Creswell Chronicle Reporter Aliya Hall at a phone booth in Westminster, London with the Parliament building in the background. Photo Provided
When I first worked on this column, I was sitting in a London coffee shop outside of my Airbnb frantically trying to make deadline.
I originally planned this trip last November, a 10-day excursion to London, as a way to get tangible experience in travel writing; however, in practice, it became more of a test in balance: Pursing new stories and gathering interviews while finishing already promised articles on deadline with a seven hour time difference.
You see, as a freelance journalist, while I have no obligations to anyone – I simultaneously have obligations to everyone. I know, it’s a paradox; let me explain.
Although I didn’t have to ask a boss for permission to take this trip to explore a new writing style, because I am my own boss, I still have a network of editors I work with frequently that I needed to organize my absence with, as well as pre-scheduled deadlines that fell during the trip.
Erin Tierney was my only editor who let me take the time away from the Chronicle so I wasn’t tied to my computer. Even though I still had work to do, it was a relief to have one less thing on my to do list.
For every morning of the week I was taking an hour or two researching, transcribing, writing a story and sending it out, before spending the afternoon exploring everything the City has to offer and finding things to write about.
It was a lot- but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The days were long and exhausting, both mentally and physically, but I had the freedom to do with my time what I want. And, the trip was successful.
I had interviews and meetings with business owners and magazine editors lined up before I left, and through wandering the streets I had added even more to that list. I fell in love with the Soho District, known for its inclusive community and rich music history, and still feel for its fight against gentrification of the area. I took a Jack the Ripper tour and was so moved by the tour guides plight to honor the victims that I wanted to write a story about it.
I had even explored Fleet Street, once the hub for all the major news publications, and the home of the Journalist’s Church. The church has a rich history going back centuries, but beyond that, each seat in the pew is memorialized to a journalist or editor in the news community. There were dedications in the memory of journalists who had lost their lives in wars, as well as those reporters recently lost in their line of work: including the names of Kim Wall and Jamal Khashoggi.
There were even pubs where journalists past would spend time socializing and drinking after work. One of which, The Coach and Horses, was known for being haunted by the ghost of editor and journalist Jeffrey Bernard. You bet I did an interview with that pub’s owner.
Although I have learned a lot from this ”vacation,” the one thing I wasn’t expecting from it was it to reignite my love for freelancing. Pursuing stories that I wanted to write, that matter and spoke to me (as well as to the readers, hopefully), while still contributing to my publications back home.
This trip was never meant to be a vacation, but it did reinforce the idea that my former university advisor, Peter Laufer, had once explained to me: No matter where he went or what his purpose was for going, he was never not a journalist.
Now that I’m home and have settled back into the groove, my refreshed view on freelancing has held strong. Along with the exciting things happening for my local weeklies, I have new things to bring to the table for a new set of publications.
When I first wrote this column in a London Cafe for one of those local weekly publications, and even reworking it now and reflecting on my experience: I have never felt more like a journalist.