This summer, I stumbled into a chance for a free trip to Italy. The trip would include small group tours in Rome and Florence, including some of my favorite spots and destinations I was eager to visit for the first time. The Vatican Museum. Michelangelo’s Pietá and The David. The Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. Vino blanco, olives and fresh pasta. And gelato. Lots of gelato. What’s not to like?
The only catch for this inveterately indecisive person was the timing. I had just days to commit to the trip, which was a few weeks away. Should I stay or should I go? Could I tie up my freelance commitments and clear my schedule for this unplanned excursion? Did I have the money for the few expenses I’d have to cover? How would I stay in touch with my editors and clients while traveling? And could I make up for the lost income? Freelancers don’t get paid vacation, after all.
I consulted a few friends, who responded with disbelief that I would turn down this opportunity. They reminded me how much I love Florence – capital of the Tuscany region, birthplace of the Renaissance. And Rome, the Eternal City? I’ve only visited a handful of the 900 or so churches there. I can’t get enough of the place.
I remained ambivalent until a close friend and colleague reminded me that this unexpected trip was exactly the reason I decided to adopt a freelance career. I hadn’t exactly anticipated an all-expense paid trip to Italy when I made this career choice. Like the majority of the one in 10 Americans working in the so-called gig economy, though, I value being my own boss and the ability to work flexible hours.
Since my transition four years ago from a full-time newspaper job to working as a freelance editor and writer, my flexible schedule allowed me to take a summer job teaching writing to teen girls. I was able to watch my niece’s first nursery school performance. And I enjoy an occasional impromptu lunch or coffee date.
Readers, I took that trip and enjoyed every minute. I got my fill of old churches, shopping and delicious food and drink. It did take me more than a month to feel caught up after I returned, but I have no regrets.
As the Roman poet, Horace, wrote, “Carpe diem.” Seize the day. Or, for a modern take: “Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes. Eat the cake.”