I remember visiting the career advisor back in 2001. Sitting across from me, she took it upon herself to explain that my passion in life (music) was a dead end. There was an expression on her face of a person who'd given up.
If music wasn't a viable option for a working-class British kid from the North of England, what was?
Hairdressing? Sports? Maths?
I ended up going for typing. Secretarial studies. Whatever they passed it off as. I didn't go to college long enough to learn anything. I was to be a lackey for the rest of my life. I was to be stuck in the town I grew up, working nine-to-five, which isn't a way to make a living. Sorry, Dolly Parton. (But, you know).
That's when the Internet became a source of solace to me. My days were blurred and heavy, but I could get home to surf the web, meet people I'd never have met without it, and learn things I could never have any other way. Like everything else in this life, the internet had its downsides, but the positives thoroughly outweighed them.
Man, I wondered...
The Boredom of Pyramid Schemes
My friend and I did this together. At least, we tried.
The voice on the other end of the conference call was deep. It was droning. That wasn't so hard, not given the fact we were 17 and 20 respectively. Everything he told us about leads, phone calls, and e-mails went through one ear and out of the other. I was busy thinking about the latest Tomb Raider game and a story I was working on.
I had to weigh my options: Working from home for pennies, or looking for a new job without. Naturally, I went with the second.
Can You Do Some Writing on the Road?
Ten years ago, I was on an 8-hour bus trip down the length of the country. At the time, I didn't have a smartphone or a laptop or any tools it would take to work remotely. But, I did have my notebook.
I had my notebook, Arcade Fire in my ear, and a wanderer whose spirit was lifted on seeing the sunset from the bus window. The world was passing by, but for a change, life was doing the same with meaning. I can still feel the warmth of the sun disappearing, passing into the cool darkness of a broken heating system.
I scrawled a line for a song in my notebook: "Don't write on the road."
It's quite funny, really. The road and the world at large were what inspired me to write.
Why, more in, are those words more memorable than the thousands of better ones I've written since?
Cinnamon Buns and the Dawn of the Digital Nomad
Nearly a decade after the fact, it was December 2016 and life was about to flip turn itself upside down. Ill-prepared but open, I'd bought a small laptop in the Black Friday sale. I didn't know it then, but it was about to have a massive impact on my life.
Because of that laptop, and a fellow writer as a friend, I was about to become a digital nomad for real.
We were due to go to Paris a few days later but decided to take our laptops to a small Swedish bakery close-by. This bakery is Scandi-cool if ever there was; their toast is on rye and their coffees are generous. It was a good morning, writing as always, this time with a friend.
It was nice.
Before that, I'd always felt like I needed to be on my own to write and soon, by extension, work. That day in the café changed all of it. My new friend and I had found we could sit in silence together, writing. We'd found a caffeine-supplying co-working space with slate grey walls and the promise of good food.
There was a lot of other stuff going on at the time.
We did go to Paris, and we gained more than we lost.
After ten years, I was traveling to beautiful cities I'd always wanted to go to, and I'd found a way to work remotely while doing so. A far cry from the pyramid scams of yore; that dark, depressing bedroom in the cold North of England.
Parisian Cafés, the Stravinsky Fountain, and Freedom
Last October, that friend and I went back to Paris. We traded the icy cold, January streets of Montmartre for unseasonably warm, artistic, and Bohemian streets of the Marais.
We got to be digital nomad versions of Patti and Oscar Wilde, funding afternoon carafets of Italian Sauvignon Blanc in the square surrounding the surrealist piece of whimsical art known as the Stravinsky Fountain.
Basking in the low light of oncoming winter, we were, digitally, free.