Image this scene:
A young man sets off on a great thru-hike across the Scottish Highlands. He is standing on a worn concrete pier on the Fort William docks, awaiting the arrival of a ferry that will take him across Loch Linnhe to the start of his first Great Adventure. Anxious and excited at the same time, he relishes the salt spray on his face while imagining a future as a professional travel writer, his head swimming with story ideas and visions of travels to come. He’s not quite where he wants to be in his life just yet, but he knows he stands at the precipice of something he’s been dreaming of for the past decade: a life lived on the road, and freedom to live life on his own terms.
Cut back to the present.
In many ways, I’ve been successful in making those dreams a reality; I’ve been travelling the world for most of the past seven years, my stories have been published a few times, and I’ve seen and experienced things I never could’ve imagined back then.
And without consciously planning it, I’m now in Fort William again, seven years later. I’m standing on a slightly more worn-out pier while staring out over Loch Linnhe. My eyes are drawn to the hills across the water, but my thoughts are with what lies beyond; images of wild glens and seaside bothies, of wild deer grazing in the heather and of grand open spaces so remote you’d have to walk two days to reach the nearest speck of civilisation. Images of struggling up those hills with a backpack, of fleeting companionship along the way, of a journey within to mirror the hardships and triumphs lived without. Images fueled by memories that are some of the best I’ve had the privilege of creating.
I’m not going to follow in my own footsteps, though. Instead of stepping onto that tiny ferry boat, I’ll be taking a train back to Edinburgh, where I’ll be well-supplied with an internet connection and the privacy of my own room. Don’t get me wrong: I want to be on that boat, setting off on another highland adventure while getting lost in some of the most glorious wilderness the Isles have to offer. But I’ve recently come to a conclusion about my life on the road:
It’s time for a change.
My main motivation for a life on the road has always been to experience that sense of ultimate freedom. Just me, my backpack and the open road. A low-budget, low-overhead lifestyle that would allow me to have adventures and write about them while pushing my travel budget to the limit.
The plan was to start earning money online before my initial savings ran out. I partly succeeded in doing so by accepting online copywriting gigs, eventually breaking even on my spending. It wasn’t long before I learned there was an inherent problem with this situation.
Writing outdoor travel content requires a great investment of time: trails need to be walked, regions need to be explored. I would often spend weeks in regions with little or no wifi coverage, all but ensuring the limited time I had once back in civilisation was spent working and writing online. Once Beat The Trail started growing a little, I felt the need to market my content better; before I knew it I was busier chasing keywords and optimal content strategies than I was living my dream of blissful, wandering freedom.
Since my two-year break from writing, I’ve noticed I no longer really enjoy the hard life of a budget outdoor writer. I used to gain a sense of pride and fulfilment from wildcamping in hedges or going a week without spending more than 30 euros. These days, I feel I’ve already proven that I can handle that life.
So, I’ve decided that I’ll be spending my time a bit different from now on. No, I’ll still keep chasing my dream of becoming a travel writer, and Beat The Trail will not go offline anytime soon. What I will do is spend more time chasing assignments in writing and translation, and spend less time wandering the wilds. This way, I’ll (hopefully) be making more money that will help me travel with a bit more luxury and peace of mind. And even though this means I’ll have less time to wander, I’ll have a better setup to focus on creating quality content.
Beat The Trail isn’t going anywhere, but expect stories in a slightly broader scope from now on:
Adventurous travel, off the beaten tourist trail!