December 23, 2010

Working and Cruising FAQ

I've received a bunch of questions lately about the fact that Evan and I are working while we cruise--I'm guessing because I've mentioned it a few times in blog posts and in our "About Us" section. I'm currently on deadline so doing a quick FAQ is a nice distraction from real work. If I miss question you have, or you want to know more about Ev's job (it always disappoints him that people ask about my job and not his...) let me know:

What do you do?
I'm a freelance writer and Evan's a naval architect. I write for a variety of national an international pubs and Evan does the occasional contract with his old employer. Most recently I’ve been working on a series of stories for Reader’s Digest Canada--like this and this, and Evan did a couple of reports for his old company.

 I want to be a travel writer, how did you do it? It seems like the perfect job for a cruiser...
I've worked as a freelance writer for about five years and the past three were spent expanding my travel markets. Becoming an employed writer was a goal I set when we went cruising last time. I took a few magazine writing classes and actually went through all the steps (developing a story, finding the right magazine to pitch, sending off a query and following up) over, and over until I had regular work coming in. There's no magic formula, just steady, hard work.
As far as being the perfect cruiser's job, it is and it isn't. It's still a job—which means I’m often at my desk when I’d like to be playing. But it does blend my natural curiosity with my need to write.

Do You Write For Sailing Magazines?
I do, but I couldn't make a living just writing for boating mags. I also write for a variety of websites and custom publications. Writing for a large number of different types of publications has helped me weather the economic downturn without too much difficulty.

How Do You Stay in Touch?
I've written a few times about communication--but the gist is this: We use an amplified wi-fi antenna for wi-fi when it's available, plus we have a 3G cell modem. When out of range for those I can get basic email through the SSB with Sailmail. Needing to have internet does place limits on our ability to disconnect for long periods, but we find the sacrifice works for us.

 Do You Earn Enough to Live On?
Yes. We don’t actually know how much we spend in a month—it can really vary… And working does add some significant additional costs (for example we recently upgraded our professional camera gear, we have higher than typical travel and communication expenses, and I need to maintain a decent work wardrobe…) But after the initial costs associated with getting out cruising were covered our bank balance stabilized. So we’re bringing in roughly the same amount that’s going out.

 How Much Do You Work?
I have kind of a feast or famine job. When we were in Vancouver, I worked about 20-hours a week, which is probably more or less the same as now. I just do it differently now—I squish all my work into the periods when we are in towns. So I’ll work non-stop (or what feels like non-stop) for a few weeks, then do very little for several weeks. Evan has worked less than me. Probably only about 100 hours or so this year.

What’s Your Opinion On Working and Cruising?
I actually enjoy it. Last time we cruised I felt like I wanted to be doing more—either volunteering or learning. Working lets me feel like I’m doing something meaningful and gives us an excuse to really explore each place. It does dictate some of what we do and where we go, but I like the structure.
Beyond the intrinsic value of work—we like having money. We have enough saved that if  we were really frugal we could go for a couple of years, but we don’t like being that frugal and I like having money in the bank.

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