This started out as an angry rant of sorts.
Because I started thinking about the past few weeks, and the horror of not having any travel plans for the first time in a year, and those eye-rolling reactions I get whenever I complain about my job(s). Those times when I get so infuriated, I have to restrain myself from stabbing someone in the eye with my lead pencil.
Because in the past few weeks, I’ve been bloody miserable. I’ve been going through the motions of post-trip depression, and questioning my career, and wondering how it could have possibly been 15 months since I was laid off from my job and “forced” into making this side gig thing a full-time, permanent role. And then I think about how in this world of travel writing there are no promotions, no bonuses, no raises. No pats on the back. My following has not grown as significantly as I would have liked because hey, in order to be a travel writer, you have to travel! And nobody gives a shit if you’re actually a good writer or not, as long as you’ve BEEN EVERYWHERE FIVE TIMES OVER and have the sort of following which could prove to be mutually beneficial!
So I don’t really know if I’ve “made” it. I’ve gone to bed hungry twice in the past two weeks and I cannot afford winter boots. You tell me.
Let me lay it out there. I chose this lifestyle. If I think I’m miserable right now, it was nothing compared to my lifestyle before. I’m making significantly less money, I have no job security and health insurance is eating my soul. I traded it all in for freedom, and despite everything, I love it.
I love that I can come and go as I please. I love that I’m offered trips around the globe and I can take them. I love that a few weeks ago I stood at Machu Picchu and this summer I drove across Canada. I love that my opinion matters to some people, and sharing my experiences strikes a chord in the heart of others. My whole life has been developed on the love of travel, literature, and writing, and so infusing all three just seems natural.
But it’s not always easy.
Travel writing is work. Yes, it is work. These incredible press trips I’ve been taking require a great deal of writing, networking, meeting crazy deadlines, prioritizing other jobs to make room for a rigorous schedule, and being able to function on four hours of sleep a night. It is incredibly hard to stay motivated and inspired, and you have nothing to fall back on when things go wrong.
It takes a LONG time to get there. There are only a handful of people who have earned huge success upon immediately breaking out onto the travel blogging scene. I’m fortunately at the point in my career where most publications recognize me as a valuable writer, not just a blogger, but it’s taken over two years.
You will have to pave your own path. You absolutely cannot read a self-help e-book and expect your life to work out in the same way. Take that information, and build your own route.
There is no job security and print publications still offer the best rates. If you lack the business sense to be a self-publisher and run several websites at once, and if your focus is more on good writing than anything else, you probably don’t have much job security. Content mills don’t give a shit about you. They want link love and quick information, not in-depth research and meaningful insights. Print publications still offer the best rates for your work, but competition is cutthroat.
You will probably not earn much money, not for many years. Credibility and experience takes time. If you have debt, you’re fucked. The majority of my pay goes to paying back student loans and credit debt leftover from my full-time job. It’s enough to survive, but you can never be certain when that next pay cheque arrives and if you don’t have a safety net to bail you out in the meantime, it sucks. Hence the lack of food in my life. I am broke. Not living in poverty, but broke. And I don’t own a house, or a car, or any of those things which many “broke” people have. My life is worth a laptop computer, an external hard drive, a fancy camera and a 3-year old bed from Sears. My books are invaluable. Ironically, this lack of financial freedom attributed to my lifestyle freedom means I can’t do many of the things I want, like travel Greece long-term.
So when you say I’m “lucky” to be doing this, yes, I am. I’m taking the risks, I’m getting out there. I’ve come to realize how incredible the travel blogging community is, and how blessed I am for such an amazing group of friends and family who are always around to help bail me out of a jam. I can only hope that some day I’ll be in a better position to return the favour.
But it wasn’t luck that got me to where I am right now, and saying so undermines my hard work and determination to beat the status quo. I’ve been told countless times in the past year to “get a job.” Would you give up your cushy careers, decorated homes, and pension plans for an uncertain future, sporadic pay cheques, and an office outfit consisting of pyjamas? For many of you, probably not.
Which is okay, actually. I may need your couch to crash on.