On Friday I turned off my work computer, left my desk and walked out of the office I’ve spent more than three years working in forever. However many times I imagined leaving, saying goodbye and shedding my old routine I never thought it would feel like this: Hollow. Instant. Irrevocable. Insignificant. All Friday a quote from a TS Eliot poem kept running through my head:
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper
And while this might not be the end of the entire world, it’s the end of mine as I know it and this really is the closest it feels; as if it should be a huge event, a monumental emotional climax, but actually, it’s just a moment. Lots of small moments: clearing my drawers, packing up my stuff, saying each individual goodbye. As I walk away everything feels like it’s closing behind me; the people I knew and the places I spent so much time in shift and adjust, effortlessly, to fill my absence.
That life I used to live is already no longer mine.
But even though I’ve left full-time work, I’m still struggling to sever my connection with it. There’s a sensible part of me that has always felt horrified about quitting our jobs to travel the world. Lately, that part of me has been whispering in my ear, asking me how we’ll survive without an income; how we’ll cope with seeing all our hard earned savings slowly drain from our accounts each month, never to be replaced.
Working while we Travel
When we first started planning our trip three years ago I always envisioned quitting my day job and travelling solidly on our savings alone; being completely free of any ties and responsibilities. I used to relish that thought – it became part of what travel was about for me. However, this vision has slowly disappeared as our trip has solidified into something real and transformed from a one-year round the world blitz before a return to ‘normal’ life into a complete lifestyle change. Now, we want to live more, work less and be free to roam where we please – in short, we want to be location independent – but how?
As luck would have it, over the last few months several people I used to work with have contacted me asking if I’d like to do some freelance writing and online content work for them while I travel. In addition, I’ll be continuing to write a few articles per month for my old company, so I’ll have a small set of freelance clients and an even smaller freelance income before we even hit the road. Looks like we’re all set for location independence, right? Not quite.
The Problems with Freelancing
- Firstly, I am haunted by a perpetual fear that I’ve taken on too much. Will I really want to lock myself in a hotel room and work while we’re half way across the world and I could be out exploring? How much will those few extra pounds really matter when instead of earning them I could be visiting old ruins, climbing glaciers or just relaxing on the beach? What if I end up simply working as much while we’re away as I used to in my old job?
- While I can theoretically do my job from anywhere, Andrew is a teacher, so we really need to be in one place for at least six months if he wants to work. I can already imagine how annoying it’ll be for both of us; he’ll be hanging around waiting for me to finish my work so we can go and have fun while I’ll be cursing the fact that he’s idle while I have deadlines to meet. Oh, and only taking one laptop on this trip already seems like a bad idea – Andrew can’t even work on the blog, upload pictures or research destinations while I’m slaving away on the computer.
- The most frustrating thing so far about trying to organise freelance work while we travel has been trying to sort out the tax side of things. Am I supposed to register as a sole trader? Who do I pay tax to? Do I pay it upfront and claim it back? Why the hell are the government even taking it in the first place when I’ll be earning a pittance and won’t even be living in the UK? When I find out the answers to all these questions – I’ll let you know.
- Finally but most importantly, one of the things I promised myself was that after years of writing stuff I wasn’t passionate about, on this trip I’d be free to write whatever I wanted to again. In part, that means keeping this blog going – it’s the one type of ‘work’ that I really enjoy and want to spend my time doing but perversely it’s the thing that’ll probably never make me any money – and I’m ok with that; just as long as the work I’m paid to do doesn’t leave me without any time to write what I really want to write.
Have you quit your job to travel? Or how do you cope with working while travelling?