Tamsin's "Ordinary Life"


Tamsin lived an absolutely ordinary life. A high achieving student, she was about to finish her master's degree. She rented a house, worked a typical job, and was well on her way to becoming a regular 9-5er. She felt set. Then something happened. After ending a long-term relationship, she realized she didn’t feel like herself. Caught up in the rat race, her future had already been determined and it was entirely predictable and "safe": master’s degree, job, settle down, retire, die.  This was her life. But was that really what she wanted? Of course not! 

“I actually grew up in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. In my last few years of high school, I decided to move to a ski town because they had an outdoor youth program. I went to school four days a week and then in the summer, we went out rock climbing and kayaking and, in the winter, we went out doing snow sports and mountaineering. And that was part of school. So, I was super into (the outdoors) growing up, but I stopped while I was in college.” Though college attempted to stifle her adventurous spirit, it could not do so permanently: Tamsin’s independence never left her. After looking at her typical white-collar future, she made a decision; as she had done in high school, Tamsin decided to look for something more. And that is what she found.   

While still working on her master’s degree, she applied for a job to be an outdoor instructor in China. Much to her surprise, she got it! Unfortunately, she was supposed to be there in February, but her master's thesis wasn’t due until May.  So, naturally, she got her five-month business project done in four weeks and was out of there. So, it began. Since then, Tamsin has spent her life as a dirtbag: traveling the world, bouncing from place to place, and living the dream.  

All you need is one step in the right direction and everything else will fall into place.  Tamsin initially accepted a job for an outdoor company in China. That grew into something she never expected.  Now she works independently, working in a different area each season. It sounds precarious, but, as is the case with most things in life, it always works out.  It is like Paulo Coelho said, "When you want something, all the universe will conspire to help you achieve it.” It certainly has for Tamsin. Jobs just keep lining up.  “(When traveling), you end up meeting people who say that they’ve worked someplace that was awesome, or that you just want to travel with. So, you usually arrange things one season at a time. So last season I was in the Virgin Islands and I had already got my winter season arranged. And now that I am here (in Colorado), I already know where I am going for the spring, to Arizona to white water raft guide.”   

Traveling isn’t cheap, but when you are living the dirtbag life, you make it work. “I try to live as cheap as possible because I am still paying off student loans. The thing with outdoor guiding is that you make absolutely no money.  But I feel like it’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you keep. So, if I can live really cheaply, then I can still save enough to pay off my loans back home. For instance, in Montana, I lived in a tent for about a month and a half. Then I lived in an old broken-down bus out behind the white-water rafting company for the next month and a half. In the Virgin Islands, I found a friend to let me rent a corner of his kitchen floor. So, I slept on the floor and then paid just enough for food and utilities. In Colorado, where I am now, you can’t really sleep outside because it’s so cold. I managed to worm my way into staff housing. I live in a dorm with a roommate, which is weird because I haven’t had a roommate in years. But it costs me about $200 a month and I live literally at the bottom of the ski lift."  Tamsin has mastered minimalism in her life. As the great Yvon Chouinard said, "the more you know, the less you need." 

There are a lot of ups and downs when it comes to traveling, but for those who do it full time, the good always outweighs the bad. “My favorite part (of traveling) is the people. Every three months you meet a new group of inspiring and driven humans who just want to get out there and have a great time in the outdoors. My other favorite part is the (feeling) of, ‘this is where I belong’. For instance, in the Virgin Islands, I had to island hop to get to work. I had to hike, and then catch a ferry from one island to the next and then jump on an open-aired taxi in the back of a truck. Where I am now, I get in a gondola with my skis. In China, I would take a bullet train, or ride my bike. It’s hard not to feel like that’s not exactly where you’re supposed to be when you’re spending all your time in the outdoors. My life is what everyone else’s vacations look like, and I manage to do it with absolutely no money.”  

When asked what advice she would give to someone who also wants to travel full time, Tamsin said, “I would say, go for it. One hundred percent. Anyone in the situation I started in would have been like ‘oh, there is no way. That’s ridiculous.’ At first, I was still just breaking even. But I slowly got smarter and I figured out how to live for less. You can end up actually saving and making it a viable lifestyle. Don’t be afraid. The absolute worst thing that can happen is that you fail, and you have to go back to the real world and get a real job. That for us is our worst-case scenario and for every single other human that is their everyday life. What do you have to lose?” Truly, Tamsin is living in the moment, on an adventure, enjoying the journey as it comes.  This life has become her “ordinary life”. 

Thank you so much to Tamsin for being willing to share your wisdom with us! You can find her on social media at @tamsindanielle