From Business Suit to Bathing Suit, This Blonde Bombshell is a World Traveling Sensation
Written By: Alexandra Shubin
Photographed By: Valerie Kon
The Expert: Kiersten Rich
Credentials: Creator of The Blonde Abroad: An award-winning solo female travel & lifestyle blog
For a world-renowned traveler, a comfy home-style vibe is the perfect place to let your hair down and talk about past, present and future goals. That’s why Locale met Kiersten Rich (AKA The Blonde Abroad) at the ever so quaint and welcoming Queenstown Public House. Queenstown is smack-dab in San Diego’s Little Italy, but don’t let their location mislead you about the offered cuisine. Rather than serving up pizzas or pasta dishes, Queenstown serves New Zealand food. While traveling across the island country, the two owners stumbled upon what might be referred to as a ‘hole in the wall’ spot with delicious burgers and lamb-based dishes. The two then spent a week in the cut learning the recipes themselves, which provided the backbone for their restaurant. Like the original recipes, the restaurant’s location (which was once a home) has been preserved for admiration. It’s classic, welcoming, bright and even has a cheeky sense of humor — an appropriate location for a brunch rendezvous to discuss business and travel.
When I first met up with Rich, she was vibrant, relaxed, but completely urbane. We spoke amply for probably far too long, and all I could think was, no wonder this girl is so successful. What started as a simple online record to keep her mom updated on her escapades and whereabouts has transformed into one of the world’s most reputable globe-trotting blogs. Rich now has a staff that helps her manage her content, so each aspect of her business has a continuously updated semblance. She travels about 8 months out of the year, and uses her time to brand herself as not only a traveler but also a fashionista and music festival aficionado. And the gal is business minded; she understands what it takes to build success as she is the one who launched her website and branded her multifaceted image. Her blog and media outlets are an array of both what she refers to as “organic” and “inorganic” material. She not only posts photos of her travels, shares stories and advice, but she hosts giveaways and does promotions.
So what’s the deal? How did she do it? For starters, it seems like she just let her spunky, spontaneous, and possible Type A freak flag fly! Rich exemplifies hard work, but there is something else about her character — she doesn’t try to pull a fast one on you. Just because she loves adventure and travel, she doesn’t force herself to fit into a mold. I couldn’t tell you if she owns cargo pants, but she’ll tell you first hand that she brought heels on a hiking trip. She is here to be herself, give her audience what they ask for, and live her own dang life how she sees fit. Anything else seems like an excuse, and that’s quite honestly charming, genuine and refreshing.
Q: Explain the process of intertwining blogging and traveling?
Kiersten Rich: Travel came first. So when I left my career in finance, I moved to Austria on a whim to start to re-discover what I was passionate about. I kept my online blog, but it wasn’t until about a year later that I discovered ‘blogging’ was a thing. Before that, I just kept it so I could tell my mom that I was alive while traveling through Southeast Asia.
Q: How have your interests changed over the years while traveling?
KR: I’ve become much more confident as a traveler. I used to be very Type A with my flights and accommodations needing to be planned, but not I now arrive somewhere and I don’t even know where I am going to stay the night. It’s changed EVERYTHING. You’re there to meet people and see things. It’ll all work out. Maybe it means I stay out all night. But I let my interests lead what I do instead of the other way around.
Q: What advice would you give to new travelers on obtaining that confidence?
KR: Approach people! One thing I tell my readers is that it’s okay to have a plan, but one of the easiest ways is to keep it loose. For example, if you would like to spend one week in Europe, then you should know the region, but then let it go from there. Hostels are great because you have a group of 50 people right there to talk to. Meeting new people seems strange, but it just happens. Someone will always talk to you, or you talk to them. There is always something you’ll connect about. You just have to have the courage to strike up something.
Q: Is there anywhere in the world you aren’t interested in visiting?
KR: Umm, yes and no. It always changes because my next location is based on priority. At some point, there has got to be someone at the bottom of the barrel. It’s just that a lot of places are too emotional or take a lot of planning. I know I would love to go to some places, but it would require me to stay a minimum of 2 months to get the full experience and set up places to volunteer.
Q: What is your current priority?
KR: South Africa; it’s the one continent I haven’t hit. It’s my 2015 ‘I gotta get there’ destination. And I want to go to Japan in a big way.
Q: Do you feel like making your passion into a career has muddled the experiences you ultimately wanted to obtain?
KR: They say don’t cross the two. You work so much, so when do I just step aside and take a trip for me? It got to a point where I wasn’t traveling for me anymore, and it was just work. I worked so hard to get these opportunities, so I worked even harder to make them work for me. This year, I have not stopped traveling for work, but I extend those trips to get the local’s experience. It’s a constant balancing act with the assignment. This year, I am sort of just going to take the trip to not worry about making money.
Q: Being so popular within the travel community, do you ever feel limited to what you can post on the Internet, for example, Instagram?
KR: There is the commitment to my social media outlets. My Instagram is a branded account; it’s curated. It’s travel and only up to a certain extent is it personal. As much as sometimes I want to just post about my best friend’s birthday or something, I have to be honest with myself and realize that’s not what it’s branded for.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is worried about financially affording to travel?
KR: Money I think is the number one thing with travel, and I think the problem is the same in the beauty and the fashion industry. You can’t tell someone they can’t look pretty because they don’t have the money, but we all find ways around that. You can go to Forever 21 and not Chanel. We make it work for us with clothing, and we can make it work for us with travel, too. It’s a conceived luxury, and that’s part of what I think I’ve proven. American media has portrayed things to be expensive, but it can be done. If you want to travel, then skip brunch and don’t get your nails done. I’m not going to go shopping to make myself feel better about the job I don’t like to work at. Set aside 20 to 30 dollars instead. You can’t have it all. There is compromise. Budgeting is so important.
Q: How do you incorporate your normal routine into traveling?
KR: Time, trial and error. I ultimately never unpack my toiletries, or change what’s in my carry-on. I’ll always need a neck pillow and hand lotion. I believe that less is more, but I also pack what I want. I think that’s why my blog has become more successful — I write for the normal girl.
Q: What was your first major epiphany while traveling?
KR: You can have a lifestyle where travel is a part of it. Even if it weren’t my career, I’d make travel a priority. Travel helped me re-define something that was freelance. My ah-ha moment was, “Wow I can actually pursue something I am passionate about, and I’m good at it!”
Q: You often travel alone, but what is something you enjoy about traveling with a companion?
KR: Solo traveling can be more social, so when I find a really good travel buddy they already know what I’m into. Plus it’s nice to do nothing with someone and share experiences.
Q: Do you ever think you’ll get burnt out?
KR: Yeah. Straight up. It’s with anything that you combine passion and work. You lose that sort of organic, raw passion. The lines are blurred. There are definitely times when I don’t want to live out of a suitcase. I’m close with my family, and I have an amazing group of friends. I don’t always have to be traveling. I don’t need to prove anything, and sometimes I need to just lower expectations for myself. The good thing is, I’ll never give up on my brand. It’s bigger than the blog. And if I traveled less, I’d actually have more time to work on that. Plus, I don’t need to travel to make more content: I’ve maybe written about 10 percent of my travels.
Q: What else can we look forward to from you?
KR: I’m really focusing on my female audience. I want to cater to their requests and their preferences. I want more content for them that’s practical. Also, more video content and getting them involved, like opportunities to travel with me!