This column, Escape Artist, is a series about folks who have escaped. More importantly, this biweekly column is for those thinking about trading in their 9-to-5, leg-shackled-to-the-desk existences to forge their own way. The brave outliers featured in this collection of interviews are the digital nomads, online entrepreneurs and lifestyle trendsetters who decided it was time to say to hell with the humdrum and grab life by the roots.
Kristin Addis runs Be My Travel Muse, a travel site that focuses on solo female travel and the nomadic lifestyle. Addis, a native Southern Californian, looks for authentic travel experiences by talking to locals and delving deep into local culture.
The “escape the 9-to-5” mentality seems to be popular now. What are your impressions?
Kristin Addis We have a much greater opportunity, for those who work online, to be location independent and not have the 9-to-5. It’s not just the ability to work from anywhere in the States, if that’s where you’re from, but to work almost anywhere with a strong enough Internet connection, which becomes easier month-by-month.
What was the “aha” moment that sparked this idea of travel for you?
KA I started my travel blog in 2012, and the idea came a year before that when I had shoulder surgery. It made me realize that life and health is short. Travel had always been a dream, so why wait until retirement or my 60s? I was laid up in a chair for months with my arm in a sling, and I realized I couldn’t wait on this because life isn’t a guarantee. Back then, I had an investment banking job that I didn’t love, but I stuck with it because I thought it was what I was supposed to do. What you’re supposed to do is use life to honor yourself and what you need. I needed some freedom, and not long after I healed, I quit and started a sabbatical. I started a project, which became my blog.
How does a life of travel compare to your life before you got on the road?
KA I feel more fulfilled and happier now. Before, I would wake up on Sundays and think about how Monday was the next day, and every single day I would count down how many days of work were left until the weekend. I spent my existence not enjoying it. Now, the amount of work has increased, but I have the ability to do creative aspects where I work a ton and then go off the grid to travel. I wake up excited.
Why did you decide to focus on “solo travel” and the “outdoor lifestyle” as niches?
KA As a woman who travels by herself, the solo female travel niche happened without trying. The adventure and outdoor aspects are what I love to do. What people want to connect with is an authentic experience, not the tours that give you the same photos as everyone else. They want a real transformative experience. Not everyone has time to search for that, but I do, so I spend a month in a location and share tips on my site so people can plan their trips based on my leg work.
Do you have a favorite travel spot you’d like to share with Paste readers?
KA I love South Africa. I haven’t always been able to answer that question, but South Africa has it all — mountains to hike, gorgeous beaches, and so many different cultures. People were amazing hosts when I spent three months there in 2015.
The “dream job” and “travel blogging” mentality is becoming more popular as well. Does the market seem saturated?
KA It was already saturated when I got into the market, which was at the worse possible time. Instagram was just starting but not popular yet, and now people are building their whole careers there. Many bloggers were writing about the same things and had the main goal of getting free press trips. Now it’s easier to get paid for your work, sell photos, or have partnerships with brands. Brands are starting to tune in to the power of new media in a way they weren’t doing four years ago. That’s created a shift where people can grow faster if they’re smart about their niche.
When I started, I did travels that others weren’t willing to do, such as hitchhiking China, and now I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica. I connect with the adventurous and sporty nature of travel rather than write luxury hotel reviews or take tours. When people want to create their own adventures, my site is a good resource for that. Not as many female bloggers are writing about this alternative way of travel.
What’s one tip you have for readers who want to live a life like yours?
KA The hardest part is deciding to do it. I took quite awhile to decide. Once you trust yourself to come up with ideas and have a plan for yourself, you have confidence to act and the rest falls into place. It sounds overly simplistic, but I’ve seen it happen.
What are you most excited to focus on for the rest of 2017?
KA I’m visiting new countries in Uganda and Rwanda and focusing more on video and my YouTube channel. I don’t have plans for the travel — I’m just going to jump in and see what happens. There are a few unknowns, but I’m not worried.
Carolyn Crist is a freelance health and science journalist for regional and national publications. She writes the Escape Artist column for Paste Travel, On the Mind column for Paste Science and Stress Test column for Paste Health.