way.