Freelancing and Backpacking: Can It Be Done?

Volunteering in Indonesia
I can't work right now, I'm helping children in Indonesia! (ha, perfect excuse)
It was my big fat plan: write freelance and backpack Southeast Asia at the same time. It seemed like the perfect way to fund my trip, especially since I hadn't had time to save up (at all, as you'll remember from my initial post). I had visions of eating breakfast at a breezy beachside cafe while doing some writing and then escaping in the afternoon to swim and laze about, all while paying peanuts in a country with a favourable currency. How hard could it be?

Apparently a lot harder than I thought.

The thing with backpacking is that you're constantly on the move. You're just bleeding time in places without wifi like buses, tuk-tuks, trains, planes, bus stations, other types of stations, the middle of the damn street. Meeting deadlines becomes difficult. Soliciting work becomes patchy. Suddenly you're just holding on, barely, to the few clients you have. Then they start dropping off and you don't have the time to replenish them.

And then there's time spent on logistics such as figuring out why your debit card suddenly won't work, comparing flights, trolling Tripadvisor trying to find the least shitty hotel possible, figuring out impossible local transportation routes, going to five pharmacies to try to find Advil, trips to the doctor to figure out why a giant bleeding wound has sprouted on your leg (that was today).

I recently spent an entire day in Singapore trying to get my antidepressant prescription filled. AN ENTIRE DAY. Stuff like that just happens. A lot.

Then there's the travel. Glorious beaches. Abundant food. Relaxing jungle hide-outs. Everyone else is on vacation -- lounging. Endless lounging. Chatting. Planning excursions. Eating all the things. More chatting. You think ... work? Is that a thing I really need to do?

I probably could have scheduled myself better. I don't know. But what I'm certain of is that it's a lot harder than knocking off a couple hundred words over tropical fruit and coffee each morning.

Malaysian food, Penang, Malaysia
Why work when I could be eating this? (Penang, Malaysia)
So it's come down to a bit of work to finance some of the trip and a bit of borrowing (thanks, bank) to finance the rest. Not really an ideal situation. The one bright spot has been Workaway projects, which have helped cut costs immensely as you trade part-time work for accommodation and sometimes even food too.

The verdict: Save money and then budget your trip accordingly. If you want to work and travel, I'd suggest having a very healthy client list first because trying to build your business (as I wanted to do) is really damn hard when you're on the move. Also, traveling slow helps a lot. I'm starting to think that housesitting would be a much better gig, or even renting a really cheap place in a country with a good exchange rate. Stay in one place and take day trips instead of trying to conquer a whole region like some real-time version of Risk.

My boyfriend and I plan to spend the next month in Bali, hoping that some down time will help us get back into the working groove. I'll let you know how that goes.

1 comment:

Lilje said...

Bali is beautiful, especially Ubud, even though it never seems to agree with my stomach... Pop down to Juice Jah cafe, they have delicious smoothies :)


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