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Freelancer Q&A – What’s it Like Proofreading on a Boat in Alaska?

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Working in a location-independent job can be an ideal way to live. Proofreader Erica Simonson takes it to the next level by working, traveling and living on a boat in Alaska.  Here’s a look into her unique lifestyle.

Q. Tell us a little about yourself.

A. Ah! The infamous question! The basics are: I’m 46 years old, married, and live on a 52′ Hatteras with my husband and cat in beautiful Juneau, Alaska! I love nature and the outdoors and am just now teaching myself to fly fish.

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - 52' Hatteras in the water in front of an iceberg
Erica’s boat

Q. Tell us about life in Alaska!

In many ways, it is like living anywhere else — except for the surrounding mountains, water, wildlife, floatplanes, and cruise ships sailing by. We are very fortunate to have epic hiking, boating, fishing, and many other adventures right in our “backyard.” Juneau is in the middle of the Tongass National Forest — the largest temperate rainforest in the world — so it’s pretty moist. But without the rain, it wouldn’t be as beautiful!

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - mountain and field North of Haines, Alaska
North of Haines, Alaska

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - black bear in a field with purple flowers

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - floatplane over snowy mountaintop

We are surrounded by bald eagles, great blue herons, ravens — and in the summer, a variety of wildflowers. On any given day we may also see harbor seals, river otters, porpoise, and humpback whales. The past few winters we’ve had a “resident” humpback feeding right inside the harbor! It’s pretty amazing to feel your boat rock in the wee hours and think, “Oh, it’s just the whale!”

Q. Almost no one lives on a boat! How did this come about? 

A. My husband was living on a boat when we got married 10 years ago, so it was part of the deal. He decided to live aboard for several reasons, one of which is there is so much to see here when you get out on the water. Juneau is the only landlocked state capital in the continental U.S., and although many adventures can be had from our road system, getting on the water opens up a whole other world! It also allows us to live more economically, as housing costs here are fairly high. We try to live simply so we have time for other things, such as helping others and our volunteer ministry, which is very important to us.

Q. Why and how did you get into proofreading?

I honestly cannot recall where I first heard about it. I was really struggling a couple summers ago with myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome). At the time I was working two days per week at our local hospital, but I started thinking off and on about what work from home opportunities might be available. If only I could telecommute, perhaps that would allow me to expend my remaining energy on other things outside the home.

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - Erica Simonson feeding a fox

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - Erica Simonson and her husband in a green field with purple flowers in front of a snowcapped mountain in Alaska
Erica and her husband

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - Erica Simonson hiking on snow capped mountain in Alaska

Q. How do you handle working on a boat? 

A. I proof via PDF on my iPad, so not much in the way of an office is actually needed. Other than my reference materials, a couch, a lamp, a cup of coffee, and our cat are sufficient! We did have one tiny extra room, but my husband converted it into a laundry room, which I was very grateful for!

Q. How do you send files back and forth? Do you have internet on the boat or do you have to go into town to get internet?

A. We have our own internet via Wi-Fi. I tested our connection once, and it is what is considered “high speed.”

Q.  You’ve gone on vacation in your boat and also by car, while working along the way. Where did you go?

A. We’ve traveled via the Alaska Marine Highway by ferry to Haines for a weekend. We’ve also gone out for excursions in the boat. Sometimes these are just day trips, such as moving the boat from our winter harbor to our summer harbor. Next week we are venturing out for a few days to explore Ford’s Terror.

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - lake in front of a green mountain

Q. How do you deal with the distractions that traveling brings about? How do you handle them so that you can concentrate and work?

A. If I’m not home alone, many things can be distracting (husband, television, cat). So I go into seclusion, so to speak, in our stateroom. Someday I may purchase some noise-canceling headphones, but for now, that works well.

Q. In what ways does proofreading while traveling differ from proofreading at home?

A. Well, it doesn’t differ terribly much. I just have to be aware of what internet connection I will have available. Of course, you can proof offline and then upload and email the job to your court reporter when you are back within range, but if necessary I can also just tether my iPad to my phone to transmit data.

If we have guests when taking the boat out, I again seclude myself downstairs. I just don’t get to watch the scenery while underway!

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - Dark sky over water with sunlight streaming through

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - tan grizzly bear in a field

Q. Do you hope to do more traveling? If so, where would you like to go? And would you work along the way?

A. Every year we car-camp on our way up and back from an annual convention in Anchorage. We try to take in another little piece of this huge expanse of a state on every trip. I am happy to work a bit on the way, but we also need time for exploring!

I am also happy to take jobs when we vacation on the Big Island this winter and check out that lava, but snorkeling will take precedence!

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - camper van traveling down a desolate mountain road in Seattle Creek, Alaska
Road tripping in Alaska

Q. What would you say to other people who might be interested in traveling while proofreading?

A. Proofreading is a fantastic work from home opportunity which also allows you to be mobile and travel, be a snowbird, or just hit the road. I really consider it one of the many benefits! However, I would resist the temptation to take on more jobs than necessary. If you’re on vacation, take your break! We all need downtime and, besides, you deserve it!

Working, Traveling and Living on a Boat in Alaska - Erica napping on her boat

Thank you for telling us what it’s like to proofread on a boat in Alaska, Erica! You can contact Erica at her Skookum Proofreading Facebook page and her Erica Simonson LinkedIn page.

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Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.

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