Director of Happiness in Antarctica
Heather Thorkelson personifies solidified dreams. She worked in sales in a pharmaceutical company for seven years, her passion was travel and one of her big dreams was to spend time in Antarctica. After a chance meeting on the Amazon River (yes, you read that correctly) Heather is now a Happiness Director for an adventure company in … Antarctica.
While working in her corporate job Heather used her earnings to fund her passion for travel and regularly went on trips and expeditions to places like the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon. “Travel was something I always prioritised; even when I had no money I always wanted to be mobile. I stuck with my corporate job for seven years as it offered a fellowship abroad. So I got to go to Africa for six months and work with pregnant women who had HIV and when I returned I knew I had do work that was meaningful for me, where I could be a service to other people.”
“I had no idea what that would be. I had some savings so I took a year off and started doing creative things like knit and sew and started focusing on things that gave me energy and along the way I discovered life-coaching. But I realised my real strength was helping people who wanted to be location independent, build online businesses and so my business Republic of Freedom was developed.”
Heather has been to all seven continents and has experienced 40 different countries. Early travel experiences were thanks to her father’s career as an airline pilot. “I spent a lot of time in school being very jet lagged! Since I was a kid I always wanted to go to places no one else goes and was convinced I’d end up in space one day; that’s how broad my horizons are.”
Heather went on a chance trip to Antarctica with her boyfriend. “I hate the cold but Antarctica is absolutely spectacular; you leave changed forever … I said to him, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to come and work here for, like, six months?’. He thought I was crazy, as it is really difficult to get into expedition work. You have to be really specialised, like have a PHD in penguins or glaciology! I was a sales person in a pharmaceutical company, so I didn’t know how it could happen.”
“Then a guy I met on the Amazon River eight years previous contacted me out of the blue, as he was starting an adventure company to the Antarctic and he asked if I would be interested in a passenger support role to make sure everyone had a wonderful time. I was like, ‘Are you serious? Where do I sign?!’”
“I had been writing about travel to Antarctica for a travel agency for years, for no other reason than I love it, so I knew the industry inside out. But my friend who hired me had no idea that I did this nor did he know that I had a desire to travel to Antarctica, he just thought ‘Heather … life coach … she’ll probably say yes!’. All these things came together to make it happen.”
Heather now travels back and forth from Antarctica about seven times per year with groups of tourists who want to experience something different. “The type of people that end up on these ships are generally really interesting. I’ve met the most amazing people and made great friends. We get these crazy 80-year-olds trudging past the penguins; they’re awesome, very inspirational!”
How To Make Your Dreams Happen
“If you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, people in general need to shed the notion that you need tons of money and that you need all the things you need back home. By that I mean letting go of all the things that feel so precious to you right now, in order for you to do what actually makes you happy. There were times when I lived in a garage for a year and a half and cooked on a camping stove in the alley at the rear of the garage and I had no money, but I still travelled. It’s a question of what stage you are at in life, prioritise; if you know that what makes you happy is seeing the world you need to find a way to do it. Skip the lattes, stop shopping all the time, turn off those channels that keep telling you all the time that you need things and start focusing on what experiences you want to make you happy and that’s always been the driving force for me, whether I had tons of money when I worked corporate or had no money living in a garage … Often I have been happiest when I have had the least amount of money! You get your priorities straight because you’re not cluttering with things you don’t need.”
“Really get clear on your priorities and surround yourself with people who support that way of thinking because if you are around people who are into accumulation or influence you otherwise you are constantly going to fall off the wagon and that is going to feel like a struggle.”
How To Build A Location-Independent Business
“My version of location independence is not to always be working, I have a home base in Lima, Peru and this is where I work from; I have chosen here because it is interesting for me. But if I go travelling or do a side job in Antarctica for a while, I press pause on my business.
A really key piece of creating a business that works for you is creating one that is flexible so that you can pop out and pop back in. So building a business that is sustainable for what you are charging, that you are not underpricing yourself; you’re providing the value, building in residual income into your business, like building courses or downloadable resources. … So being very flexible about the strategy of your business and really, no matter what industry you are in, this is possible. There is always a way; most of the time it comes from getting outside help to get us out of the box we are in.”
“No matter what you think your only options are, they are never your only options!”
“My biggest rule in life is always to move towards what gives you energy; it’s a constant shift and as long as you follow what gives you energy you will always be energised by what you are doing.”
“I’m a get-things-done type of girl … mark my word, I probably will end up in space one day!”
Watch this space.
Websites mentioned and how to get in touch with Heather: www.HeatherThorkelson.com