To many, the idea of being a travelling freelance writer must seem like some kind of bohemian idyll. Surely, being able to use your own creativity to generate an income which in turn can be used to pay for accommodation and transport, thus engendering a circumstance of perpetual travel is the stuff of dreams, right?
Well, yes, in many ways it is.
Without doubt, working in a profession which doesn’t require you to be based in any one place, or demand you to ’clock in’ in the traditional sense, really is very liberating indeed. Furthermore, knowing you can, within reason, move from one place to another - pretty much on a whim – can be incredibly intoxicating. Had enough of working in Berlin? Why not take a train to Madrid? Fancy a change from Europe? How about flying off to Bangkok? And so it goes, for as long as you want it to...
When you’re young and full of bravado, it is often the case that you think you’ll maintain this lifestyle forever. After all, why would you want to be tied down like those suckers in the Rat Race, with their mortgage, car and kids, when the world is quite literally your oyster? However, it is a fact that we all change over time, and as such, even things which may seem alternative and bohemian can start to seem normal, perhaps even routine as the years pass.
Being a travelling freelance writer is no different in this respect.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people out there who – even after many years of travelling and writing – remain completely in love with the lifestyle. Indeed, these committed individuals are often (unfairly) labelled as ’institutionalised’ digital nomads as they just cannot imagine themselves living life in any other way.
But, for every career nomad, there are a hundred other writers who, for one reason or another, gradually conclude that working on the road is no longer for them. If you’re still reading this article, even after that somewhat rambling intro, then you may well be one of them.
So how do you know when the time is right to quit being a travelling freelance writer? How do you know that the love affair is over and you’re not just going through a blip of some kind?
Step 1: Be aware of the early warning signs of travel fatigue
There are some classic tell-tale signs of discontent that all travellers need to be aware of. When packing your rucksack feels like a chore rather than a thrill; when applying for a visa generates more boredom than excitement; when ’Where are you from/where are you heading?’ conversations seem tedious instead of engaging: all of these things are well known symptoms of travel fatigue. If they come and go, then chances are you’re just going through a bit of a dip, perhaps brought on by a bout of home sickness or a disinterest in the city/country you happen to be in. If these symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time, then it could well be an indication that all is not well in your subconscious.
Step 2: Consider your productivity
It is a well known fact that happy people are more productive at work than unhappy people. While writing isn’t always an easy profession to quantify and measure in terms of actual quantitative productivity, it is pretty easy to tell whether or not you are finding it easy to ’deliver the goods’ on a daily basis. If you can pitch up at a coffice, bar or indeed anywhere and fire off a 1500 word article or 5,000 word chapter most days without thinking too much about it, then it is probably the case that you’re feeling pretty content. If, however, just getting started feels like an obstacle in itself, and you find yourself deliberately delaying/distracting yourself, then it could well be the case that you’re creative juices are being drowned by some sort of psychological melancholy. Again, this can be location/ time specific: some places and times are simply less conducive to work in than others. However, if you notice it happening quite often, irrespective of when and where you’re working, then chances are you are not a happy bunny.
Step 3: Ask yourself, “What do I really want”
This may sound a little trite but try it: ask yourself – out loud – what you really want. You may be surprised by what you say. Before you left your home country to become a travelling freelance writer, chances are you probably said, ’freedom, fun and adventure’ were what you wanted. However, after years of filling your belly with all the freedom, fun and adventure you could manage, it is likely to be the case that “something different” may well be your current reply. This is only natural. As mentioned before, we all change as we grow older. If asking this question leads you to consider thoughts like “I’d like to have my own space”, “I’d like a greater degree of stability, or “I’d like to be closer to family and friends” - and to feel genuinely excited by them - then it is pretty obvious your time as a full-time nomadic writer is coming to an end.
One of the great things about being a freelance writer is the flexibility it affords. So, even if you do eventually decide to jack in the travelling side of things and become a resident freelance writer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up your wandering habits altogether. After all, the fact that you are self-employed means you can take off whenever you like, thus ensuring you can disappear for a brief jaunt overseas whenever you feel like it. This means that, within reason, you can re-visit your old lifestyle periodically rather than retire from it completely.
Are you a freelance writer who used to live and work on the road? If so, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject; so please feel free to share your own experiences with us in the comments box below: