Travelling has made me realise a lot of things…including that it might be ok to want to earn money.
Like many people working in the Arts, saying that you would like to earn more money makes my toes curl up in a ball. As part of my meandering career trajectory I’ve negotiated myself a pay decrease. Twice. I often get offered work without being told what it pays, and have started jobs kinda assuming that it’ll all work out in the end.
Sometimes it did, sometimes it really, really didn’t.
I’ve been travelling with my family for the past five months, doing some remote work as we go. We’ve been to nine countries so far, meeting a huge mix of people and seeing sights which I hope I’ll remember when I’m old and rocking in a chair, staring at a photo of 38 year old me and wondering when dinner is served. It’s been a privilege. In lots of ways.
There are three things which I’ve realised about earning money while travelling…
- It makes life easier
In a global context, I know I’m wealthy. I’m able to travel (just this once), my family always has enough food and I’m not at risk of homelessness. But, oh my, having cash to spare would make life easier a lot of the time. I love budget travelling, and don’t want to waste money, but as I get older it would be nice to stay in a slightly nicer hotel without bedbugs or be able to access experiences where someone else does the thinking.
2. I’m lucky I’m able to do it
Even in my position as an distinctly average bear, I’m able to apply for jobs in my home country which pay above minimum wage. I might need to study more, work harder and pick positions which might not be the most fun, but having the chance to even be considered for a decent salary? There are a lot of people in the world who put themselves at great risk for that opportunity. The further we go, the more churlish I feel for not making the most financially of my upbringing and education.
3. Despite what Teenage Me thought, it can be an ethical choice
If I had more money, I could support more things. I could buy more products and services from local businesses while we travel. I could support the Arts more, buy more tickets and albums and indie films. I could give more charity. I don’t think voluntary philanthropy is necessarily a healthy way to create a healthy society but — in the here and now — if I can access money which can support more people, that’s worth more than handwringing and Facebook petitions. Me doing a job which isn’t my #1 choice, or working more than I’d like to, but making the world a wee bit better? That could be the ethical choice I should dedicate myself to.
Life is going to change a lot once I’m settled back home. I’ll need to rethink a lot, including my career, and knowing that — for the first time — I’m placing a decent salary near the top of my wish list is twisting my plans to a new and exciting place.
I might not manage it: even in my most extravagant daydreams, I’ve never really thought about being rich. Not Rich, rich. I’ve never wanted to live in a mansion, or have multiple cars. But, maybe, a move out of my overdraft and towards financial stability could be the right thing to do.
I just need to uncurl my toes first.