Israel is not only a place for enjoying the sunshine, the always busy beaches or joining the rapidly growing startup communities. The country, and especially Tel Aviv, also holds a vibrant and versatile event pool for women who are seeking some true empowerment. During my last trip, I attended quite many of these events and it would be far too simple to say ‘I went, got some empowerment, and left’. These events made me go out of my comfort zone, discover something new about myself and other women while connecting with women, who have fascinating journeys, inspiring stories, and exciting missions. One of these connections happened with Rachel Sales, the founder of Pink Pangea; the community for women who love to travel. And though Rachel does enjoy the sunshine and the busy beaches, her life is all about helping others; if not through pulling together real travel information from women to women, then by leading extraordinary writing, yoga, meditation and hiking retreats and workshops throughout the world.
Talking with Rachel quickly revealed that her good vibes are the result of a journey filled with conscious and unconscious changes in all aspects of her life. Here we look behind the scenes of Pink Pangea, discuss the need for women communities, the power of personal storytelling, how moving from New York to Tel Aviv demands some new traits or how the soon-to-be-mother Rachel embraces the forthcoming changes.
Virag on behalf of MissCareer/Less: Let’s start with your big move straight from New York City to Tel Aviv. It is not only a long distance in a flight but also in terms of cultural differences and vibes. What triggered your need for this change?
Rachel Sales: I grew up traveling to Israel a lot, and I always liked the culture, loved the people, and I loved the atmosphere. And I know it sounds strange, but I felt that Israel was kind of a lot more relaxed than New York. The daily life is more relaxed, the working life is more relaxed, people are more friendly on the street. New Yorkers are very aggressive and intense. And I liked the different life Israel could offer. So I just wanted to change I guess.
I am very happy how I grew up and I am happy with my childhood, and being in New York, but I was somehow seeing myself continue living a life that I already knew very well.
MCL: So you wanted to get out of your comfort zone…
RS: Yes, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted adventure. I wanted to try something new; a path that wasn’t taken yet.
MCL: You say you just clicked with Israel, but I am sure there were bumps along the road. What was the biggest challenge you needed to cope with?
RS: I think the biggest challenge – aside from being far from my family and friends, which, of course, continues to be a huge challenge -, was to figure out the way to get what I needed and wanted. And that’s pretty hard as an emigrant. Though I came knowing the language, and the culture, until you don’t live here you can’t actually know how the everyday life will affect you. When you move to a new country, everything is new and you have to be patient with yourself.
Say ‘OK, I don’t know how the medical system works, I don’t know how the electrical system works and I am gonna take one day at a time and to celebrate the small victories’. Like today, I made the doctor appointment. Yes! Celebration.
MCL: Any surviving or adapting techniques that work for you?
RS: I always encourage people to develop a persona that is a little bit different from the persona that worked for them back home. And this could be any little change such as changing the way you speak to people, for example, and then you kind of figure out what works for you in this new situation. Like here, in Israel, a lot of people get angry and scream and what I learned that screaming back is just totally counter-productive. What really helps is just breath, speak slowly, and smile a lot. And you get whatever you want. You laugh, but it’s true. And it was part of a process to figure these things out.
MCL: And you have not only moved across the Ocean but you’ve also shifted in careers. You’ve worked in tourism before and today you’re running your own entrepreneurship. What was the triggering factor behind this change?
RS: My two last jobs were both very entrepreneurial, which was a great training for me. One of them was actually a startup, so I got my own flexibility and end of the budget; once again, a perfect training ground for my current role. In terms of change, it really grew out from passion. What Pink Pangea represents is being a place for women to share their travels and inspirations from all over the world through their stories.
And now we also run workshops and retreats. I really believed in the mission of this site and we had like a 1,000 of women writing for us and we got all these amazing feedback that people were finding it helpful and asking for more. And then you just start thinking, this is what I want do all the time, not just in my spare time. And that was it!
MCL: Well this is quite dynamic and inspirational. Apart from passion what drew you to set up an own business?
RS: Of course, I do appreciate that Pink Pangea gives me the flexibility in work. And I think this is also the future of work in general. More and more people are becoming digital nomads and we see this in our Community as well. I really believe that if you are passionate, diligent and focused there are no reasons why anyone should not be able to do this.
MCL: Who did you turn to for support?
RS: I guess just all over the place. And it really changed from the beginning to now. I think from the beginning we had a lot of support for our idea as we definitely saw that there was a lack of inspiration specifically for women in this market. So we thought this had the need to exist. The feedbacks we got from our writers and that they were so excited to share their stories gave a lot of inspiration to us. It was huge! Then definitely my parents and my husband and my brother, they have been incredibly supportive. And of course, my business partner Jaclyn Mishal. I think it is crucial to know you have a person you are on the same page with and that you both want the best for your company.
MCL: Do you think women are willing to share their stories or do they need some push and encouragement?
RS: Both! We do have a lot of women who just reach out saying that they’d love to share their experience. But what we see in our workshops and retreats is that for some it’s not so easy to share. Many women would write but only for themselves. To put your heart out there for others to read is just so scary for many women. They’re afraid of the reaction they would get or what it says about them. But then this is kind of what we encourage women to do; we want them to go to their heart and write out their authentic story.
MCL: Why it is important to dig deep and get really authentic? Can’t I just write you a story what fits your site?
RS: It is important because you can tell someone to write about her week in Budapest, but if it’s not the story they really want to tell, you will feel it. And my partner Jaclyn is incredible in helping people to reach the place where they feel comfortable in sharing. She helps them to walk through what’s holding them back from sharing and it’s simply incredible. In every workshop, we kick off with an exercise before we actually start the real writing and we write out what holds us back. And there, in front of your eyes, people suddenly realize what they repress.
MCL: The mission of Pink Pangea and MissCareer/less are somewhat overlapping yet aiming at different areas of life. We both use storytelling as our creative and empowering tool. Why do you think storytelling is so powerful and so important?
RS: When we tell stories people learn things about themselves that they would not learn otherwise. And it’s especially true with writing. There is something special in writing that as you start you think you know your experiences and then as your write down all that, suddenly you realize something you didn’t see before. It really helps you to clarify things. And then people would read your stories and feel themselves in it, and this makes a greater connection with or within a community. It’s powerful!
MCL: Now, you not only listen to women but also help women. You run your own Pink Pangea retreats and workshops. Do you think there is a need for such events?
RS: Definitely! I think women are looking for a place to come together, to feel comfortable and share their experiences. At one of our greatest retreats in Venice what everyone said was that ‘Oh my God, we’re surrounded by women who love to travel, and we don’t even need to explain that’. Sometimes people think they need to feel guilty about their love for travels or apologize for it, and then they come to us and all of a sudden they’re not judged. All these women are big travelers, willing to look into themselves and they look for a framework to do that. And of course, in the day to day routines we can’t always take the time to sit down and write. So our retreats are to say: this is my time for writing. It’s an amazing chance for people who’re looking to be able to set that time aside and not apologize for that.
MCL: Who is your target group? Is it only the new generation of Millenials?
RS: To be honest in our retreats, we have women from 22 to 70. So all these women share something in common, and that is travel. So this is the group we try to attract, in general, people who are not afraid to see the world, use the off-beaten paths and share it. Also the multi-generational sharing does a lot. You can easily talk with people in your age and can expect similar ideas, but this way, it’s also a richer experience.
MCL: So we see that age is not playing a factor in the need for storytelling. Do you feel that there is any difference in the willingness to share among the various cultures?
RS: This is an interesting question. But no, actually, I have not seen that. Not at all. We have women – mostly English speakers, of course – sharing their stories, so our audience is primarily from the US, UK Australia, and Canada, but I would say that it really just depends on the person. Sometimes I can feel that they had had an amazing travel and they’re just not getting to the root of what they wanna say. They just need that extra push and that does not have to do anything with where they are from.
MCL: And you’re just about to experience the third fundamental change in your life within a short span of time. From a full-time business owner, you are turning to be a mother. How do you feel about the changes your new role will bring to your life? Can women have it all?
RS: It’s my first kid, so I absolutely have no idea what to expect. So I guess this is one of the things, where I am just going to take one day at a time and see how it goes. And also, what I have said before about being flexible in my job and being a digital nomad, I have a great position to make the two roles work out perfectly. I work from my laptop all the time, so it doesn’t matter where in the world I am, where I am seated or what time I work.
It gets very possible what I have to do and I also think that professionally, having a kid will open me up to new thoughts in terms of travels; you know like mom travelers. But already being pregnant is a whole new story and I’ve just written a piece about staying in a mixed room hostel as a pregnant woman. That was very idle thing of me. And it was the same thing when I became an expat. Every new experience opens you up to new ways of seeing the world, new ways of traveling, or new ways of connecting to your community and readers.
MCL: Life is constant waves of change. What helps you overcome your fear of change? But let’s give it a better frame: what are your 3 tips to embrace change?
RS: There are all sorts of changes, so it’s hard to say what the change is, but the only way to do it is: to DO IT. Just go for it. If there is a change in your life, just embrace it and then figure out how it can feel good for you. So this would be tip number one. Then there is writing. It’s really helping to get clarity in what you’re feeling and get all those emotions you store out and to put them aside. And of course, as a third element, you need support in your life; look for opportunities to share ideas, and this can be, a community, family, friends, or whatever that comfort you.
MCL: What keeps you moving on the blue days? Because regardless of every good, we all have them, don’t we?
RS: Definitely! I always try to come back to why I started Pink Pangea and what I feel it’s giving to the world, and how the stories that we share have an effect in the world. We have so many women say that these tips have helped them connect with other women and we have a very active group on Facebook where we share tips and empower each other. This is really helping and they all are making it grow and making it active. And this what’s it all about to see that it is benefiting them; if it wasn’t then we just would not do it.
MCL: What would be your advice to women who are about to take the leap of faith and make a career change to becoming an entrepreneur?
RS: First, they really have to be passionate about what they do. Then to research the marketplace for what they wanna do, check out competitors, get a sense of the environment, start doing some work on the site, see how does it feel, can it be a full-time job… And then, it’s not gonna be easy, and for some people it’s not necessary that they quit their job and have a full-time salary, but they can have a vision that this is to come. This is the hardest, but also the most necessary part. Giving it a chance! After all every business started from nothing and this should be its own inspiration.