When Your Job Lives in Your Backpack
By the time I folded my dripping umbrella and made it through the door of the coffee shop near Central Park I was pretty well soaked. The edges of a hurricane system were pounding New York City with relentless rain and complicating my day. I had a writing assignment due in 3 hours and I needed a wifi zone to work in, so this coffee shop represented my window of opportunity.
It was crowded with damp people waiting for their coffee and my chances of getting a table looked slim. Deadlines take precedence over shyness, though, and so I edged into the extra chair at a tiny and very occupied table. I set my cup of tea in the corner and pulled my laptop out while the guy whose table it was continued his loud and apparently frustrated phone conversation. I tried to pretend I wasn’t there at all, keeping my eyes down on my screen and occupying as little space as I possibly could.
It may not sound like it, but this is actually a picture of what freedom looks like. I was in the midst of the first working trip I’d ever taken as a freelance copywriter for hire, and for the most part it was incredibly fun. I was already familiar with the benefits of earning a living online, since content writing allows me to live in a rural place far from any other employment. But this New York trip was my first taste of what it would be like to have my entire employment living inside my backpack, portable anywhere in the world where wifi zones can be found. And (rain notwithstanding) I was finding the freedom to be utterly intoxicating. Pure mobility. I’m still amazed.
My three weeks in New York were my shakedown trip, a preparatory experiment ahead of next spring’s plans for a month or two in Tbilisi. The experiment was a good idea, since I definitely encountered bumps in the road. The computer itself was the major question: My existing laptop was three years old, a good solid machine but too heavy to cart everywhere with me. Since I’d be couchsurfing (a wondrous way of travel, by the way: check out the Couchsurfing network!) I knew I’d have times between lodgings where I’d just be out in the city with all my luggage. Enticed by portability, I left the old laptop at home and bought a tablet with a separate keyboard—and then rapidly discovered that (while the tablet could certainly perform a ton of thrilling tricks) creating and editing documents was not among them. I tried every app available, all of which were cute but grossly inadequate for real writing, while the deadlines were creeping up on me.
Fortunately, the first place I stayed turned out to be just 3 blocks from the glossy SoHo tech store, so I had the fun of shopping among stunningly well-dressed people for my spiffy new lightweight Place of Employment. It weighs less than 2 1/2 pounds, and it feels like the magic portal to a few years of profitable vagabonding around the world. Does life get any better than this?
Betsy S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.