Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The travelling translator reporting from... the Galapagos Islands!

This is yet another exciting post from Martina Russo, an English, German and Spanish into Italian freelance translator who enjoys travelling and making the most of her professional independence.  In the past, she reported from SE Asia and now she is once again at the other side of the world. Here's her latest story:

"Exactly 1 year ago, I was typing all the way from South East Asia. Today, after more or less 1,5 years of full time freelancing, things are going smooth and I'm enjoying a very happy lifestyle, living in South America. Right now, I'm typing from the Galapagos Islands!

That's right. I am – literally – living on an earthly heaven, where incredibly colourful creatures walk, fly and swim all around me 24/7. There's no break from beauty.

The pros and the cons of South America
Peru and Ecuador – and I guess the same could be said about the whole of South America – have brought along their challenges.

The biggest one: time difference. South America is between -5 and -7 hours behind (compared to Europe). My clients are mainly European. This means that when I wake up at 7 am, it's already 2 pm in Switzerland; 10 am for me, 5 pm in Europe.

-        The problem: my main fear was that I would lose a great amount of work from some clients because of the time difference. I would wake up very nervous every morning and instantly check my email in-box, sometimes finding messages that had been sent hours back and occasionally tasks that had been cancelled because I wasn't available at the time.

-        The solution: I told my clients where I was located. They were all OK with it --actually, some of them were even excited about it. At first, I tried to work according to the EU time zone, but eventually it wasn't worth it so my clients happily adjusted their schedule according to mine and we successfully found a meeting point. Of course, I will go the extra mile to meet a deadline, so I still make exceptions when needed.

I got a local SIM card and made sure that 3G was always on so as to receive email notifications promptly. This way, I can always reply within minutes; maximum within one hour. I communicated my local telephone number in case of emergencies and have been planning on opening a Google Voice number (or similar) so that I can keep the same number, no matter where I am.

Being so many hours behind can be quite stressful at first, but then you adjust to the rhythm. I can accept jobs early in the morning and I need to be constantly available until around midday, but after that I can take a few hours off and enjoy the day or any activity, because in Europe everybody's dining and sleeping at that time. In the afternoon/evening there is more time to get work done.

My typical day here usually unfolds like this:

I wake up between 6-7 am, instantly check emails from my phone and reply to urgent jobs. I do some stretching exercises and eat breakfast. I then start working and stay in the zone until around 12-1 pm. I have lunch and get some more work done, and around 2 pm I get my snorkelling or surfing equipment ready and off to the beach I go! A couple of hours later I'm back and, after a shower and some reading, I get back to work until dinner time.

Some of the highlights of this trip (and there are still many more to come!):
-        swimming and snorkelling with sea lions and giant sea turtles
-        learning how to surf and (working on) getting over my terror for the sea
-        travelling across the Amazon rain forest and the Andes, experiencing breathtaking landscapes, remote cultures and languages and local wild animals

Constantly pushing over my limits and boundaries allows me to grow on so many levels, and it keeps me ever more motivated to do my job. Not only do I love languages, cultures and translation –this flexibility is one great perk of freelancing that I would not give up for all the money in the world."

Martina in a nutshell:

Martina Russo is an English, Spanish & German into Italian freelance translator with 4 years of experience and a BA in translation studies. She also offers proofreading, subtitling, transcribing and (light) post-editing services in Italian. Her main domains are Tourism & Hospitality, Marketing & Communication and audiovisual translation.

Martina enjoys the advantages of working from home by taking her home to different countries. She likes experiencing new cultures and learning new languages – her dream is to become a polyglot. She is currently writing an essay about memorisation strategies applied to language learning and specialising in SEO and localisation.

Would like to get in touch with her? Have a look at her CV, browse her website or send her an email.

Photos: Martina Russo, 


  1. Wow, I just discovered your blog and read ALL of your posts about travelling translators. They're great. I was going to suggest that you ask them about visa/working permit requirements and this kind of things, but I realized that some of them already talk about that in older posts. It makes me angry when some freelance tranlsators (or other professionals) just say: "Well, I can go and live in a cheaper country." Well, it's not that easy. Even poor countries have laws about immigration. I'm currently relocating to the US (of course I already knew how difficult it was to move there beforehand) and it's such a pain as a freelancer.

    1. Hello Irene. Thank you for liking my blog. I have heard it is quite tricky to move to the US as a freelancer, as you would need to be sponsored by someone to do so (hence be an employee, rather than a freelancer). Some people I know were considering applying for the O-1 visa but I don't think it would apply in our case. Good luck!