Life on Purpose :: Pauline Morrissey, Freelance Writer
I’m super excited to be chatting with Sydney-based Freelance Writer, Pauline Morrissey, who is currently adventuring across the United States, in a uniquely stylish camper-van for nine months, whilst documenting her incredible travels on Instagram,
During her travels, she is working with various clients including Domain, Houzz and ShortPress; and at the same time, delighting her Instagram fans with stunning scenery along the way.
Pauline and her husband have been making their way across the USA in a camper-van they lovingly fitted out and decorated to suit their personal style.
They’ve done an incredible job reviving the van; and, despite its compact size, have created a cozy and stylish space to call home on their epic adventure.
I caught up with Pauline to chat about why she decided to take this big leap and how she's making it work, by combining her two passions - writing and travel.
What sparked the idea to pack up your life in Sydney to plan your US adventure?
This is actually my second time of traveling for an extended period. My husband and I did another trip in 2012 where we also bought a motorhome and took off in America for a 3-month road trip, then flew to London where we lived and worked for a year.
After we came home from that trip, we really put a focus on our careers back at home in Sydney for the 5 years that followed, however, I found, that the better my career was getting, the more mentally ill I was becoming.
I found myself working far too many hours per week, my work and life balance was way off, and my underlying anxiety worsened dramatically. We had all intentions on saving up for a deposit for a home, however, I felt like I was becoming a ticking time bomb.
I remember my husband Kieran asking me to recall a time in my life where I felt most free of anxiety, and my answer led me back to the times we were traveling.
One thing led to another and here we are again...
How did you go about making the leap from full time employment to freelancing?
I really loved my job. I was the full-time Home & Lifestyle Writer for one of Australia's leading publication and I was in that position for over two years.
Within the time I was there, my role grew and grew, which was great for my career, but as I mentioned before, it took a tole on my wellbeing. The funny thing is, what drew me to this career is the fact that I love to create and write.
However, I later came to know, the better job you do in this industry, the more you'll likely find yourself in meetings. presentations, and media events - aspects that my introverted and now anxious self found quite confronting - not to mention very removed from my initial longing and attraction for this career.
Over time, I just decided to ask myself what aspects of my job do I truly value and enjoy, and the answer was writing. I also wanted to take what I now call my 'mental gap year', so I decided to do both of these things, at the same time.
The day I put in my resignation at work, I remember being so nervous, I was nearing a panic attack.
But I just took deep breaths and backed myself, like I would a close friend. I chose to be very open about my reasonings, even down to the finer details of my struggles with my anxiety.
My work was very understanding and even asked if I may consider staying full-time, but working around my needs (changing some of my responsibilities and having more freedom to work from home, etc.), however, by this time, I had already packed my suitcase in my mind.
Because of this, they instead offered to keep me on as a freelancer, working 12 hours per week, at my pace and only doing the aspects of my previous role that I truly enjoyed doing.
Looking back, I realize that the outcome of this couldn't have worked out any better for me. Sometimes I feel so lucky because of it, but then again,
I really don't like the meaning of the word 'lucky', as I think it It cheapens a lot of hard work I've done. So instead I remind myself that I was given this opportunity because I had earned it.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I have always been an avid documenter of life and such. I've always kept a diary from a young age, I have a passion for writing handwritten letters to my loved ones, and I have had a personal blog since 2010, but the short answer is truthfully no.
I did not study journalism after school, instead I began working in a general office administration role, which I was in for 4 years. All I can remember from those days is feeling like I was leading two lives.
During 9-to-5 I would be at work, and every other minute outside that, I would be writing or blogging. My passion only grew and grew from there, as I took on work experience in the industry, volunteered to write for certain publications for free, and played around with some personal projects.
By then, I would also apply for jobs that I wanted and didn't feel as though I was fully qualified for.
Whilst in the beginning I didn't hear back from anyone, I persisted until I did. This was where a small role, turned into a medium role, and before I knew it, I had a couple of years of paid experience under my belt, which allowed me to reach for the stars - and that I did.
What advice would you give to someone looking to create a career as a freelance writer?
I love this question because I really love to pass on my one tip, which I swear by.
Here goes; although writing is a creative field, you need to match your creativity with professionalism. You can be the best writer out there, but if you can't correctly formulate an email, or manage your time effectively, then creativity simply won't cut it. Too often I come across other creatives that simply rely on their passion, but don't back it up with a business mind.
Think about it, for every employer or client you write for, there's a business behind that. There's so much more to the work than the actual writing part, like negotiating rates, meeting deadlines, or chasing invoices - the boring but very necessary stuff.
Even writing a CV or cover letter requires you to speak or write with a business mindset, rather than a creative one, so before you even get the gig, this rule applies.
Keeping a balance of both will all contribute to being a successful freelancer, one that people will want to work with over and over again.
I’m obsessed with the van you decorated to travel around in - how do you find living in such a small space?
Whilst living in our motorhome has its challenges - like a kitchen with practically no bench space or having very limited space for privacy, there is nothing quite like it.
Yes it's small, but often we would find ourselves parked in the most beautiful wide open spaces, which makes me feel a unique sense of freedom that I would otherwise not get at home, however big it may be.
It's also very different from road tripping by say a rented car and staying in hotels, instead we get to feel like we have a home with us wherever we go.
What has been the biggest personal transformation / shift in perspective since beginning your big adventure?
For me, my goal has always been to take a big step back from work. I've gone from working about 60 hours per week, to working 12 hours per week, at the most and at my own pace.
Stepping away from the traditional norms of my working life has given me the space to breath both physically and emotionally.
My outlook has changed in the sense that I am not jolting out of bed each day, struck by panic as to what may be on my to-do list that day. Back home, it came to a point where I was so sick from anxiety that I was not sleeping or eating well - at times I wouldn't even be able to leave the house on the days where I wasn't working.
But now, 'home' for us changes from day to day on the road, so I have no choice but to step out of my comfort zone and face my anxiety head on.
Of course I'll have to go back to working full time at some point, but for now, I'm taking this phase of my life and running with it. I have no doubt that it will have benefited my mental health in the long run.
Do you have a morning routine or any rituals that set you up for success each day?
I have an app I use every single day called 'Calm', every morning I make a point to do a quick breathing exercise and I also listen to the sound of rain on this app whenever my anxiety creeps in.
I tend to be my best self when I make a point to better my mental health, so this really does need to come first.
Favorite or affirmation quote?
I love this quote by Charles Bukowski, “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.”
Best advice that you’ve ever been given?
Quality over quantity, always. This applies to almost everything in life; how your time is spent, the work that you do, the friendships or relationships that you keep, and the experiences you have.