It’s been a bumpy year for freelance work so far. Projects have fallen through for different reasons, everything from someone assigning something to someone else while my editor was on vacation to a grant wrapping up to budget freezes. Belt-tightening is the wrong time to think about travel, and yet, that’s exactly what I am doing. While I follow up with clients about invoices and hustle for new assignments–cornerstones of any freelancer’s day–I check out hotels in Quebec City and flights to the Bahamas. It’s not the most prudent thing to do (granted, I haven’t purchased anything yet), and if my daughter were an adult doing this I’d advise against the Expedia surfing.
There’s no support group for this kind of behavior. Wanderlust can be obsessive, but is not always compulsive (at least it isn’t for me), and it doesn’t fit in with other shopping addictions or fall neatly into any DSM-V categories (I checked). I’m relieved I fly to San Francisco on Saturday even though I hate flying, for a trip gives me somewhere to go and something to do besides checking email for work-related updates. Travel provides a break from worrying about the future.
I’m tagging along on one of Mike’s business trips and had enough frequent flyer miles to grab a free seat on a Boeing 757; he’ll be at the office, the kid is at camp, and I have San Francisco to myself. I haven’t been this untethered in over a decade. My guess is I will alternate between skipping down the Embarcadero and balling up under the hotel bedroom covers with my laptop and a few books. What will eight days of uninhibited silence and maid service do to me? I’m about to find out.
But after San Francisco, I’ll be out of freebies, which means if I want to go anywhere, I’m going to have to do it the old-fashioned way with cold, hard cash, something that has been in short supply. I love my life and am not complaining, but writing isn’t exactly a lucrative line of work (my college professors did warn me about this), and the publishing industry is having some serious growing pains. Carving out an income as a freelance writer in an age when everyone is being advised to learn code (there is computer coding camp for kids) and train to become a computer engineer is not easy. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the 2012 median income for writers and authors was just under $56,000. That’s great if you live in rural South Dakota (is there an urban part of South Dakota?), but not so great if you live almost anywhere else, particularly the overpriced New York City area. I have a front row seat to watch the deappreciation of my profession. The Internet has cheapened the written word. Book advances are down. Dollar-per-word rates have barely budged since I began freelancing fifteen years ago, even though the cost of food, gas, and a roof over your head have all gone up. It’s the wrong time to travel. However, as things temporarily dry up, I feel even more compelled to grab the family and book a trip. My accountant, who has asked me for vacation recommendations, is probably shaking his head right now.