Kristin Addis, widely known by her Instagram handle @bemytravelmuse, started her post-college career in investment banking, a field she went into right after graduating from University of California Santa Barbara. But after four years she started to get burnt out. She wanted to do something different in her life; she said she always loved writing and being creative, and frankly, investment banking doesn’t fall into that category. So, she quit her job. But now, she has the perfect profession: traveling the globe and writing about it.
“I had some savings and I just decided I was going to travel with it,” Addis said. “I’m making it sound simple, it was not an easy decision.”
After making this difficult decision, the first thing Addis did was go out and buy herself a DSLR camera, and shortly after started her blog to share her travels.
Since September 2012, she has visited 50 countries and is currently traveling around Europe. She recently stayed in Uganda gorilla trekking, but her favorite country so far has been South Africa because of its diversity in all aspects. Also, it’s inexpensive to travel there at the moment considering their devalued currency issue.
“I’m not trying to get the number high,” she said. “I tend to spend a long time in each country because I really want to see it, so I’m not trying to get to every country in the world, if that happens that’s awesome, but it’s not a goal.”
During her stay in these countries, where she settles in changes depending on the location.
“I love Airbnb, I will also camp sometimes, or sometimes I stay in a really nice boutique hotel, it’s just a mix,” she said. “Like if I have a partnership with the hotel, then I’ll sometimes provide them with a photo on my Instagram or coverage on my blog in exchange for a stay.”
She basically goes wherever the wind takes her, in that his destination plans are totally random. She mostly relies on word-of-mouth and suggestions from other people. Sometimes, she’ll see a perfect destination spot on Instagram accounts she follows and want to go there.
“I really like the outdoorsy Instagram accounts, so I follow people who I know are better than me so I learn from them,” Addis said.
The travel Instagrammer began using the app professionally about two years ago, and she normally takes photos with her DSLR camera instead of her phone. The reason she began using Instagram was because of Twitter, which at the time she hated how its program messed up her photo uploads.
Now posting to Instagram almost daily, Addis has some advice for travelers who either want to use Instagram as a business tool, or are just starting out and want to share their journey with the rest of the world. She said if you have consistently interesting content, there is a better chance you will be reposted by official accounts, like Travel & Leisure and BBC (and of course, the Resource Travel Instagram Account), which is what happened for Addis. She said when she started getting featured, she felt legitimized and gained real followers who truly wanted to visit the places she has been. That started a cycle that inspired her to travel and share her experiences even more.
“What worked for me, I followed people who I really admire, who I think are fantastic photographers and I learned how to take good photos. It all starts with having really great and interesting photos,” Addis said. “I’m still learning, I’m not saying I have amazing photos, I’m definitely inspired every day.”
Although Addis has over 94,000 followers supporting her on her adventure, she is alone on this journey. She has been solo traveling for around five years now and if she hadn’t made the decision to go alone, she said she would’ve waited forever for friends or someone to come with her, thus possibly missing out on this opportunity. She said at first, she didn’t want to go without companions, and begged people to come with her, but looking back, now she really likes solo traveling and can’t imagine doing anything else.
“You have so much freedom, you make all of the decisions,” she said. “If you wake up in the morning and you want to go, you go, and if you want to stay, you stay. You talk to who you want to talk to, you eat what you want to eat, you do what you want to do, and that is awesome.”
This entire experience has shaped her into the person she is today, and she wants to inspire other solo female travelers to take the same path she did. When she was 21 years old, she moved to Taiwan, and this was her first experience traveling by herself. She had a government scholarship to study Mandarin, but as far as living in the country, she didn’t have help figuring that out.
“That was really hard for me as a 21-year-old” Addis said. “I really struggled and I wanted to come home, and my mom said ‘you can do anything for three months, just stick it out,’ and then I stayed for eight and I loved it.”
Addis wrote a book about her experience called “A Thousand New Beginnings: Tales of Solo Female Travel Through Southeast Asia,” and has a section of her blog dedicated to solo female travel advice. She said the whole purpose of her career is based on getting other solo female travelers out exploring the world.
“You become really resilient, you learn what you’re made of, you learn who you are and what you really want, and I really strongly believe that everyone should try solo travel, especially women,” Addis said. “I think it’s really important for every woman to be by herself, to know what that’s like.”