Off The Beaten Path Interviews

An inside look at Earth’s explorers

Kristin Addis is a former investment banker who quit her job, sold all of her belongings, and bid the life she knew goodbye in favor of searching for off-the-beaten-path adventures in Asia. She runs the travel blog Be My Travel Muse, she’s a SCUBA addict, humble student of Mandarin, passion fruit enthusiast, and above all, an adventurer. She plans nothing, and simply lets things fall into place.

Meet Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis - Burning Man

Feelin the burn – at Burning Man Festival.

You’re first solo trip involved selling everything you had and moving across the world. What inspired such an exciting and extreme decision?

I always thought through my teens and early twenties that I wanted to climb the corporate ladder and become a force in the business world.  I got a job at age 16 and never stopped working after that.  Even during my university years, I still took summer school classes, kept a part-time job, and hated taking breaks.  I got bored and felt like I wasn’t getting any closer to my dream.  Then, I started in working in an office, reaching the milestones I thought I wanted to reach, only to realize that none of it made me happy.  In fact, the opposite was true, I can barely separate age 22-26 in my mind these days.  It all seemed to be spent in a cubicle. I’d sit in traffic on the way home thinking to myself, “is this really it?”  I certainly didn’t think that I was living the dream, despite the nice cars and fancy purses.

Finally, I injured myself and needed surgery.  It gave me a forced month off from everything and nothing but time to reflect on how I had been spending my youth.  I decided that I had to make a change, and a drastic one.  So, I did.

What was it like to backpack for the first time? What socio-cultural paradigms shifted for you while traveling with your life on your back in Asia and Oceania?

It was strangely liberating to sell off most of my belongings.  I only retained a car and clothing before taking off on my trip (I have since sold the car, a big step for a Los Angeleno!) Backpacking made me realize that I didn’t really want or need anything that I couldn’t fit into a backpack.  It also helped that most other travelers were just like me – wearing light cotton clothing, emancipated from brand names and consumerism, and just trying to stretch every dollar so the trip never had to end.  Southeast Asia does that to people – makes them realize that life can be incredibly simple and amazingly rewarding all at the same time.

Kristin Addis - Sak Yant bamboo tattoos

Showing off her Sak Yant tattoos

What does off the beaten path mean to you and is it important to your travel philosophy?

I didn’t realize I favored off the beaten path travel until my third month of backpacking in Southeast Asia.  I found that every touristy spot irked me to no end and, while I enjoy a party destination from time to time, the places I liked the most were spiritual, had zero resorts, were largely unbuilt, and had untouched natural beauty.  These days, I find the best things I do and places I go come from other travelers, not guide books.  I listen to what they loved the most and head there to check it out.  I’ve almost never been led astray, and have found awesome off the beaten path gems this way.  It seems to me that the places that nobody knows about yet are the ones I feel the deepest connection to.

What do you do or where do you go when long-term travel burn-out sets in?

I started to feel a little burned out around my seventh month of traveling.  I had finished my third month in Thailand and started repeating some of the same places.  I was sad to see that they lost their charm for me.  Once I crossed into Malaysia, however, my wanderlust was renewed.  I just needed a change of scenery. I’m not good staying in one place for long or repeating.  I really do need to move. I guess that means long-term travel burn out hasn’t yet hit me after about a year of traveling.  I’m sure it will, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

Kristin Addis - hitchhiking a ride

Hitchhiking a lift from some locals

You’re a self-proclaimed scuba enthusiast. When did you first fall in love with scuba diving? Why are you so passionate about it?

The first place that really turned me into a junkie was the Blue Hole in Belize. I love seeing sharks when I dive, and that was the first time I had ever seen them. We did two other coral wall dives that day and I was absolutely blown away.  It’s an entirely different world down there and to me, it’s the ultimate traveler’s hobby. I love seeing what’s above and below the surface.

In the past year I logged about 60 dives in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  I saw several octopus change colors, a Manta ray came so close to me that it almost touched me, I swam over a sea turtle the size of a car, and descended into the blue with nothing around me – just water.  The feeling was incredible.  I started twirling and somersaulting and smiling as tears flooded my mask.  It’s hard to explain why that made me feel so incredible.  Maybe it was finally living out my childhood dream of being a mermaid.

Do you have a gadget you can’t live without?

My computer!  I guess it’s fair to say that I still haven’t stopped working, but my travel blog, Be My Travel Muse, is a labor of love and I really enjoy taking time out to write and build a business on the road.  My Nikon DSLR would come in at a close second.  Since I only travel with carry-on luggage, I don’t have room to buy souvenirs.  My photos and blog are all I have, other than the memories.

Kristin Addis - Dancing in a sari

Dancing around in a sari

Where are you now and what’s on the horizon?

I came back to California, where I’m from, to see family and friends and to attend Burning Man, which is something I like to attend every year.  I thought I’d slow down but I haven’t spent more than a few days any one place! I’ve been in Las Vegas, all over Los Angeles area, San Diego, San Francisco, Arcata, Black Rock City, and in a couple weeks, I’ll be in Europe. After early October, I honestly have no idea where I’ll be.  I’m figuring that out now!

Thank you so much for joining us and sharing your stories and travel inspiration, Kristin! Please feel free to follow her journies by clicking through some of the links to her stories, and also be sure to check out her contributions to Where Sidewalks End – Kristin Addis styles!