Rachel S. Thurston’s feature articles, guides, reviews, and humorous travel stories have appeared in the humor travel anthology book What Color Is Your Jockstrap? (published by Travelers Tales in June 2006) along with writings by Susan Orlean and Tim Cahill as well as in theLos Angeles Times, Santa Barbara Magazine, Food and Home Magazine, Mix Anthology, and The Independent. She recently earned her Masters in Professional Writing from one of the top five graduate nonfiction writing programs in the country at the University of Southern California.
Thurston is a dynamic speaker and public presenter, combining humorous storytelling with insight into local culture and geography to off-the-beaten-track destinations like Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, Tibet, China, Chile, and Croatia. Her photography has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Independent, music material, websites, and been presented to college classrooms, retail stores, and public audiences for the past ten years.
She originally earned her Bachelors Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Miami University (Oxford, OH) with a focus in the Conservation of Natural and Cultural Resources. After graduation, she went on to work throughout the West as a river guide and wilderness instructor for commercial river companies and for Outward Bound (VOBS and COBS) in six states and along both the Canadian and Mexican borders. She continues to lead hiking, biking, kayaking, and wine country tours throughout the Santa Barbara area.
Her work and travels have taken her to 31 countries on six continents and exposed her to a variety of languages and cultures. She is proficient in Spanish and has also studied German, Italian, and Arabic. Her draw to travel in developing world countries—which tend to lack flushing toilets, respect for women, and stable currencies—is insatiable.
Although she has traveled both independently and with numerous ex-boyfriends, she has found in recent years that the best travel partner she has ever had is, surprisingly, her mother, who she has nicknamed “Mama Chihuahua” based on her fierce mothering instincts. The "Thurston Girls" now go on at least two big international trips a year during which they promise not to kill each other. Her mother's cartoonish temper is the subject of one of her latest travel humor stories.
“We’re both extroverted and we tend to meet a lot of great people on our travels," Thurston says. "At times, however, my push to talk to cute guys eclipses the quality time I should be spending with my mother. One night on a recent trip to Oaxaca she became angry I was hanging out with a cute German backpacker instead of journaling with her in our cabin; She accused me of 'using' her to meet guys. I couldn’t help but giggle. If meeting guys was my first priority then I can think of about 100 other much better ways to nurture my love life than traveling with my mother.”
Fortunately, Mama Chihuahua retains a good sense of humor when faced with being the occasional subject of her daughter's travel stories. "I'll have my revenge when I write a book one day," Mama Chihuahua recently told Thurston on a long distance, mother-daughter phone call, "and you'll be the one crying."
Since settling in Santa Barbara, Thurston has also been working for the Santa Barbara Adventure Company as a kayaking, biking, hiking, and wine country guide. She has competed with the Santa Barbara Outrigger Team in the U.S. Long Distance National Championship, and is the unabashed, lead singer of a popular retro rock n' roll band called "King Bee" which plays throughout popular venues along the coast of America's Riviera. Music continues to be one of her greatest passions.
Thurston's rich life experiences combined with a humble Midwestern upbringing lend a unique dynamism, zest, and panache to her travel writing and to her photography.
Preparing to feast on
homemade tortillas at
Rosarito, Baja California
Crossing a 16,000 foot
pass in East Tibet,
People's Republic of China China
Returning from a trek through
Los Pueblos Mancomunados,