Looking Forward and Back – Part Two

Yesterday, I blogged about the 12 crazy months that had just passed. A roller coaster year of good SoCal hiking, great travels to Europe and Latin America, misleading job prospects, a relationship began and a friendship ended. You can read about it here. Today, I’m taking a moment to look forward.

2013 slate

The world is your oyster, Shakespeare once wrote (or something like that), and I couldn’t agree more. I have basically begun the year in a new city, in good health and in a steady relationship for 12 months and counting. I don’t always make New Year’s resolutions, but I did so this year, and thought I’d share them with you.

Travel resolutions

It was nice slowing down the travel pace in 2012, at least as regards airplane flights. I would be ecstatic if I could maintain a similar amount of travel in 2013. I don’t mind air travel, but all that flying gets exhausting after awhile, even if you’re sitting in the front of the plane. First world problem? 😉

1)       Take advantage of Latin America living to explore more Spanish-speaking cities and countries. Here in Mexico, I’d love to visit the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, the resort mainstay of Puerto Vallarta, and the forested gorge that is la Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon). Additionally, I’m no more than three hours by plane from Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and perhaps four hours from Colombia (which is now a safe country to visit) and Venezuela (which isn’t, but at least I have a friend there). I certainly won’t make it to all of those places, but I have a smorgasbord of regional destinations to choose from.

2)      A Seattle-based friend of mine is getting married in French Polynesia this May, and while I wouldn’t consider myself a beach bum, this island chain in the South Pacific has beckoned me for years. There aren’t any flights to Tahiti from Mexico, so something tells me the airfare won’t be cheap. That said, the occasion seems joyous and the perfect excuse to finally go.

3)      I missed the opportunity to explore Rocky Mountain National Park when I was in Denver last August (thunderstorms!), so I hope to try again this summer. My ultimate goal: climb Longs Peak, the highest 14er in the park. It is a difficult climb with exposure, and it is entirely dependent on good weather. While I’m in the area I could also bag Mt. Elbert, the highest summit in Colorado.

4)      I also hope to visit friends in Chicago and Pennsylvania, but those are easier trips to arrange and are dependent solely on airfare and on my friends’ schedules.

Career resolutions

The time has come for me to go back to work, sooner rather than later. Friends tell me I’m a smart guy, but I have trouble focusing on one particular area of interest as I restart my career. As I see it, there are six paths in front of me:

1)        Continue looking for “corporate” work in the advertising/market research fields. The benefits of such work include a consistent, steady paycheck, a predictable schedule, and a decent salary.

2)      Pursue TEFL certification here in Mexico City and hopefully sign on with a language school that can help me find work. It is a degree (of sorts) that I can take with me to many parts of the world, and the work day isn’t necessarily 9-to-5, so I could have more free time for photography and other hobbies.

3)      Get paid as a travel writer and photographer.  This is every backpacker’s dream, even if it includes too much time spent visiting hotels and not enough time spent sightseeing.

4)      Go to grad school to study Geography (and possibly History). Like my father, I love geography, and my globe-trekking and interest in sociology have given me an edge that I think would help me excel in the curriculum.

5)      Find work at a hostel. Benefits include free (or discounted) lodging and breakfasts, as well as the potential for a million new friendships.

6)      Get back to my screenwriting roots and don’t stop until I have a writing credit on screen. Even indie-produced screenplays usually earn their writers a decent wage, and a mainstream screenwriter can eventually command six figures per gig.

Problem is, I am not a glass-half-full guy, so I can’t help but see the hurdles in front of each aforementioned path:

1)       I have been out of the industry for four years now, and even if I’ve tried to keep current by browsing the trades, potential employers likely see me as being out of touch. And will they want to hire someone who, from their POV, hasn’t worked in four years? If so, I fear I’ll have to start from the bottom again, making thousands or even tens of thousands less than I once did. While I am not driven by money, I don’t want to be under-valued, either.

2)      I have yet to meet anyone who’s turned TEFL certification into a 30-year career. Rather, those who get work teaching English as a foreign language are often younger than me, sample it in just a couple of cities for just a couple of years, or are willing to do it in places like China and India, countries that I like visiting but that I have little desire to actually live in. Not to mention, TEFL jobs don’t pay much. I could pay my rent and eat cheaply, but there likely wouldn’t be any saving for the future.

3)      Travel writing and photography generally don’t pay much. They are also tough industries to break into; I imagine that beginners spend much time reviewing hotels (without necessarily staying at them). I did that myself, several years ago and on a project-by-project basis. It wasn’t any fun. More time was spent focusing on objectivity and on whether I followed the publication’s style guidelines than on the original voice of my writing, or on the quality of the hotel in question. Do travel writers ever actually get paid to travel to places they want to visit? Photographers have it even harder. For starters, it can cost upwards of $30,000 to put on a photo show. Additionally, you might sell the occasional picture or two, but there are more people competing for photography contracts (with a publication like Lonely Planet, for example) than there are pictures said publication will even publish!

4)      If I could find a way to stay afloat for another year while I do research, take the GRE, and get myself into the right mental state, I could see myself going back to school. I love geography, I love history, and I’ve been told by several people that I’d make an excellent teacher. I mention this last part because most geography and history majors probably go on to teach those subjects on a high school or university level themselves. But should I put all my eggs in that basket? I doubt there are many jobs available as a cartographer, or a historian…and I’m not sure that $100,000 in grad school student loans is the wisest investment if there isn’t any work to be found. I contacted what is supposedly the best grad school in the country for geography about these concerns; they never got back to me. Does that tell me what I want to know?

5)      Hostel work is actually pretty easy to get, but as far as I know most hostels pay low wages in addition to free dorm lodging to backpackers who wish to stay longer in one particular place. That may be a great perk for some people, but not if (as in my case) you already have a place to live. Bottom line: the pay sucks. This is a short-term deal, not something that would ever enable me to save for the future.

6)      I promise to write more about this in a future blog, but for now I’ll simply say that while I consider myself a good screenwriter, I’m also hamstrung by the reality that everything to come out of Hollywood today is either a) based on a comic book, children’s book, or teen vampire novel; b) a sequel, prequel, or “squeakquel” (yes, there really is one of those); or c) a remake of an already-existent movie or TV show. These can be good – and indeed, 2012 was a banner year for mainstream cinema – but that’s just not what I write. The indie movie route is another option, but I don’t have the luxury (or the drive) to give up, say, three years of my life shopping my passion project around Hollywood. Call me jaded if you like, but my screenwriting prospects are truly dismal. Most likely, any screenplays I write will end up being just for me.

Final thoughts

I alluded earlier to the belief that I’m not a glass-half-full person. I refuse to think of myself as an all-out pessimist, but I’ve experienced enough of life’s hard knocks to know that none of career options 1-6 will simply fall into my lap. I could combine two or more of the options listed above, or simply hope and pray for GringoPotpourri to gain enough of a following that I could support myself by blogging. Ha!

What do you think, Loyal Reader? Are my resolutions reasonable? Have you traveled to any of the places I hope to visit in 2013? Do you happen to own an art gallery with exhibit space available? Do you know any Geography or History Master’s recipients who have found work doing something they love? Are you interested in buying a wholly-original, feature-length screenplay? Inquiring minds want to know. Especially mine. 🙂

Cheers to a great 2013!

Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food, history, and women, all while weathering the culture shock. Life's journey has since brought him to rural Tennessee, perhaps the biggest culture shock of them all. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, and travel in general.

5 thoughts on “Looking Forward and Back – Part Two”

    1. Thanks for the update, Jose. I’ve talked to a few Colombian ex-pats recently and they all say the country is “quite safe,” and that they’re “scared” to visit Venezuela. Could be just a silly rivalry between countries, vis-a-vis Australia-vs-New Zealand…but if so that’s just a mean thing to say.

      Are you worried about things deteriorating in VZ if Chavez’s health takes a turn for the worse?

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