For no better reason than it’s been a while, I thought I’d regale you with details of how my ‘perfect,’ self-employed, freelancer writer life is going.
To recap – I quit my deputy editor job on Classic Car Weekly in August 2010. My wife Rachel quit her job around the same time. We sold our house in Cambridgeshire and bought a cottage in mid-Wales. We were going to live the dream! We’d be more self-sufficient, have much less income but life a vastly different life where the work/life balance was more in our favour.
There are bad times for sure. Dealing with enough wood to keep our house warm is hard work, the weather has been appalling at times and pretty much wiped out our food crops in 2012. Every time I travel for work purposes, I’m reminded just how far away we are from the places I have to visit too. Birmingham is about 100 miles away, Peterborough around 200. Just reaching a motorway requires a two-hour drive, regardless of which motorway you aim for. Thankfully, I don’t have to travel very often. It might seem odd that a petrolhead is glad not to have to drive, but driving long distance for work just isn’t as appealing as having a quick hoon on the quiet roads around here. Plus, motorways are really boring and ill-suited to most of the vehicles I own…
But, it is marvellous not having an alarm clock anymore. We get up when we feel like it, which is often embarrassingly late during the winter months, when we sort-of hibernate. I write when the mood takes me, which is usually fairly close to deadline (I need that sense of mild panic) but might be a Sunday evening or, occasionally, a Monday morning. Not before 9am though…
It leaves a LOT of spare time – I’m still currently working on average less than 15hrs a week. Mind you, that means income is far from high as well, so while I have plenty of time for hobbies and other activities, there’s never the freedom to spend money like we used to. At first, I would regularly raid charity shops for reading material, but this soon started to add up. Now, I make more use of the library. Free books! Incredible. Even better, you have to give them back, so you don’t end up filling your house with books.
Surprisingly, I don’t spend that much time reading car magazines. One major downside to writing material for magazines is that I’m just not so interested in reading them anymore. It feels a bit too much like work! I do spend a lot of time on car forums though – if there’s one thing I really miss sometimes, it’s having friends nearby with similar interests. I really couldn’t live the life we do without the internet. I have a few petrolhead friends here, but there’s not really a community of us. Fortunately, there is generally a great sense of community in our village and local area, and that really does drive home why we moved here. Life feels so much better when you can enjoy it with the people you see all the time. Neighbours become acquaintances and people come together to make things work. I love it. As a city boy, it’s a lifestyle I absolutely adore.
Sacrifices do have to be made though. We attend far, far fewer 2CV events these days, as the costs quickly start stacking up if you head to England for events every few weeks. So, we’ve lost touch with 2CVing chums, only interacting via Facebook – what a godsend that site is. Holidays are generally avoided – we actually had one this year for the first time. Funny thing is, we didn’t enjoy it as much as we thought we would…
I’ve also had to realise that many classic cars are now well out of my price range. My car fund is minute and while I’m managing to run three cars on pretty much naff all, it must be said that all three cars are far from prime examples of their breeds. I’m starting to crave something that’s actually nice!
Overall though, life feels like it is at a much nicer pace now. I have time to enjoy the company of the rather spiffing woman I married, rather than spending most of my time with her asleep as we did before. I can enjoy the art of lazy conversation with local friends over a cup of tea. I have become far more proficient with my musical instruments as there is actually time to practice. I’ve also learnt a lot more about working on cars, because more and more has had to be done by my own hands for cost reasons. There are times when I’m driving around local lanes when the sun does shine, and everything feels so brilliant that I might just explode with joy. Red Kites swooping overhead, lush, green fields with contours that are endlessly varied, smooth tarmac roads that are endlessly entertaining.
In conclusion though, it isn’t the perfect life – there’s no such thing really. But, we made a very brave decision in 2010 and thus far have felt absolutely no reason to doubt it. Sacrifices have been made, but they have been made willingly in order to spend more time in a state of relaxation, with a ‘paned o de’ close at hand. (Learning Welsh is our next challenge!)