Jobs for the Traveling Climber: Architect

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: Gili Keselman

Job: Architect

Gili in his Fortress of Solitude in Balfour, Canada. Photo courtesy of Eva Capozzola.


1) What do you do?

I’m an architect who designs buildings and spaces in Tel Aviv and its surroundings while living in a van named “Air Force Bum” deep in the beautiful Canadian Rockies.

I specialize in 3D modeling and visualization. My work requires powerful hardware that I [carry with me] and move around inside robust pelican cases. When I go to work it looks like I’m carrying a sniper rifle. You’ll find me sitting in random cafes and bars at all hours of the day, which may or may not lead to some weird Halloween experiences. 


“Architecture doesn’t necessarily mean a life of adventure. I had to work hard and make scary choices to build the situation I’m in today.”


2) How did you first learn about a career in architecture? 

As a teenager I was curious by every topic possible. From economics to math and physics to computer science and art. It was impossible to choose only one thing, so I chose to study architecture which combines a bit of everything.

I studied at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa for five years, and then worked in Tel Aviv for Bar-Orian Architects, a typical 9:00-19:00 office job.

Architecture doesn’t necessarily mean a life of adventure. I had to work hard and make scary choices to build the situation I’m in today; combining my passion for the mountain lifestyle with architecture, and most importantly, feeling free and in control of my own schedule and life.

Right now I’m in the process of building a company that will allow its workers the same freedom.


3) What are some of the perks of working remotely? 

I get to ski and climb mountains. Before being a “professional ski bum,” work took the majority of my focus. It would take over any discussion with my friends and it seemed to be the center of my life. We lived to work.

Today, work is just something I do between adventures.

I work to live, so the daily focus is shifted to discussions about epic adventures instead of salary and concerns about retirement. Working for 9 hours straight from a bar in the middle of the night seems like part of my adventure, and I love every minute of it. 

“This is how my little van house looks like on an average day for just over a year now. Best year of my life!” Photo courtesy of Eva Capozzola.


4) What are some of the challenges?

I still have a full time job. Getting to choose my hours and location is awesome, but I still have to make sure all deadlines are met. Israel is 9 hours ahead, so often it means I need to work in the middle of the night. Living in a van means I have to work from the only place which is open at night – a bar! 

There might be a Halloween party going on around me as I struggle to finish a tight deadline, and my clients are counting on me. It’s serious enough that if you screw up once you might never get work again. These are multi-million dollar projects we’re talking about.

One time, a beer spilled on my laptop causing it to shut off for days. My little laptop shutdown caused delays, and can never happen again. Today, I have two super powerful laptops and several backup drives, just to make sure work never stops. And that’s part of the challenge: work never stops.

I need to be available and ready to work, without distinction of weekends or nights or overtime or the security net of being an employee. I’m a freelancer, so work [may be] good today, but might not be here tomorrow. All that said, it’s a small price to pay to be able to play in the mountains.  


“I didn’t want to wake up one day at age 80 to look back at my life and be disappointed by not going after my dreams.”


5) What motivated you to pursue this role? How did you decide to take things on the road?

I felt like life must have something more to it than security. I felt numb in the office and eventually got to a point where I chose adventure over security, and I paid for it with harsh results in the beginning.

I quit my job without having any plan other than going to live in the mountains and try to find a way to get by. I didn’t want to wake up one day at age 80 to look back at my life and be disappointed by not going after my dreams. This perspective helped me see life as a daring adventure and not as an experience to be cruised through safely.

I lost all my savings pretty quick without a job (not having the ability to work in Canada without a permit). I left the comfort of a house, a job, a routine, security, and I ended up tearing my ACL in a bad ski accident. I was left broke, injured, having to come back to Israel for surgery and a year of recovery. Despite it all, I kept positive.

Ice climbing in the Cline River Gallery. Photo courtesy of Eva Capozzola.


I remember thinking, “If this is the worst it can get… I’ve got this!”

There was nothing to really fear. I kept appreciating the fact that some people have cancer and I don’t. That’s a real problem in life, not losing a job or some savings. So after recovery, I did it all again!

This time, I had experience in regards to what to expect. I approached my old boss and asked to work remotely. I also got a van and transformed it into a home. Having the ability to sustain myself financially within my adventures changed my life. I wasn’t making a lot of money, but I was living life to the fullest.


6) How has your life changed since you started this?

I could die tomorrow, and I’d be okay with it. Because I feel like I’ve lived.

Every day of the past 3 years has been the best day of my life. I found love in the mountains, I got permanent residency in Canada, and now I’m building a life of adventure here. Looking back, there was no risk. There was nothing to lose and a life to gain. Taking risks pays off. 


7) What does a “typical” week or month look like?

It’s hard to find a typical month these days. Life keeps evolving, changing and moving places. I’ve spent the last 6 months living in a dry cabin in Alaska with no running water or a toilet, but with fast Wi-Fi that allowed me to work.

Now I’m in Canmore, Canada, living out of my van as I combine work alongside rock and ice climbing. In two months, I’ll be in Golden, BC, for ski season. Living out of a van in winter is pretty extreme up here, where temps get down to -40C. Me and my girlfriend live together in my tiny van and have this tiny wood burning stove we named “rusty.” We [make sure to] find time to chop wood, to keep us alive during the freezing nights. And we have to cuddle to survive. I think it’s very good for any relationship: forced cuddling.  

To answer your question, in a typical day we might start by skiing or climbing and then get back to working from a bar. It’s pretty simple actually. 


8) What do you wish you knew when first starting out?

I wish I knew about Van Life! It’s the single greatest adventure and way to live cheaply anywhere. 


9) What is one lesson learned from your journey so far?

Big risks pay off. Whatever you think you have to lose, is nothing really. You have your legs, and your immune system, and your eyes. Those are the real valuable things in life. Anything else is just a story. And why live in a boring story?

Every day I work to make my story an epic adventure, and it got me to places and people who will be in my heart forever.

“Home is where your heart is ❤️” Photo courtesy of Eva Capozzola.

Thanks, Gili!

You can follow Gili and his van-based adventures on instagram @freegili.



Feature photo courtesy of Eva Capozzola.

Jobs for the Traveling Climber: Communications Manager in Development Aid

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: Nico Parco

Job: Communications Manager in Development Aid

Wonder what’s off to the right? Photo courtesy of Nico Parco


1) What do you do?

You could call it a number of things. Simply, “aid worker.” Or if you want to get more specific, I am a communications manager in the development aid sector. I often say I am an NGO writer. 


2) How did you get into the development aid sector?

I moved to Ethiopia on a whim, thinking I would continue the same work I was doing in the tourism sector in Santiago, Chile.

In Ethiopia, I discovered the aid sector, and began volunteering on an HIV/Urban Gardens project as a technical writer. Everything took off from there.

I have been in the sector now for nearly 10 years, and I absolutely love it.


3) Why did you decide to start living in a van? 

The @riding.a.rainbow project is only for 10 months (May 2019 – April 2020).

A campervan road trip is something that both my wife and I have been wanting for a while, and since we realized we shared this dream, it would be foolish not to act. When I landed a full time contract in Bogota, Colombia, we knew it was our chance to cover South America.

With two kids, I do not plan to live in a campervan full time. In fact, our plan is to move back to Moab, Utah in 2020 (I was born and raised in Ogden). 

Rainbow in Huanuco, Peru. Photo courtesy of Nico Parco


4) What are some of the perks of this job?

Working in the development aid sector allows you to travel on two levels: Short-term and long-term contracts.

I do both, and have been sent to various countries (Somalia, Uganda, Zambia, Lebanon, Botswana) and lived in three countries long-term (Ethiopia, Liberia, Colombia).

Living in a country is different from just traveling. It allows you full immersion in the culture, language, and customs, and also affords you more time to properly explore the country. Being in these unusual places also lets you check out rock climbing in a different light. 

For example, while living in Ethiopia, I led a crag development project with a bunch of climbers from around the world (US, German, Israeli, etc.). We bolted a beautiful face right outside of Addis Ababa, the first and still the only real crag in the country.

Or my favorite, the time I was sent to Lebanon to create content for an economic strengthening project funded by USAID (US taxpayer money). The program was promoting rock climbing in the village of Tannourine, a paradise of Mediterranean-style limestone. This is probably the first and hopefully not the last time that the US govt put money into rock climbing for “nation-building.”


“Happiness has less to do the amount of possessions one acquires and more to do with the ability to be with friends, family, and practice your culture (religion, language, customs) freely.”


5) What are some of the challenges?

Life as a contractor can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes you have to wait weeks or months for a contract. On the other hand it’s really nice to have down time between jobs, [which allows you] to travel, to be with your family, and of course, to climb.

There are the usual challenges as well, of getting used to a new place, finding friends, learning the language, getting over the homesickness of the last place you left… typical immigrant lifestyle stuff.

“This was the first place I came across that made me dream about this trip in the Rainbow. And now it is where we spent our anniversary, so we have more inspiration in the coming years. Thanks Laguna Paron for your beauty, your power, and for being our inspiration.” Photo courtesy of Nico Parco


6) What motivated you to pursue this career path?

I started my “career” as a journalist in Spanish language, and worked for 6 years (Spain, Texas, Chile). Once I discovered the aid sector, everything changed.

The hours, the pay, the joy of the job. I have nothing against journalism, but the conditions are horrible.

Still, journalists perform one of the most important functions in today’s society, and we should be thankful there are people willing to sacrifice so much for so little. I have only the utmost respect for them.

People like Trump, the powerful men who say reporters are the enemy of the people, are really saying, “I hate reporters because they expose all my wrongdoings to the people.” 


7) What does a “typical” week or month look like?

If I am long-term, I am typically working in an office. I am the one responsible for reporting back to the US govt what the program has been doing with its money. It’s a key position that combines research, writing, and marketing.

I would travel once a month, visiting the program’s activity sites, interviewing beneficiaries, and taking photography or video. I curate the program’s blog such as at usaidlrdp.exposure.co.

When I am doing short-term consultancies, I am at a home base (either in Utah or Chile) and traveling for 2 – 3 weeks at a time. Sometimes I work remotely but the real value I bring is being in the field gathering stories, content and creating attention grabbing pieces that shine light on the programs.


8) What do you wish you knew when first starting out?

I was lucky that I got in through the back door. Typically, an aid worker will go through the hoops of Washington, D.C. and work for several NGOs and implementers before getting the chance to live abroad. I did it differently, which may or may not work for others.


9) What is one lesson learned from your journey so far?

A few things:

1) Development aid is an industry of soft diplomacy, especially from a USAID perspective. It is also important in its role to improve health and education around the world.

My first job was in the HIV world, and if it weren’t for large international donors, millions of Africans would be either dead or in way worse conditions. In some regards, development money is really all they have to rely on. I believe Western countries have a historic “debt” with Africa and other parts of the world.

Aid is one small step to repair the damage caused by colonialism, neo-liberalism, hyper-capitalism or whatever you want to call it. The US annual budget allocates less than one half of one percent to humanitarian and development aid. Trump tried to axe the budget, but USAID is a diplomacy tool that is bipartisan.

2) I have learned that happiness has less to do the amount of possessions one acquires and more to do with the ability to be with friends, family, and practice your culture (religion, language, customs) freely without interruption.

“When I designed the Rainbow campervan, I named it such because we are making the trip of a lifetime, riding on a rainbow. The rainbow represents dreams, magic, and beauty and that is what we are looking for. Recently we found the rainbow mountain, some geological magic to add to our many stories on the road.” Photo courtesy of Nico Parco

Thanks, Nico!

You can follow Nico and his van traveling family on instagram, @riding.a.rainbow. You can read more about Nico’s thoughts on life, the development aid sector, and climbing in general on his website, nicoparco.com.



Feature photo courtesy of Nico Parco

Jobs for the Traveling Climber: Translation Services

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.

The Nomad Cats. Photo courtesy of Martina Russo.


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!

The Van Life: “Wop wooooop! We’re finally around Lisbon and the Arrabida climbing area. Enjoying our first stunning sunset here + reel rock 13 on the tv + a bowl of popcorn 😏 before we go back to climbing hard tomorrow. PSYCHED”. Photo courtesy of Martina Russo.


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!

Training on the road. Photo courtesy of Martina Russo.


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.

Translator at work. Photo courtesy of Martina Russo.


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).

Thanks, Martina!

You can follow Martina and her nomad cats on instagram: @martina_translates and @thenomadcats



Feature photo courtesy of Martina Russo

Jobs for the Traveling Climber: University Admissions & Test Prep. Tutor

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: Jojo Yee

Job: College Admissions and Test Preparation Tutor / Advisor


Editors Note:

Jojo and I met on the internet via the Traveling Rock Climber’s group. I was looking for recommendations for climbing hostels, and Jojo reached out with her favorites: Stone Drum House in Shigu, China and Kezban’s Guesthouse in Geyikbayiri, Turkey. We got to chatting and I learned about her work, as well as her other projects, including her own excellent travel blog, her efforts with animal rescue and rehabilitation (@liberatewings), and forays into art.

Jojo getting back to it after a recent injury. Photo courtesy of Jojo Yee.


1) What do you do?

I’m a college admissions and test preparation tutor. I help students ready for things like the SAT, GRE, GMAT.


2) How did you learn about the world of test prep?

I have been teaching standardized test preparation since 2004 after university. I had taken the LSAT, GMAT, and GRE after my first degree in university, hoping to gain entrance into law school or graduate school.

At the time, I did not know that there were standardized test prep companies out there, as I guess they weren’t all that popular in Canada. It wasn’t until I moved to Hong Kong that I realized it was a thing and started teaching at the Princeton Review Hong Kong.

Since then, I taught the SAT, TOEFL, GMAT, and GRE regularly and realized that there was huge potential for me to start my own test prep company when I moved to Bangkok, Thailand.

I owned and worked [that] full time until we merged with another company, and then I took some time off.


I don’t just see myself as a tutor, rather a mentor to students. I try to be there for them even if it’s not questions that have to do with the tests.


3) What are some of the perks of the job?

I enjoy flexibility in my schedule now.

I have 3 dogs, a cat, and an animal rehabilitation project that I spend time and finances on. My income from my job funds my trips and other side projects like animal rehabilitation and donations to other causes.

I get to have at least few weeks off at a time, which allows me to either go back to Canada to visit my family or head out for a climbing trip somewhere in the world.

Sometimes falling is the beginning of successes. I always have to tell myself to not be afraid of falling. Do what you can and let yourself get into the flow of things.” Photo courtesy of Jojo Yee.


4) What are some of the challenges?

I really need to prioritize and balance my schedule to accommodate the students with time away.

My responsibility is to my students and I make sure that I am here for them when they have questions. I’m no longer a “tutorial center” where students just come for planned classes, [so my work extends a bit beyond a typical classroom setting].

I like to ensure that the students are really ready for their exams, even if it means spending more time keeping in touch with them and following up to see if they’ve been practicing what we’ve covered in class.


You can always plan ahead to get more free time.


5) What motivated you to pursue these paths?

I didn’t have this kind of guidance when I was entering university, so it seemed to me that it was more a mentor program rather than a job. 

Even after I exited my tutorial school, I kept getting referrals from old students, so the clients just kept coming and I found that I enjoyed the new found freedom of managing my own schedule and teaching when I needed to.

If students needed to get in touch with me when I’m on a trip, all I required was the internet to access whatsapp or messenger to answer questions.

Hanging with Honnold. Photo courtesy of Jojo Yee.


6) How has your life changed since you started this?

It has been rewarding to see students get into colleges and universities. I am in touch with many of the students I’ve taught since 2004 and have seen them graduate, get their first job, get married, and even have kids. [Editor’s note: How cool!]

Sometimes, I get nice messages from parents saying they’ve noticed a change in their child’s behavior or personality towards school or life after studying with me. So I don’t just see myself as a tutor, rather a mentor to students. I try to be there for them even if it’s not questions that have to do with the tests.


7) How does this job allow you to travel and climb?

SAT and ACT exams happen during certain months. I’ll schedule courses and classes up ’til the test date and then I’ll have some free time to travel and climb until I have to start the next course.


8) What does a “typical” week or month look like?

Currently, home base is in Bangkok. My typical week varies depending on whether the students are on holidays (i.e., I’m busier: Teach everyday). Or if they are at school (I’m more free: Teach after school for a few hours and on weekends).

“Who love kisses?! Hahaha.. Getting some snuggle time in with Shakespeare at @liberatewings.” Photo courtesy of Jojo Yee.


9) What do you wish you knew when first starting out?

…Never really thought about that…


10) What is one lesson learned from your journey so far?

You can always plan ahead to get more free time. I’m working on that now…

Thanks, Jojo!


You can see more of Jojo’s adventures on her blog, Consmos Wanderer, and her love for animals on her instagram account (@jojoyees).



Feature photo courtesy of Jojo Yee

Jobs for the Traveling Climber: Tattoo Artist and Outdoor Educator

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: Amy Borch

Job: Tattoo Artist and Outdoor Educator


Editor’s note:

Amy and I met at Rumney, NH, while on a trip that was my first ever paid writing assignment. They (being Amy and Jared) were mindfully enjoying the peace and solitude of early evening climbing on a mid-week day. Then I showed up. I began by badgering them, asking if I could take photos as they climbed. But they were friendly and gracious to my intrusion. We got to talking, told bad jokes, solo’d Clip a Dee Doo Dah, then had beers by the Baker River.

Amy has had a varied and exploratory life, full of arting and climbing. Hope you enjoy her perspective!

Amy also doubles (triples, quadruples?) as performer at the award-winning Ice Castles. Photo courtesy of Patrick Sarson.


1) What do you do?

I currently juggle the arts of tattooing and outdoor educator/guide.

About a year and a half ago I decided to commit to a career as a tattoo artist.

When I’m not making income through art, I work my other passion in the outdoor industry. I serve as a guide, trainer and course director for outdoor organizations. 


2) How did you learn about outdoor education and tattooing?

Outdoor Educator: I began to learn what it meant to be an outdoor educator six years ago when I began as an intern for the Mid-Atlantic Outward Bound. I decided to use creativity to explore group dynamics, facilitate challenge, and connect the public to outdoor spaces through the skill sets of climbing, backpacking, and sea kayaking.

Tattooing: I’ve known since I was fourteen years old that I wanted to be a tattoo artist. I had a friend who made a tattoo machine from scratch out of a toy car motor, pen ink, and a sewing needle and asked me to “draw on him.” I suppose that’s what originally put the idea in my head.


“I pursue careers where I feel like I have the highest yield of positive impact on people.”


3) What are some of the perks of the job?

I love what I do every single day.

Outdoor Ed: My office is enviable. I have had the pleasure and privilege of spending weeks at a time working and living in places such as Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Sequoia Kings Canyon, etc.

The experiences of living with groups in the wilderness are incredibly impactful, but mostly indescribable. 

Tattooing: I get to be creative and meet rad people.

“Fox hobbit. This was so fun!” Photo courtesy of Amy.


4) What are some of the challenges?

The challenges are:

WORK
LIFE
BALANCE

(Editor’s Note: Amy’s emphasis)

Outdoor Ed: Working long format courses for several weeks/months at a time in the wilderness can stress relationships outside of the outdoor industry. It can even be difficult to connect to cultural events if they occurred while you were away for a month and a half, unplugged from wifi, phones and television.

The world doesn’t wait to change while you’re blissed out in the mountains.

Tattooing: Tattooing has humbled me because of how incredibly harsh it can be on the body. Transitioning between careers where I am constantly hiking/climbing/paddling/moving to sitting still for hours is cruxy.


“Success is not an accident, and failure is the most effective facilitator of discovery. So set a goal and go for it.”


5) What motivated you to pursue these paths?

I pursue careers where I feel like I have the highest yield of positive impact on people.

My role in facilitation, or “activating space” for someone else to experience a little bit of magic, is the reason why I love my careers. 

Outdoor Ed: I enjoy observing people open to new ways of thinking. Working outdoors with youth and adult groups provides space for people to empower themselves.

When someone tries something new, whether it be a social role (such as leadership/followership) or takes appropriate risks (navigates off-trail/asks for help), this person creates a “schema” for themselves. And this schema, or conceptual framework for how they navigate an experience, can later be transferred to life at home. This process of thought-work is very compatible with the outdoor classroom.

Tattooing: The art of tattooing allows people access and permission to explore ideas. Many people come in without the words to express memories or thoughts they want, or sometimes need, to process.

I know something really cool has happened in the studio when people come back to me and tell me that the tattoo has allowed them to access the feelings or closure they were having trouble finding when we first spoke about the idea. 

“More than just create an image, I try my best to listen, ask curious questions and facilitate story telling through artistic process… Through intentional conversations we were able to collect the information necessary for this piece. I am so fortunate to be able to work in a field that allows me to build connections and share meaning with others in this way.” Photo courtesy of Amy.


6) How has your life changed since you started these jobs?

Outdoor Ed: My ability to give and receive feedback based on personal growth and technical performance has enabled me to take career risks and connect with people in ways I previously did not have the capacity for.

Tattooing: The ability to reconnect with friends/family, think about the future, and pursue making a livelihood from creating.


7) How do these jobs allow you to travel and climb?

Outdoor Ed: This can provide a great opportunity for climbing/traveling when there are contract agreements. Contracts bind people for a certain number of courses or days of expected work, and the rest of the time is free to make climbing trips! 

Tattooing: Build a mutually respectful relationship with your mentor or shop owner and prioritize communication. Make every moment in the shop count and pour your heart into your art, treat your clients well.


8) What does a “typical” week or month look like?

Outdoor Ed: 

Typical month:

  • 2-3 days prep
  • 14-30 days in [insert name of epic course location]
  • 2 days debrief
  • CLIMB YOUR FACE OFF UNTIL NEXT COURSE
  • Repeat

“El Cap sticking its Nose out. View from the last pitch of East Buttress on Middle Cathedral.” Photo courtesy of Amy.


Tattooing: 

Typical week:

  • Basecamp: New England!
  • Work 4 days a week. Occasionally glance at large El Cap route map in studio to stay motivated
  • Stay fit around Cathedral Ledge, Cannon, Rumney and occasional Maine trip 


9) What do you wish you knew when first starting out?

Outdoor Ed: Open up a Roth IRA and make a retirement plan as soon as possible. We don’t do this gig for the money!

Tattooing: Learn the body mechanics of sitting or overuse of certain muscle groups can creep into climbing and tattoo performance in unpleasant ways! 


10) What is one lesson learned from your journey so far?

Success is not an accident, and failure is the most effective facilitator of discovery. So set a goal and go for it.

Thanks, Amy!

“Endless starry nights to white noise and city lights. It feels like different worlds. But I dream of one world, connected.” Photo courtesy of Amy.


You can see more of Amy’s tattoo artistry on instagram: @amy.wildhand



Feature photo courtesy of Adam Nawrot

Jobs for the Traveling Climber: Niche Blogger

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: Jacob Bushmaker

Job: Blogger


Editor’s note:

I came across Jacob’s blog, The Wandering Climber, earlier this year when I was researching cheaper travel/ climbing destinations in South America. There were surprisingly few resources, but I eventually landed on TWC’s The Top 6 Rock Climbing Towns in South America – Why Should You Go?. It was great! I quickly dove into the rest of his pieces on Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and others. His articles are well written and full of useful bits.


1) What do you do?

I currently have two jobs.

1) I work as a sales agent for a company called Unbundled Attorney, where we connect people with lawyers who are looking for affordable legal representation.

2) I run a blog called The Wandering Climber, which focuses on providing climbers with beta on the world’s best rock climbing destinations [Editor’s note: Typically lesser known places].

I’ll be answering the questions in respect to my work with TWC. 

A view from Freedom Bar, aka “the office,” in Tonsai. Photo courtesy of Jacob Bushmaker


2) What are some of the perks of the job?

A few things. Probably the most notable is it is completely remote, meaning that I can work from just about anywhere in the world. This is pretty much a necessity for anyone who wants to travel long term… unless you have some other source of income!! 

Second is that I’m my own boss. I don’t have any set hours, deadlines or anyone to “answer” to. 

It is also great to be creating something. It has its own intrinsic value which is sort of hard to explain. [I like to be able to] look back and be like, “yea, I did that.”

Lastly, this is a way for me to give back to the rock climbing community with my unique experiences and knowledge. This is a perk of the job I really didn’t anticipate, but it has been awesome to get so much positive feedback from people who have read my blog and used it. 


“The only people who think this is easy are ones who haven’t done it before.”


3) What are some of the challenges?

There are a lot of challenges with running a blog as a business.

The only people who think this is easy are ones who haven’t done it before.

With the incredible freedom which comes from being your own boss comes the pretty obvious drawback that there is absolutely no one keeping you accountable.

This is particularly difficult when you’re posted up in one of the world’s top climbing destinations. As you might imagine, these environments aren’t exactly conducive to “hard work.”

Also, it is always an ongoing challenge that I have to learn how to do things on my own. I have never had a “teacher” [for this stuff]. At times things can be super frustrating.


4) What motivated you to pursue this path?

The whole journey started when I read the 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. It really opened my eyes to what was out there and has fundamentally changed my life in just about every sense imaginable. 

I went from a 9-5 office job (I was a Civil Engineer) to working remote, visiting about 30 countries in 4 continents, and living abroad in South America. 

There were the obvious perks of living abroad, such as learning another culture/ language and meeting new people/ traveling which appealed to me.

In addition, there are also some financial benefits of working abroad which don’t get mentioned as much, such as having a huge reduced cost of living.

One Of Hatun Machay’s Mega Classics Highballs: The Rhino (v4). Photo courtesy of Jacob Bushmaker


5) How does this job allow you to travel and climb?

If I was just doing one of the two jobs, I would have plenty of time to dirtbag. I did so for about 2-3 years, but there sort of came a point where I started taking work more seriously again. 

Over the past six months I have been much more “buckled down,” you might say.

The site launched in February of this year, and [so far] I’ve always had another full time job which takes up a ton of time. If all goes well, within the next 6 months to a year, I’ll be able to comfortably support myself with the income earned off the blog. [At that point] I’ll be able to make the decision whether I’d like to pursue it full time or not. 

Right now, I work more than full time between my two jobs, probably in the 50-60 hours a week range.


“Travel and being an entrepreneur is romanticised, but I’m here to tell you that sometimes it just sucks.”


6) What do you wish you knew when first starting out?

The hardest thing about this lifestyle has always been things I left behind when I was an engineer: The “steady” job, “good” career, friends, family and security were all sort of thrown aside to live the dream. 

Travel and being an entrepreneur is romanticised, but I’m here to tell you that sometimes it just sucks. 

On Top of El Filo la Lete de Tiburon (5.10+) in Cochamo Valley (Valle Cochamó), Chile. Photo courtesy of Jacob Bushmaker


7) What is one lesson learned from your journey so far?

It is better to focus on the process than the goal.

Once you get going it just becomes another day in the life, and before you know it your on your way. 


8) Anything else you’d like to add?

You overestimate what you can do in a year, but underestimate what you can do in five.

My point: Just get started now, be patient and incredibly persistent! 

Thanks, Jacob!

You can learn more about Jacob, his work, and his travels:

Jobs for the Traveling Climber: Freelance Front-End Web Developer

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: Jack Lyons

Job: Front End Web Developer


1) What do you do?

I’m a front-end web developer. That means I write code for basically anything you see and interact with on a web page.

Working on the front-end is fun because it’s really easy to impact the look and feel of a page just by changing a few lines of code. It feels more artistic because you literally start with a blank canvas with every new page you build.

Currently I work as a freelancer and have a variety of clients located all around the world. Every day is filled with different challenges and I like being able to switch between client projects whenever I like.


2) How did you learn about web development?

Back in 2014/15 I was travelling in China, teaching English in Hangzhou, a city just west of Shanghai. I was pretty miserable with my current situation: Teaching English wasn’t as fun as I thought, mainly because the working conditions were brutal. I really wanted to make a change.

The only reason I was in China was so I could climb at the infamous crags of Yangshuo (hands down, some of the best climbing in the world). After a few months of teaching, I quickly realised that it wasn’t a sustainable way to work and travel and so I started researching other options.

That’s when I stumbled upon the whole “digital nomad” scene. I would read blogs and follow all the cool kids online who were “living the dream” with just a backpack and a laptop.

I got chatting  with a colleague at my English school who had a background in IT. Funnily enough, he had a big fat book Chinese/English book on HTML and CSS. He let me borrow it and I immediately devoured it. For the next 6-12 months I just totally immersed myself in learning to code because I knew it would allow me the chance to create the lifestyle I always wanted: To work and travel on my own terms and without burning a hole in my savings.

Climbing “The First Full Moon,” 7a in Bali, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Jack Lyons.


3) What are some of the perks?

For starters, I get to create my own schedule. I can work early, late, from a cafe, at home, on the couch, at the library…

What’s more, I can pick who I want to work with and what I want to work on. I use a freelancing platform called Upwork that allows me to have a profile and be contacted by potential clients who need help. This means that the work literally comes to me and I don’t have to lift a finger to find new work. 

And lastly, I can save money even while traveling. This is huge for me, because I can take my remote career seriously and contribute to my pension, as well as personal savings and investments.

4) What are some of the challenges?

I know this sounds like a “first world problem,” but traveling in developing countries or rural areas means little to no wifi. While this makes for a relaxing getaway for most, this can be a seriously frustrating experience when I’ve got deadlines to meet.

Other than that, all general travel issues apply. Being flexible comes at a price.

5) What motivated you to pursue this path?

My dream has always been to be financially free and able to live and work wherever I want. Second to that, I love rock climbing and want to spend my days out at the crag rather than in the office.

I wanted a career where I could climb by day and work at night, or just take a day off whenever and make up my hours later.

To me, it only made sense that I’d need to find a job that would be online. Coding suited my personality well but I certainly could have gone down the path of a blogger / copywriter / online marketer and gotten the same results.

Jack and his wife in the famous bouldering area of Castle Hill, New Zealand. Photo courtesy of Jack Lyons.


6) How has your life changed since you started this?

Well, for starters, I no longer have to go to an office from 9 – 5 every day. I don’t really have a boss and I can charge whatever rate I feel is acceptable based on the project at hand.

I love the fact that I am able to see so much of the world and still have money left over. I thoroughly enjoy my work and need to pinch myself most days. I’ve lived in Europe, USA, Asia and travelled to over 30 countries. I’ve climbed in some of the most beautiful places in the world ( Greece, China, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, USA, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia).

7) What does a “typical” week or month look like?

It depends where I am. Currently I’m based in Boulder, Colorado. It’s nice to have a home base because it gives you time to decompress from all the travel. It also allows you to get settled and lock in when you’ve got some serious deadlines or big projects to tackle. 

When traveling or on a climbing trip I try to scale back my work commitments because I know how demanding and exhausting it can be. For example, currently I am on a two week road trip with my wife in Alaska. I decided to take the entire time off, which is very rare for me to do, but it was absolutely necessary because I had  been working on some big projects over the last couple of months. I needed some time out to recharge.

Coding is really, really mentally taxing. It requires a lot of brainpower. It’s hard to stay focused when your work environment keeps on changing. So I prefer to plan out my work schedule depending on where we will be and when.

Climbing in Moon Hill, Yangshuo. Photo courtesy of Jack Lyons.

8) What do you wish you knew when first starting out?

The matter of fact is this: Coding is hard and takes so so so soooooo many hours of dedication, practice and patience. It’s not for everyone and it can be an incredibly frustrating profession.

I think one of the best ways to accelerate your web development journey would be to sign up for a coding bootcamp (bonus points for an exotic location somewhere in the world). This won’t make you a coding wizard but it will help lay a solid foundation, to meet like-minded peers, and to have dedicated help from a mentor. 

Having a mentor helps a lot but you have to realise that no one is going to hold your hand out in the “real world.” You’ve gotta have grit and figure things out for yourself.

Know that there will be roadblocks, bugs, meltdowns and disasters – it’s going to be how you react to them that makes the difference. Keep calm, and know that you will figure it out. Just learn to do whatever it takes to get unstuck – even if it means paying an expert for their time. You’ll learn from your mistakes and grow rapidly if you have the right mindset.

9) What is one lesson learned from your journey so far?

Patience is an important “skill” that can be developed throughout difficult situations under high stress, commonly known as “stress inoculation.”

I’ve had so many moments where I just wanted to smash my computer and curse my code for not working. But over the years I’ve learned to channel this into a more relaxed state where I can work through the problems in a calm and focused manner (sometimes).

10) Anything else you’d like to add?

Yeah! If you’re interested in becoming a digital dirtbag then check out my blog over at Medium: Adventure In My Veins.

There I interview other wanderlusting climbers who have built a lifestyle and a living around their digital skills. If you know anyone who you’d describe as a “digital dirtbag,” then please get in touch!

Thanks, Jack!

You can learn more about Jack, his work, and his travels: