How this 31-year-old travel blogger lives in France on $ 53 a day
Kesi Irvin never imagined that she would spend her life traveling the world.
“When I was little, I was always that person who was great at everything I did,” Irvin, 31, told CNBC Make It. “In school I had A’s all the time, I had managerial positions… I was kind of still in this mental trap that I want to get a really high paying job and sort of follow through. what my parents did, they worked in New York on Wall Street. ”
The New Jersey native landed her first internship at the age of 16, working for Morgan Stanley. “I always imagined I was going to be that girl from Wall Street,” she shares. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, her childhood dream came true: she moved to New York City to work as a financial analyst. She soon realized, however, that “there wasn’t much work-life balance at all” working on Wall Street. “I started to really want the life aspect,” she adds.
Irvin had always used her limited vacation time for international travel, but, as she notes, “it’s impossible to see the world in two weeks.” For two years, she saved about $ 1,000 each month with the intention of taking a one-year career break to travel the world. “I knew I would regret it if I didn’t … I was young, single, had no kids and didn’t make that much money, which makes everything easier to pack and to leave, ”she said. “The longer you wait, too, the more likely it is that life’s obstacles will get in your way.” She officially quit her job in 2015.
This year turned into two, then three, and now Irvin lives in Rennes, France as a full-time travel blogger and digital nomad. His travel blog, “Kesi To and Fro” has nearly 15,000 Instagram followers and is Irvin’s main source of income. She lives with her boyfriend, Alex, while he is finishing his master’s degree at the EIT Digital Master School in Rennes. The couple met in 2018 while working together on a boat in Croatia. She moved to the city in September on a three-month tourist visa but is in the process of applying for a long-term visa.
Turning your hobby into a profitable business
Irvin started her travel blog six years ago to have fun documenting her travels and passing on recommendations for the countries she visited, but decided to monetize her growth platform about two years ago. years at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“After about four years of constant traveling the world, I knew I was missing something to work on, like I wanted to use my brain in some way and challenge myself,” said himself. she remembers. “I made my first investment in the blog, which was a $ 500 blogging course, and once I finally put the money into myself, that’s how I knew I was going to take blogging seriously. “
As a travel blogger, Irvin makes money in a number of ways, although brand collaborations, where Irvin promotes products, businesses, or other things on his platform, have been her focus. Irvin estimates that she is paid between $ 300 and $ 2,000 per collaboration, and she receives this money by wire transfer or her PayPal business account.
Other sources of income include the group trips it organizes and hosts; writing paid trips; affiliate marketing and advertising revenue from its website. “I don’t make that much money with those last two categories right now, but my main mission now is to increase my blog’s marketing and advertising revenue,” notes Irvin.
Before monetizing his blog, Irvin relied on his savings and worked as a seasonal host on a boat in Croatia, Greece, Thailand and other countries to support his travels. Now that Irvin generates around $ 1,000 a month from her blog, she doesn’t have to deal with side activities anymore. “I earn a sustainable living from my job and live a comfortable lifestyle in France as a travel blogger,” she says. “It gives me more confidence to live in other countries as a travel blogger, and that this can really be my main career.”
How she spends her money
Rennes is home to several universities and around 60,000 students, so finding accommodation in September was a challenge. Irvin and her boyfriend found a room to rent on Airbnb in an apartment with roommates. She pays about $ 405 in rent (including utilities) per month.
Irvin saves money by limiting how often she goes out to eat (usually once a week) and biking wherever she can. She spends about $ 152.25 per week on food (this cost includes groceries and restaurant meals) and prepares most of her meals at home. “I share my groceries with my boyfriend, which probably keeps the cost a bit lower,” she says.
Overall, Irvin notes, “living in France is cheaper than living in New York”. Irvin still uses his US phone number and pays around $ 55 a month for a Google Fi plan. For travel and entertainment – including parties, concerts, and bar nights – Irvin estimates that she spends $ 323 per month and $ 150 per month, respectively. Right now she has no insurance, but is considering a plan for digital nomads through SafetyWing, which costs $ 40 per month.
Here’s a monthly breakdown of Irvin’s spending (as of September 2021):
- Rent and charges: $ 405
- Food: $ 609
- Phone / Wi-Fi: $ 55
- Health insurance: 40 $
- Leisure trips: $ 323
- Entertainment: $ 150
Total: $ 1,582
His routine in France
“I’m still learning what a typical day looks like for me as I’m still exploring this new city,” says Irvin. “One thing I love about Rennes is that it has a small town feel, so I don’t feel overwhelmed.”
She continues: “Usually I wake up, have tea, have breakfast in my apartment or find a coffee, then go to a cafe on my bike and try to work on it. my laptop. Afternoons, I hope I’m working, whether it’s emailing clients, making a pitch deck, or working on a group trip I have. There are always a million things I have to do, so I figured out what priorities for the day. “
Irvin says it’s important for her and Alex to share a meal together in the evening, so she usually cooks for them and Alex then cleans up. “Then if there’s an event like a concert, or if there’s been a free bouldering event recently, I sign up because I want to make new friends,” she says.
Irvin has faced a few challenges as she adjusts to life in France, namely that she does not speak French. “I studied French for seven years growing up, but my French is minimal,” she says. “I really don’t know much, which is probably one of the reasons I’m most excited to live here, because I’m that stereotypical American who only knows English.” Irvin uses the free version of the Memrise app to learn the language.
Learning about cultural customs was another struggle. “[I’ve noticed] The French work their own hours, so the shops are only open for a few hours – they can be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., then from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., “she says.” I’m trying to get used to the schedule. . “
Obtain a long-stay visa from France
Irvin’s tourist visa only allows her to stay in the country for 90 days, so she is in the process of applying for her long-term visa. This process requires proof of income (earning at least $ 75 per day for 365 days) and a multitude of documents: scanned copies of Irvin’s passport, his birth certificate, letters of declaration for his stay, medical insurance. , proof of accommodation, three months’ value of checking and savings account statements as well as credit card statements.
Soon Irvin will be returning to the United States to apply in person, as documents must be submitted to the French embassy or consulate in the applicant’s country of residence. She is optimistic that her visa application process will go smoothly as she has a US passport and is self-employed. “I’m not trying to make financial gain in France, I just work here for myself,” she says.
Currently, Irvin has about $ 100,000 combined in his chequing, savings and investment accounts. “As long as you show enough money in your accounts… for my stay here, that’s usually what matters to people,” she explains.
After spending six years living outside the United States, Irvin never sees himself living there again. “I don’t think I’m going to stay in France, but you never know,” she said. “I never thought I would live in France in the first place… I might end up really enjoying my stay here!”
As for her next home, Irvin says she has considered moving to Germany, where Alex is from, or Guatemala, which is one of her favorite countries. “I’m open, just give me a globe, I’ll spin it!” she says. “I’m up for some random adventures.”
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