Our first ever On the Road Interview Series featuring people with jobs that allow you to travel, takes us from Chicago to Isla Palenque, Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama. 25 year-old Rachel Kowalczyk explains us how making a living on the road is possible and how you can too!
- Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started to travel. Do you remember your 1st travel experience? Why are you (if that’s so…) passionate about traveling?
The first travel experience I remember… I remember being young, maybe 4, and waking up with a black eye. My family of five had crammed into a smallish tent at a campground somewhere in Wyoming. Dad’s foot gave an errant kick during the night and I spent the following morning with my face over his shoulder, ignoring the Yellowstone ranger delivering a safety speech and instead explaining to the folks on the log bench behind ours that “my daddy didn’t mean to kick me in the eye.”
- Now that we know where do you come from… could you tell us where are you heading to? Which are your plans for the future in terms of traveling?
There are many places I intend to visit one day – Bali, Egypt, Norway and Sweden, Japan – but I’m not pushing an itinerary. Presently I’m engaged in learning as much as possible about Panama, where I live and work full-time.
- What do you think of traveling with a purpose or meaning in mind? What do you look for when traveling long term?
The purpose of travel is to help you identify gaps in your understanding of the world, its rhythms and our place within it, and to obliterate these by connecting with cultures different from your own and with places other than those you knew growing up.
- How do you fund your travels? Have you found a job or income source that allows you to be on the road fulltime? Tell us what you do for a living.
I don’t make or spend all that much, but for all the modesty of my income and outgo I don’t think about cost when purchasing certain kinds of experiences.
Travel spending involves the cost of transport, dining, accommodations and excursions; these disparate costs ultimately add up to the purchase of a valuable experience when you make a point to seek out authentic properties that connect you with your destination, its people and culture.
To earn my way around the world, I edit: I work with writers and their words to express meaning more efficiently. Current projects include editing the manuscript of a new book that attempts to reconcile creation theory with the theories of evolution and intelligent design; managing editorial for The Ambler, a blog focused on experiential travel in Central America; and overseeing company communications for Amble Resorts & The Resort at Isla Palenque.
- Did your job, studies, volunteering experiences or other projects help you to travel the world? Where have you been thanks to those? If so, tell us a bit about those experiences.
Singing has taken me the farthest from home. I visited Rome, Sorrento, and Capri in 2006 with my high school’s Madrigal Choir. My voice vibrated some air in the Vatican, which was cool. This is all I have seen of Europe to date, and I want more.
Working for Amble Resorts’ The Resort at Isla Palenque has opened the door to my exploration of Panama, and promises further travels in Central America over the next several years. Amble’s second island destination, Zophora in Belize, is to be a small luxury ecoresort for avid divers who seek the depths of the Great Blue Hole.
- What would you recommend to someone who wants to follow your steps? Which kind of training or studies is necessary? Would an investment be needed in the first place? Please, give 3 pieces of advice (you wish to have known before starting) of what to do and what to avoid in order to succeed.
To secure rewarding work with opportunities to travel, you must understand your own strengths and weaknesses and continually work to develop your natural talents by applying them to something you believe in.
For your to-do list:
Read high-quality articles on a variety of topics.
I wish I had more extensive knowledge of sustainable design methods, real estate development, Panamanian history and indigenous culture prior to undertaking an editorial role at Amble, but my ass-backwards scramble through these has not proven entirely unsuccessful.
Let curiosity lead you through each new day.
You will end up someplace you want to be, whether it is traveling for a living, pioneering a great innovation, or contributing to efforts that achieve a positive impact.
Everything you do, do with humanity.
Patience and empathy are prerequisites for any job that involves working with others, particularly in the travel industry. Lives and livelihoods, big dreams and big expenditures play into the creation and consumption of extraordinary travel experiences. Everything hinges on the human element; accordingly, sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others is important for anyone pursuing a career in travel.
- What does a perfect day in your life looks like? Do you follow any particular routine?
Each day is perfectly imperfect. 😉
Small successes that put a smile on my face any given day include publishing things that reach the people they were intended to resonate with, connecting with others in sub-surface-level conversation and correspondence, and being surprised by nature. These things occur daily at Isla Palenque. Yesterday a wild Virginia opossum approached the hotel from out of the night jungle, prompting one of the waiters at the resort’s Edén restaurant to declare it a duende (a mischievous fairy, in Panamanian folklore).
The simple answer is that the perfect day begins with a hot cup of Panamanian coffee with just a touch of raspadura. Without it, I am lost.
- Where do you come from originally and where you call home now? Can you give us some local tips we cannot find in a guidebook but you highly recommend about your hometown?
My parents are from Chicago, their parents from Poland; my brothers and I grew up in the Chicago suburbs. The best places to hang out in Chicago are the Gallery Bookstore on Belmont, Reckless Records on Broadway, The Empty Bottle on Western and the Art Institute on Michigan. Hit the streets, people! It’s a very walkable city.
One lesser-known place worth dining is Mezcalina, the best authentic Mexican restaurant and art café you’ll find anywhere, including probably Mexico.
- Do you read, write, draw, listen to music, sing, watch movies or do something else while traveling? How do you interact with technology these days and which gadgets you definitely take with you everywhere? What is your favorite book? And movie?
Travel is enhanced by packing light. A couple of good books (bound, with pages you turn with your wetted finger) and an iPhone are sufficient to see me through most trips. I tend to avoid technology until doing so begins to negatively affect my life. The Red Shoes is a movie I’ll watch over and over. Books I love: Salinger’s Nine Stories or Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, David Byrne’s How Music Works, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, among many others.
- Do you keep a bucket list? Which are your (craziest) dreams? Where are your favorite destinations on earth? (feel free to add any other information you would like to share with our readers here)
I have a phobia of scuba diving so I have resolved to overcome this at some point. Also, I would like to become as familiar with the Spanish language as I am with English… that’s likely to require some dedicated effort.
Want to know more? You can follow Rachel’s blog and facebook.