Episode 147: Creative Producer Tatiana Alexandra on Turning Your Passion Into a Profession
Updated: May 4
"If I'm passionate about one thing, I'm passionate about being a curious human."
This week we're joined by Emmy-nominated video + film producer and avid photographer Tatiana Alexandra. Tatiana dives into her career journey and covers her propensity to enter into the unknown, how to find joy in being lost, and daring to break away from what's conventional.
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Tatiana: I was actually driving in the car to a client meeting with the creative director and we were talking about a kind of breaking rules in life and in career - and not in like a malicious way or a jail time way. But just, do we have to do things the way they were always done? And that to me was like this light bulb moment of, it's so true! Like, you don't need to do things the way they've always been done. And that doesn't only apply to your career or job. It can apply to anything in life. And I think surrounding myself with this environment not only helped my career but helped my entire being and how I approached life as a whole.
Lisa: Hey, welcome to Outside By Design. I am your host, Lisa Slagle, and today we have a really fun episode for you. It is creative producer and photographer, Tatiana Alexandra, and she's awesome. She's an Emmy nominated producer, she's worked with tons of big brands. She's very humble, and in this interview doesn't get into her accolades and how well it's going for her, but she speaks to the journey of becoming a freelancer, feeling lost and finding her passions, and then also turning her passion into a career. So it really aligns with the mission of Outside By Design to highlight people who have lived their lives outside of the corporate box, designed a life that they love on their own terms, and dared to do something different. So I find Tatiana to be very inspiring and badass, and I think you're gonna love this one. So enough from me, let’s kick it over to Tatiana.
Lisa: I'm so excited to have you on the podcast today and ask you tons of questions and learn more about you because I've known you for a few years and enjoyed working with you and I am just so excited to learn more.
Tatiana: Aww, thank you for having me. And ditto. It's been so fun getting to know you over the last couple of years and just kind of seeing the parallels we have, so.
Lisa: The first question I ask everyone is to describe where they are in the world and what you're looking at.
Tatiana: I am actually currently in Denver, house sitting for my sister who's in Iceland. But what's interesting is I've spent the last almost two years as a nomad. So I've had a lot of landscapes over the course of, you know, my nomadic life that has led me now back to Denver. [laughs]
Lisa: Do you like being in Denver?
Tatiana: I love Denver for a lot of reasons, but I also just love being on the road. So to me, it's kind of like when I'm here, I love it. But then I also love being away. There's something about the convenience of a city, though, that you can't really beat - at times. So it feels good right now.
Tatiana: Feels good right now right? I was actually really missing sweet green like those freaking $25 bowls of salad that no one needs to buy. But I I was missing some of those first world luxuries that you just don't get. Elsewhere.
Lisa: So you are a creative producer and a photographer. You freelance, you're awesome. I've worked with you. You're wonderful. Curious, kind of like what's been your journey? And this podcast - like, basically to put it in context - this podcast is specifically featuring people who have dared to step outside the corporate box and design their dream life. So under that framing, like, what's your story?
Tatiana: Oh man. Well, if you want to go back to where I feel my first pivotal moments kind of started, I'm happy to go there. Because I do think it's interesting…
Lisa: Let's do it.
Tatiana: … looking in retrospect how those dots connect over the years. And how when you're going through stuff in your twenties and thirties you don't realize, like, it's going to make sense at some point. And I would love to start at the beginning because what's interesting is, I left college and was starting to almost fall into that narrow-minded trap of adulting. You know, this checkbox of life. And I was dating a guy at the time, he was actually my college sweetheart, and we just were kind of stuck in this rut. And he said, ‘What do you think about moving?’ And I had no idea that that was even a thought in his brain until that moment. And it wasn't on my radar for sure. And so we left the DC area and moved to Colorado kind of on a whim, had no, you know, plan, had no jobs, had no friends out here, nothing. And I think that was like my first step into this feeling of unknown that has now been ultimately like a theme in my life.
And it's so fun to look back at my early twenties and almost see like, okay, I'm a naive twenty-some year old. And I'm making a big change and I had no idea the impact that would make on me, you know, over a decade later. So that was kind of like pivotal moment number one, which was really fun.
Lisa: What did you think you were doing for adulting? Like, what was the path that you graduated in and were like heading toward.
Tatiana: Yeah, Well I think when you graduate college with this degree that costs a lot of money, you think you have to do all of the things to make sure that was, you know, worth it. And I think I was in that mindset of growth of the career ladder and what that meant for myself and then what society kind of deems as this other list of checkboxes, which is you know, find the partner and start to grow up and make sure you're saving money. And it's… it's cool, but where… like, what else is there? And I think when you're graduating college, especially as my mindset of almost being someone of a people pleaser for a while, I just kind of did what I thought I was supposed to do and I didn't think otherwise until I really was forced to.
Lisa: So when you rolled to Denver with that boyfriend, was he heading down like a corporate path? And you were just kind of like, okay.
Tatiana: So what's interesting about that is he graduated with a degree in pre-dental and decided not to become a dentist. So he was having a lot of trouble finding a job. So he ultimately left and joined the military and left me in Colorado all by myself [laughs] and I was just like cool. So now what? So unfortunately that relationship did end and that's another pivotal moment. But I think without moving here we wouldn't have known that there was like more to this story that we were going to later unfold separately.
Lisa: In my mind your story is sort of like stepping stones in a river, right?
Tatiana: Oh yeah, yeah.
Lisa: Because you don't… you don't know what's in front of you but you can see these little pivotal moments behind you.
Tatiana: Ah, that's exactly… exactly how it is. It feels like a very long river of stepping stones. [laughs]
Lisa: So like, so then what happened?
Tatiana: So a few years passed, and like I mentioned, that 8 year relationship ended. And that's big, for someone in their mid twenties to be with someone for 8 years and all of a sudden like start over. And I also started to question my career choices, I started to question… okay, I went to school for sports medicine, I didn't want to become a sports doctor.
I didn't really want to continue down this path, I just had an interest in health but not really as a career. And I just started to question like, what the heck am I doing? What am I meant for?
Lisa: You went to school for Sports Medicine?
Tatiana: I did, yeah.
Lisa: I didn't know that. Okay wow.
Tatiana: Yeah, I think part of - I guess taking a step back, my identity for a long time was an athlete. Like, all I knew was swimming, all I knew was athletic injuries. All I was surrounded by was like health things. And when you're 18 years old and you decide to go to school you just like pick something that feels aligned with that identity, right? So it wasn't till my mid twenties that I essentially started questioning what that identity was. And I was just completely confused and I think that's when the word ‘passion’ we see floating around the internet starts to pop up. And you get in this immersed environment of seeing people following passions and you're told to follow a passion and what do you do when you don't know what your passion is? You know, it's such a difficult place to hear that word and be like, ‘oh it's so easy, just do what you're passionate about and you'll be happy.’ Well, I mean, I didn't know what my passion was at all. And all I knew was I had a lot of interests, I had a lot of things I was curious about. And I was in my mid twenties in a state… relatively alone. So I had to start to do some work. And I think what's interesting about that timing is… it's so frustrating when you're starting to realize you want to walk out of this safety net, you're wanting to get out of this tunnel vision you're in and you want change, but you don't know how to get there. And you're stuck in this, like, tug of war that I think a lot of people can relate to of just being like so confused. And that's that's where I was.
Tatiana: I was just in this complete tug of war of, how do I reach this next step that I so desperately want to have? So I kind of leaned into this philosophy that I was passionately curious. Like, if I'm passionate about one thing, I'm passionate about being a curious human. And I knew because I was single, the only thing I had to worry about was myself. And maybe that's selfish, but there is a lot of power in that, because I had full control over my time and didn't really have to, like, you know, make anyone else happy at the end of the day except for myself. Of course, there are friends and family that you need as part of that story, but the day to day was really truly about Tatiana.
So I started doing like all these things on the side of my 9 to 5 and I was just becoming a massive yes person. Which, now, I've kind of switched my story a little bit, but at the time being a yes person for me was very needed. And I made a lot more friends that way. I would adventure more in Colorado, which, as you know, it's an amazing state to get out there and get dirty. I tried a lot of new sports. I became friends with people who were better at me than pretty much everything in the interest of maybe leveling up my own abilities to do things, like skiing and biking and anything that was out there that I wanted to try. And ultimately I did spend a lot of that free time outside of work playing with creative outlets. And for Colorado, my most applicable creative outlet was actually photography, because I would go out on a hike and have this interest in also capturing what that looked like. And being able to take the day to day and make something more with it was starting to become a really big interest of mine. At the same time, Instagram was growing into this platform that we were all using, and there were other design apps popping up that were free. And so I was just spending all of this fun time playing with the combination of how I was living my life and just creative outlets that were, you know, something… I was sitting on my couch just taking a photo and making it look fun.
What's interesting about Instagram at that time though was it wasn't really something people were curating like they were today or they are today. It's like… I remember we were just following friends and you know people would post the basics of the day or you know what they were eating and it was never really a storytelling platform, at least what I could see. And I'm sure that there were some people that I was inspired by, like, maybe I saw someone elevate their content, but it wasn't the norm, you know. And I realized like there was something to this platform that I really truly loved. There was something about taking the everyday action that I had and like elevating it in some way to tell a visual story or just make it look a little cooler than it was. [laughs]
Lisa: Yeah. [laughs]
Tatiana: So I was just playing. And I think the whole time, though, I was very lost. And ultimately this playtime was - especially with my camera - was a bit of an escape. It was my way of meditating, it was my way of leaving this tangled mess in my brain and shutting down the tabs.
Lisa: That's beautiful. Because you're a brilliant photographer. So I like hearing that that was just like you playing around.
Tatiana: Yeah, I mean and that's… really, that's all it was was this excitement at the end of the day to be able to play. And I think the shutting down of the tabs was nice, because I can overthink a lot. I still do. And I think we all need outlets of calm. And for me I recognized how calming that was. So I think what was interesting about that as well is I was doing that very solo. I wasn't involving other people. It was something that aside from posting on the ‘gram, I was going through this lost journey very much alone. And it wasn't until I started talking to some friends about being vulnerable, and are other people feeling confused? And what does everyone else in their mid to - you know, now a little getting a little older - twenties feeling with this job stuff? And a lot of people didn't openly relate, but I did have one friend in particular and he hosts a creative group in Denver. And I was a part of this group for a while and we were talking about this feeling of being lost. And he had a theme for this talk coming up that was around ‘lost.’ And he asked if I would submit to potentially talk at this event. And I don't know how many people submitted, but they were going to pick five. So I put together a submission video, and I was not chosen, which is totally fine. Probably a blessing in disguise in my mind, because I probably would have been terrified. But what it did give me was this huge exercise in being lost and what that meant to me. And that maybe it's not such a bad thing. It was really something that I was starting to recognize is the most fun part of my day, is being able to be lost and figure it out. Every day when I was playing.
Lisa: The luxury of being lost.
Tatiana. Yeah! Oh, I like that. I mean when you're going through it, you don't realize that it's fun. [laughs]
Tatiana: Because you're so frustrated that you just cannot figure it out. And ultimately it was my friend who prompted me with this dig to explore what this meant. And that was like a huge pivotal moment in my mindset, I would say.
Lisa: So were you mostly, like, literally wandering? Like taking landscapes, taking cityscapes, kind of just like details of where you were, like all these little things of your day?
Tatiana: All the things. And I had… I mean the iPhone started getting better and, you know, you could take photos with that. But I then wanted like a quote unquote real camera. So I bought one of those. And there was something about exploring it that I still… I was like… it was just a hobby. It was never going to be anything more. And what's, I guess, fun about it, is I didn't really care what I was shooting. I just wanted to shoot and I just wanted to create. And I just wanted to use this as an avenue to see what was interesting for that day and how I could make something even more interesting.
But yeah, if you… I guess, like, fast forwarding a little bit, I had taken a corporate job and I got to work with some like really cool print work and visuals. And I was starting to immerse myself in more of a career path with this. But definitely not me doing creative stuff. So I was still, you know, playing on the side and working this sales job. [laughs] And I think, like, what's interesting is when you're working in sales, you're kind of a fly on the wall with the content or product that you're selling, but you don't really get to like get your hands dirty. And I wanted so badly to get my hands dirty in something that was going to pay me money. [laughs] And the sales was like my avenue into doing that, but it was not what I wanted to do full time by any means. But yeah, I was actually interested in… randomly, in-store marketing displays. And, I know, like, of all things that are print related, in-store marketing displays were kind of this like trajectory for me.
And there was actually this retail convention that had come to Denver. And I, in my role, I was not allowed in the door. Like, I was not supposed to be at this retail convention as like the salesperson putting together potentially display units, right? No matter how cool they were, this was not where I was supposed to be.
But something about me really wanted to go to this retail convention and just walk around. And I… I'm not going to name the name because technically I snuck in, I was asking friends like if anyone had an extra pass and ultimately someone did. And I went in as someone that was not my name and not my title. And what's really interesting is, like, the pivotal moment that comes with this - but I had walked in and I went up the escalator and coming down the escalator was kind of a friend acquaintance. Someone I knew but not in like a huge capacity. And he was like, ‘oh Tatiana! it's so good to see you!’ and I was, of course, in this panic of like ‘oh my gosh, now I have to lie about why I'm here, like he's gonna wonder why I'm here.’ Meanwhile, he's the director of marketing for one of the brands that are at the show. And so I was, like, panicking, right?
Lisa: Uh huh.
Tatiana: And ultimately he didn't care. But we were getting to talking and he had been following me on Instagram and like a huge moment happened in my life right then. When he said that he was inspired by my eye for photography that he had seen on Instagram and basically wanted me to shoot some stuff for his brand and contribute to their photo work and also be an ambassador for them.
Lisa: How cool.
Tatiana: So like, me sneaking into this turned into like a massive pivotal moment in my life.
Lisa: Because that was like your first paid freelance job if you will.
Tatiana: Ah, well, funny you say that, it was not paid. I did so many things for trade with that company. And I think unfortunately it's normal, but also… I didn't think I was worth any money. I undervalued myself so much because I wasn't a photographer, I wasn't a creative, I wasn't really anything I just felt that I was still playing, if you will, and that I am not someone that should be like in a position to get paid at that time. And I don't know why I felt that way completely, when I look back, I just I knew that I wasn't thinking of myself as like a photographer.
Lisa: That's so wild to me, because like, as the owner of a creative agency I work with so many talented people and like, your photography is so good. I'm like, what do you mean you didn't deserve to get paid?
Tatiana: [laughs] Ah, well, I mean we're taking a step back, too, because this was kind of when I was first putting my stuff out there. And I think a lot has changed in those years, but what's also, I guess, real to me is that we all have phones. And we all are in some capacity a photographer. So like what made me any different than someone else that was going to take the same photo of someone like doing something? So I think what he was encouraging me to to think about was, it's not just about photography. It's about your eye. And what your eye brings to, you know, whatever it is. And that's what I didn't believe for a long time. And I actually undervalued myself monetarily for a very, very long time.
Lisa: I mean, like, I think that's incredibly common, I think a lot of people listening are like, ‘uh, yeah.’
Lisa: So then what happened?
Tatiana: [laughs] The story continues. So I did some small photo shoots, some big ones. I had one very very big one down in the Bahamas that was kind of another game changer for me. But I think what… what started to happen in my brain was I feared that I was not going to protect this love of mine if I keep doing it as like a career objective. I was really nervous that when you start to find a passion and you make it a job, you will eventually not like that passion anymore. And I think a lot of us have heard these stories of people that, you know, it's like, oh you love cooking, so then you become a chef and then you hate cooking and you never want to cook again in your life. So I think I was super afraid of losing this personal creative outlet in parallel to trying to figure out how to make a career out of a creative outlet. You know? And that's again, another tug of war that I was going through personally.
What's interesting is a lot of people just kept pushing me to believe in myself and I was never the one to believe in myself. It was always other people that were like, just try it, just put yourself out there, just like say yes to this small gig, just, just, just. And I ultimately did a lot of things completely out of my comfort zone because people encouraged me and I still had this feeling of, like, I don't want to be a full-time photographer. I just don't. And I think that was… I don't know for sure if it was out of fear of doing it full time, or if it was truly protecting it. It's kind of hard to say. But I felt it was the protection of it and to diversify, kind of, what I wanted to do.
So I then applied to probably fifty or sixty jobs on Linkedin and all around the creative space. I just kind of like threw everything at the wall and said okay, how do I just get into this space in a way that maybe feels a little bit more diverse than just photography? And I got rejected from 50 or 60 jobs, none of them wanted me. And I think because on paper I didn't look… I didn't check the boxes for them.
Tatiana: And they're correct. I didn't check the boxes for them, unless you knew me as an individual, what my, you know, interests and personality and work ethic was. I didn't… I wasn't the right fit. And so I didn't actually… I don't think I was as upset as maybe a lot of people would be when they're constantly rejected because I kind of knew I was shooting for the stars in some capacity. But I had seen this posting for a producer role. And it was through a studio in Denver that a friend of mine worked at and he is an executive producer. So I kind of had this interesting avenue in, because one, I could talk to him just straight up, ‘hey I am in this kind of lost position. I would love to understand what this producer role is.’ He was very welcoming in the conversation because he knew I was coming from this place of, kind of putting the pieces together in a way and also he knew a lot of my skills outside of my resume. So I think he put a lot of value in knowing the whole version of me and thinking that I was potentially this great fit for being a producer. And during this time I had no idea what a producer was, I was like you hear the producer names in like films, you hear music producer, you're like what… but what do you do? And ultimately he described it and it ended up being the sum of these parts that I had collected over the years. You know, between working in sales, between understanding photography, working with people and schedules and just everything I had collected was essentially what this job was in a creative vein of motion and video. Which was part of the new, that was… that was going to be the hardest part was I didn't have a lot of experience with that. But I had all these like fundamental tools to be able to grasp, I guess, the job itself, you know. And I can learn the rest, is what he essentially said.
Tatiana: And he was right. He was so right. I was super excited, I wanted the job so badly and in order to take it I would have been taking a massive pay cut, a massive pay cut. And that was something that I had to consider. You know, I'm single, I'm living by myself, I need to support myself but I also want to switch careers and follow this passion of mine. And so, can I do it? And ultimately I said - I got the job - I said yes, I took the pay cut, I lived very minimally, as minimally as I could given the landscape of Denver, and I just became absolutely obsessed with production, everything about it. And it was great because I knew the executive producer on a level more than just now him being my boss, like he truly was there as a mentor, as a friend, as someone I could not feel silly asking questions to. And just knowing that this was - or I was walking into basically a learning experience every day and I was a sponge to it all. Of course, I was doing my job but I think I learned more than I was doing sometimes because I was always doing things for the first time. And I was like figuring it out as I go and just hoping that it was fine. Which it was.
But I was definitely learning every single day. And if I wasn't producing, I was playing with my camera on the outside of work. And if I wasn't doing that, I was going to events and I was listening to Master Classes about production, I was talking to people in the industry, I was reading books… I was doing everything I possibly could to learn about everything entailed into production. And that… and that goes more than just where I was at with the studio job because it was learning live production. It was learning post-production. It was learning more about photography. It was learning more about video. Learning more about marketing in general and like why we have the need for this visual language landscape in the world. And I think I just became so obsessed. I probably spent a good 4 to 6 hours on the outside of my job like continuing to immerse myself in this stuff. And I almost didn't view it as a job, I viewed this as like an exciting opportunity to do what I love. and I almost didn't… I almost didn't have any interest in anything else at this time which is really fun.
Lisa: What did you love about production?
Tatiana: I think how diverse it is in the day to day, like you're not ever bored. [laughs] There's certain things about my sales job that… I was just bored. I didn't like that I had to kind of do the same thing every day and in production you have this - especially as the producer in production - you have this roller coaster ride of unknown that is a little bit of, like, you… one, doing different tasks throughout the day just because that's what's needed. But also putting out fires and talking to new people and thinking about new ways to have a creative solution for something. There was just a constant growth aspect that I felt was interesting.
The other part is surrounding yourself with creatives. As you probably know, is a very inspiring place to be day-to-day. And you're sitting kind of around a table with people and there's always these new ideas and there's always people pushing boundaries and there was something really exciting about that that was not very cookie cutter. It was, it was really a fun place to be.
Lisa: Yeah, putting a bunch of really smart people in a room together working toward the same goal is magical. Like, the whole energy is just super palpable and powerful.
Tatiana: Yeah. And what was really cool about the studio that I worked for, it was very small. It was only six people total. And everyone had a completely different personality. Like, completely different. And what was so fun about that is, we were all very accepting of each other even though there were a lot of differences. And it also opened our minds I think individually to start to think differently because we were immersed every day in new thought processes and new people. And I think, in a way… I was… I don't want to say I was close-minded prior to that studio. But I definitely was becoming more open-minded to things after working at the studio. And doing that in parallel to learning was really fun because you're starting to think about things in like different ways that you never would think about them, only because someone like kind of showed you that you can think differently. And I was actually driving in the car to a client meeting with the creative director and we were talking about a kind of breaking rules in life and in career - and not in like a malicious way or a jail time way. But just, do we have to do things the way they were always done? And that to me was like this light bulb moment of, it's so true! Like, you don't need to do things the way they've always been done. And that doesn't only apply to your career or job. It can apply to anything in life. And I think surrounding myself with this environment not only helped my career but helped my entire being and how I approached life as a whole.
Lisa: That's nice. My staff probably tells me, ‘can't you do something the same way twice? Like anything? I'm always like ugh, no.
Tatiana: Oh really?
Lisa: Oh god, yeah. Like, it feels awful to me to have to follow structure. Yeah, but anyway.
Tatiana: Yeah I get it. But, that said, there's something to be noticed about when you have the different personalities in a business of why everyone plays a role. And someone will question it. But then you also have this like, okay well the reason this person is this way actually helps this part of the business and this person over here helps this part of the business in different ways. So yeah, that uniqueness is what makes it go around.
Lisa: That's awesome. So how did you… just like, fast forward, you're a baller producer. You have amazing clients, you work with Nike, like, you made it, right? Spoiler alert to our audience. But how did you… like, how did you get there from this job that you were loving. How did you decide to… like, was there another stepping stone moment?
Tatiana: Yeah, so the company I was at did give me a lot of opportunity to work with big name clients. And even though we were a small studio, we did have a lot that we did that ultimately set me up for a lot of success as, now, a freelancer. So I learned… as I was saying, I learned as much as I could there and this whole mindset shift I had ultimately led me to revisit how I wanted to live my life as a you know, just an individual.
And that was ultimately the combination of all the things I love, and how do I do that and also make a living? And so for me, the choice was, okay, I love production, I love photography, I love travel, I love meeting new people. How do I now do this? And ultimately the only choice for me was to become a freelancer. And because of that, I felt I was stepping into another feeling of unknown. And you know this as a business owner, but it's like you're taking this step into this dark room having no idea what's in front of you. But you kind of have hope that there is going to be something that flourishes.
And it's a risk, right? So I knew that. What's interesting about freelancing is some people do it because they think it's like an easier path. And it is anything but. And I think the people that do that end up going back, you know, backwards because they're like, ‘oh actually I would just prefer a 9 to 5.’ But for me, I knew I needed the balance of all these different pieces and puzzles to make myself happy. I ended up not really being sure if I could do it because I was unfortunately in a position of like, shoot, how much money do I need to have in savings to like be able to take a risk on myself?
So I decided to actually go nomadic for this sole purpose of, okay, I'm going to be as low overhead as I can in my life to be able to take a chance on myself. And have the - I guess, no fear that I could do it. And I did that. I ultimately took the risk and jumped ship from the studio that I loved. And had no idea what was next. I had no job lined up, I didn't… you know, I did have great connections and I did have a lot that I had built up on my resume. But I ultimately - again similar to my early twenties - had no plan. I was like jumping into this void with, now, you know, a bucket of savings that I felt comfortable with and the hope and the dream that I could make something of this. So I ultimately took that power in my mind and I just went for it.
And I put myself out there to whomever wanted to, you know, get a Linkedin post or an email from me and was willing to accept like a cold… Tatiana, you know, welcome. And I had no idea what I would get back because of course I had like a few names on my resume, but a lot of these people, they didn't really know me and my producing skills. And so this one studio did give me a chance and that was about three months into my going freelance journey, and the first client happened to be Nike, which was a big name to have as a freelancer and almost my first vote of confidence that, oh my gosh, like, someone that I didn't actually know hired me as a contractor. The client was a big name - or, is a big name. And ultimately that lasted a pretty long time and led to other gigs as well.
But it was really me trusting that I could do this that put me in the position to be like, ‘I'm not going to just live in this fear-based mentality that everyone is trying to encourage me is a part of freelance life.’ Like, what are you going to do about insurance and what are you going to do about this? And it's like… I didn't really care. I had insurance, like, I have insurance, but I just wasn't really caring about like what could go wrong. And I was only worried about what could go right.
And now, I mean, I think what's so cool about not worrying about the money, not worrying about what could go wrong, is… you do open up yourself for more positivity that comes from change. And that's something that - if you're constantly living in, you know, the what if’s, I think you're almost setting yourself up for some kind of disappointment to happen. Because you're going to have downfalls. We're going to have failures. And I was almost prepared for all that to happen.
Lisa: But you did it anyway.
Tatiana: I did it anyway. Yeah.
Lisa: Yeah, so where… like, what was your traveling like when you went nomadic? Like, how was that to try to freelance, you're like trying to figure out so much as well as when you're nomadic, you're like also trying to figure out like where you're going to sleep or where you're gonna go or what you're going to eat. You know, so it was like, you were just running logistics - no wonder you became a great producer so quickly, you're like running logistics on everything.
Tatiana: Ah, that's such a good point. Interesting that you point that out, you're right. I was kind of running constant logistics on my life. I tried to combine job opportunities with locations I was. And how could I maximize that spot that I wanted to just try on as like a, you know, nomad, but also still make sense of it as a career. So the photography piece is still part of my play and I am now, you know, also a fine art photographer that when I get to travel I submit photos to a company that represents me, and ultimately all of that's a write-off. And all of that is then something that potentially can have this, like, passive earning potential. And then on the production side, I will sign up for gigs that are travel based and I'll go live somewhere else under that umbrella of the production. And it ultimately is a little bit of a play by play where you never know what tomorrow's going to bring at times, and then other times it's a little bit more structured. But I have had many times where I just like slept in my car or ate, you know, ramen out of a Jetboil. And there's other times that it was a little bit more stable. But I think that was what I was open minded to was this potential and opportunity that every day would be a little different and that's okay.
Tatiana: And that maybe this stability that people crave - which is, you know, maybe fine - is something that like, I don't necessarily need. It might be nice to have some stability, but I don't necessarily need to like 100% always have it to be okay. You know?
And I think that's - as a nomad, and I think part of this is being a solo nomad - is you have this freedom to figure it out as you go. And I was open minded to that and what change would come of that.
Lisa: I think this is nice for creatives to hear because like no matter what you do in life, there are always going to be problems. It's just like, what are the problems that you want to put up with? So if you work in-house, you have the problems of like, you don't like your boss. Your co-worker ate your lunch. You don't like having to drive to an office. Like, there's all these little problems that come with your job, right? And then when you freelance, there's the problems of, how am I going to find work? What's next? And then when you're living nomadically, where am I going next? How am I gonna sleep? Who am I going to hang out with? Like, all these things. You know, so, it's like those are problems that were worth it to you, like problems you like solving.
Tatiana: Yeah, it's… I accepted the fact that there was going to be a challenge in the day-to-day that to me I didn't view as a challenge. It's the same thing with fear, I kind of have started to view fear as a friend and that every day will come with these road bumps, and it's just a matter of navigating it and it's not usually the end of the world. I think we almost paint a bigger story in our mind of what can go wrong ahead of something actually going wrong and then we start to worry. As humans we start to overthink. We start to say, what if, what if? And ultimately when I stopped living so far in the future and I just started living for the present, and, you know, what am I doing tonight? I stopped worrying as much about what was going to unfold. Because I didn't really care. I was just… I felt really confident in my path, I felt really confident in my abilities at this point, and I knew that if anything went wrong, it wasn't going to be something that was going to ultimately, like, hijack this path I was on.
Lisa: That's awesome. So what are some cool things that happened or like, what are some good events or places you saw or things you did? Like what's your highlight reel?
Tatiana: Oh my gosh, I'm kind of one of those people when they ask when people ask like what's your favorite place, I love so many places for different reasons and can find joy and moments of excitement almost anywhere I go. Whether it's, you know, a classic beautiful place that people love or if it's like, you know, a dive bar in some random town. I generally find the positive and everything I do. So to like find a highlight reel is actually pretty difficult for me. But I will say, I spent some time in Portugal, which, I don't know if you've been, but if anyone's been, it's like an incredible country. And part of the reason I went was actually not because of the country itself but because of how affordable it is to go, which for me was kind of this happy medium of how do you do something that's really big but on a budget. And I spent some time there that… it was really life changing for me because I went mostly… I was there for a few overlap days with my sister, but most of the time was alone. And I got to immerse myself in the culture and with strangers on a daily basis. And I think everyone that has had an opportunity to meet people because they kind of have to rely on other people that are not those that they are traveling with, it is a really eye-opening experience to the energy and the kindness that is out in the world. And I felt that very much so in Portugal because I was in a, you know, a foreign country, I had no idea really what I was doing, I had rented a car and gone on streets I had no idea how to drive on. You know, it's like, you just figure it out as you go. But a lot of that time was spent talking to strangers and figuring out as I went.
There was one really interesting moment though, I had gone to this bus stop and I'd asked the person working there - the map that I had showed of the left and the right spot which one has fewer people? And I was wanting to go to this place that was beautiful but not really, you know, didn't have a lot of tourists. And she said, ‘oh definitely this one.’ So I went there and it was a complete ghost town. Like, no one was there. And I was walking up the street and this car pulled up and it was kind of scary, because it's like you're in this ominous place and the smoke or the fog is kind of rolling in. And this guy gets out of the car and he had a camera, so I instantly was like oh, he's one of me. And he ended up being this, like, feature film film scout that was scouting for a very large film that I can't name. But he was scouting for it and we ended up talking for hours. And I think it's just like a testament to, one, going to new places in general, talking to people in new environments and people that you wouldn't normally maybe interact with, and just being open minded to what life can offer when you step outside of your comfort zone a little bit. Because I think that was like one of the biggest highlights just in the last year of reminding myself to do those types of things.
Lisa: That's cool. It's… have you read The Surrender Experiment?
Tatiana: No. You're always like the book master. I love it.
Lisa: I know, I need more human friends.
Tatiana: [laughs] No, I love it!
Lisa: But your story kind of reminds me of the surrender experiment.
Tatiana: I'm gonna write that down.
Lisa: Yeah, it’s a good one.
Tatiana: I actually - you always inspire the books I read, like Big Magic?
Lisa: Oh yeah.
Tatiana: That you had read, that's been a game changer in my life. That one book. And I feel like it's really nice when other folks share things that they feel others will get something out of, especially in our creative community.
Lisa: Yes, I mean I love reading, but check out Surrender Experiment. You'll love it. But it's yeah, you're living a similar path so you'll probably read it and be like yeah, yeah, yeah I know all this. already. But yeah, it’s cool. So Telluride, you were in Telluride this winter.
Tatiana: I was, yeah.
Lisa: We were neighbors, I was like, man, I should go see you. How’d you like it?
Tatiana: It was good. It goes back to me feeling like I really like a lot of environments and I was in a stage of my life that I wanted to go somewhere that had next to like no people. And there was something in my brain that kind of wanted to feel settled ish that I was craving. And outside of Telluride - I was living in Ridgeway and it's, you know, a town of 1200. There are very very few people in comparison to the beautiful land out there. But the San Juans have always been hands down my favorite part of the entire state of Colorado and I knew that if I was going to be on this nomadic journey and also had the freedom to work remotely, I could be anywhere I wanted to be. And I chose to ‘try on’ essentially the San Juans. And of all places, I actually posted on Craigslist, and this person responded and was looking for someone to watch their home while they were going to sail in South America for five months. So I randomly - which, if anyone knows that area, it is very very very difficult to find housing in the San Juans. One, there's just not a lot of it, and two, they take their housing very seriously and protect the area because they don't want it to be just like this mass chaos of tourism. And I love that about the
San Juans. So I didn't really put a lot of hope that I would find a place, but I think I was secretly thinking that if I just tried, that you never know what could happen. Similar to how I live most of my life. [laughs]
But I put this posting out there. I told a little bit of my story. And it happened to be this couple who, like, as I said, they're sailing down in South America, but the wife was a former nomad and had started her own business and really attached herself to like the likeliness of you know, kind of seeing herself in these same shoes. And so we have this commonality and comfort in that. So I lived in their home, I did pay a little bit but not nearly, probably, what people pay when they're living in the San Juans. And, I, you know, I watered their plants and the neighbors were horses and there was something really special about being in this very simple environment, you know, cooking for myself versus constantly having this luxury of eating out, meeting strangers because I didn't know anybody. Of course, that was probably, now, the most difficult part of living out there was meeting people. And I had the opportunity of… what I love is the outdoors at my front doorstep. You know, I could go on a hike and I could go ski and I could do all these things that I love in a very non- touristy area and feel really happy that I was trying to find this balance in my life of all of my outlets, you know.
It goes back to what I was saying, where, how do you craft this life that you want? And I think I crave this freedom and I crave being able to make a living doing something I love. And I crave this ability to see new places. And this was just checking all the boxes for me without being this permanent thing. Which for some is not… is not everyone's flavor. But for me, it's what I needed at that time and it was a really special five months of my life.
Lisa: Cool. So, I guess you kind of just answered it. But my other question for you was, like, how do you define success? And how have you found that?
Tatiana: Mmm. Yeah. I got rid of the whole, like societal definition of success - of, in my opinion, what people feel is just money driven - a long time ago. And I really felt that success, for me, is finding happiness with what you're doing and if you can do that and make a living you are successful. There is something to be said with kind of putting money last and realizing… well, maybe not last. Like, there is an important piece to having something. But it's not the most important thing. And I really chase down doing what I love and following my gut even though a lot of that path did not make sense.
And if you were to put all these pieces, you know, that I've kind of discussed or that I felt I was going through at the time into one basket, it would just look like a really messy combination of a lot of things. And I wouldn't have made the connection of success until I actually did reflect and follow my gut of, ‘okay this is what's feeling right. This is what is making me happy.’ And continuing down a path that was going to lead me in some direction that felt correct for me and not necessarily one that I felt like I had to do because of any particular societal reason.
Lisa: I love that. Last question, is there anything you want to share with our audience that I haven't asked you?
Tatiana: I think the biggest thing would be that we're all on some kind of journey and we're all reflecting on something and I think it does take talking to each other. And I know that I've had a lot of mentors and friends that I've leaned on as I've gone through a journey myself that has really helped me work through the day-to-day confusion and that tangled mess in my brain. And I think if we can help each other in any capacity, if I could be of support to anyone out there that just wants to talk about their journey and know that you're not alone. That's the biggest thing, I think, in general, we as a community can help each other with is working through these pieces and hurdles together and knowing that there is a fun part of the journey. It’s just, you know, getting through it. And potentially you are going through tough times and it's like, you just want to talk. You just want to, you know, vent about confusion or whatever. But there usually is something good on the other side that we can all look forward to if we work together.
Lisa: I love that. So on that note, where can people get a hold of you, where can they look into your work, where can anyone who needs a producer find you?
Tatiana: Yeah, so I have a website. It’s tatianaalexandra.com or Instagram is probably one of the easiest spots. It's @tatiana.alexandra. So I just, yeah I think if you want to reach out, please do. And it could be about anything whether it's work related, life related. Whatever.
Lisa: Awesome! Well thank you so much for your time and your insight and this was a good one.
Tatiana: Thank you. I appreciate you.
Lisa: Thanks for listening to Outside by Design, hosted by me, Lisa Slagle.
This show is produced by my creative agency, WHEELIE. You can find us at our website, wheeliecreative.com. You can also visit wheeliecreative.com/podcast to find more episodes, transcripts, and show notes. And of course, we're on Instagram. It's @WheelieCollective.
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