Five Hundred Words a Day: Working Abroad

I’ve watched other freelancers travel the world and hold down their UK clients, but the reality of doing that for myself seemed (and still seems) out of reach. I worry my UK network will lose trust in me if I’m far away, or I won’t be able to conjure up a new network in a new place; that somehow, despite moving and networking and gaining work in new places several times in my adult life, that this time will be impossible.

Yet travelling for almost a month, and being here in a South American city, has started to re-wire my thought patterns. Perhaps, I entertain, I could work elsewhere. Because it turns out when you need to work – bread and butter stuff or the more creative pursuits – you will work, wherever you are.

The barriers to doing this at first appear insurmountable; how do I get there? What about visas? Who will I know? Will I have to work at two in the morning to make up for the time difference? Will I be lonely? And when all these barriers are boiled down into a thick and sludgy and unappealing single melted concern, there is only one, really: do I have the capacity to do this?

Most of us continue to tell ourselves we don’t. We say we’re unable to do the thing we want to do, and we generate obstacles derived from practical and, ultimately, navigable problems, rather than apprehend the real issue at stake: we do not believe in ourselves.

I’m from a generation who experienced life pre- and post-Internet, growing into maturity as it did. As a privileged middle-class girl I had visited Europe and, once, taken an eye-opening adventure to the US when the company my dad worked for still had the money and flashy inclinations to draw global employees together. But for the most part the world outside Europe was one I experienced through the Internet – through other people’s holiday photos, then through Pinterest destinations, then influencers who apparently travel the world and look good eating ice-cream and that’s a job. I learnt Spanish-Spanish at school, not South-American-Spanish which is more relaxed and less lispy, because what was the likelihood of me going to South America? The first time I went to New York I saw the lights of the city and New Jersey from the Empire State Building and cried, because I had got to a place I never believed I would get to.

Now, the world seems smaller. But my childhood perception that, somehow, this world is not available to me hangs on. It’s not those practical, navigable problems I’m concerned with – which itself is a privilege – but a strangely global worry. I believe in myself, as much as I can. But to believe in the openness of the world right now feels a fingertip-brush away, even as I sit in this Medellin sunshine doing what I do to make money and show myself. Even as I write, this feels unreal.

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