What if--freelancing, traveling, working--means is, simply, that you have to accept what you're getting yourself into.

The top of Hope Pass, This portion is also along the Continental Divide Trail.

Part 2 of a 6 part series. August 20-27, 2016 – Leadville, Colorado, and the Leadville 100 Race

After leaving Silverton, we headed back east to the Sawatch mountain range. Moisés had agreed to pace a friend in the Leadville 100 Mile trail race–i.e. run the last 50 miles with him–so we found ourselves in Leadville, Colorado’s “two mile high” city. Since we’d planned to be there for the race, we then worked together to find assignments.

Main Street Leadville

So the Leadville 100, a race that neither of us were running, worked out to be work–which was pretty awesome. We stayed with Moisés’ friend Diego Garcia (and his family) in a funky old miner’s house that they’d rented for the weekend. Diego ran, Moisés paced him. I photographed, Moisés wrote a piece for a Chilean running magazine,  Trail Chile.  I’ve made two additional photo essays, Colorado Towns, and the Leadville 100 Race, both are forthcoming on FitWild next week.

It should be noted here that the generosity of others has played a huge role in our time on the road; throughout our time working in Leadville, Diego and his family shared their rented home, their meals, and their time with us. Working all night, covering/pacing a freezing race is one thing–it’s a completely different thing to do this knowing that you have a warm bed to return to.

Leadville 100 runner
Diego Garcia, a Chilean ultrarunner, after finishing Leadville 100.

After reading last week’s post, a friend asked if I could share a bit about our budget for this time on the road. So, what I’d like to talk about here is how Moisés and I are making it rain. Eh…sprinkle. Yeah maybe it’s more just…kind of humid.

Money. Freeing and limiting. In the spirit of transparency, let’s talk about budget.

How are we surviving? By finding ways to pay for the essentials–i.e. food, gas, and the (very) occasional campsite–by writing and photographing assignments along the way.

Is this working? Yes. What does the shakedown of our earnings look like? 60% goes towards groceries, 30% goes towards gas, 10% goes towards miscellaneous, and one wild time, $8.00 went to a cheeseburger that I ate in Ouray.

I won’t dance around the point and pretend that there’s disposable income for us during these months. There isn’t. We don’t eat out, we plan our driving very carefully, and we’re currently scraping together dollars to get a National Park annual pass. But we’re comfortable. We’re warm at night and go to bed full. And maybe this sounds cliché, but there’s also sort of a weird freedom in realizing that once you’ve covered your basics, you don’t really need much else.

When you freelance for a magazine, newspaper, or website, there is no travel budget. (I’m not even sure that publications offer much of a travel budget for staffed positions anymore.) You’ve got to find a way to create your own travel budget by creating work in the places in which you find yourself–i.e. Leadville.

As is most of my generation, I am still slowly, slowly paying off my student loans. I’d like to take a moment to address this, because I’ve had multiple recent conversations/questions about career choice vs. debt vs. surviving–most recently with a talented climbing photographer who is considering making the jump from contracted work into freelancing.

I want to make it super clear that, financially, freelancing is not easy…and I think it’s even not-easy-er when there’s college debt lurking around. (Lurking. Lurk lurk lurk.) The income that you earn when freelancing is not a guarantee, it’s not a salary. So, when it comes to debt, this means that you’ve got to find at least enough regular income to cover your payments–and this can be anything.

For me, this means that I teach English to Germans over the phone. Random, right? (I’ll digress for a second here to paint a quick picture: this is ideal because I can teach from anywhere in the world as long as there’s an internet connection, but it also involves driving from the mountains back into town for said phone calls, early in the morning, to accommodate for the 8-hour time difference.) I have a set number of students, and the money that I earn from teaching all goes straight towards my student loan payment each month. I sort of look at it like this: find a random extra job to pay for my random extra expense (debt.) Done. Now anything I earn from photo/writing can fund my actual cost of living.

So we’ve established that it’s not exactly easy. But it’s also not necessarily a drama-fest. What it–freelancing, traveling, working–means is, simply, that you have to accept what you’re getting yourself into.

It means that you put your head down, focus, and realize that you’re going to have to hustle for each dollar that you earn. But if you’re up for a weird challenge, it sort of becomes a game…and games are fun, especially when you’ve got a good teammate.