In this interview series we talk with people who spend their time traveling and climbing, while still holding down a steady income. From nurses to coders, writers to outdoor guides, we want to show that you don’t have to go full dirtbag to live the itinerant life. Because contributing to your 401k while seeing the world doesn’t sound so bad.
Name: Martina Russo
Job: Specialized Translation Services
1) What do you do?
I run two translation businesses:
1) Moving Words Translations specializes in multilingual translations for mid-sized firms in the tech, media, digital space.
2) The other one, The Action Sports Translator, as you may have guessed, offers a specialized translation service for action sports & outdoors brands.
I also run www.freelanceratwork.co, a small e-commerce shop that makes laptop decals for entrepreneurs, and www.thenomadcats.com, a blog about van life and traveling with cats.
2) How did you learn about translation services? Specifically, action sports?
I started translating back in 2010/11, alongside my university translation studies, and… just never stopped. At the time, I specialized in marketing translations for a few niches.
Last February, about 8 years into my career, I was looking up climbing and snowboarding gear online and realized that a lot of companies in the action sports and outdoors space were in urgent need of [better] translations.
Most companies distribute their products or content abroad and need to get their technical sheets or marketing materials localized. They usually assign translations to in-house employees who know all the jargon but don’t possess the necessary linguistic skills, or outsource them to a professional language service provider (an agency or a freelancer), who possesses the linguistic skills but has no clue about the technical terminology.
They end up with marketing text about ski touring that uses the wrong terms to describe something as basic as ski touring boots, or a safety sheet that has all the wrong terminology in place. #truestory
I decided to put together a multilingual team of skilled, professional translators who also practice the sport they translate about. Thus, The Action Sports Translator.
“I’m definitely better off with my own business than I could have ever dreamt if I’d been an employee back home.”
3) What are some of the perks of the job?
I’ve been working for myself and 100% remote pretty much since the beginning of my career (in my early twenties).
I truly enjoy being able to make executive decisions on anything spanning from [where to setup] my office for the day, to which clients I want to work with, or what services best fit a client.
I also love being able to set my schedule according to, say, the weather forecast, so I can fit in as much climbing (or snowboarding) as possible. I might work like a maniac through the weekend, but take Monday off.
Of course, I love being able to take my office on the road. I’m on a long-term climbing trip by van across Europe as we speak!
4) What are some of the challenges?
It can get stressful. Often, companies need their translations done yesterday, or too many projects pile up within the same time frame.
Managing a team remotely is sometimes hard; it isn’t always easy to find a reliable and skilled translator with the right specialization, or s/he may be unavailable.
When you travel and live in climbing destinations, surrounded by nature, finding a reliable internet connection is often an issue.
We use a mobile dongle with an unlimited data plan and keep it connected to our sun-powered van, but each move to a new place / office entails a painstaking scouting phase of all possible locations before we can actually settle. Most of the time, if we want to climb during office hours, we need to make sure that we have internet coverage on our phones, because I need to check my email every 2-3 hours.
“I used to be a bit of a rebel in school.”
5) What motivated you to pursue these paths?
I used to be a bit of a rebel in school and wasn’t very motivated to continue my studies (so I moved abroad with no set plans at 19). Someone in my family realized there was one thing I was really good at: Languages.
And they were right. Learning a language came fairly natural to me. I didn’t have to actually study and enjoyed the process. So I enrolled in a translation and interpreting 3-year university course. The rest is history!
6) How has your life changed since you started this job?
It’s been so long now, I don’t even remember what it felt like before!
One thing for sure: It’s allowed me to be location-independent and move around as much as I please, which I’m eternally grateful for. It’s also given me the opportunity to, in some respect, decide how much I want to earn, and I’m definitely better off with my own business than I could have ever dreamt if I’d been an employee back home.
I love being immersed in nature with little infrastructure, no people and lots of sports to do, but I also like being able to be financially “independent”: Afford a ski pass, new climbing gear, a spa day, or a new phone without having to worry about running out of money and having to go back to the grid in 2 months time.
7) What does a “typical” week or month look like?
Over the past 2-3 years, I’ve lived between the Alps and the seaside (climbing area), then spent months traveling around in a converted van, which is what I’m doing now.
So no, I don’t have a “typical” day.
8) What do you wish you knew when first starting out?
I wish someone had informed me better what it means to run a business (financially and organisation-wise). This could have saved me years of underpricing and other things.
9) What is one lesson learned from your journey so far?
As long as you’re resilient, honest, confident and reliable in the work you provide, and if you really want to make it happen, you will succeed. We’re extremely lucky to live in this time, age, and side of the world, and have so many opportunities that it’s almost overwhelming.
Everyone has a skillset they can monetize and, with all likeliness, take digital. You don’t have to be broke or on a super tight budget to enjoy what you love most–climbing! (Unless you want to).
You can follow Martina and her nomad cats on instagram: @martina_translates and @thenomadcats
Feature photo courtesy of Martina Russo