Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Have Gone Astray

I am not where I thought I would be at this point, nor am I doing exactly what I had planned to be doing when I moved over here in 2012. Of course, since those thoughts and plans involved a good bit of dream projection and counted on me being a lot more proactive and productive than I know I generally am, they weren't very realistic. Or perhaps they were realistic, and would have become reality if I had done the work and put in the time to make them so. That's the annoying thing about dreams - they don't usually just translate fully-fleshed into the real world at the wave of a hand by the genie of the magic lamp. Sometimes they do, but not often. And not this time. On the other hand, I've come close in many ways, and while certain unpaved roads have come to dead ends I think the main highway is still leading in the same direction:

I'm not cruising around France staying in hotels and interviewing cheesemakers, on a budget funded by several high-end magazines who have added me to their payroll ... but I do have the possibility of writing an article for one magazine soon.

I haven't written any books based on my wacky adventures in France, nor have publishers been beating down my door to offer me contracts based on this oh-so-amusing blog ... but I am slowly putting things into place for self-publishing a cookbook this fall.

I haven't been making my way around Europe trading dairy work for room and board ... but I did do my stage in Séchilienne last year under that arrangement, and it worked out well.

I haven't become an expert on cheese ... but I've learned about a lot of other things that I hadn't known before, and now have a much more well-rounded set of skills to bring with me to dairies and other small agricultural businesses here and - why not? - around the world.

With the last twenty months to look back over, it's time to weigh my options and consider what works and what doesn't work about each aspect of this vagabond lifestyle.

Freelance Work

WHAT WORKS: Being able to earn money in odd corners of the day and in odd corners of the globe. Having a variety of projects, from ones that I can do in a few minutes to those that take a few weeks, which makes the work interesting. Enjoying what I do - I like writing, and I like editing. Earning at least the minimum needed to pay for living expenses.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The fact that "the minimum needed" in that last statement involves an average over time, not necessarily any specific month. For example, I'd be hard pressed to pay rent and groceries on what I'm currently bringing in. I don't have time to look for more work, though I'm hugely grateful to the one steady client I do have. What's more, I need internet access, and that's not always practical, especially if I'm on the move. There could be a problem as well if one of those big weeks-long projects comes up and I'm working at a dairy; if I've promised to do a certain amount of work per day for my keep, I can't suddenly say "sorry, I'll be in my room for the next two weeks" - but I can't afford to turn down big projects. Finally, none of the things that I write for hire are being published under my name, which means I'm not building a portfolio.

Work/Stay Arrangements

WHAT WORKS: Being on site so I don't have to try to commute to a dairy for 6am milking with a nonexistent car. Getting to know people and how they live and what they like, learning from them and sharing with them and enjoying a temporary family so I don't miss my own family so much all the time. Seeing new places and eating new food.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The fact that I sometimes don't have a choice about the food, which can complicate things. In general, everyone's been helpful, sometimes even buying things they wouldn't normally, like quinoa or soy milk, to stock the pantry for me. But when the family is used to eating cheesy pasta four times a week and the person in charge of cooking is already busy, it's something that they may see as too much trouble. Yet I can't not mention my food allergies up front - I can't arrive on their doorstep and move in and then say, "Oh, by the way ..." Privacy is another issue, or lack of it. I need privacy for the freelance work, but also for my peace of mind, and that means a room to myself. Not everyone has a spare bedroom they want to give up for the duration, much less a spare house. But I don't think I could spend more than a week or two sharing a room with someone. The fact that I don't have a car means that I'm pretty well stuck on site; your average dairy is not found in the middle of a bustling city, of course, but neither is it usually on a public transport route. Or if it is, it's one of the ones where the bus comes by once a day, or once a week. That means unless my hosts are willing to let me borrow a vehicle, or take me out sightseeing, the "new places" will be limited to pasture, barn, and cheeseroom.

Writing

WHAT WORKS: I'm not sure, yet, because I haven't written anything under my own name or tried to publish it. I'm getting there, though. Theoretically, this could be at least a small trickle of money, if not a major income stream (at first, she says in hopes of future publishing fame).

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: That's easy, because one of the reasons I haven't written anything for publication is that I haven't had time, being busy with either school or working for room and board or freelancing. And the other reason - let it not be said that I can't be honest with myself - is because I've been lazy. I have had a lot of free time that could have been spent NOT playing Lexulous or reading silly books or surfing the internet, and instead in at the very least organizing my book notes and doing online research. And of course, there's the time spent blogging - I'm not getting paid for this writing, but it's one way of keeping notes for that hypothetical wacky-adventures book, and I want to be sharing my adventures with you all anyway. Whether I can turn all of the poetry I've been translating into a book for publication is something to consider, but I do really enjoy doing those translations. The two major issues here are time, and the willpower and dedication to use that time productively.

Vagabonding

WHAT WORKS: Travel! Change! New vistas and new discoveries! I've had so much fun taking photos and meeting people and learning about the history of each place I've been.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: All that moving around gets pretty tiring, actually. That's why I'm looking for longer-term placements, within the limits of visa-free stay requirements (i.e. generally up to three months, or six months in the UK and Ireland). I'd rather settle in for a month or two than bip around every week. More travel means more cost, as well, not to mention shoving everything into and out of suitcases all the time. And I don't really enjoy traveling alone all the time, though sometimes I prefer it. It's more fun to share the travels and discoveries with people, something I try to compensate for on this blog. And I really, really miss my family these days.

Laying out all of this information in a format that I can look back on later is useful, and it would also be useful to me to get input from the outside as well. Can you help me, please? If you see possible negatives I haven't listed, or options I haven't thought of, or just want to play devil's advocate for a while, it will keep me thinking and give me new perspectives, and possibly answers I wouldn't have arrived at on my own. Or you can just keep scrolling down - or clicking to a new page because I'm getting boring, nattering on about myself all the time, sheesh, is this a travel blog or a therapy session?

There's no denying that the outcome will be determined in part by the amount of work I'm willing to put into the process, and that's something I really need to focus on as my time at school and at the pig farm are drawing to a close. I won't have an excuse then, will I? Or rather I will probably come up with excuses, but they won't be nearly as valid.

And since part of the "what doesn't work" aspect of each of the above involves time and money and internet access, I have decided to add yet another option and have signed up with a housesitting-for-hire service. I already have a three-week gig lined up in September, in fact, and am hoping that I can find more for July and August and October and on. I know it's not dairies, but it's work for room if not board - I don't get paid, but I don't have to pay anything either. I'm focusing on the UK for now, but there are gigs all over the world, so eventually I may end up in Australia or Canada.

Plus, kitties! The September job has two of them, and I'm hoping there will be more cats (and maybe chickens) with others, though I'm not ruling out dogs. Small yappy dogs aren't my cup of tea to say the least, but I've applied for one job with a greyhound that needs walking. I like big dogs, actually, as long as they're well-behaved and don't bark all the time. Hence the greyhound. But I'm focusing on cat-sitting.

Which means that I'm obviously not planning on going back to the States for a while, am I? Even though I miss you all, I'm still in adventure mode, and not quite out of money yet. And if I get my act together on the writing part, maybe I won't run out of money at all. I'm still a work in progress, but in general I like the way I'm turning out.

Cultivez votre âme aussi consciencieusement que vous soignez aujourd'hui votre corps.
(Take care of your soul as carefully as you're taking care of your body.)

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