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, a small e-commerce shop that makes laptop decals for entrepreneurs, and, 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: 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:


(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
  • Repeat

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


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

An Expedition for Life: Why I’m Volunteering with Outward Bound Romania

Wish me luck, Tabby urged. 

She looked at me with the composure that comes from hours of practice and a tinge of anxiety. It was the big day after all.

You don’t need it, you’ve got this, I encouraged. She smiled and walked on stage.

When I first met Tabby six months before, she was a self-assured, albeit timid public speaker. You could sense her strength of character, she just needed a little guidance and support.

She nailed the pitch and went on to raise $50,000 to build her company, Ghalani

Tabby was a special one, but her story rings true for the 60 young entrepreneurs we worked with that year. 

Startup Weekend and the formation of Zazu, The Smartest Damn Alarm Clock (Photo

You never know until you try

Sometimes we just need an opportunity to find out what we’re capable of. Sometimes a small experience can change the trajectory of a life

If I can pin-point one moment when things really shifted for me, it was participating in a Startup Weekend in Boston in 2010. A friend dragged me to it. I didn’t really know what startups were. We ended up taking 3rd place (and bought Indian food with our winnings).

*That video makes me cringe. But hey, the memories*

Since then I’ve been lucky to have some wide-ranging experiences, from teaching entrepreneurship in Ghana to working on a farm to growing a venture-backed startup.

This exposure has taught me one simple truth: You only learn by interacting with the world.

… And you never know where you might end up. Okay, two truths.

Gordonstoun students on an expedition in the 1980s. (Photo source:

Training through the sea

In large part, my thinking around education has been shaped by Kurt Hahn, the Founder of Outward Bound (OB). 

He promoted the concept of “expeditionary learning”, a model of education-by-doing and self-discovery.

His story is interesting in its own right. I’ll share a truncated version below:

Kurt Hahn was a German Jew who spoke out against the rise of Hitler. At the time, he was the founder and headmaster of the Salem School, and he made his stance clear in a letter to alumni:

“Salem cannot remain neutral. I ask the members of the Salem Union who are active in S. A. or S. S. to break with Salem or break with Hitler.”

Salem School focused on character development and Hahn led by example.

He was jailed, naturally.

Only through the appeal by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was he released and promptly expelled. He then made his way to Britain where he trained young British seamen who were performing poorly in the war.

His educational model is captured in the quote, “less training for the sea than through the sea.” 

He called the program “Outward Bound”, which is the nautical term to describe a ship leaving the safety of its harbor to head for the open seas.

Artist: Norman Rockwell, American (1894 – 1978)
Title: Outward Bound
Year: circa 1973

The call to action

Today, OB offers over 1,000 expedition-based programs and focuses on personal development. They work with cohorts from struggling youth to veterans to those interested in developing wilderness skills, and more. 

I first learned about OB in university while researching leadership and educational training. Their structure for experiential learning was so different (and more interesting) than my experience in class. I enjoyed science labs because they had an integrative function, but my greatest education about science came from my coops (internships) working in real biotech labs. 

When I came to entrepreneurship, I knew this wasn’t something you could download from a book, you had to go through the gauntlet. So I did.

Outward Bound Romania training program. (Photo

Which brings me to today

I’m committed to giving more of myself in 2019 so I wanted to find a way to use my strength (marketing) to support an organization with an important mission.

OB offers a model for education that I believe in and which has played a formative role in my own growth — without ever participating in their programming (yet!). Go figure.

As luck would have it, Outward Bound Romania had an opening so here I am in Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely).

I’m about to wrap up my first week and am excited to hit the “open sea” with the crew.