A couple months ago, I started working on a series of articles for Matador about how to travel for free as a ____. The blank was to be filled in with any series of jobs: chef, writer, yoga teacher, musician, actor. The list really could go on and on.
Except it didn’t.
When I started reaching out to people I knew who were traveling for free (or almost for free) and invited them to share their knowledge, experiences, and tips, they expressed initial enthusiasm, followed by an almost-immediate squirreliness.
A couple flat out told me they didn’t want to share “their” secrets because they didn’t want anyone else to get in on the game. Here’s what one of them wrote:
I’m definitely interested, as long as we don’t give away ALL the secrets! After all, … we’d hate to have everyone doing it and taking away all our cool travel opportunities!
The attitude made me feel yucky and cranky, so I tabled the idea of the series and started thinking a lot more about the notions of generosity, karma, competition, and perceived entitlement among travel writers and professionals. The idea that any single person or small handful of people is somehow entitled to hoard “all our cool travel opportunities” strikes me as both selfish and sad, first, because there’s not really a shortage of cool travel opportunities, and second, because I really don’t believe (I truly, truly don’t) that more people entering a field makes things tough for those of us already in it.^ If anything, I believe that more people in the game makes us sharper, less lazy, and (should we choose to be) more collegial.
A couple Thursdays ago, I blocked out an hour in my schedule to talk shop with a writer and editor who has decades of experience in the industry. I dislike talking on the phone and even considered canceling, but I’m glad I didn’t– we spent our time sharing ideas and discussing projects of mutual interest we could collaborate on, both now and in the future. When our conversation concluded, I was on a high for several days afterward. This was someone who could have made herself inaccessible; instead, she was generous in sharing her ideas and experience with me. I was profoundly grateful for her support and her willingness to not be squirrely, and I’m looking forward to what comes of our conversation.
I can count on seven fingers (really… I just did it) the number of fellow travel writers who I consider to be genuinely, actively embracing a “Yes, let’s share” karmic approach to their profession. I think it’s worth noting that they’re all full-time writers who live (and, in most cases, feed families) off their writing and so they, more than other writers, potentially stand to “lose” more by “giving away” opportunities to other writers.
Turn that over in your mind when you get a minute, because there’s a lesson there.
And then decide: Do you really want to be a squirrel?
^I do want to point out, though, that I don’t really think anyone should enter a field–or appeal to anyone else’s generosity or bulging Rolodex until they’ve put in their paces and are really prepared professionally to be in the game.