In March of 2012, Kristin Addis quit her job as an investment banker in Southern California.
Before she left, she’d been earning six figures a year, including her commission. However, she remembers, she wasn’t happy with her lifestyle.
“It was hard for me when our paid time off was only 14 days per year,” she tells Business Insider. “We’d go to the office puking our guts out because we didn’t want to use our vacation time being sick. I felt back then like even if I wanted to, in that 14 days, I wasn’t really allowed to take it all at once. I felt like ‘What is this money worth if I don’t have the opportunity to spend it on what I want?
“I thought there had to be more to life than that.”
So she set out to find it.
Less than a year later, Addis bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok, planning to travel overland through Southeast Asia. Since then, the now-29-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: The Guide to Solo Female Travel,” produced with Nomadic Matt‘s Matt Kepnes.
Addis spoke to Business Insider about her post banking life: what it looks like, the reality of working on the road, and how she affords it.
Addis, who had lived in Taiwan when she was 21 to study Mandarin, started her trip in Southeast Asia because she’d read a traveller could get by on $1,000 a month, a sharp drop from the $3,000-$4,000 a month her California life cost.
“I had been saving for years,” Addis remembers. “It was between putting money into buying a condo or travelling.” She managed to accumulated around $20,000 in cash, plus about $60,000 in retirement funds, which she says she won’t touch until it’s time to retire.
In Hvítserkur, Iceland.
“I’ve never had debt other than school debt,” Addis says. “I won’t spend money I won’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.”
In Ásbyrgi, Iceland.
“The beginning of my trip was about having an adventure and a sabbatical,” Addis says. “Now it has to be about work, too. If I do feel like slowing down, I go to Berlin, where I have residency. But in the past one and a half years I’ve only been there about six months.”
In Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon), Iceland.
Between affiliate sales from her website, sales of her book, and work with tourism boards and brands, she says she earns about 40% of her banking salary, and it’s growing.
In the Dark Hedges, Stranocum , Northern Ireland.
She says she has a strict policy of only endorsing or working with products she comes across on her own and likes, and of working with brands and bureaus in unique ways that allow her readers to learn from her experience.
Scuba diving in Belize.
“Even earning less, Addis says she feels richer now than she did when she was working as a banker.
Sitting on a cracking terrace, watching a wild African elephant as he makes his way to the watering hole. It looks like he could charge right at me, but it only takes a barrier just a few feet high to keep me more or less protected. Elephant legs can't lift that high. Be and let be. No cages, no metal bars, no domestication if you love animals, then Botswana is the place
At Elephant Sands, Botswana.
“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 says. “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.”
At Innsbruck-Tyrol, Austria.
Now, she’s once again able to contribute to retirement savings, although not to the level she used to. One of her goals for 2016, she says, is to increase her savings.
Skydiving in Namibia.
“For a few years there I was living off the savings,” Addis says. “Thankfully I was keen to save for a rainy day back when I was 22 or 23. 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. 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,” Addis remembers of that first contract. “Little by little, I was able to start turning down the lower-paying freelance roles, and now it’s rare that I take one.”
One time, #IWasSoTired from long driving days stuck in traffic, I fell asleep on the sand in #Zanzibar. When you travel and work at the same time, sometimes sleep is the first thing to go! Can you think of a time when you were so tired that instead of enjoying a perfect view, you fell asleep too? #ad @Tylenol wants to know your stories! Share a photo or video of your sleepless confessions using #IWasSoTired and #sweeps.
Addis says she works longer days now than she ever did in California, but manages her schedule to accommodate periods of being “off the grid.”
Canyon swinging in Victoria Falls, in Zambia.
Her site now employs three part-time workers who contribute to its behind-the-scenes operations remotely.
At Coffee Bay, South Africa.
Addis decides where to go next on the suggestion of the people she meets. She says she never consults a guidebook — instead, she prefers to leave her trips open-ended and find out where locals like to go.
In Aachen, Germany.
Her advice for someone who wants to follow a similar path: “Figure something out that you’re really really good at, and figure out a way to market that skill online,” she says. “Or if it’s more mechanical or physical, consider a working holiday, or teaching English, whatever skill you have that you can be creative about and use around the world, because chances are pretty good that you can figure out a way.”
She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess. A drop of free water. She belonged to no man and no sea – Roman Payne Drops of free water at Lago di Braies in Italy Next sharing photos in Switzerland as we follow the wanderess, my grandmother, via her journal around Europe. Follow along on snapchat! ? krislikewhaat
At Lago di Braies, Italy.
And, she advises, ease yourself into the nomadic lifestyle. “You’re more adaptable than you think, so if you really want to travel the world on a shoestring, just try it, even try for a shorter term. If you like it, you can save up to travel for longer.”
In Landmannalaugar, Iceland.
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