Continuing our series of Blogger Award interviews, this time we chat with Kiersten Rich – traveller and volunteer from TheBlondeAbroad. Hopelessly in love with the world and bikinis, Kiersten won our Favourite Newcomer award, given to the travel blogger who’s fresh on the scene in 2012, but is sure to be another legendary stalwart in the year to come.
Why did you start TheBlondeAbroad and what do you wish to achieve with the site?
I love sharing my adventures with the world. I started writing a personal blog last year so the transition to a travel blog was very natural. My greatest hope is that people are inspired by my stories. I think a lot of people can relate to being unhappy with their jobs or the future they’ve planned. It’s never too late to start living the life you want and follow your dreams.
Who is your target audience? How have you grown your audience?
I write for everyone, young and old, male or female. I think the key is remaining authentic. I’ve committed to sharing my life with the world so that people can be inspired to live a more fulfilling life. It’s not always adventures and international voyages, but rather my journey through life as an average woman trying to find her place in the world. I think a lot of people can connect with that.
What has been one of your favourite travel moments?
It might sound cheesy but it was when I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time lit up at night. I was 20 years old and on my fist trip abroad ever. There’s just something so magical and romantic about Paris and the iconic tower. I remember looking up at it sparkling in the night sky with tears in my eyes. Everything seemed surreal in that moment.
What has been the biggest “blonde moment” that you have had while travelling?
Where to start? I was flying home from New Zealand and as I was going through the security screening the officer gave me a really suspicious look. He pulled my bag aside and asked if I could explain what was inside. I was running through all of the items my head and couldn’t understand his concern. The officer reached in and pulled out two empty shotgun shells. My stomach dropped. I had gone with friends to try shooting a shotgun for the first time the night before and must have put the empty shells in my bag. I had a fun time trying to explain that one.
You’re passionate about non-profit organisations. Where does this passion come from and how can others who are interested get involved?
I was pretty sheltered growing up in a small town. Global issues weren’t something we talked about at the dinner table. I learned a lot in college and not just about Finance. Once I realised that the world was bigger than my backyard, I made it a moral obligation to do as much as I could to lend my time and energy as often as possible. I believe everyone has the ability to give back in one-way or another. My advice would be to get educated on causes you care about. There are millions of organisations that need support whether it’s in your local community or in another part of the world.
What have you learned about yourself while travelling?
That’s a loaded question. I think the most important thing I’ve learned from travel is how little I really knew about myself. Spending a lot of time on the road alone I’ve realised that I am the only person accountable for my own success and happiness. It’s through that realisation that I now understand my true potential and work hard to achieve things that I never thought were possible.
What are some of your top tips to keep the costs of travelling down?
Write everything you spend down. Evaluate your daily budget before you leave on your trip and stick to it. Even if you spend a little more or less here and there make sure it averages out. Everything else is pretty obvious; use public transportation, eat at local’s spots, etc.
What advice do you have to aspiring travel bloggers?
Be true to you and write from the heart. Whatever you do, don’t write like a robot with excessive keywords just to improve your search engine traffic. If you’re producing interesting content your readers will come.
Are you a natural blonde?
I’ll never forget the time when I told a Swedish guy my blog name. He looked at me laughing and said, “But you are not blonde.” So, while it’s entirely relative, I consider myself a beach blonde. My hair highlights naturally in the sun.
You threw away your “ten year plan” a couple of years ago, when you left a position in Corporate Finance for a Wealth Management firm in Los Angeles, to go travelling. What’s your new 10 year plan?
I gave up on planning. I’m just focusing on moving forward and continuing to follow my passion. As long as I’m happy I know I’m in the right place.