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Meet Kelly Abanda of Design Your Detour

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Abanda.

Kelly, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My journey includes a recurring word–pivot. In my adult life, I’ve made several significant shifts in career, geography, and priorities. It always starts with me in a place of “should” or “have to” but my inner voice calls me to be brave enough to step through fear into the unknown..and that’s where all the magic happens! I’ll talk about the most recent (and significant) pivots because I think a lot of readers can relate. In 2014, I checked off another “bucket list” item when I graduated with a Master’s degree. Rather than really celebrating, I immediately shifted into striving for my next goal—buying a house. I saved money like a beast and consistently looked at real estate sites hoping to find a diamond in the rough. Then one day my answer to a simple question sparked my biggest pivot to date. The question was, “Do I really want the life that comes AFTER I reach this goal of buying a house?” When I answered that question honestly, I said it was not the life I really wanted. As it turns out, buying a house was another “should” goal rather than one which would create the life I truly desired. Knowing that I was striving for something that wouldn’t actually satisfy my soul, I had a choice—keep moving in the safe and expected direction….or PIVOT to create a path of discovery to find the life I actually wanted. “What choice would I regret more?” became the deciding factor for me.

After months of back-and-forth mind games, I got the courage to quit my role as a senior leader in a CA based organization. I left benefits (like I’m talking fully paid healthcare and retirement $ that I didn’t even have to match!) so that I could pursue a dream I’d had since a solo backpacking trip I’d taken between college and my first “real” job: an extended but loosely planned trip around the world!

The original plan was to travel for three months. I subleased my apartment and hit the road. What happened next is too magical to fully describe, so what I’ll say (without doing it total justice) is that my entire future trajectory and worldview shifted in such a magical way that I’ll forever be grateful. The three months plan turned into four months & at that point, I returned to my rent-controlled Echo Park apartment only to realize that my time on the worldwide road was indeed NOT finished. So I faced another pivot—as a borderline hoarder, I’d accumulated a LOT of stuff in the ten years I’d lived in that apartment. But the time had come to let almost all of it go—I gave away all but what fit in a 5×5 storage unit and went out traveling again—surviving in only what fit in a large backpack. What a huge pivot!

I ended up spending another 2.5 years traveling to over 23 countries, many of which I lived with locals to discover “real life” and integrate into local culture. Some of the highlights:

– Six months in Fiji, four in a remote village on an island 3 hours from the mainland where I was the only foreigner. I lived with outdoor plumbing, limited electricity and food prepared primarily over an outdoor fire. It also included several near-death boating experiences in the middle of the South Pacific ocean 🙂

– Five months in New Zealand where I hung out with locals and also did rental car & RV “relocations” so that I could travel in on-the-road homes to travel for a fraction of the cost of hotels.

– Four months in South Africa including safaris, thunderstorms in the wilderness, a three day horseback ride into Lesotho, and an exclusive invitation to a private tour of the final prison home of Nelson Mandela where I got to sit in chairs he sat in and imagine all the planning that must have happened in that place.

– Four months in Morocco- where I intended to only go for one week but fell in love with the culture and hospitality of the locals, spent a starry night camping in a secluded part of the Sahara desert and navigated local transportation like a boss.

– Discovering that I was eligible to become a citizen of Luxembourg & traveling there with extended family—we also visited a German castle that was once owned by our ancestors! The current property manager gave us a tour and even invited us to a delicious lunch at her farmhouse!

There are dozens of stories I could share, but the biggest lessons I learned are:

– MAGIC, that unexplainable thing we all wish for in our lives—can only happen at the intersection of planning and leaping.

– There are so many good people in the world who just want to be kind.

– If you keep an open spirit, adventure will find you & people will come into your path to help you as you need them

– We only get one shot at this life—and it’s up to us individually to create the life we really want instead of settling for what we “should” do or what is the safest. Go live your best adventure and do it now!

– Clarity only comes from action. You’ll never know if a choice is right until you make it…and you’ll never know the infinite possibilities that that one choice can create until its made, so don’t wait for the “perfect” time because it won’t come. You have to create it.

When my travels were coming to a close, I knew that I could not go back to the safe life I’d led before. I’d experienced so much freedom and soul shifting that I couldn’t justify recreating what hadn’t made me happy in the past. So I made the next big pivot and did something I’d wanted to do for over a decade–I started my own business as a life coach. Since taking this brave step, I’ve been able to help many women shift from “stuck” to thriving and it makes my heart soar each time. I help people–and their dreams—come out of hiding so that the world gets to fully experience the magic inside each person. Whether launching a business, exploring a new skill or hobby, creating healthier relationships or reprioritizing life goals, I’ve had the experience myself and know how to guide even the most terrified person into courageous action.

Especially in this season, where we are forced to slow down, we have an opportunity to pause and re-assess our values and priorities. I hope that everyone takes full advantage of that and is willing to make the brave choices once things go back to “normal” to stop doing the shit that makes them sad, bored, stuck, etc. and begins to pursue what lights them up and brings positive energy into life!

I’ve been so excited about this path and am passionate about helping other people live their best lives!

My most recent pivot happened just since the COVID19 stuff happened. I had a vision to bring experts from across the US together to create online content to help people adjust to working from home. With a sudden explosion in the WFH population, I knew it was a huge need and wanted to create an extensive one-stop-shop that could also be offered at an incredible price. In three short weeks, I gathered over 20 experts and together we’ve been creating over 30 courses—and the package is already available for sale! This is another example of clarity comes from action—I had no idea I’d have such an incredible team of people assembled in such a short time….but I started by putting the idea out there and talking to my network. When we have these sparks of creativity, we need to follow them! It’s unprecedented to build this caliber of team, create content and get it on the market this fast. The collective effort has been so inspiring to me–a reminder of magic happening at the intersection of planning and LEAPING! This project has brought together my love of networking people together, serving people where they need it most, and providing entrepreneurs with a way to expand their network. I can’t guarantee where this will lead, but I have a feeling another pivot might be coming for me!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Wow…no way has it all been smooth! But it’s actually hard to recall a lot of the bumps because the benefits far outweigh the hardships. A lot of the struggles have been mindset related.

– When I was thinking about leaving my REALLY GREAT job, I had to face fears like “What If I can’t find another job?” “What will people think?” “Is it too selfish to do this?” “How will I explain a gap in my resume?” and “What if I totally regret this choice?” “I will never find another rent-controlled apt at that price in Echo Park” (which turns out to be the only true though…lol)

– When I was traveling: “What if I can’t meet people in the new place?” “How will I navigate the currency, travel, and culture in the new place?” “What if I do something offensive and don’t even realize it?”

– When I came back & launched my coaching biz “Do I really have what it takes?” “What if nobody wants to pay me for my service” “What if I fail? I don’t think I could recover from that”

Traveling for so long also comes with its own sets of struggles. It isn’t always glamorous. There were times I felt really lonely. Every time I got to a new city, I’d worry about figuring out currency conversion, local transport options and routes, how I’d know what to see if I would meet people. But it always worked out!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Design Your Detour story. Tell us more about the business.
Design Your Detour: I help women come out of hiding & learn to take brave (sometimes messy!) action so they can start living the life they really want. I do this via workshops, 1:1 coaching, and group coaching programs. I especially enjoy helping people launch businesses, shift careers, and get really clear about who they want to become. I know what its like to hide because of fear but I’ve also experienced the magic that comes when we take steps toward our dreams despite those fears. It’s my deep pleasure to help others push through fear and doubt so they can find fulfillment, joy and adventure!

Essential Work From Home collaboration- Working from home has benefits and roadblocks. Especially in this season, it can be tricky and overwhelming to navigate. Instead of randomly searching for YouTube tutorials that may or may not actually help, we have created over 30 courses specifically to help you with work, home and soul care while you find a new “normal.” Regain control of your calendar and life with these courses at your fingertips. This is your 1-stop shop, available 24/7 to support you. Course topics include: setting up your home office, time management, homeschooling, meal prep, how to shift finances during crisis, how to calm fears, using meditation to deal with stress, and how to discover your purpose in a crazy season (and many more!). Courses are available as a package $499 retail— but I’m offering VoyageLA readers a special rate of only $99!

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I like to call it MAGIC instead of luck. I had a part to play, but there were definitely things that happened in my favor that I couldn’t have predicted or planned. Magic takes some action and risk on our part- like good date, it only works if we put in some effort.

In my life, I had to take courageous action—quitting my job, redirecting my “house” savings to a travel fund (then eventually to help launch my biz). I also had to remain as open flexible as possible —not demanding 5-star accommodations, living like locals even when it was uncomfortable and “hard”, adjusting plans as needed, looking for opportunities & open doors and shifting into them if they weren’t already where I was.

But there were SO MANY things outside my control (aka: MAGIC) along the way that made my experience incredible. I met new friends who invited me on their family vacations, had me as a guest in their home (sometimes for months on end), friends who worked for airlines who helped me access discounted airfare, friends who let me stay in their spare bedrooms when I returned to LA, invitations to private access events and opportunities, nonprofits offered room & board in exchange for consulting work I did for them. These are all things that I didn’t know would happen, but when they did they paved so many paths for me! That is the luck…or magic..that makes the risks worth taking!


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