The Blonde Abroad

by Kelly Hillock

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San Diego State alumna and travel blogger Kiersten Rich is the woman, or blonde, rather, behind “The Blonde Abroad,” a dominant blog in the travel blogging industry. Rich documents her experiences and shares her travel tips from everywhere imaginable. With only a suitcase and an unwavering sense of adventure, this traveler has seen the world from almost every crevice and corner.

The travel bug didn’t bite Rich until halfway through college, where it completely changed her life. As a highly-ambitious student growing up in a southern California suburb, travel was never something in Rich’s life plan.

“Growing up in a small town, dreams aren’t much bigger than your backyard,” she said.

It was a spontaneous summer study abroad trip to Spain during her sophomore year of college that sparked Rich’s enthusiasm for travel.

“That month in Spain changed my life,” Rich said.

After graduating with business honors and a degree in finance in 2010, Rich took a corporate job in Los Angeles. However, the grueling work left her feeling unfulfilled.

After a year of inhabiting a cubicle, Rich quit her job. It was at this transition in her life that Rich leaped into another unforeseen journey. She had rented a room from an Australian couple in Los Angeles, whom she grew to consider her adopted family. Taking inspiration from their roots, Rich toured Australia and New Zealand for nearly three months. Once again, the trip was spontaneous and unplanned. Rich took on a 90- day journaling exercise in Australia, where she connected to her creative side for the first time. Here, Rich began blogging as a way to keep friends and family updated on her adventures. She returned from her experiences in Australia and New Zealand with a longing for more travel.

Now, Rich’s backyard has expanded to include more than 30 countries. Currently, she has spent seven months abroad in 2013 alone.

“The Blonde Abroad” has evolved to a multimedia platform that allows her to connect with friends and fans from across the globe.

“It very naturally started happening,” Rich said.

As a finance major, Rich did not envision herself becoming a full-time traveler and blogger.

“I picked finance because it was the smartest business degree and I could make a lot of money. I had no passion for finance,” Rich said.

Now that she has discovered her love of travel, Rich knows that, “We will always, always be better at what we’re passionate about.”

While picking a favorite destination is difficult for Rich, the richness of Bolivia particularly captured her interest. With low tourism and a strong preservation of culture, Rich found Bolivia exhilarating. She spent one month in Bolivia, absorbing herself in culture and conquering her fears. Here, Rich cycled up the “world’s deadliest road” and saw the wonderment of the Uyuni Salt Flats.

“Bolivia has so many surprises. I was surprised by how much I liked it,” she said.

Halfway across the world in Paris, Rich recalled an intimate, impressionable moment. With a crepe in hand and a view of the Eiffel Tower, she found herself conversing with an elderly man. The man had said to her, “You Americans think we Parisians hate you, but we don’t. We really love our Paris and we want to tell you about it.”

“That romance was so real,” Rich said. “All I needed was a walk on the river with an old man telling me about Paris to experience Paris.”

The intimacy of travel is what Rich has gained and valued the most out of her explorations. She advocates for the relevance of perception and the importance of storytelling when one is journeying to different parts of the world.

“Storytelling connects us all,” Rich said.

Our stories are reflected everywhere, and it’s the authenticity of community that draws wanderlust-stricken travelers like Rich again and again. Rich hopes her stories inspire others to see the world for themselves. After all, in the words of this blonde abroad, “Traveling is experiencing the world through people.”

Photos courtesy of Kiersten Rich.

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