Civil War statue at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania




(also  freelance)
  1. A person who sells services to employers without a long-term commitment
  2. An uncommitted independent, as in politics or social life
  3. A medieval mercenary


I’ve made a living freelancing for so long that, like old buildings, I have almost become respectable. That’s not true, alas, in the eyes of my career-track buddies from graduate school days back in the 1970s. They became history professors, book editors, and government workers, for whom my preference for eking out a living trying to sell words and pictures sounded too … erratic. Or, as one of them put it so memorably, it’s like life in a hammock. That hurt.


Leopard yawning, South Africa

Elephant in trees, South Africa

Blue Ridge Parkway at dawn

Cannon firing at Osawatomie, Kansas

Two zebras, South Africa

Mountain bikers at Fisher Towers near Castle Valley, Utah

Wildlife at Grand Gulf Military Park near Port Gibson, Mississippi

But four trips to Vietnam between 1968 and 1974 convinced me that we don’t live forever. Then an around-the-world bike ride, instead of satisfying the desire to travel, only provided the itch to see more. Toss in a love for photography and the desire for more time to read history than even a teaching stint allowed, and I was stuck with an unstable job.


No doubt today’s economy is why I’ve had questions of late from recent college graduates interested in freelancing. I begin with the positives – that I’ve spent the last 40 years doing fun photo shoots for active-travel tour companies, travel-article research (much of it from a bike saddle) in 60 countries on five continents, and scribbled more than 300 articles and 13 books.


But then I tell them assignments are like raindrops: They come when they want to, not when you’re thirsty. That usually brings questions about staying alive as a freelancer, and I reply that it couldn’t be simpler – just marry somebody with a real job. If that isn’t in the cards, I continue, the best advice is the oldest for this business: Keep your spirits high and your expenses low.


That’s where my Forester enters the picture. I bought it new in 1999, and in the 174,000 miles since, I have lived out of it for at least two months of every year. It’s a mobile base camp that’s large enough for me to sleep in comfortably. Plus, it’s small enough to get awfully decent gas mileage for a go-in-any-season rig. My single complaint is that it’s aging more slowly than I am.


No matter where a client sends me in North America, I always – always – tell them I prefer to drive. Invariably they ask “Are you sure?” Invariably I respond, “Have you flown recently?” What they don’t think of is the genuine, close-to-the-bone pleasure of watching the world go by while on cruise control, sipping coffee and listening to some great recorded book.


Granted, cross-country travel takes longer. But freelancers – like farmers, artisans, and mothers – are task-oriented, not driven primarily by the clock. Instead of dreading a flight day and the fear of getting bumped, I look forward to the travel days. I check an atlas for the historic trails or military campaign routes I’ll cross during my trip (the subject of many of my articles), check the site, download an appropriate audible history book or two, and head out.


Who says freelancing is a job without benefits?
















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