Adventure isn’t Kai Locey’s real middle name, but she’s adopted the moniker and found a way to travel full-time while still making money.
Born and raised in Anahola, Locey is part owner of marketing company Three Creative. She is a social media influencer, though she prefers the term “Digital NoMad,” and within the last year has set foot on two continents and worked in Turkey, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, London, France, Croatia and Italy.
She’s currently on her second trip through Europe and connected with The Garden Island newspaper from Barcelona, where she and her team are staying at an AirBnB in the heart of the city.
“It’s been almost a year now since living what I’d call ‘the normal life,’” Locey said. “Life is better than I ever could have imagined. It’s definitely not a luxurious lifestyle. We stay in cheap places and usually cook our food from home. We choose experiences over possessions which can be tough at times.”
For instance, her whole wardrobe fits into two suitcases and she has eaten some strange food over the past year. Lately she’s been traipsing through Rome, learning how to make fresh pasta and visiting the Amalfi Coast in southwestern Italy.
“I (also) spent a few months practicing my German in Austria,” she said.
The Three Creative team sets times daily to shoot and film, edit, post on social media and do email correspondence. When they’re not doing that, they explore their locations. Locey also takes time to work on a few online courses.
“I enjoy the flexibility of designing my own schedule, but it can take a lot of self-discipline,” she said.
Locey started out at Kamehameha Preschool and was accepted into Kamehameha Kapalama High School on Oahu when she was 12. She was a boarding student for four years and commuted between islands on a semi-monthly basis.
“During these years I picked up a passion for photography. While in high school I managed all of the social media for the Kapalama Campus — Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook,” she said. “This is where my interest in social media sparked.”
She studied marketing and digital media at Santa Monica College and moved to Los Angeles after high school. That’s where she met twin brothers from Austria who also had recently relocated to pursue a social media-based career.
They bonded over a passion for travel and started taking mini-vacations when they had time off from work and school.
“Every time I had a day or two off, the three of us would do a road trip. Pretty soon we had hit almost every national park and coastline in California,” she said. “Big Sur, Palm Springs, Sequoia National Park, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Santa Cruz … you name it, we’d seen it.”
As they road-tripped, the trio made video blogs for YouTube and took photos for Instagram. And travel “became an addiction.”
“We even hugged the world’s largest tree — definitely a check off my bucket list,” Locey said. “We had some pretty terrible road trip food and slept in some strange motels, but the experiences made it all worth it.”
Soon, brands started noticing and began asking if their products could be included in photos. Locey reached out to brands herself, too, letting them know of upcoming locations and advertising the ability to shoot photos of products while she was there.
She saved money and ordered a passport. And within about four months, Locey quit her job.
“I let go of my apartment, my furniture, my car, and packed my life into two suitcases,” she said. “When my passport arrived, I was off.”
Now that she’s getting a taste of what it’s like to be living her dream, Locey is on a mission to remind those growing up on Kauai today that big dreams can come true if you work hard enough.
“I know it can be hard to leave Kauai, it’s one of the most beautiful paradises on Earth, but there is so much more out there to experience,” Locey said. “The truth is, if you work really hard and use your skills and resources the right way, sooner or later you’ll be getting paid to see the world.”