FEARLESS NOMAD: KRISTEN BOR FROM BEARFOOT THEORY

Tell us about who you are and what you do?

My name is Kristen. I’m an outdoor travel writer and photographer, and I run a blog called Bearfoot Theory. My goal with my website is to provide inspiration and information that helps break down the barriers that prevent people from traveling and getting outside. 

What are you currently working on right now?
I stay pretty busy trying to keep up with all the moving parts that make up my website. From graphic design to editing photos, writing and keeping up with the Bearfoot Theory community on social media, there’s never a dull moment. One thing I’m really excited about is after 2.5 years of being a one-woman shop, I’ve finally hired a pro to help me revamp my site, and I also brought on my first employee, Kim, who just finished thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m thrilled to bring her voice, enthusiasm, and outdoor expertise to Bearfoot Theory. 

What do you love most about running your own business?
The flexibility is definitely the biggest perk. I love that my vacations don’t need to be scheduled with my employer, I can hit the trail mid-week, and I can run my errands during off-times.  I also love that every ounce of effort I put into my work is an investment in myself and my success.

How did you get started in blogging and how did you transition into being able to run a business full time?
A few years ago, I was working in Washington DC, and I was feeling pretty restless at work. I knew I wanted to travel more, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. I started reading a few travel blogs to get my gears turning, and one day I stumbled upon The Blonde Abroad. I loved the whole feel of Kiersten’s website, so when I found out that she offered one-on-one blog coaching, I decided to sign up. She helped me get my blog off the ground and taught me the ins and outs of social media, and a couple months later, I decided to quit my job, move back West, and go for it full time. 

That first year had a lot of ups and downs, as there is no overnight success in the blogging world. I was living off of my savings and often questioned whether it was the right move. I ended up getting a job at my local REI and took on some freelance writing gigs to help make my ends meet and. At the same time, I went to conferences and worked to expand the content on my website. Eventually my traffic grew to a point where I knew I could make a successful career out of this. 

What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
Owning your own business means you have to take on a number of different roles, and there is no one standing over your shoulder telling you how to do it. Even though it may not look like it on social media, I work way longer hours than I ever did in my 9-5, and finding the right work life balance can be difficult. On top of the writing, photography, and social media, there is a ton of behind the scenes work, like the trouble shooting the technical aspects of my website and pitching new clients. You really have to learn to be a jack of all trades, and there’s always more you could be doing. 

What is something you’ve learned the hard way?
I would have started my business much sooner. My biggest advice is if you are unhappy in your job and you have an idea that you are passionate about, don’t wait, even if that means keeping your 9-5 and starting your business on the side.  Chances are someone else has the same idea as you, and it’s just a matter of time before your competition is going to run with it. 

What is it like living and working in your Sprinter Van?
So far it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. I’ve actually been having a lot of problems with my electrical system, so I’ve been doing a lot of troubleshooting and learning a lot in the process. I’m hoping by the end of the year I’ll have the kinks worked out, and then I can focus more on enjoying it. 

What made you decide to sell everything you own and live in a sprinter van?
As a travel writer, I’ve been on the go for the last couple of years, and I was finding myself on the road more than I was in my apartment. As a result, my place was always a disaster, I felt super unorganized, and living out of a suitcase was starting to wear its toll. When I first decided I was going to get a van, I wasn’t so sure about living in it full-time. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I could have all of the necessities with me on the road, I could spend more time in the places I was writing about, and I could be getting my work done at the same time. Plus, it didn’t make financial sense for me to keep an apartment just to store my stuff, so once I made the commitment to be it in full-time, I felt a huge sense of relief. 

How has living alone and traveling alone helped you grow in your business and personal life?
My first big solo trip was earlier this year when I spent three months living in a van in New Zealand by myself. During that trip, I was able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and when it was time to get work done, I didn’t feel guilty about shacking up in a coffee shop for a day. Traveling solo also forces you to get out of your comfort zone. I really struggle with indecisiveness…and when you are traveling alone, you can’t rely on anyone else to help you make decisions about things like where to camp, what to cook, or how to make new friends. Through solo travel, I’ve developed a new confidence that not only can I get around on my own, but I also don’t need anyone else to have a good time. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to run their own business/become a digital nomad?
Growing a successful business takes a lot of perseverance, patience, and hard work. You also have to be professional, just like any other field.  I’ve seen a lot of articles like “How to get paid to travel the world,” and I think many of those are really misleading. You can’t just quit your job and expect companies to be flocking to you with cash. It simply does not work like that. In the travel sphere, if you want to make money, you have to travel on your own while establishing a brand and audience well before companies are going to be wiling to pay you. If you want to quit your job and run your own business, I’d suggest saving up significantly more than you think you will need. Once you have a comfortable cushion, then take the plunge. Having some extra money to work with also means you can invest in things that will help make your business grow, like advertising and outsourcing tasks like coding or graphic design. With that caveat, I totally believe that anyone with passion and drive can make money from the internet. You just have to come up with an idea, do it well, and figure out how to be different than everyone else.

How did you figure out the idea behind Bearfoot Theory? Where did you come up with the name?
I have a Grateful Dead dancing bear tattooed on my right foot, so that’s where the name came from. The theory? It doesn’t matter whether you are having a picnic in your local park or scaling a huge mountain, I believe fresh air of all kinds makes us happier, healthier people. 

What do you do when you are not creating and running a business?
I love music and seeing it live provides a huge release that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. I never bring my camera or really post about my experiences at concerts. The only thing that matters there is how hard I laugh and how much I shake it. 

Has has travel and adventure influenced you and your business?
I started my business so I could travel more, but my through my business I’ve discovered so many new places I want to go and activities I want to try. Also posting about those experiences has encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and push my limits beyond what I thought I was capable of. 

What’s next for Bearfoot Theory?
I’m starting a new website called Sprinter Camper Vans. I can’t say too much about it yet, but it’s going to be an incredible resource and a place for Sprinter Van enthusiasts to connect. For those folks who are interested, they can head to the site and sign up to get notified when it goes live. I'm also going to start focusing on lot more on my YouTube channel and producing awesome video content. 

Tell us, where is your favorite place to find inspiration?
I find my inspiration while walking in the mountains. Hiking is like a form of meditation for me where there are no distractions, no cell phones, only me and my thoughts. I get a lot of my best ideas when I’m out there, and I always come home feeling inspired and ready to put them to action. 

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OutdoorsLexi Smith