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Taking your editing or proofreading service on the road: Where to go next?

Posted on 31st October 2017; revised and updated 19th March 2018

When I lived in Coventry, I put a lot of time and effort into getting my home office just right. In fact, it changed a few times as I moved my desk, changed the wall colour, got a better chair and generally faffed until I found just the right layout that somehow made me feel comfortable when doing long days of proofreading and editing. I don't know how much it correlated but my editing and proofreading service seemed in high demand when I was finally happy with my office!

But on the road, I don't have such luxury. I can't be so picky about wall colour or office layout, well, not exactly – I'm at the mercy of the photos on Airbnb (affiliate link) and just have to hope that they're up to date and reflect what's actually there.

Making sure I can work from a suitable space with decent internet access is perhaps the key consideration for choosing where to go, but after that, I thought I'd discuss what drives my (and Pete's) decisions on where we want to go.

Climate effect on my ability to proofread

I love sunshine. Like, I really love sunshine. But I am rubbish at working in the heat. When we were thinking where to go for our first summer on the road, southern Europe was ruled out for being just too hot. In the end, we went to the northern European coast and enjoyed a pleasant 20 to 25 degrees, with a lovely beach and refreshing (read freezing) sea. At the other end of the scale, I can't work if I'm too cold. The difference I've found on the road is that cold mainland European countries seem to be very good at insulation and keeping houses warm, unlike my Victorian terraced house in Coventry. I've been chilblain free since leaving the UK and that's got to be a bonus, not to mention good for productivity when proofreading!

I clearly forgot about the above when planning what to do for my second winter on the road, or perhaps the lure of five 25-hour days on a transatlantic cruise to Panama was just too strong. Either way, we ended up spending six months in Latin America, largely to avoid a European winter. I remained chilblain free but have to admit that I can now say I would rather live in a cold country than cloud forest, with almost permanent damp and wetness (what else should I have expected!?). The hotter weather meant air con was essential, but then I found it hard to regulate and also found my eyes dried out a bit. Life is always about trial and error, hopefully not too much of the latter, but it's safe to say I feel quite sure that my above suggestion of 20 to 25 degrees is the perfect temperature range for me.

Something I also hadn't considered before setting off as a nomadic proofreader and editor was daylight, and after six months in the warmth but with dark evenings, I can say that I prefer seasons, with short days in the winter ideal for hibernating but long days for warmer weather, meaning I can go out and about more at night. I guess this also relates to safety issues, where I often feel more comfortable going on urban hikes or just mooching when it's light.

What to do with my spare time

Kate at the top of a mountain near Zakopane, taking a break from her proofreading and copy-editing services

I love my work but I also know that my eyes can only focus on proofreading work for a relatively short working day which means I get a decent bit of free time, not to mention days off. One of the main things Pete and I therefore consider when deciding where to go is what to do with our time off. As you might have guessed from the photo, I love walking and hiking up mountains and so being near mountains or forests or decent walking areas is often a big draw. These factors will obviously vary immensely from person to person but, for example, if you really love diving and want to go to remote islands, you'll need to think about internet access and infrastructure and plan accordingly if you do still want to be working while there.

I also consider my interests in culture, politics and history, particularly when looking at city options, and try to choose places where there'll be plenty for me to see and do. In my line of work, it's good to know a lot about the world and this is where I think travel can help my editing and proofreading service. Thankfully Pete and I have similar interests so this works well, though I have to confess Pete might have dragged me to more ethnographic museums than I would personally have chosen to visit!

Who could I meet up with?

While travelling and working, though I obviously get to chat to Pete a lot, it's sometimes nice to speak to other people too. I know, who'd have thought humans are social creatures?! With the growing community of digital nomads, some places are becoming hubs or hotspots, so you could go there and have an instant source of friends and contacts. Facebook groups/pages and numerous forums (which change regularly so it's best to look online before going) have loads of details about meetups and social events in the more popular places, and even if you're going a bit off the beaten track, it's still worth looking to see if there are any events or groups of interest.

What I've found interesting is that even on the road, I've also been able to meet up with some clients. I have always had a global client base and some clients have specifically mentioned meeting up now they know I am travelling. I have also contacted other proofreaders and editors I know through the Society for Editors and Proofreaders – there's a membership map so I can see where people are based and if I'm due to be in the same place for a while, it's nice to try and meet up. And through the Cloud Club I've got to know some international editors and proofreaders better and now have offers of places to stay in some far-flung corners of the world.

What lifestyle can a proofreader afford?

I'm not about to divulge my accounts details here but thought I'd mention a little bit about how the financial side of things affects where we choose to base our editing and proofreading businesses. We tend to balance time in expensive countries by then going to cheaper places (Norway and Finland meant splashing out and then time in Eastern Europe was a lot cheaper).

Carrying one's life in a rucksack does mean clothing is limited so it's just as well I don't love fine-dining as I doubt my trekking shoes or sandals would be appreciated there, but the sort of restaurants and bars we like are less fussy about this sort of thing. We eat out a lot, sampling local cuisine and comparing curries around the world (and kebabs of course) and as mentioned above, try to get to see things that interest us. By travelling slowly, we get better deals on accommodation as longer stays tend to be cheaper (you often get discounts for a week and then a further discount for a month or more on Airbnb) and this also means that if a museum has a free day per week or month, you can plan around this.

We also like to look for 'free' walking tours (where we pay tips) as the guides are usually young and local with great knowledge so we get our bearings and ideas of things to do while in the city and sometimes also meet other tourists or digital nomads.

We have met some digital nomads on very tight budgets and others on rather lavish ones – we tend to budget on a yearly basis as some months might have bigger cost outlays (e.g. insurance, flights) while others might be much cheaper. Months where I have a big editing or proofreading project on the go tend to mean we go out less and that obviously saves money, not to mention I'll be earning more as I'll be working full-time, and then maybe the following month I'll work less and go out more. Balancing holiday mode with work mode is something I've always been good at, and though I know many freelance proofreaders and editors worry that holidays are doubly expensive – both in cost of the holiday and cost of lost work – that's never been my approach, and that hasn't changed since I've been on the road.

The above covers some of the main decisions on determining where I want to go, but sometimes it's as simple as just looking on a map or train route and seeing where looks good or easy to get to, and sometimes it's just a whimsical dream or something on my bucket list. Being flexible and open to ideas and other people's reviews is also good. Obviously visas and work restrictions might have an impact, but that's for another blog...

If you have any specific questions and want some individual advice, feel free to email me with questions.

Edited in March 2020 after the Society for Editors and Proofreaders became the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.

Written by Kate Haigh.