When Kristin Addis quit her job as an investment banker in 2012, she had saved about $20,000 in cash and $60,000 in retirement savings.
“I had been saving for years,” Addis told Business Insider. “It was between putting money into buying a condo or travelling.”
She chose travelling. Since buying a one-way ticket to Bangkok less than a year after leaving her job, the now 30-year-old has largely stayed on the move, documenting her journey through her blog, Be My Travel Muse, and sharing the expertise she’s gathered in her book, “Conquering Mountains: A Guide to Solo Female Travel.”
“I’ve never had debt other than school debt,” Addis said. “I won’t spend money I don’t have, and I don’t want to dip into funds meant for later. If I couldn’t make being a travel influencer work, I would have gotten a job before I touched my retirement savings.”
For the first few years, Addis lived off her savings. “I remember it was the 11th hour, I had been on the road for almost two years, and I got a contract that was good for $600 a month guaranteed for one year,” she said. “That was really the piece I needed. It still wasn’t enough to fully cover my expenses, but it gave me a cushion to look for more work.”
From affiliate sales from her website and sales of her book, plus her work with tourism boards and brands, she was earning about 40% of her banking salary in 2015. Even earning less, and working more hours than she did in California to accommodate periods of being “off the grid,” Addis said that she felt richer than she did when she was working as a banker.
“I think for a lot of people the most valuable thing in life isn’t cash — it’s something like free time or freedom,” she said. “I feel richer now because I have an opportunity to see new things and meet new people, which I really enjoy. I think it’s subjective, wealth and richness.”
Today, thanks to growing her business, she’s earning a low-six figure income equal to her banking salary, meaning she’s more than doubled her income over the past year. However, she finds life hasn’t changed much.
“I feel like you get to a point where you just have enough, and for me that’s great — anything beyond that just helps me have a bit more security for retirement,” Addis said of earning more today. “I don’t have five-year plan, per se, because so many things change in life, but it’s good to know one day I could buy a house or have a nest egg.”
Most of her new income has gone into the retirement accounts that she’s sworn not to touch until far in the future. However, there have been some perks.
“Before, I was limited to places that were at least cheaper than the US, but now I can afford to go to more expensive places,” she said. “Before, I would sublet €300 rooms in Berlin, but now I have my own apartment in Berlin in a really beautiful place on the canal. Now, instead of being the person who everyone’s always hosting, I can pay it forward and host friends when they come to town and be generous with people who were generous with me — and that’s nice to do that. These are the perks of earning more, and I hope to keep growing.”