Writing from 43.856° N, 18.413° E
It was recently brought to my attention that many of my friends and family have no idea what I’m doing with my life. To be fair, to a certain extent even I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I’m guessing that’s pretty relatable for a lot of people in their 20s.
But that’s a broad discussion for another day. Let’s back up.
Over the past six weeks I’ve had a lot of visitors here in Europe and I’ve made some visits of my own. It’s been amazing catching up with friends and family from back home, but there was one question I was asked by every single person I saw when the topic of work came up:
“Okay, but Lauren, what do you actually do?”
That’s a totally fair question. Honestly, I forget to clarify myself sometimes because in my head no one actually reads this blog and/or has any interest in how I make income.
(A more accurate representation of my average day,
captured by another remote worker friend)
I have been told that to someone on the outside, I make it look like my life is all travel, all fun, very easy, and miraculously free.
Let me explain.
That was never my intention, so I’d just like to say — my bad. I had mentioned in one of my very first posts that I get frustrated when people create a false show of constant happiness and ease online regarding travel or their lives in general, and here I am doing just that.
The issue comes down to striking a balance between honesty and positivity.
I am so unbelievably grateful for all the circumstances in my life that have made it possible for me to live this way. (**Note that I’ve also been told lately that I sell myself short too much. So, I am not saying this was handed to me. I have worked and continue to work my ass off to make this my reality.)
Grateful. Grateful. Grateful.
Because I am so thankful, I do my best to complain as little as possible. I never want people to think I am taking my experiences for granted — believe me, I don’t. However, I do need to work on being more honest about the difficult parts. Every lifestyle has downsides.
This honesty hour has two parts:
1) My work
I am a full-time, self-employed, freelance marketing consultant. The majority of my focus is on social media management, research, strategy, and copywriting. I first started doing freelance work during my senior year of college by applying for projects on various websites like Parker Dewey, Upwork, and Indeed. I have continued this remotely since graduating, and now built up my client base enough to support my full-time travel.
I work with clients across a variety of industries in the US, Europe, and Africa. They range from entrepreneurs to real estate companies to marketing agencies to safari operators and even my own alma mater. Some I have found through more online applications, and some I have been approached by due to referrals from past clients. Many of my partnerships are long-term, while some are just single projects. I also still provide some pro bono consulting for a few NGOs I connected with during my time in Tanzania.
The positive part: I make my own hours and I work from wherever I want, which is how I am now in my 15th country of the year. I can also choose to stop taking projects if I need to fit in some time off, like I did over the past six weeks so I could be with my friends and family.
The honest part: I work a lot, and striking a balance between meeting deadlines and actually seeing the places I visit is unbelievably difficult. If I post pictures from somewhere I visited for a week, odds are the photos all come from one or two days of sightseeing, while I spent the rest of the time on a date with my laptop in a cafe.
2) My travel
Sometimes, I have take a moment to let it sink in — again — that I’m really doing this. I feel very lucky and I’m doing my best to make the most of every second abroad. I do a mix of planned travel (when I have other people with me) and “winging it” (when I’m on my own). Since leaving in September, I have been able to travel to five countries in Africa and have just arrived in my tenth country in Europe.
The positive part: This probably needs very little explanation. I am living my dream of exploring full-time and have met some truly inspirational people from all walks of life. I’m learning more about myself and the world than I ever could have imagined, and I become more independent every day.
The honest part: I’m exhausted. All the time. Backpacking on its own for this long would be enough to wear me out, but I also get very little down time since I try to explore during my non-working hours.
You know that feeling you get at the end of a busy trip when you’re completely drained, in need of some alone time, and just ready to go home?
Minus the going home part, I pretty much feel that way all the time. That being said, I’m learning to power through and always try to look at each day in a positive light (hence why I don’t always talk about this stuff).
Through these first nine months, I have learned that I definitely prefer a slower travel pace. It gets pretty hard to really see a place if I’m only there for two days and have to work for one of them. Plus, I hate packing more than anything in the world, so I’d prefer to not do it every other day.
I never meant for my determination to be positive to get in the way of depicting my life in a realistic and honest way, so I’ll work on that. Overall, I’m just really, really happy.
Every lifestyle has its positives and negatives. This one is still pretty new to me, so I don’t have it all figured out yet (but I’m getting there). A huge thank you to my friends and family who push me to be authentic always — you’re the best!