To spend life as a touring professional is to step out of societal norms. No 9-to-5 here, no suits, no commute to and from the same place each day. We have a lot more freedom than a more “normal” lifestyle allows, but with great freedom comes great vulnerability: what feels like a wild, exciting ride in our youth can morph, seemingly without warning, into a life of insecurity, depression, poverty and loneliness in later life.
How do we guard against such pitfalls? How, as professional crew, can we enjoy the best that life on the road has to offer and still have a life off the road to return to when the time comes? Here are some ideas…
Put money away. It’s easy as a young freelancer to live with an attitude of “tomorrow never comes” – who in their 20s can truly imagine themselves a half century later? But time sneaks up and too many of us get to our late 40s and 50s and realize that we haven’t been looking after our practical interests.
So if you haven’t yet started a retirement fund, do it today. If money is tight now, imagine yourself in the same situation when you no longer have the ability to go out and earn more. Even if it’s just a few dollars a week, it’s a start and it gets you into the habit.
As a long-time freelancer, my preferred way is to slice off 50 percent of every paid invoice as soon as it hits my bank. Half of that amount goes to my pension, half goes to a savings account ready for tax time, and that generally leaves a little over for a rainy day. If you know you’ve been dodging the issue,
I strongly recommend taking a cold hard look at your money situation and talking to an independent financial adviser at the first opportunity. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but not as scary and uncomfortable as being 80 and broke.
Look after yourself. With all the temptations of the road it’s easy to get into the habit of too much, too often; and even with a healthy lifestyle the long hours and constant travel can take their toll. Most of us have pushed through illness when we’re touring because the show must go on, but if we get seriously ill and can’t work, there’s no money coming in.
There are plus sides to the physicality of touring life – most of us take a good deal more than the recommended 10,000 steps a day – so capitalizing on that by eating well, going easy on the booze, staying off substances and getting fresh air and daylight when possible means we have a better chance of a long working life in a well-functioning body.
Develop outside interests. Road life can be all-consuming, but the happiest and most balanced touring people I know all have one thing in common: a hobby that they love, usually something that can come on the road with them for days off.
Photography, learning to fly airplanes, cycling, sketching, writing, running a podcast, learning a language, yoga – whatever their interest(s) may be, having something other than the tour which absorbs them seems to universally make folks happier.