4 ways you can get paid to hike.

4 ways you can get paid to hike.

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness. – John Muir

Me. Basically, professional hiker.

As I embarked on my own journey of professional, “adventurepreneurship”, one thing that I hear quite from others is, “I wish I could just get paid to hike.”  We live in a world that tells us that we can’t do certain things – and being paid for hiking is one of them. The good news is that shedding yourself of these limiting beliefs is as simple as asking yourself the following question:

Question: Do you know anybody or can you think of anybody that gets paid to hike?

Answer: Well, you now know me.  So, technically, your answer is yes. Therefore, it is possible. Which means,  you can do it too.

One person hiking for a living does not mean that there is not enough room in the wilderness to sustain others who might want to bring in an income in a similar manner. I know that every cell in your body is screaming right now, “But you can’t make a living doing what you love! Quit giving me false and idealistic hope, Anastasia!“… and I want to ask YOU… what good is that belief doing you? Is it keeping you in a job that you don’t want to be in? Is it making you fearful that you don’t deserve to pursue the things that you truly love in life? A belief is a thought that we think over and over again – that’s it. It doesn’t mean that it is TRUE. If I can be living proof that hiking for a living is possible for one person – I hope that I can be an example that hiking for a living… or leading an adventure inspired life… is possible for you too.

In this post, I’m going to share with you a few of the things that I have done to carve out my own, “adventure-inspired niche” in a world that told me for most of my life that it wasn’t possible.

1. You know a lot of stuff. Teach others.

I started volunteering with the Washington Outdoor Women  organization about 10 years ago to teach backpacking. I’ve been backpacking for almost two decades, and it’s safe to say that I am obsessed with it. I spend ALL of my free time on the trail – and yes, that includes my own personal time, not just for, “work”.  I started my backpacking career by learning the hard way – I had no clue how to pack my pack or carry a load that wasn’t half my body weight, but I learned… and as I learned, I got confident about what I was doing… and then I started to teach others. I started volunteering with Washington Outdoor Women because I wanted to share the gift of the wilderness with as many women as possible – I never even imagined that teaching backpacking could become a source of income.

With WOW, I teach a 4-hour backpacking class, and one of the things I noticed is that with only 4 hours of instruction, it gives the students a good taste of what backpacking is like, but most of the students don’t feel confident after 4 hours to plan their own trip. I looked around at class offerings at REI, and noticed that they were mostly classroom-based.  I felt like there was a gap in the offerings, so I decided to teach my own class.

I now teach a 2.5 day class called, “Backpacking Basics”. I teach this class based on the curriculum that I designed as an instructor with WOW, but I’ve stretched it into 2.5 days… so instead of me talking a lot about backpacking, my students get to learn how to do everything involved in a backpacking trip. Then, on day two, we actually pack our backpacks and go on an overnight backpacking trip! It’s an incredible weekend and extremely empowering to watch women – some who had never slept in a tent before – realize their own dream of completing their first backpacking trip.

Maybe you don’t feel confident enough about backpacking – but what do you feel confident about… or where could you work to improve your skills? Could you volunteer for an organization like Washington Outdoor Women? Could you take classes? If you see yourself teaching backpacking, I can assure you – it isn’t just going to happen. You have to make it happen, but it isn’t difficult – just start taking steps!

A very happy Backpacking Basics Class, about to hit the trail.

 

2. Your talents deserve to be shared.

I have been a classically trained violinist for 34 years. Earlier in my musical career, I was on a traditional classical, “path” – AKA, the path that has been designed without taking into consideration that every violinist in world history is not the next Itzhak Pearlman.

As a child, I started volunteering with the National Park Service at a park called Hopewell Furnace. In this role, I wore an 1836 day dress and a bonnet and I performed simple hymns on my violin – usually in an outdoor setting.

I loved it.

One day, I actually told the Superintendent of the park that I wanted to volunteer for a living playing my violin outside. Looking back on my childhood, the days that I spent at Hopewell Furnace are, without a doubt, the happiest of my life.

And yet, even though my life’s path was so obvious at that point – those pesky limiting beliefs got in the way:

  • It’s hard to make a living as a musician.
  • You have to be a prodigy to be a professional violinist.
  • You can’t play simple hymns, you must play extremely technical and difficult music.
  • It’s very difficult to make any money as a violinist.
  • You have to spend 8 hours a day practicing in order to be a musician.

It’s sad that I believed all of those lies. Because that is what they are – lies. Life according to somebody else is not life according to YOU. For the next 20 years – feeling as though I were a mediocre violinist living a life that I did not want – I would agonize over why I felt so unfulfilled. I didn’t realize that I didn’t have to be the “best” – because there was no such thing. I’m the best at being me, and that is all I ever needed to be. That’s all any of us ever need to be.

In the past week, I have received 5 gig-offers to perform my violin in the backcountry for adventure elopement weddings. I typically get paid anywhere from $500-$2000 per event. I don’t know many violinists who are bringing their violin into the backcountry for weddings, but all of a sudden, I find myself coordinating with some of the most incredible photographers and adventure elopement planners in the country – simply because I finally decided that hiking with my violin was possible.

I know what you’re thinking, “Well, that’s great for you, Anastasia, but I don’t play the violin.” And that’s fair enough – but what I’m suggesting is that you examine the beliefs you have about the things that you do, or the things that you want to learn how to do, and kick them to the curb. If you want to become a wilderness artist and design a line of greeting cards – does it matter that you didn’t go to art school? Does it matter that you aren’t Picasso? Isn’t it possible that the only thing that keeps us from realizing our own success are the things that we tell ourselves over and over again?

I know this: If I can go from a railroad police officer to being a Musical Mountaineer wearing a gown on the side of a mountain while performing my violin, then I know that everything is possible for you too. Follow what you love – don’t listen to anything that anybody else says (they aren’t you) – and just go for it. When in doubt, do the things that feel exciting to you. Your heart will never lead you astray.

Me, in my railroad policing days. A far cry from a gown and a violin.

The Musical Mountaineers, Rose and Anastasia.

3. Take photos. Lots of them.

I’m not an, “artist of the lens”, but I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented photographers that I’ve ever met in my life, so I think that qualifies me to share what I’ve learned about being successful as an outdoor photographer and/or adventure elopement photographer.

From working with these people, I’ve distilled down their message into a few key phrases:

  1. GET OUT OF YOUR OWN HEAD.
  2. Practice your art and make it your own.
  3. Share your story.
  4. Collaborate with others.
  5. Nail your niche.

The, “compare and despair” spin cycle runs rampant in the outdoor community, which includes the outdoor photography community. Do not look at other people’s photography and think that it means that, “somebody else is doing it”, so therefore you cannot be successful. Other people are not you. Other people do not see the world through your eyes. Follow your heart and capture the things that you love. Be you, and embrace who that is, without spending time demoralizing yourself for who you are not.

Takes classes and learn as much as possible, but do not think that you need every certification that has ever existed in the history of the world in order to be considered a, “real photographer”. You are who you say you are, which means that if you are a photographer, just say so. Ansel Adams wasn’t born as, “Ansel Adams – Most Famous Photographer In The World”. He created that by simply focusing on his art, rather than spending time thinking that he wasn’t good enough.

Photo by Stephen Matera.

Your story sets you apart from every other photographer in the world. I often laugh when people say things like, “The market is so saturated.” Yes, there may be millions of photographers in the world, but there is only ONE you, and that is the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter if there are 3 billion photographers in the world – they aren’t you. And you are the only person who can take photos – or do whatever it is that you do – exactly like you. Cherish your individuality and share your story proudly – even the parts that you don’t like.

I’m going to ask you a hypothetical question…If you had the choice between hiring two violinists for an event, which would you pick:

  1. Violinist 1 – Holding a violin. Appears to know how to play it. Seems nice. Reasonable prices.
  2. Violinist 2 – Hikes mountains with her violin. Used to be a park ranger and a police officer. Almost died in a car wreck. Left her job to pursue her dream. Wants to inspire others to follow their heart and blaze their own trail. Once wore a bonnet. More expensive than Violinist 1.

If you are a penny-pincher and you don’t care, maybe you would choose violinist 1, but I’m going to guess that most people will choose Violinist 2 (who happens to be me, so thank you for that!). Why? Because there is an emotional connection and a relationship with somebody that shares their story.

Note: Sharing your story must be genuine. I don’t share things about my life for shock value – I do it out of service and out of the knowledge that when I make a connection with somebody, I can truly relate to them and help them through the same struggles that I experienced. 

Competition is dead. Collaboration is everything. If you think that you can, “go it alone”, then you are going to be doing just that – going it alone. I used to be jealous of other people who were successful, or people who were living my dream – now, I celebrate them and their success. When collaborating, make sure that it is a mutually beneficial collaboration. If you find yourself frantically, “pitching” collaborations left and right and getting no responses, that’s a hint that you aren’t looking in the right spot for a collaboration. You shouldn’t be, “riding the coat tails” of somebody else who is very successful – this needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship for both people involved. For instance, I work with a lot of photographers who want to have photos of my backcountry music in their portfolio. I will usually take a lot at the photographer’s work, and if it aligns with my own brand, I will happily work with them – they get awesome images for their portfolio, and I get awesome images for mine – win/win!

Photo by Marie Vanderpool Photography. I love my friends.

4. Gear Testing/Outdoor Industry Jobs

I feel SO incredibly fortunate and blessed to be a Seattle Trail Scout and a Gear Tester for Backpacker Magazine.   I used to live with the belief that the outdoor industry was a hard to crack egg that would never let anybody else in. Well, guess what? When you live with that belief, guess what happens? You can’t find your way into the outdoor industry, because you are blinded by such a limiting thought.

When I started on my, “stuck to summit” journey, I made a point to scrap all of the beliefs that were holding me back – including the belief that jobs in the outdoor industry were reserved for, “lucky” people. I used to think that the entire world was divided into two segments of the population, “lucky people” and, “unlucky people”. Naturally, I had been shuffled into the unlucky segment.

LIES. All of it.

The only difference between somebody who is doing what they really want to be doing, and somebody who thinks that they are a, “victim” of life, is that they are choosing to believe that life is happening, “to” them, not, “for” them. I am not a victim, and I never have been. I did not get, “stuck” in a career that I didn’t want to be in – I created that reality, which meant that I could also create a new reality – one that I liked a whole lot better.

I didn’t even try to get a position with Backpacker Magazine. It found me. I released my limiting beliefs about myself, and started focusing on the things that I love: hiking, backpacking, and sharing my love of the wilderness with others. A friend saw an ad for the Backpacker position on Facebook, and she shared it with me. If I hadn’t been sharing my love of the wilderness with others, I would have never met her, and she would have never shared that with me. When you follow your heart and do the things that you love, the most beautiful opportunities present themselves to you.

So, my advice for, “cracking” into the outdoor industry is this: just be you. Believe that it will happen, and simply do the things that you love. Don’t frantically pitch yourself or send annoying messages to people. Don’t “try” in the traditional sense of the world. We were taught from a young age that we have to, “force” things to happen… or that we have to, “work hard” to get what we want in life. The true secret of discovering your path is when you stop, “doing” and start, “allowing”. This sounds crazy and woo, but TRUST me. Trust yourself. If you love testing gear – test gear on your own. Do you love backpacking? Start teaching your friends. Start a hiking Facebook group. Blog about your adventures. Spend your time hiking and sharing your story. Have fun with it. Keep following your heart and it will align you with the people that will lovingly welcome you into a place that you once believed you did not belong.

Gear testing is tough work, but somebody has to do it…

Set a Vision and Go For it.

Don’t be me. Don’t wait 20 years to realize that you aren’t doing what you want to do in your life. I didn’t realize all of the fears that were shackling me down – all of the limiting beliefs that I had about myself that were paralyzing me.

You were not placed on this earth to go through the motions. You were placed on this earth to become the person that you know that you are. You are brilliant, creative, fun, energetic, special, and unique. There is only one of you on this planet, and it would be a disaster to the entire planet if you do not have the chance to share who you were meant to be. This can be anything that you want it to be. If you want to open a guiding company and hike for a living – you can do it. If you want to be an artist and make wilderness-inspired mugs for a living – it can be done. If you want to write poems about nature or publish your first book about hiking – start writing.  If you want to create your own line of outdoor clothing – it’s 100% possible. The only person that can ever prevent you from making progress on the things you feel excited about is the one that looks back at you in the mirror.

16 Comments
  • kim collings
    Posted at 11:30h, 30 March Reply

    The timing on this blog is amazing. I lost my job of 16 years a month ago. I have a little time to look, but not a lot (money wise) and decided to try and find something I really enjoy before settling with job in finance, which I don’t have much of a passion for. I’ve been looking at outdoor jobs but haven’t had any luck yet. I was thinking the things you were saying…limiting thoughts. I’m going to keep on and see if I can figure something out. Even if I have to go back to an office finance job for a while…I’m going to keep pursuing what I would love. I was an executive assistant and I could at least use those abilities in an industry that is what I love, like REI or other outdoor companies. Anyway…thinking out loud a bit but very inspired from your post. Thank you! The timing couldn’t be any better. Also, congrats on following your dream and making it a reality. I’m in the Seattle area as well and it’s just gorgeous. If my boyfriend and I take the plunge I may have to see if we can make it outdoors and I know who to call for the music!

    • Anastasia Allison
      Posted at 14:34h, 02 April Reply

      Hi Kim!! So glad you loved the blog and I am so glad it resonated with you. Keep doing the things that you love and focus on the things that make you feel good – it sounds crazy, but abundance and opportunities FOLLOW your heart… not the other way around. I tried for so many years to “pitch” myself, and I ended up thinking that I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t until I just let go and allowed things to happen that everything came rushing TO ME. It’s been a totally beautiful experience, and I do believe that we are each completely capable of creating a life of our own design – the biggest “hurdle” (but also the most wonderful experience) is to ascend those limiting beliefs that have held us back in the past. I know you can do this!

  • Ralph J Gilcreest
    Posted at 19:42h, 30 March Reply

    “You are never too old. It is never too late.” unknown

  • Viking Tantan
    Posted at 17:04h, 02 May Reply

    This is a great article. I’m currently teaching in Korea (hiking is a huge here!), and am trying to figure out my next career or path I want to take after my contract ends. My dream is to find a way to get paid to hike, but I’m not even sure where to start. Lol. I’m considering thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail when I return to the States next year, but beyond that, I’m a bit lost as a beginning. But I’ll figure it out. 🙂 Your article is inspiring because it shows that there is more than one path that can lead to my dream becoming a reality. Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Anastasia Allison
      Posted at 15:57h, 04 August Reply

      Hi there! Sorry for the delay – my blog spam filter was on and i missed this comment!! You can DEFINITELY get paid to hike. I actually teach a class called ‘Stuck to Summit’ where I work with aspiring adventurepreneurs on how to create/design the career/life that they want to live. I would recommend starting to visualize and ask yourself what your perfect day looks like – then, instead of needing to know how you are going to make it happen, just start taking steps. What is ONE tiny step that you can take to direct momentum in a way that feels exciting to you? The answers will reveal themselves to you – I promise. Just keep taking steps without needing to know them and suddenly you will end up in the most magical place you can imagine. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!

  • Caleb Crawford
    Posted at 16:43h, 03 June Reply

    When asked what my “dream job” would be I would say “getting paid to go hiking, while still having time to make art.” Even after reading your very encouraging story here, I find myself having a hard time believing that I can really do what I love doing. My mind is convinced but I’m not so sure about my heart.

    It’s so cool though to hear that there are people like you who go backpacking for a living – and play music too! That’s great. I definitely have more hope now that maybe I can make hiking a bigger part of my life, maybe even something I do all the time!

    My biggest worry recently has been college debt. But I guess you are right about ourselves being the main thing that can stand in our way.

    • Anastasia Allison
      Posted at 15:55h, 04 August Reply

      Caleb: I would highly suggest that you take a look at a few books … Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill and The Science of Getting Rich by William Wattles. A lot of our wealth consciousness that we’ve believed since childhood is incorrect and completely based on fear, which unfortunately cuts us OFF from the flow of abundance that is present in the world. If I can get paid for playing my violin in the wilderness, then I know without a shadow of a doubt that anybody can get paid for anything. Focus on following the good feeling thoughts and TRUST that they will always lead you to the right place and that abundance/money will FOLLOW you if you simply work on increasing your energy = doing exactly what you love and TRUSTING that the whole universe will conspire to make your vision a reality. It sounds crazy, but that is literally all I have done, and I am now getting paid for doing everything that I love. Don’t ever listen to anybody who says you can’t do it – I did that for 20 years and was stuck and miserable and fearful of going after my dreams. Dream big and go for it – I promise you that you will never look back!! Please feel free to reach out with any questions at all!

  • Nadeanne
    Posted at 05:31h, 30 June Reply

    A friend sent me this post bc he thought I would enjoy it and he was right! You are awesome Anastasia and very motivating. I have been stuck for years in a job I hate and I would love nothing more than to hike for a living or do something in the outdoor industry. I’m just going to keep getting out there and hiking and backpacking and focus all of my positive energy on that and see what opportunities present themselves. Thank you!

    • Anastasia Allison
      Posted at 15:52h, 04 August Reply

      Hi Nadeanne – sorry for the delay in response, my SPAM filter on my blog was not working and I missed legitimate comments. Absolutely do not get stuck in the ‘how’ or the ‘what’ of not knowing… simply start taking steps without needing to know all the answers – that’s all I have done is simply learn how to ignore the fear, and just keep following those good feeling thoughts. They will always lead you to the most magical place that you can imagine!

  • Abhinav Sharma
    Posted at 21:40h, 06 July Reply

    Really amazed by your article ms. Anatasia. And it was very helping for my future and hope i’ll be what i really want me to be, a traveller.
    P. S. – A hiker can be a traveller too 😋

    • Anastasia Allison
      Posted at 15:50h, 04 August Reply

      Hi Abhinav – I’m so glad you loved it and I truly encourage you to pursue your dream of becoming a traveller! Everything is possible!

  • Lida Grayce Lewis
    Posted at 08:29h, 01 August Reply

    Anastasia,

    No truer words have ever resonated with me. I’ve been telling myself for seven years that I didn’t know what my passion was and that I would be a failure if I didn’t get a degree and a “real job” of some sort. Your words are like a breath of FRESH AIR, much like that mountain breeze that I crave everyday. You’ve inspired me to stop limiting myself and go for exactly what I want without doubt or fear that I’m not good enough. So Thank You.

    • Anastasia Allison
      Posted at 15:50h, 04 August Reply

      Hi Lida –
      I am SO GLAD this resonated with you. We very often get stuck in the ‘how’ or the ‘what’ of not knowing – but there are simple steps that we can take to discover those answers. Don’t let the not knowing stop you in your tracks – start taking steps and follow the ‘breadcrumbs’ of good feeling thoughts and you will truly discover your path!

  • Linde
    Posted at 00:38h, 22 October Reply

    Thank you so much for this article! I’m reading this with Paulo Coelho’s manual of the warrior of light next to me (he seems to have the same ideas about trust 😉). My two only passions: hiking and reading are not going to make me rich. Or that is what everybody’s telling me. I’ve been travelling New Zealand for the last 8 months and had the opportunity to hike and read every day! And maybe I should just believe in the fact that there will be a moment I could earn money while doing it…

    • Anastasia Allison
      Posted at 18:12h, 15 November Reply

      I love Paulo Coelho! I’m assuming you’ve read The Alchemist? One of my all time favorites. What I have found over the past two years, is that when you simply let go and trust the process, you allow the most incredible things to unfold in your life. This has happened to me over and over and over again – it is a duplicatable process that will repeat itself for everybody who decides to walk that path of clarity and self discovery. If I can make a living essentially creating my job from nothing, then I know you can do it too!

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