Travel blogging: My trip from navel gazing to sharing the world

I wasn’t always the insane, detailed planner that I am today. I didn’t understand how important or how strong my desire to travel was when I was younger. My parents remind me (often) that I almost didn’t even see the David when I lived in Florence for a month in high school (my first time abroad). The first time I went to Israel on a group trip, when I was 17, I didn’t know it would change my future. I never did too much planning, even when I moved to New Orleans for four years.

It wasn’t until I studied abroad for a semester in Prague, visiting 10 countries in 3 months, that I started to change. I was on my own, I wanted to experience everything possible, tourist and non-tourist spots, and everything in between. Most importantly, I wanted to remember my experiences and how they affected me. I wrote weekly long essays detailing every intricate activity, food and feeling I had.

When I came home, I knew I was obsessed with travel and put together a short guide and itinerary of what to do in each city visited. That guide was written seven years ago… and is still being passed around today. One of my friends just proposed to his girlfriend using it. I loved helping others experience the joy (or pain) that I had in my travels. This was the beginning.

It was in 2015 that I made a real change. I left my job in NYC and moved to Israel on a whim. I had no idea what I was doing. I had longed to experience the real Israel since my first visit six years prior. Not in the tourist way and not in the media way. And so I did too much research and made lists of what I wanted to see, learn and eat.

It was in Israel that my travel blog was born. It wasn’t even my idea. I was in Acre, a port city in the North of Israel, with my new friends I had made while living there. I had been the one they came to for restaurant recommendations in Tel Aviv and travel itineraries around Europe. It was helpful in making friends there at the beginning when I was alone. I was telling them about my solo trip to Paris the next week and that I had every single detail planned out down to the minute. And that’s when they said I should start a travel blog.

It never crossed my mind that there was a connection between always getting asked for my study abroad guide, for my restaurant recommendations in New Orleans (even when I don’t eat shellfish), and now for my Tel Aviv help. My friends started brainstorming blog names and they were relentless. I thought it was kind of silly. Who would actually read my website? Would anyone even care about my recommendations vs. TripAdvisor? But, then they had a name. Then, I learned to code a website. Then I started writing. A year and a half after returning home from Israel, I launched From East To West.

I give my Jewish upbringing and Israel-loving (and my neurotic spreadsheet-obsessed) self all of the credit. If I hadn’t had a strong desire to experience the real Israel, I would not have had the push from new friends to give me the idea that my tips were useful and to put it to use. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to stop writing and traveling. And my Jewish background impacts that every day.

When I’m making lists of restaurants to visit, I have to make sure there are non-shellfish and non-pork options. When I’m looking at places to see, I always hope to find a notable old synagogue. These are some of my favorite memories when I lived in Eastern Europe. I spent a Rosh Hashanah in Germany and a Yom Kippur at the Spanish Synagogue in Prague. And the extensive holidays I experienced in Israel, while so similar to the way we celebrate in America, are so, so different.

I became a travel blogger to share both my good and bad experiences, recommendations, and photos, because I know my planning is top notch (and excessive). I LIKE to do all of the research. And if it helps someone else have an epic trip, then I feel like I’m making a difference…and I have no intention of stopping soon. At 27 years old, I’ve been to 32 countries and I have a massive spreadsheet (obviously) of the places I want to go next. And I just visited Israel for the fifth time recently and know my future travel destinations will be influenced by my Jewish beliefs and background now more than ever.

Rachel Shulman is a seasoned travel blogger specializing in planning in-depth guides for destinations around the world. She has lived in 4 major cities in her 27 years of life (New York, New Orleans, Prague and Tel Aviv) and has traveled to 30+ countries with no intention of stopping soon. She owns From East To West, a travel blog outlining her travels and writing detailed, efficient guides and itineraries for cities and countries as well as reviewing locations, accommodations, restaurants and tips and tricks for traveling.