A few days ago, I saw a tweet celebrating Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken, which was, according to the article, published 100 years ago this month. The timing struck me as particularly apt, because I’ve recently decided to take an unconventional path of my own. When I look back on my life in 50 years and consider the choices I’ve made, I hope this will be one that “made all the difference.”
For six years now, I’ve worked as a magazine editor, and although writing articles has always been part of my job, I’ve had to devote less and less time to writing as my career has chugged along. Although I’ve enjoyed learning about and handling the other tasks necessary to put out a magazine every month, my main passion is researching new subjects and interesting people and sharing what I’ve learned through the written word. My work as an editor has involved coordinating with lots of freelance writers, and I’ve always genuinely admired this segment of the workforce. Full-time freelancers constantly have to hustle for new assignments, and the pay is nowhere near as consistent as it is with a traditional salaried job. Plus, freelancers don’t get company benefits like health insurance or 401(k) matches, so they have to pay out of pocket for these amenities that many people take for granted. There are definitely more stable ways to make a living, but the payoffs of freelancing as a career can be pretty amazing. You get to be your own boss, set your own hours and go after assignments that interest you, and if you want to work at home in your PJs or while traveling, you can do so without feeling guilty for taking time away from the office. In today’s connected world, a culture of “digital nomads” has developed, and more and more people are doing great work and making a good living without having to be tied to a specific location.
I’ve taken on freelance assignments here and there for more than eight years, but I figured I couldn’t make it work as a full-time career until I was married and had the safety net of a second income at home with health insurance and retirement benefits. However, the flip side of that argument is that there may be no better time to take a risk than when I don’t have others depending on me. The time feels right — I’m not tied down with a husband, kids or a mortgage yet, and it’s a good time in my career to take a chance. So I’m doing it. I’ve decided to take the plunge and give it my best go as a full-time freelance writer, and at least initially I’ll be doing this from the road.
In a week and a half, I’m moving out of my awesome historic farmhouse in Virginia (not gonna lie, I’m bummed to leave it!), and I’ll start traveling across the country in search of adventure, intriguing people and places, and writing assignments. Along the way, I’ll post blog entries on this site and share my journeys on social media, and I’ll pitch article ideas to print and online publications where I’d like to contribute. With a lot of work and a little luck, I’ll get enough assignments to sustain myself. And although I’ll initially use some family homes in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia as my home bases, I hope I can soon generate enough of a consistent income through this work to maintain a home of my own again and still have the flexibility to travel frequently.
I’m friends with others who have done something like this and made a success of it, so I know it’s possible. Kim Dinan, who published “Life on Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide To Living Your Dreams,” spent much of last year traveling across the country for Backpacker magazine and is currently working on her third book. Dirk Rohrbach, a German physician who gave up his medical practice to follow his dream of exploring America, now shares his adventures through books, documentaries and multimedia presentations with National Geographic Germany. Evelyn Hannon sought the world for solace after a devastating divorce, and the buds of her initial travels of discovery have blossomed into Journeywoman.com, the web’s premier resource for female travelers. There are others I don’t know personally, but I’ve enjoyed their writing and have followed their travels and successes — Megan and Mike Jerrard, Lauren Juliff, Matt Kepnes, Kate Siber, Kira Salak and Jennifer Pharr Davis, to name a few.
If all goes well, this won’t be a short-term experiment — it will be the beginning of a long-term career as a freelance writer. I don’t know if it will work if I go, but I know it won’t work if I don’t go. This is my version of moving to New York to follow the dream of becoming a dancer or to L.A. in pursuit of an acting career. I’ve spent the last 11 years honing my craft and am taking the leap to see if what I’ve learned can sustain me outside the confines of a traditional job. If I take my shot and it doesn’t work out, I will have known I tried. And I’m ready to take that risk.
So! I can’t wait to hit the road, and I’d love for you to follow along as I go. I recently created a professional Facebook page that you can like, and you can also subscribe to get email updates from this blog (see the top box on the sidebar at right) and follow me on Twitter. Once I get going with my Instagram account, I’ll add a box for that in the sidebar as well. I’m still working on creating and filling up my Flickr albums and cleaning up the Photos page on this site, and I also need to pare down my Clips page, but I’ll be fully in business very soon!
If you happen to be in the market for a futon, kayak, desk, enormous corkboard or a lot of other stuff, stay tuned to my personal Facebook page over the next several days. I’m going to be selling a lot of stuff to downsize and generate some start-up capital for this new adventure.
Also, if you’re in the area, I’m having a yard sale the morning of Saturday, August 29, and a bonfire that evening, and I’d love if you could come. I think I will have my moving truck there the next day, and I would welcome any and all available sets of helping hands in exchange for pizza and genuine gratitude.
Finally, I’m looking for a new home for my cat and my fish before August 31 (very sad to let them go!), so please let me know if you have a great home and are looking to adopt.
Thank you for reading this whole post and for being interested in this exciting next stage of my life! I honestly have no idea where I’ll be two months, a year or five years from now, but I hope this decision helps kick off some interesting new developments. And I hope you’ll enjoy it as well :).