Quitting the rat race to travel the world is a modern day dream for many people.
California-born Kiersten Rich, 31, made that dream a reality by turning her back on her corporate job in 2011 to spend three months backpacking across Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.
That trip would lead to almost nine years of solo travel and a globally successful blog – The Blonde Abroad – before she settled in Cape Town, South Africa earlier this year.
Ms Rich, who now runs all-female travel tours, revealed her favourite places to visit and explained what travelling alone is really like for young women.
California-born Kiersten Rich (pictured in Marrakesh, Morocco) quit her corporate job in Los Angeles to backpack across Australia in 2011
During her journey across Oceania, Ms Rich documented her adventures in an online journal to keep friends and family up to date back home, and soon crafted the idea for a full-time travel blog.
‘I came up with the idea for The Blonde Abroad in 2012 when I saw that being a blogger was actually a potential career path – something that would allow me to combine my love of storytelling and photography with travel,’ she told FEMAIL.
Solo travel gave Ms Rich a sense of independence, empowerment and ownership over her life she’d never experienced before.
‘There are few things as liberating and exciting as travelling alone,’ she said.
Ms Rich (seen here at Sydney’s Circular Quay) documented her journey across Oceania and Southeast Asia in an online journal
Her full-time exploring became the basis for her globally successful blog and Instagram account The Blonde Abroad
‘Being able to do what you want, when you want, is something that is so underrated.
‘When it comes to solo travel, you can choose whether you want to sleep in, fill your day with activities or treat yourself to a day of getting lost in a beautiful city.’
On the difficulties of travelling alone, Ms Rich said while you encounter emotional and financial challenges, there’s always a silver lining.
‘One of the emotional tests I sometimes feel is only having myself to blame if something goes wrong – but you tend to get over the travel hiccups quicker this way!’ she said.
‘Not splitting costs with another traveller can sometimes make it a bit more expensive, but I find when I’m travelling with others one person tends to get hung up on the ‘not so perfect’ stuff and it sort of kills the vibe.’
THE BLONDE ABROAD’S TIPS FOR TAKING PERFECT INSTAGRAM PHOTOS BY YOURSELF
1. Don’t be embarrassed when self-shooting – they’re your memories and you can’t expect someone to always be there to capture them for you.
2. Read up on the rule of thirds. It’s not the end-all-be-all of composition, but it’s a good guideline to work from.
3. Don’t skip the edit. I shoot in RAW to give more flexibility post-processing, and use my Lightroom presets for editing.
Source: The Blonde Abroad
Ms Rich (left, at the Rockefeller Centre in New York City and right, at the Pyramids at Giza in Egypt) said travelling solo empowers her and teaches her valuable emotional lessons
She admitted she only has herself to blame when things go wrong, but that forces her to resolve tricky situations quickly (pictured in Chefchaouen, Morocco)
And while she’s largely been at ease travelling alone, Ms Rich said there are times she is a little more mindful about her dress and behaviour.
WHERE TO TRAVEL – ACCORDING TO THE BLONDE ABROAD
For culture and food: Spain, Thailand, Croatia and Turkey
For adventure: Iceland, New Zealand, Namibia and Bolivia
For tropical relaxation: Indonesia, the Seychelles and French Polynesia
‘I’ve felt comfortable in most places I’ve visited and had a really great time meeting locals.
‘However, when travelling around more conservative countries, I do make sure to dress conservatively and respect their culture. I try not to flash my camera gear or valuables as well.
‘When travellers think a destination is ‘safe’, they tend to let their guard down and if they have a ‘bad’ experience, they blame it on the fact they heard it was safe.
‘Safe does not mean comfortable or that you won’t encounter different cultural norms that make you uncomfortable – that’s where things get a little misconstrued,’ she said.
While there’s no single country she advises against visiting as a solo female traveller, Ms Rich said she is mindful to dress conservatively in certain places (pictured on Mount Norquay in Banff National Park, Canada)
Her favourite places to travel include South Africa, Namibia, Iceland and French Polynesia (pictured)
Ms Rich’s favourite destination is South Africa, thanks to the endless list of activities to suit all tastes.
‘I fell in love with South Africa because there is so much to do,’ she said.
‘From beaches and safaris to wine tasting and huge foodie culture, there really is something for everyone. It’s why I moved there!’
She also recommended Turkey for culture, Bolivia for outdoor adventure and French Polynesia for tropical relaxation.
THE BLONDE ABROAD’S TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ON A BUDGET
– Get a city tourist card: Throughout Europe, local tourism offices offer tourist cards for discounted travel, attraction admission and restaurants.
Make use of tourist cards in notoriously expensive cities like Reykjavik, Copenhagen and Oslo.
– Take overnight buses: If you’re travelling long term, it’s likely you’re going to have some seriously lengthy bus or train rides along the way.
Take some overnight buses to cut costs on accommodation.
– Research freebies: Big cities, particularly in Europe, often boast a huge amount of free attractions like museums, art galleries and state buildings.
Many countries have dedicated online resources which tell you what’s available, like Belgium’s official Brussels Museums website or Paris’ official visitors bureau.
– Use credit card points: According to Ms Rich, one of the easiest ways to increase your travel budget is to use travel reward credit cards.
Choose a card affiliated with a large number of partner airlines to maximise your choices on where to fly.
For example, Ms Rich uses a Capital One Venture Travel Credit Card to build ‘Life Mile’ points through Colombian airline Avianca.
Avianca flies to 52 cities across North and South America, Europe and the Caribbean, as well as partnering with major carriers including United Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Turkish Airlines and SAS, meaning you can use Life Miles with these lines too.
Source: The Blonde Abroad
For rich food culture Ms Rich recommends Turkey, Spain, Thailand and Croatia (seen her eating noodles in Singapore)
For Ms Rich, the biggest challenge of travelling solo is making the decision to go.
‘Travelling solo changed my life! Rather than makeup excuses not to travel by waiting around for someone to join you, go solo,’ she said.
‘Be confident – you’re on your own for the first time, and it’s as daunting as it is exciting, so be sure to look confident and secure while you’re exploring.
‘You’ll look approachable to the right people and not an easy target for the wrong people. If you’re not feeling it yet, well, fake it until you make it!
‘You’d be surprised how many other travellers will strike up conversations with you.
‘My best advice is to talk to the waiter or bartender on one of your first meals out.
‘They’re some of the best resources for local tips and precautions to take when experiencing a new destination.
‘Just book your flight, pack your bag and go!’