I’m packing, again.
No news there. In the past six months since I’ve left USA TODAY, I flung myself full force into the out-of-a-suitcase life of a travel writer.
And hell yeah, it’s been fun. I went on two small ship sailing cruises throughout the Caribbean, dined at four-star Michelin restaurants in Paris and explored the world near and far, from Israel to Ohio’s Hocking Hills. I took press trips, for better or worse, something that I had never encountered before from my well-funded perch within the mainstream media. I received spa treatments and hot air balloon rides and overnight stays in some of the world’s nicest hotels. Nothing sucked there.
I also learned more than I could ever imagine. From my readers, Facebook friends and Twitter followers, I discovered that communication is a two-way street, that crowd-sourcing can work, as long as you cultivate the right crowd. More than ever, I’m convinced that journalism as I knew it has fundamentally changed, that the old business models of delivering information are doomed to fail and those of us who came up in the field need to adapt or get out of the way, like yesterday. Sometimes you need to be on the outside to see things straight.
One of the lessons learned: I am not wired to be a freelancer. I missed having colleagues. I missed having a steady paycheck. I missed being part of a larger team, working together on projects that had the potential to make a big impact. While some writers relish the freedom of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, I found it draining and depressing. That’s a character fault, and I admire greatly those who make it succeed.
On Monday, I start a new full-time job at Microsoft. I’m going to be a writer on the Windows team, helping consumers better understand, appreciate and use MS software. It’s a multi-platform gig, for an international audience. It’s going to use all the skills that I developed as a journalist – beat reporting, editorial judgment, reaching readers where they live – and introduce lots of new ones. I’m excited to take it all in.
It means moving to Seattle, thus the packing. I hadn’t planned on living in three major U.S. cities in less than a year, but hey, sometimes opportunities surprise you. I’ve worked in every area of the country except the Pacific Northwest, so I’m looking forward to exploring the region. And yes, I have heard that it rains; I believe a light box will be in my future.
Will I miss the newsroom? Of course I will. I’ve never worked anywhere except one, for the past 20 years. But let’s be honest: the quality of life within most newsrooms has radically diminished over the past five years. Long before my exit, I saw good people forced out and benefits being cut and editorial decisions made for the wrong reasons. And at the end, the profession acted like a bad boyfriend toward me. No one wants to be the woman who goes back to a bad boyfriend.
And what about this travel blog? I’m going to keep it going. You’ll see me at TBEX later this month and SATW in Germany in October and in other places where travel writers, editors and bloggers gather. I’ve come to love blogging, sharing the personal joys and travails of my experiences with others. That won’t change, even as my job title does. Journalism as a hobby? It could be the next, next thing.
See you on the road!