Dreamgirls: Heather Thorkelson

01/08/12

 

I met someone at the World Domination Summit in Portland. It was love at first sight. Well, not that kind of love. I just knew instantly that Heather was a Dreamgirl and her passion for her work, travels and adventure really got me interested. Turns out, Heather is a “life-shift strategist, professional instigator, & entrepreneurial activator”. How’s that for a cool title? Oh, and did I mention that she lives in Peru and that she’s hosting retreats in the Sacred Valley and in Iceland too? As you see, it didn’t take long to figure out that Heather is the type who works hard to make her dreams come true. So, in the name of inspiration and courage, ladies (and gentlemen) *drumroll*  let me introduce you to Heather Thorkelson!

Where did your dream to run a location independent business come from?

Well, it’s an interesting question because for most of my life I never considered entrepreneurship a viable option.  I grew up under the predominant belief system that running your own business was extremely risky and that your chances of failure (+ ensuing debt) were very high.  Deep down I imagined that when I was financially comfortable in my late 30’s or early 40’s I would likely start a side business and grow it carefully until it could financially support me (I was a lot more risk averse in my younger years).  But when I left my corporate job and knew that my only option (that wouldn’t kill my soul) was to do something meaningful and that I love, that’s when I really started to struggle.  My undergraduate university degree was in Political Science (International relations) and the idea of working in international development had always really spoken to me – partially because I knew deep down that my purpose in this life was to help people, and partially because I wanted to continue to live and work abroad indefinitely.

The challenge was that I’d been doing completely unrelated work throughout my 20’s (educational administration, customer support, sales, social media systems development) and therefore going into the field of international development would mean going back to school and starting from the bottom of the food chain at 32.  Highly unappealing!  The other thing that I wasn’t nuts about was that I would continue to be working for other people, at the whims of my superiors…able to work internationally but only where I was “stationed” for my job and not necessarily somewhere I wanted to be.  Beyond my own wishes for flexibility and a decent quality of life, I had a partner and a dog to consider.
Clearly the Universe had different plans for me because in spite of a ridiculously strong application, I didn’t get in to the one Masters Degree program that I applied for at a university on Canada’s west coast.  At that point, I hadn’t been working formally for almost 10 months, and there was no Plan B.  When I didn’t get in to university, I did some really serious soul-searching.
I realized that the only way I would truly thrive and bring forth the best of myself was to go rogue.

How did you make the decision to just go for it?

I essentially just hit my breaking/inspiration point and decided to design my own life and my own work based on my natural strengths and the lifestyle that would make sense for me and my family.  I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  AND, I knew that not only was I capable of doing it and inspired to do it, but I also had this weird sense that I knew I wouldn’t fail.  Almost immediately I enrolled in a coaching certification program (making a living helping people!) and a business building course (Marie Forleo’s B-school) so that I could create the business I dreamed of, and run it from anywhere in the world.  It was then that I realized all of the things I had been told were too risky if not impossible, were in fact totally possible and probable with a little belief in myself and some hard work.  My guy Sean and I had wanted to move back to South America for many years (we both spent a lot of time there growing up) and with me now going location independent with my business, it gave us the opportunity to take action fast and in a couple of months, we were living by the ocean in Lima, Peru with our dog and we haven’t looked back.

Did you experience set-backs and obstacles – and how did you deal with them?

My only real setbacks where in my own mind, and they were temporary.  To be really specific, my setbacks were due to my social conditioning!  For a long time my brain kept buying in to this myth that you need to start small and grow incrementally in your business.  That it’ll be tough and you’ll go in to debt, but you have to suck it up because that’s what everyone goes through.  I found this really challenging in the beginning and there was the odd bad day when I really doubted my ability to pull it off.   But I’ve always hated rules as soon as I started asking myself why I was buying in to this myth, everything changed.  Within a few short months I had blasted through my three year business goals (and I had only been in business for 8 months total!) and really opened my mind to what was possible with my business and life if I just followed what gave me energy, without thinking much about how feasible it was.  

How do you feel about your life right now?

I absolutely love it.  Actually, I’ve loved my life ever since I left corporate and opened my eyes to the truth that just because I don’t make a good “worker” in a traditional work environment, doesn’t mean I’m not blazingly smart and capable when I give myself the freedom to work in a context that works for me.  I’m creative, I can’t sit still for very long, I require adventure and being around like-minded people who don’t recognize obstacles….people who live in the Land of Anything’s Possible.  It’s a really specific universe that I live in and it doesn’t occur independently.  It’s something you must create.  But once you create it…look out!  I wake up every day inspired and the odd “off” day is a walk in the park compared to the bad days I used to have when my life, my work, my values and sense of integrity were completely out of synch.  I’m typing this very minute from Peru’s Sacred Valley where I’m on a ‘workcation’ – because I’ve created a life in which I can enjoy as many adventures as I like with the people I love, and make a difference at the same time.

What is your next big dream?

It’s a secret!  I wish I could tell you but it’s being incubated at the moment and can’t be poked or prodded just yet. :)   That being said, I don’t really think of future plans or projects as big dreams….I think of them as the natural progression of an adventurous, limitless life.  Rather than looking inwardly at what my next big dream is, I prefer to look at the larger picture and ask the question, “What do I want to contribute through my life and work?”  And at every step of the way, the answer will always be that my life serve as a compelling example of what’s possible when you choose to see your life without boundaries, and operate fundamentally from a place of service.

Do you have any questions for Heather? Or maybe you just want to wave and say hi?

Heather specializes in cubicle escape artistry, entrepreneurial activation, and big-leap-taking.  She leads an eclectic, adventurous, self-designed life, running her own location-independent business two blocks from the ocean in Peru.  She’s addicted to the journey, and runs life-changing Adventure Reboot Retreats for a handful of courageous souls in Iceland & Peru each year.  She’s particularly passionate about experiential learning, rule-breaking, and helping her clients flip the switch to chart lives + careers they really, truly, radically LOVE. 

~ Are you a Dreamgirl? Do you know someone awesome and inspiring? Let me know! ~

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah August 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I just want to wave and say “hi!” Heather, every time your name pops up on the Bschool circuit I check it out and love what I find! :) I love your voice, your style, your creativity, and your zest for life. Living fully by living by example is the best, and you’ve got it down, girl! :) We’ve gotta meet one of these days! :) It’s too bad my brother JUST left Peru after living there for 7 years, but I’m sure I can come up with another excuse to get down to SA some time soon. All the VERY best to you, Heather, and nothing but good vibes sent your way for continued success, happiness, and growth! :)
And Marthe, Thank you for sharing more about Heather with us. I love your site, your blog, and your energy. Freedom is KEY to everything in life, I think! :)
Much <3, Sarah

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Lynn August 2, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Great interview! Can’t wait to see what hatches from your incubator Heather :)

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Heather Thorkelson August 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Sarah, thank you so much! The feeling is mutual – we definitely must meet. :) I love what you’re doing out in the world as well and would love to do whatever I can to support you. Just say the word…send out the Babe signal if you ever need to!
Lynn, I’ve got big things coming. I might spill some of the beans on the Iceland retreat. T-minus 9 days! Hugs.

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Anna long August 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Ahhhh I love it! Keep rocking and serving as a light force for those working on creating our lives in a similar badass fashion!

Great interview!
Xoxo

Anna

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