In March 2012, Kristin Addis quit her job as an investment banker in Southern California.
“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 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: The Guide to Solo Female Travel,” produced with Nomadic Matt‘s Matt Kepnes.
Below, she talks about the new life she built travelling the world: 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 price of her California life.
In Newport Beach, California.
'I had been saving for years,' Addis remembers. 'It was between putting money into buying a condo or travelling.' She managed to accumulate 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.
At Hohenzollern Castle, Germany.
'I've never had debt other than school debt,' Addis says. '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.'
In Maui, Hawaii.
'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.'
In Maui, Hawaii.
In 2015, Addis spoke to Business Insider about her post-banking life, explaining that she was earning about 40% of her banking salary. Now, a year later, she's more than doubled her earnings to bring in just as much as she did as a banker.
In the Dark Hedges, Stranocum, Northern Ireland.
She earns that money through affiliate sales from her website, sales of her book, and work with tourism boards and brands.
In the last year, as her authority and her ranking in Google has increased, she's seen the largest income bumps through book sales, affiliate sales from her site, and opportunities that have started to come her way through Instagram, like a 10-day project in Hawaii.
In Lanai, Hawaii.
She says she has a strict policy of only endorsing or working with products she 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 when she was earning 40% of her banking salary, Addis said she felt richer than she did when she was working as a banker.
At Elephant Sands, Botswana.
'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 says 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.'
At Aurora Estate, Finland.
'When I was making 40% of my old salary, I wasn't making enough to invest and put in retirement,' she continued. 'Now, I can afford to go to more expensive places. Now, instead of being the person who everyone's always hosting, I can pay it forward and host friends when they come to town.'
In El Chalten, Argentina.
'The beginning of my trip was about having an adventure and a sabbatical,' Addis says. 'Now it has to be about work, too.' She signed a lease on an apartment in Berlin to be her home-away-from-home, but finds she's rarely there.
In Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon), Iceland.
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.'
In the Sexten Dolomites, Italy.
Her site now employs five 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 South Tyrol, Italy.
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.'
In Bolzano, Italy.
The travel blogging industry is evolving quickly, and Addis says many of the things she did early on wouldn't be as effective today. But it's not too late for aspiring travel bloggers, she says. 'The way to stand out and be different is to focus on a niche. Think about the things you're obsessed with -- the things you would write about and read about and photograph no matter what -- and that's what you should do.'
In the Dominican Republic.