I’m so pleased and proud to announce that my essay “We Will Always Have Paris” has won a Gold Solas Award in the Family Travel category for 2016. You can read it online at the BBC Travel website, where it was published last November.
The Solas Awards are sponsored by Travelers’ Tales and are chosen by the editors of these wonderful literary travel books. Being a travel writing editor is a dream for many; especially those with a joint love of exploring the globe and literature. Learning how to become an editor is a good first step to take if this is a career you wish to pursue but its also advisable to get some writing experience by putting pen to paper first too. I recommend visiting the winners’ page and checking out some of the other pieces that won – if you like good travel writing, or just good writing period, you’ll find a range of excellent stories told with wit and wisdom. I’m proud to be in the company of so much talent.
This essay is meaningful to me for a variety of reasons. It talks about my family’s first trip to Paris – which is the very first trip I wrote about on this site. In fact, before you read it, you might first want to visit one of my very first posts where, writing from the apartment we had rented just off the Place Monge, I express my joy and gratitude at returning to that beloved place in the company of my children.
So now that I’ve won, what’s next?
When I took the trip I wrote about in the essay, I was working 20 hours a week as an editor at an educational website and had one child not yet in school full time. I thought I was so busy. But discovering that I could in fact find time to both travel with my children and write in spite of those circumstances was a joy and so I eagerly did both things, traveling almost continually and sometimes publishing as many as five posts a week. Eventually I quit my job, hoping to make enough money from freelance writing and this site to cover the difference. I didn’t really have a plan, just a lot of optimism and what I thought was an entrepreneurial spirit.
Of course, I have absolutely no experience when it comes to being an entrepreneur, so all I could do was rely on my own instincts. I always seem to have a good feeling about what feels right and what doesn’t, so I was hoping that this would carry me through. It also helped that I had a friend who had just opened her own small business, and it was easy to get advice from her about what I could eventually need. Whilst she had to look at a confirmation statement guide to find out how to document all of her company’s employees, I was ultimately working on my own, which meant that I wouldn’t be required to file one, so that was one less thing for me to worry about unless I decide to expand in the future. In the meantime though, I was just trying to figure out where my journey would take me next.
And so for the past seven and half years I have tried a variety of projects. I found sponsors for some of the content on this site and for some of my travels, churned out how-to articles and lists for other travel websites, wrote a book about family travel, started an online social media and blogging campaign about downhill skiing, hosted any number of Twitter chats, and, occasionally, did some more literary writing that really mattered to me without worrying about whether it would make any money.
Guess which type of work it was that won the Solas Award?
It took me most of last summer to finish and polish that draft. And as I let most of my freelance work slip away without any genuine regret I realized something: I wanted to create without worrying about the outcome. I wanted to return to sharing my stories and ideas without thinking about how they might rank in a Google search. I wanted to produce what I hope will be more award-winning writing and maybe even get paid for it. And even if it doesn’t win anything and even if I don’t make a dime I want to do it anyway.
But I also want to keep traveling and to contribute to my family coffers, and that takes income. So as of this week I’ve come full circle. I’ve found a part-time editing and writing job and once again will be regularly working about 20 hours a week for someone else. I’m putting away my entrepreneur hat and putting on my employee hat and I couldn’t be happier about it. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about my own business goals and aspirations at the same time. Whilst I love working for someone else, I can’t help but think about what it would be like to be the boss of a company that I could call my own. Even just typing the words is filling me with joy, but I realize that a lot of hard work will be needed to ensure that I can fulfill these dreams. From finding the potential employees I would need to help with my responsibilities, to looking for a registered office address with Companies House to help make my business appear professional, as well as adding a certain level of prestige to my endeavors are just some of the things that need to be thought about before starting. This is why I welcome the break from this so my mind can be focused on something else for the time being. The job I will be doing is close to home and flexible and will allow me both to continue to travel and to do my own creative work.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was nervous about this big change. Although my sons are almost 11 and almost 14 and are of course both in school full time, they have an equally full roster of activities that require lots of driving (I call my evenings, when I basically turn into an Uber driver, “second shift”). There’s still the household to run, bread to make, all of my own appointments and errands to tend to, to say nothing of the ones I do for the other members of my family. I’ve got lots of travel planning to do still for 2016. And I am ambitious in what I want to write for this site and have a lot of plans. For one thing, I’ve got lots of travel stories and ideas to catch up on as in my scramble to follow the dollar I didn’t publish here very much for the past year and a half. And I’ve also got any number of other writing projects that I am slowly working on and equally slowly working up the courage to submit for publications and contests.
But wait, wasn’t this post about winning an award?
Yes! I’m so happy that my essay won a Solas Award. I may just put up a sign over my desk for those inevitable moments when I feel discouraged.
I guess I’m writing this post because I wanted to contextualize this win, to show you what it really means to me. So often on the internet it’s easy to feel like life is a simple win-lose proposition. I’m sharing all this so that you can see what the life of a traveling and writing parent really is – exciting, chaotic, overwhelming, joyful, full of grace, overcommitted – probably a lot like yours.
If you’re interested in reading about my family’s travels in Paris (we’ve been there twice) I hope you’ll visit the Paris pages on my site. And please visit the BBC Travel website to read my award-winning essay.