Rebecca is a translator by day, and a traveler mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. Here’s her take on adventuring as a freelance writer on the Camino de Santiago…
“Working as a freelancer comes with a quite unique set of advantages – setting your own hours and working at your own pace, that one day every month (or week) when you work in your PJs and have ice cream for breakfast – but it also draws the question of “it’s not a real job, is it?”
Add to that the fact that you might, like I do, travel and work, and work and travel – the questions will just keep coming. After four years of living a digital semi-nomadic lifestyle, here is my take on that question - how on earth do you manage to do it, and why even bother?
Having majored in English literature, and being blessed with the fact that I can speak three languages fluently, I naturally jumped into the translator career as soon as I graduated. Since then, I have also been branching out into copywriting and content marketing – which today affords me the joy of only ever coming back home once every few months.
As a translator, I spend at least three weeks every month on conferences, or traveling with a group of executives who need a translator in their midst to make it through a set of meetings. Once upon a time, I would have flown home after every gig, spent a week or a weekend typing away from the café next door, but once I started focusing on writing more, the transition from “go home and write” to “go anywhere and write” was quite natural.
Two years ago, an acquaintance started chatting about her time on the Camino de Santiago that year – and I instantly felt inspired to walk it myself. I contemplated taking a couple of weeks off, and walking a leg of the Camino Frances, but then I had the wild idea of walking and working. Before heading off, I made sure I had enough leeway with my deadlines to break a leg somewhere and still get all the work done, and off I went.
Luckily for me, I had just completed a very brief, but extremely dull conference in Lisbon, so hopping on the next flight to Porto, and taking on the 240 kilometers of the Camino Portugues that run from there to Santiago was a dream come true, even though I did not know it at the time.
The Camino de Santiago is actually a whole series of pilgrim routes, all leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, to the resting place of St. James the Great. While I am not exactly religious myself, I was told that the walk itself is amazing, and that many of those who walk it are far from devout.
While the most popular route is the already mentioned Camino Frances – the Portugues is a bit easier on the legs, runs by the Portuguese coast, has better weather, and is less crowded. All of this was super important for me – I spend 80% of my life sitting down (and 10% of that on a plane), so I can NOT walk more than 15 kilometers a day.
Turns out I actually can (personal record of 36), but that was not something I believed in heading out.
Another huge plus for the Camino Portugues is the fact that there is a restaurant, a bar, a hotel or a hostel an hour away at most, wherever you are, so you can always recharge (yourself and your equipment).
However, you can go for something much less nomadic, and much more enjoyable, if you only have a few days to spare, and are looking to make the most of them. I often find that the best way to get to know a culture is by sampling its food, and you can certainly do that on a culinary tour of the Camino, that may leave you hungry for more.
If this story so far has convinced you to take on this adventure yourself – be warned. Don’t make the mistake I did, of hauling your at-home, in-flight laptop with you. Mine weighs about 2.5 kilograms – which weighs a lot when it’s sat on your back.
Again, the route I chose was my savior, because I soon learned that I don’t need to lug around too much food and water. I also came up with a “discard every pair of socks two days in and buy two new pairs” routine, so I was not carrying too much clothing either.
Another piece of advice – if you are coming in from the UK (like I was) or the US, make sure you have an adapter for all your chargers. And make sure you can plug more than two things in at the same time.
The purpose of a camino is to find some peace, detach yourself from the strain of everyday life, and reconnect with yourself and nature. The people you meet often only have a phone on them for emergencies. Yet there I was, opening up my laptop at every other café, typing.
The internet connection was surprisingly great. It was all probably in my head anyway, the idea I would not be able to connect to anything. And even more surprisingly – I was not the only one with a keyboard.
I met a couple of writers finishing their novels on the Camino, and even a freelance journalist who still did some work, albeit focusing mostly on the walking.
I was expecting a lot of questions – but all I got was how are my feet, where I’m stopping for lunch, and have I booked an albergue for the night. Unlike the folks at home, who questioned my job and the way I work, here were a bunch of people, walking 15+ kilometers every day, never thinking of asking me what I was doing with such a hefty piece of electronics strapped to my back.
Ultimately, what I found on the Camino is a renewed faith in myself and my ability to write in the most crowded rooms, in a language other than the one spoken around me, and a renewed love for my job. I also found walking helps my brain jump over any hurdles it was stuck on – much better than when I am just moving from train to plane to hotel.
If you work to travel (or even if you travel to work) – you need to find a way to find your zen on that road. It is not always easy, and one or the other might be disrupted, but as long as the lifestyle you are leading is the one you are looking for (even if that means not having a physical address) – don’t let the questions get you down. Your passport can be not only your ticket to the world, but your ticket to the best job in the world as well.”
You can read more of her exploits at RoughDraft.