Out of Office: Rachelle, MormonAdventurista

Our Out of Office weekly feature profiles brave souls who have taken the plunge in balancing both a career in a 9-6 full time as well as pursuing a fulfilling travel lifestyle. Chat with me here if you're interested in collaborating.

utside of my favorite building in Olomouc, Czech Republic: St. Wenceslas Cathedral

utside of my favorite building in Olomouc, Czech Republic: St. Wenceslas Cathedral

Rachelle Gordon is The Mormon Adventurista, dedicated to exploring the world and her own backyard while working full-time. Born and raised in Southern California, Rachelle now calls Utah home, but fully embraces the saying “You can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the girl!” When she’s not exploring the world, you can find Rachelle teaching her Cub Scouts, trying out new salsa recipes, and working on her German!

1. Where do you work and what’s your role?

I currently work as an IT Manager for the University of Utah School of Medicine. I have a standard schedule, arriving at work around 7:30-8 and staying until 5, pending any projects. I’m involved with anything computer-related for over 3,000 machines. I handle all administrative, travel, and budgeting aspects of our department, and act as liaison with people we support. I’m also on-call 24/7. I’ve also been driving for Lyft, putting in anywhere from 10-20 hours per week, giving me that dreaded 60+ hour work week. I’m also very involved with my community: I am a Cub Scout leader for my neighborhood 8-year-olds and assist with the music in my local church.

2. Tell us something interesting about you people don’t know.

I was born with hip dysplasia, which means I didn’t originally have hip sockets. I had to wear braces on my legs until I was 9 months old, which carved small sockets in my “hip bone.” I have functioning hips now, but have had to deal with painful physical therapy and accept certain physical limitations. Because I have such small hip sockets, my flexibility range is limited: hiking and climbing up steep staircases is painful, but I don’t let it stop me. I utilize trekking poles and go at my own speed. I’ve been able to not only hike Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, but successfully hiked the Kalaupapa Trail in Hawaii: the world’s tallest sea cliffs. Although I will never be able to do the splits without popping my hips out of socket, I don’t let my physical limitation define how I travel and experience the world.

3. How many days of leave do you have?

At the University of Utah, we are given 10 state/federal holidays/university closure days, 2 personal preference days that don’t roll over each year, and weekends. Since I have been a full-time employee at the University for so long, I accrue 12 hours of Vacation PTO each month.

4. How many trips do you take a year for leisure?

My goal has always been to take one trip each month, whether it’s a day trip, overnighter, or an extended weekend. I also make it a point to take an epic birthday trip. About half of my trips are to Los Angeles to see my mom and brothers, and most of the rest are based on my bucket list. I am constantly looking at those websites that list the “only in your state” attractions. I think they’re fascinating!

I try to take an extra day or two off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, mainly because those are beastly travel dates and I try to be flexible and avoid as much of the holiday traffic as possible. My last couple of week-long trips have been for destination weddings that I have extended. I mean, why not?  

Discovering the Seven Magic Mountains just outside of Las Vegas, NV

Discovering the Seven Magic Mountains just outside of Las Vegas, NV

If I find myself taking a weekend road trip, I will usually leave immediately after work and drive through the night. Since I try to capitalize on my time off/weekends as much as possible, I try to not waste a whole day driving if I can help it. For example, I’ve almost perfected the art of driving from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles overnight. Since I don’t believe in driving while tired, I have a few favorite truck stops along the I-15 that I will pull over and take 1-2 hour naps. Yes, it delays my arrival, but driving through the desert with no moon at midnight is very boring, no matter how much Metallica you’re listening to. Plus, I don’t want to be a danger to myself or anyone else on the road by falling asleep at the wheel. Stay smart!

5. What’s your most memorable moment on a short trip?

I took a solo trip to San Francisco over Labor Day Weekend 2016. I was fortunate one day to find a free parking lot close to the Presidio and sat at a picnic bench right by the water. I had unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Downtown San Francisco, and everything in between. It was one of those rare, clear days. I pulled out my notebook and just began to write. Free-write, where most of what actually came out of my hand was straight from my train of thought. Not all of it made sense, but it was therapeutic. After about an hour of free-writing, I just watched the sailboats in the bay, criss-crossing in front of Alcatraz. The sun made the water dance and I marveled at where I was. Nobody was rushing me to move onto the next tourist attraction. Nobody was interrupting my thoughts. Nobody was jarring me out of my self-reflection. And most of all, nobody was peering over my shoulder at my horrendous sketch of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was at that moment that I solidified my desire to make solo travel not only an important part of my life, but a part of who I was.

6. What’s the one thing you’ve learnt in your job that travelling won’t teach you?

I am expendable in a company cog: I think I’m pretty awesome and one-of-a-kind, but not necessarily to employers. And I don’t mean this in a pessimistic way, so I will explain. I have the ability to form quick, deep relationships and can sometimes get attached to people. It has taken me a long time to figure this out. I wouldn’t want to seek out another job/better opportunity because I would have strong relationships with the people I was working with or reporting to, and I felt that I would be abandoning them if I left, even if it was a needed change.

After I would finally get a promotion or another job, it wouldn’t take long for me to realize that not only was the department/team still functioning without me there, but that they hired someone in my place…to do the exact same thing. I realized that I was just the person filling a cog in the department/team. After I learned this lesson, I accepted the fact that it’s okay for me to let go.

7. Conversely, what has travelling taught you that you won’t learn in your job?

People are genuinely kind. In the professional world (for the most part), people have agendas, manipulate others to get what they want, and aren’t interested in the person; they focus more on the job and task. The people I’ve met while traveling have been giving, loving, and rarely ask for anything in return. When I say thank you, I always wonder if they even process it: it’s like they are on a mission to make the world a better place, one person at a time.

I was taking a bike tour of Krakow a few years ago, along with 2 families from Ireland. During the course of the tour, we ended up at a small café in Kazimierz. Knowing I was a Mormon and didn’t drink coffee, they persuaded the worker to make me some hot chocolate as a surprise. After the tour, we were hiding out in a pub, waiting out a rainstorm. They fed me and made sure that I was set for the rest of my journey, only accepting my email address as thanks.

Watching the sunrise over the Haleakala Crater on Maui, Hawaii, just before biking down the crater

Watching the sunrise over the Haleakala Crater on Maui, Hawaii, just before biking down the crater

8. What’s your #1 tip about how to maximise travel out of your hectic schedule?

Vacations/trips don’t have to be long, drawn-out, expensive affairs. Most of my trips happen over the weekends and during holidays. Sometimes the best trips to take are within driving distance. Even just getting out of my hometown for a night is so rejuvenating. I try to make most of my trips short and over non-working days, which helps me to save up vacation PTO for those bigger trips that I take for weddings, etc.

9. What is your most memorable trip?

My most memorable trip was an overnighter to Zion National Park. I’m not a camper, but I agreed to camp with my friend at a random spot just outside of Zion. She wanted to hike Angel’s Landing and I tagged along, not understanding what it was. I detest peeing in the wild, try not to sleep on the ground, and am not an avid hiker by any stretch of the imagination. It seemed like this trip would be a disaster…or the makings of a great story.

When we pulled up to the trailhead for Angel’s Landing and I actually saw what we were about to do, I died a little bit inside. I knew it was going to hurt, on account of my hips. But I put on a smile and charged ahead. My friend knew I was a slow hiker and was unbelievably patient with me, encouraging me the entire way. When we reached the summit and were rewarded with the most awe-inspiring view, I realized that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way of achieving my goals.

10. Where are your favourite short distance destinations and why?

My favorite short-distance destinations are currently any place I can reach in a weekend via car. I love road trips and being able to dictate the speed I travel provides a freedom that I am quick to embrace. I live in the Western United States, home of wide vistas and dramatic landscapes. I have snow-capped mountains, the coast, deserts, farmland, and lush valleys all within a day’s drive. 

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