I’m a little bit Type A, sort of an overachiever. I don’t really do well with relaxing, and I’m terrible at saying no. Why do one thing if you can do ten? I got my first job at 16 (well first job that was on the up and up), and I pretty much haven’t quit working since then. My senior year in college, I held down three jobs, volunteered with two Girl Scout troops, took 6 more hours than was necessary to graduate, and chose to write an honors thesis for my German degree (all while still managing to attend every single home baseball game…a part-time job in itself). To some this seems crazy, to me, well it’s normal. It’s just how I am.
So when we decided to take this trip, I immediately started thinking of how I could use it to further my freelance writing career. I began to gather ideas. I started long lists of newspaper and magazine markets and editors. I tentatively approached the one editor I could count on about a regular column. I pondered ways to make our blog into a popular and profitable site.
And then we went to Sweden. While there, I pitched a couple of ideas, finished a few articles I had already been working on, and continued gearing up for the big trip. And then one day, after running around town trying to get last minute photos for an article I had due and after trying to sort through a huge pile of information I’d accumulated for possible future stories when I really just wanted to go to the chocolate shop and indulge, I just decided no. No, I wasn’t going to pitch ideas, write articles, or try to spin every adventure and non-adventure into a story for which I could get paid.
You see, freelance writing, though yes more fun than working on an assembly line or sitting in front on a desk all day, is still work. It requires lots of research, lots of ground work, lots of networking, and generally results in lots of rejections or way too many impossible deadlines. This trip is my year off. My one year in which I don’t have to work. I just want to live it. I don’t want to not get to do what I want because an editor wants me to do something else. I don’t want to have to excuse myself from a lively conversation in the hostel kitchen because I have a deadline to meet. I don’t want to look at every experience, every place, every moment through the lens of “how can I pitch this.”
But every once in a while, maybe on a long bus ride when I have much too much time to think, I have one of my Type A panic attacks and wonder what I’m doing, why I’m wasting this opportunity. And then I get a wake-up call, like an email containing the final layout of my hiking book, which I just spent the past few days reviewing. While it was awesome to see everything finally in book form, I’m so glad to be done with it…and to not have any other work looming. Maybe one day in the future, I’ll be a freelance travel writer, but for now, you know what, I’m okay with just being a freelance me.