Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Paul Rowsthorn, Co-Founder at Airguides

Paul Rowsthorn is the Co-Founder at Airguides, a platform where people can book trips created by trusted storytellers.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

For the last few years I’ve been the co-founder of Airguides, a platform where people can book trips created by the world’s most inspiring storytellers. I’m not the founder story you often read about “Going about my normal life when I stumbled across a problem that personally affected me and I just needed to solve”.

To be honest I didn’t even know I was building a startup until someone told me I was at an event I went to. The quick version is I quit my corporate job, travelled for about 18 months and during that time I wrote a blog that got some traction and I just never stopped.

I’m passionate about what I’m creating so I just refuse to give up no matter how hard it’s been at times over the years. Including surviving a complete shutdown of the global tourism industry for a couple of years.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’m lucky enough to head out on trips and campaigns we do with our storytellers for things like Turtle Hatching on the Great Barrier Reef, or swimming with Humpbacks in Tonga which is easily the best part of the job (and completely hectic), but I’ll go through my standard work day.

I’m an early riser and a big believer in managing my mental health with daily exercise, so I get up at 4:30am for a morning fitness class, then walk the dog on the beach about 6am. We recently moved to Noosa, Queensland which has a great coworking space close to home and the beach so I spend most days there.

The lifestyle where we live sort of follows the sun, so I’m normally in bed by 8:30pm. At work, honestly no two days are ever alike. Normally it’s spent trying to keep focussed on the big strategies, while juggling the usual chaos that comes with sales and operations.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

I’m a co-founder so pretty much I can do whatever I like! Translation: I’m pretty much always working, but it’s completely flexible.

We’re currently growing our products around the world so my work days can be all over the place, so the ongoing challenge for me is to find a balance that also manages my mental health and keeps me motivated.

There’s always slippage into spending too much time working on the company and forgetting that I live in paradise. It’s crazy how easily you can fall into the 9-5 style workday even as a founder, which is the exact thing I ran away from.

So I think reflecting each week on how I managed the balance that week is important, but the reality is that the company takes priority most of the time.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Balance is the right word. At times our founding team has slipped badly into only focussing on the company as we ground through difficult times, and before you know it the moral and motivation is completely lost.

So for me it’s understanding that I need to eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep to enjoy my life and what I work on each day. Some days you’re just not feeling it for whatever reason, so just don’t fight it and do something else. 

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Habits that have “changed my life” is a big call. I read David Goggin’s book and stupidly signed up to do some 100km ultramarathons. I’ve recently been getting into freediving which I’m really enjoying.

Probably the biggest is doing an early-morning fitness class every morning before work, no excuses. If you wake up and think about it you’ve lost the battle, so I just build it into my routine.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I’m going to go against the standard startup playbook here as well. For me it’s all about checking out. I read a lot of books, but almost none are motivational or self-help style. I love reading lots of different style books, but almost none fit into the self-help category.

Books like Shoe Dog are probably as close as I get to startup books. A few of my favourites would be Shantaram, The Alchemist, Sapiens, I Am Pilgrim and I tell everyone to read Dark Emu. For podcasts I like How I built This – Guy Raz.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Kindle comes everywhere with me. Noise cancelling headphones for work and my Garmin run watch.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

We’re lucky enough to work with high-profile storytellers like chefs, photographers, explorers and sports stars. I always love asking them about their typical days. It’s wild how passionate and hard working they all are, but I guess there’s a big lesson in that. My dream was always to work with Anthony Bourdain and hear his work life story , so I’ll always regret not getting that opportunity.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Focus on your mental health. It’s different for everyone, but find something that motivates you and keeps you happy and schedule it regularly into your week. It’s fine to grind out long hours when you need to, but keeping your mental health top of mind is important. Everyone talks about productivity hacks, but if you’re not looking after your health then none of it really matters in my experience.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.