I dislike the question “What do you do?” very much since I don’t really have an answer. Well, I have the long-winded response, since I like to do a lot and only for short periods of time. But I don’t really do any one thing, in the way people expect you to answer with a professional title or a job description. I get slightly hung up on customs forms every time I have to fill one out when entering a country, since the question “Occupation:” only has one line for you to answer. I kept writing “student” many months after I graduated, but realized I had to stop doing that now that I have no university to call home.
Writing “unemployed” always got me into trouble, since the customs agents would drill me for an answer on how I funded all this travel, with pages of passport stamps working against me to prove I’m actually quite broke. It took me a while to embrace the “writer” identity, since being a writer by profession usually means you can make a living out of it, and my blog certainly doesn’t pay all my travel bills. But, it’s been working a bit better for me lately as I’ve realized most travel writers are also just starving writers writing for the sake of writing, traveling with money made from other side jobs.
My “side” job is bartending or waitering for a reasonable hourly wage. I enjoy doing this, since I meet a lot of tourists, and also get to work with food and drinks – two of my most favourite indulgences. The horse-rider identity hasn’t really been a profession until recently, since I’m now getting paid to do some types of riding and that just seems completely ridiculous to me – getting paid to ride has to be every horse person’s dream job! Horse back riding is like therapy for me, I would pay to do it, but instead the system is working in my favour. There is actually a lot of work to be done, both in tourism and farming, where riders get rewarded for this incredibly fun hobby which happens to also be a valuable skill.
The question “What do you do?” is too presumptuous, since it assumes you do something for work. Why can’t life be all play and no work? I try and avoid doing anything displeasurable, especially for work, since selling time for money never seemed to make sense, no matter how much money it is. I’d rather sell skills or knowledge, something valuable that I’ve paid to get. I’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy going to school, but not because I want to work in the field I studied, but simply for the sake of education itself. I finished my master’s a year ago and haven’t applied for a job yet, and the thought crossed my mind that I’m eligible for unemployment benefits, but only because the socialistic system in Iceland is too skewed for catering to lazy people.
Getting a master’s in environmental science/tourism was just a silly mistake in the first place if I was looking for a job in tourism that required a graduate degree. Maybe one day all this over-education and travel can surmount to me being some sort of life-style advisor, teaching people how to work less, play more and learn unconventionally. I think this is a bit far-fetched, but there are actually people whose ‘professions’ are ‘life-coach’ – sounds almost as weird as ‘horse-rider.’
So, so far I’ve kind of established I’m an 'unemployed, writing, riding, Master of Tourism,' but I’m mostly just a traveling, nomadic, cosmopolitan. Sometimes I feel that I’m a fulltime friend, since my social life seems to take up all my time, and most of my travel revolves around visiting people scattered about from all sorts of different places. I’m also a dancer, a musician, an artist, a retired (or fired, rather) actress/model, and a philosopher by way of education (my BA). These identities transition in and out of my life as the years pass, and sometimes I try to reinvent them with slight morphosis. I’ve been a pianist for many years, studying and competing as one, but the life of a concert pianist didn’t appeal to me as much as learning the guitar for a while, and most recently, the violin (which I’ve yet to learn anything more than Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). Currently, Im transitioning from my ‘backpacker´ identity back to Icelandic student, and to ease through the stage I’m experiencing an uncontrollable tendency to listen to Portugese Fado music and wish I was still on the beach in Rio de Janeiro.
So, if I do nothing, similar to those customs agents, you may still be wondering how I afford to finance my travels. The trick is just to travel for long periods of time in places where the cost of living is cheaper. Then you’ll sympathize with me how expensive it is to to stay in Iceland or Canada, since life just costs too much. Then, the question should be, how can I afford not to travel!?
Photo by Philipp Gunther, text by Katrin Sif
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