The infamous “gap year:” sounds like something for privileged college graduates, doesn’t it? And a way, I suppose if you’re even reading this that you might fall into the general “privileged” category too, because it is very much a #firstworldproblem of the relentlessly dissatisfied Millenial generation that not only wants to take a gap year, but then work 100% remotely, right?
Let’s get back on topic, though: I took a gap year, 2014/15 in South America. I had left college nearly 10 years earlier, and definitely didn’t fit the profile of your typical gringa running around South America, for a variety of reasons.
Nevertheless, it was the year I took to do nothing other than what made me purely happy, purely stoked, and purely sure I could never be just a dirtbag, living out of my car and having fun. Let’s save that story for another time, though, and instead focus on what happened after the gap year.
I had given myself a hard reset that year in South America, and aside from rediscovering my values, recognizing key fulfilling work was to my identity, and rediscovering my desire to speak out for conservation, access-to-sport, and women’s representation in the outdoors as important to me, something else happened: I had raided my very own piggy bank.
Obviously getting back into the career world was important, but what would I do? Returning to corporate America wasn’t going to happen — it would be like taking 10 steps back! Even moving back to Portland, OR, seemed like a divergence from this path I’d set myself down, and looking for options that made the most sense, I took the next step down a career pathway that merged my personal interests with my professional ones: I set the intention to become location independent.
How I Did It: First as a Freelancer
There are a lot of really amazing and really terrible things about freelancing (which I’m sure I’ll discuss at some other time, in some other post), but the coolest part about making the choice to be a successful freelancer is that if you have the chops and know how to hustle, what for some is just a side hustle becomes your full time gig. Or maybe it’s just your 20-hour-a-week gig. The cool part? That’s up to you.
I busted my ass for 3 hard months in the deep winter of Colorado until I finally got my first gig. It was great, everything I’d hoped for, but unfortunately, was more the one-off type of job that wouldn’t provide consistent enough income to really be reliable. But I am grateful for what it brought me, the intellectual spark the opportunity reignited, and the friendships it fostered.
Over the course of the 6 months following that, I hustled every way I could: online submitting posts, reaching out to friends new and old, connecting with recruiters, and one day: it happened. All that time I’d spent on my portfolio, on rebuilding my WordPress site, on reading the content strategy and digital strategy blogs that allowed me to express my inner nerd, on numerous phone conversations with patient friends and mentors….
I had my first permalancing gig.
It’s still ongoing to this day, but a recent revelation has been haunting me:
The difference between the freelancers and the consultants? There are the tactical producers who make stuff on-demand (and thereby need to always chase more work), and there are the freelancers who move into consulting roles, whose skills as experts are highly prized, who can both strategize and execute, who can manage a team but aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty too.
At this stage in the game, I’d rather be the latter. And if that makes me a weirdo unicorn, then fine.
Because this weirdo unicorn will be taking her next meeting with you in Country X next time we talk.