How this 31-year-old travel blogger lives in France on $53 a day

Casey Irvine never imagined that she would spend her life traveling the world.

“When I was young, I was always that person who excelled at everything I did,” Irvin, 31, told CNBC Make It. “At school, I was really stellar all the time, and I had leadership positions… I was always in this mind trap that I really wanted to get a high paying job and follow what my parents did, they worked in New York City on Wall Street.”

The New Jersey native got her first internship when she was 16, working for Morgan Stanley. “I always imagined I’d be that girl on Wall Street,” she shares. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, her childhood dream came true: she moved to New York to work as a financial analyst. However, I soon realized that “there wasn’t much work-life balance at all” on Wall Street. “I’m really starting to crave the side of life,” she adds.

Irvine has always used her limited vacation for international flights, but, as she notes, “it’s impossible to see the world in two weeks.” For two years, I saved about $1,000 a month with the intent of taking a year’s professional vacation to travel the world. “I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t…I was young, single, no kids and I wasn’t making all that much money, which makes everything easier to pack up and go,” she says. “The longer you wait, the higher the chances that life obstacles will come your way.” She officially left her job in 2015.

That year turned two, then three, and now Irvine lives in Rennes, France as a full-time and digital travel blogger. Her travel blog, “Kesi To and Fro”, has nearly 15,000 followers on Instagram and is Irvine’s main source of income. She lives with her boyfriend Alex, who is completing a master’s program at the EIT Digital Master School in Rennes. The couple met in 2018 while working on a boat together in Croatia. I moved to the city in September on a three-month tourist visa but is in the process of applying for a long-term one.

Casey Irvine and boyfriend Alex explore Croatia together

Photo: Kate Irvine

Turn her hobby into a profitable business

Irvine started her travel blog six years ago for fun documenting her travels and making recommendations for countries she’s visited, but decided to monetize her growing platform about two years ago during the coronavirus pandemic.

“After about four years of constant travel around the world, I realized I was missing something to work on, like I wanted to use my brain in some way and challenge myself,” she recalls. “I made my first blog investment, which was a $500 blogging course, and once I finally invested money in myself, that’s how I knew I would take blogging seriously.”

As a travel blogger, Irvine makes money in multiple ways, although collaborating with the brand, where Irvine promotes products, companies, or other things on her platform, has been her focus. Irvine estimates that she paid between $300 to $2,000 per collaboration, and receives that money via bank transfer or her PayPal business account.

Other sources of income include group trips it organizes and hosts; Paid travel writing; Affiliate marketing and advertising revenue from its website. “I don’t make a lot of money from these last two categories at the moment, but my main task right now is to increase marketing and advertising revenue for my blog,” Irvine notes.

Before monetizing her blog, Irvine relied on her savings and worked as a seasonal hostess on a boat in Croatia, Greece, Thailand and other countries to support her travels. Now that Irvine is making about $1,000 a month from her blog, she doesn’t have to put up with any side struggles. “I make a sustainable living from my work, and I live a comfortable life in France as a travel blogger,” she says. “It gives me more confidence to live in other countries as a travel blogger, and this can really be my main profession.”

How does she spend her money?

Rennes is home to several universities and about 60,000 students, so finding housing at the start of the academic year in September was a challenge. Irvine and her boyfriend found a room to rent on Airbnb in a flat with roommates. She pays about $405 in rent (including utilities) per month.

Irvine saves money by limiting the number of times you go out to eat (usually once every week) and bike everywhere you can. She spends about $152.25 each week on food (this includes groceries and eating out) and brings most of her meals at home. “I split up my groceries with my boyfriend, which probably makes the cost a little bit lower,” she says.

In general, Irvine notes, “living in France is cheaper than living in New York City.” Irvine still uses her US phone number and pays about $55 a month for a Google Fi plan. In travel and entertainment — including parties, concerts, and nights out at bars — Irvine estimates she spends $323 per month and $150 per month, respectively. Now, she has no insurance, But she is considering a plan for digital nomads through SafetyWing, which costs $40 a month.

Kesi Irvin’s Average Monthly Expenditure

Jin Woo Kim | CNBC Make It

Here’s a monthly breakdown of Irvine’s spending (as of September 2021):

  • Rent and utilities: 405 dollars
  • food: 609 dollars
  • Phone / WiFi: $55
  • health insurance: $40
  • Leisure travel: $323
  • entertainment: $150

Total: 1,582 USD

Routine in France

“I’m still learning what a normal day looks like to me, because I’m still exploring this new city,” Irvine says. “The only thing I love about Rin is that it feels like a smaller town, so I don’t feel overwhelmed.”

She continues, “I usually get up, drink tea, have breakfast in my apartment or find a coffee shop, and then I’ll ride my bike to a coffee shop and try to do some work in my laptop. In the afternoon, I hope to do a job, whether it’s emailing clients, creating a presentation or working on my group trip. There are always a million things I have to do, so I was thinking about setting my priorities for the day.”

Kesi Irvin rides a bike around Paris

Photo: Kate Irvine

Irvine says it’s important for her and Alex to share a meal together in the evening, so she usually cooks for them and Alex cleans up afterwards. “Then if there’s an event like a concert, or there’s recently been a free rock event, I’ll sign up, because I want to make new friends,” she says.

Irvine has faced some challenges as she adjusts to living in France, namely that she does not speak French. “I studied French for seven years growing up, but my French is very little,” she says. “I really don’t know much, which is probably one of the reasons I’m so excited to live here, because I’m that stereotypical American who only knows English.” Irvin uses the free version of the Memrise language learning app.

Learning cultural customs was another struggle. “[I’ve noticed] The French work their own hours, so the stores are only open for a few hours — they can open from 11 to 2, and then from 7 to 10,” she says. I’m trying to get used to the schedule. “

Obtaining a long-term visa from France

The Irvine tourist visa only allows her to stay in the country for 90 days, so she is in the process of applying for a long-term visa. This process requires proof of income (make at least $75 per day for 365 days) and a wealth of documents: scanned copies of Irvine’s passport, her birth certificate, statements letters for the purpose of her residency, medical insurance, proof of residence, three months worth checking account and account statements Savings and credit card statements.

Soon Irvine will travel to the United States to submit the application in person as the materials 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 be smooth as she holds a US passport and is self-employed. “I’m not trying to make money in France, I’m working here just for myself,” she says.

Currently, Irvine has about $100,000 combined in her checking, savings, and investment accounts. “As long as you show enough money in your accounts… for my stay here, that’s usually what people care about,” she explains.

After spending six years living outside the United States, Irvine never sees herself living there again. “I don’t think I’ll stay in France,” she says, “but you never know.” “I never thought I’d be living in France in the first place…I might end up really loving my time here!”

For her next home, Irvine says she considered moving to Germany, where Alex belongs, or to Guatemala, one of her favorite countries. “I’m open, just give me a globe, I’ll spin it!” Says. “I’m interested in random adventures.”

paying off:

This 35-year-old left the US for Croatia: ‘I live on $47 a day – here’s a look at how I spend my time’

This couple retired at the age of 40 and moved their family to Portugal. Here’s how they did it

This 65-year-old retiree lives in Mexico on $1,500 a month – which is why she “never returns to the US”

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