One of the great benefits of being a freelance writer should be that it’s possible to work from wherever in the world I am. That’s something I’ve taken advantage of before when I spent a couple of years traveling around in Europe and Asia. I think I actually made it through some 20+ countries during my travels. As long as I had my MacBook and something resembling an internet connection I could basically be wherever in the world I wanted to be. That to me was perhaps one of the main reasons why I wanted to be a freelancer in the first place, along with the fact that I could pick and choose my clients and not work full-time unless I wanted to. After traveling and changing countries every month or so for about two years I finally ended up back home, which nowadays means in Malta. The plan was to stay here just for the winter, and then go travel again. I was just about to book a ticket for Bali in February of last year, but then realized I had to put it off for a bit as I needed a refill of some vaccinations before I could go. So I started that, and just when I was ready, the pandemic hit.
I thought that this Covid virus would last for a couple of months, half a year at most, and then I could go on with my nomadic lifestyle.
Back in the end of 2019 when I first came back to Malta I rented an apartment to set up a home-base. The criteria for the apartment was that it should be modern (which is far from the norm in far too many Maltese rentals…), it should have space to set up my home office, and it should be cheap enough that I wouldn’t mind paying rent even if I was out traveling extended periods of the year. So, I found a good place in Victoria, Gozo, and loved it. At least when the plan was to just have it as a home-base, and not as a year-around home.
Like most other people I was thinking that the pandemic wouldn’t be as bad as it turned out to be. I thought that this Covid virus would last for a couple of months, half a year at most, and then I could go on with my nomadic lifestyle. I was yearning to go back to my favorite coworking space in Bali (Biliq Bali – check it out if you’re ever in Bali!) and just hang out by a pool, eat some great food, get to know more awesome people, and just enjoy life, while still working. That kind of lifestyle gives a great boost to my creativity and productivity, which, of course, as a writer is very important. So, now that I can’t travel and have to stay put for a while I’ve had to find other ways to stay productive.
The first step for me was to come to the realization that traveling would have to be put on hold. I probably spent the first 3-6 months of the pandemic checking flight tickets to all the places I wanted to go, and basically just wasted a lot of time waiting. Waiting for the pandemic to blow over, waiting to go traveling, and waiting to get going on the “real” life that I was supposed to live. I wasn’t supposed to just sit around in an okay apartment in Gozo. All this waiting really affected my productivity, and as a freelancer, that also means my earnings took a dive. The change happened during the fall of 2020. I finally realized that I wouldn’t be going anywhere and that I was just wasting a lot of time planning for something that just couldn’t be done then and there. So I decided that no matter what happened with the pandemic, I would stay put for at least the whole year of 2021 as well. Just deciding on that made me much more relaxed, as I shifted my focus to do what I could to have a productive life where I actually am.
So I rented a new and better apartment. In a small village in Gozo, I found a great apartment with all the amenities I want. An office space with a great view overlooking a green valley as well as a distant sea view, great internet connection, and perhaps the most important thing – a pool! So, with a pool, a really nice office space, and all of this on an island that has about 300 days of great weather a year, it’s not that far off the dream life I was looking for in Asia. Another big plus is the fact that I don’t have to bother with regular visa runs and a never-ending cycle of packing and unpacking a suitcase. Stuff like that one gets really tired of after a while. Especially as the weight of the suitcase keeps on increasing as one picks up a thing or two.
All of this feels so great that now I don’t even know if I would like to travel again.
Now that I’m properly settled in Gozo I feel relaxed, I’m productive, and in general, I very much enjoy my life. I have all the time I need to get work done, friends come and visit, and it’s not that far to the main island where my friends live so I can visit them as well as often as I like. All of this feels so great that now I don’t even know if I would like to travel again. Yes, going for a month or so to explore a new place, but traveling all the time, not sure I even want that. Besides, with how my work has changed in the last year, I don’t even know if it would be possible.
I’m still working freelance, but I do far less writing than I used to. Now I mainly work with other things for my main client, which is the website GoodLuckMate, so I’m not sure how doable it would be for me to stay productive with just a tiny MacBook. The downside of actually living somewhere is that when one gets used to having a proper office with multiple monitors, a comfortable and ergonomic office chair, and a coffee machine at arm’s length, is that it makes it hard to go back to sitting like a potato-sack in a bed bent over a laptop or in a crowded Starbucks fighting over the few outlets the coffee shop has to offer. Of course, finding a good coworking space while traveling is a solution, but that as well takes time if you’re changing location every two weeks. So really, if the pandemic would end tomorrow, I actually do think I would prefer to stay where I am, which is an unexpected change. I went from taking full advantage of the freelance life of traveling and working, to wanting to travel while having to stay put, to now wanting to stay even if I could travel. So maybe I’ve been wrong all along. The greatest benefit of working freelance is not to be able to travel the world, but rather that I can change my mind about what the greatest benefit is for me whenever I want. Right now it’s that I can pick a place, settle down, and stay put.