Today Everyone Has the Opportunity to Become a Foreign Correspondent
My driver, Mustafa, was pointing out a derelict, hilltop pillbox from which soldiers once kept armed watch over Lebanon’s war-torn Bekaa Valley…when my phone chirped. It was a hotel consultant from Australia. He was desperate for help.
When I hung up, I told Mustafa of the conversation. “Not a problem,” he said. “I’m hungry, anyway, and I know a café with internet.”
Minutes later, we were sitting in a near-empty restaurant lunching on Lebanese sandwiches of chicken and a raw-garlic spread wrapped in a thin, pita-like bread, looking out over a peaceful, mountain-lined green valley of vineyards where hell once reigned.
As we dined, I pulled out my tablet computer and tapped into the café’s high-speed internet. I was quickly online, revising a presentation I’d written for the Australian consultant a few months earlier. He was headed to Singapore in several hours for a meeting and needed new information incorporated into the document, and he wanted it in the same voice in which I’d written his original presentation.
“Seems like a great job,” Mustafa said, as I typed.
“Can’t complain,” I responded, a bit distracted. “I can go wherever I want to be in the world at that moment and I can still earn a living. Just need the internet and my tablet.” I looked up at him and added with a smile: “Sometimes just my iPhone.”
It was later, in the courtyard of the seven-room hotel Villa Clara in Beirut—sipping a French wine with the hotel’s French owner, Olivier—that Mustafa’s comment came back to me. I started mentally cataloging all the places I’ve alighted as a writer: Spain, Germany, Ireland, Uruguay, Russia, Argentina, China, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, France, Belgium, Italy, Kazakhstan, Singapore, Portugal. There are many others.
Writers like me—those of us who take our craft on the road globally—we’re the modern version of the foreign correspondents of yore. Only, often we’re not writing for newspapers or magazines back home. We’re freelancing for companies all over the world that need help wording a press release, writing promotional copy for new products, or editing research reports for nongovernmental organizations and economic think tanks…or honing a presentation for an Australian hotel consultant.
The internet makes it all possible. I remember my early days as a newspaper reporter. I’d land somewhere, gather a bunch of data, quotes, and visual imagery of the surrounding scene, and I’d quickly gin up a story in the notebook I always had shoved in my back pocket…then I’d call the news desk and recite the story into the phone for a copyeditor to quickly transcribe. If that was still the process today, digital nomads would not be a thing.
But the internet and technology…well, there I was, an American writer traveling in a taxi in Lebanon, fielding a phone call from an Australian client, then addressing his needs at a roadside café that had high-speed internet, and getting the work to him, nine time zones away, before he grabbed a flight to Singapore. It is, perhaps, the perfect anecdote to showcase the life of the digital nomad.
I’ve always told people who ask that I have the best job in the world. Of course, everyone lucky enough to earn their keep following their passion says the same thing. A few months ago, Andrew Luck, one of the best quarterbacks in the modern NFL, announced his retirement and all the sportswriters made the same observation in their stories: that for Luck, the joy was never the money he earned but simply the playing of the game. The ability to pay for his life doing what he loved was but a propitious byproduct of following his passion.
That’s a message I regularly share with my college-aged son when, after he sees one of my Instagram posts from some random country, texts me about his jealousy that I’m living a life I love. “It’s crazy. It’s like you don’t even work and you get paid,” he once wrote.
“In a way, you’re right,” I remember replying. “It’s what I always tell you—find what you love to do, find your passion, and the universe will lead you to where you need to be so you get paid to live that passion.”
Waking up every day to earn a living doing what you love…that’s the true path to happiness.
And as a retiree in this day and age—you’re in a unique place to follow that path (perhaps, finally) for yourself. It’s our mission here at The Savvy Retiree to show you how it’s done.
Written by Jeff D. Opdyke