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How to Survive As a Broke Ass Writer: Couch and Hostel Surfing

Updated: Aug 05, 2014 17:09
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So, I’ve been on the road as a writer and musician for a little over a decade. The first time I officially became homeless I was 19 years old, and the first time I ran away from home was at age 15. I have always been a transient person. Working and moving has been my life, and I chose a career that allows me to travel often. As a journalist, I’ve flown from coast to coast to get interviews and exclusive tours of studios by my favorite artists.

Nonetheless, traveling, subletting, and couch and hostel surfing is not easy. Finding a place to rest your head every night can be a challenge when you’re living from freelance check to freelance check. Now that I am almost 30, I have the financial means to negotiate costs for room and board and sublets.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re making less than $1,000 a month, this article is not for you. This article is for broke-ass writers who work, receive wages for what they do and have wiggle room to get around and find temporary living situations that enable them to do their jobs well.

DON’T COMPROMISE – SKIP THE GHETTO Just because you don’t have a lot of money, it doesn’t automatically mean you have to live in a bad neighborhood. I am from west Baltimore, MD, and if you’re like me, you don’t ever want to spend your life in place in your adulthood that you did not enjoy very much when you were a child. Find cute towns on the outskirts of the city that are a train ride away. A commute may be a little annoying but your safety and comfort should be a top priority. You cannot write well if you’re not in a peaceful place.

FOR A FAST MOVE IN – AIRBNB NOT CRAIGSLIST Craigslist is great for permanent housing and rooms, but if you ONLY have $1,000, which is not enough to pay first and last month’s rent to move in, Airbnb is a great alternative. It’s a little pricey, but you can reserve a place for 30 days for $900-$1200 (sometimes less if you get lucky) and you won’t have to pay a deposit. If you get along with your renters during the first month at your Airbnd room, you can negotiate with them personally and maybe keep your place longer.

HOSTELS – CHOOSE HIPPIE OVER CHIC Choose a nice down to earth hostel over the swanky alternatives that are usually located downtown or in central areas. If you like being surrounded by ultra-rich Euro and Asian people in their early 20s, that’s fine, but a nice cozy bed and breakfast style hostel will allow you to be more incognito, and the rates will be much lower. Being a successful hostel and couch surfer is about being personable and working and living with renters who can understand you on a human level. If they see you as just another dollar, you will be expendable, and could lose the little stability you hoped for while being there.

HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE If you think you can stay at your friend’s and family’s houses while you are a negative brooding person, you’ve got it very twisted. No one wants to be around a complainer. Have a bright attitude, and offer to pick up small expenses you can afford. Buy a bottle of wine, cigarettes for smokers, offer to pick up groceries. Be funny and positive. Be a joy to be around.

MAKE YOUR PRESENCE SCARCE Even if you’re a freelancer, don’t sit around on the couch every day, or even at the kitchen table on your laptop for 18 hours a day. Go to coffee shops, take the time to explore the city and work in different spaces. Come back around at 8 or 9 pm. You want people you’re staying with to have space. If you’re around all the time, they will begin to see faults and idiosyncrasies in your behavior. I’m not saying you’ll be judged, but people do tend to pay attention to “unstable” people to try and figure out why they don’t have their shit together. Be aware, be functional and mature. Most importantly, be as independent as you can.

LINE THINGS UP 2-3 WEEKS IN ADVANCE If you know you have enough money for a hostel for two weeks, make sure you’re lining up your next place immediately. Know where your finances are coming from for the month. Let your friends and family know you may need to stay with him a few weeks down the line. They will be more prepared, and it gives people a chance to help out and make accommodations for you.

BE AN ADULT If you’re crashing somewhere, don’t sleep until noon. Get up in the morning, shower, have money for your own food, weed or whatever you do. Conduct yourself in a responsible manner.

You’re a professional writer; you’re a respected journalist, critic, author or blogger. Match the respect you have in your career in your personal life. People will want to invest in you more when they see you working, writing and handling business.

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Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth - Commonwealth Columnist

Jordannah Elizabeth is a musician, music journalist, author, model and the founder of The Process Records Media Group. Jordannah started Jordan’s River Promotions in 2004 in Denver, CO where she specialized in art and music event coordination, and artist and model management at 18 years old.

In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles and started The Process: Net Label to organize her personal music catalog that was growing harder to manage each year. In November 2010, she started booking events in partnership with Hangman Booking for Fat Baby in Manhattan, NY and other clubs in the Metropolitan area.

Jordannah Elizabeth currently works as an arts and culture journalist and and the editor of The Deli Magazine San Francisco. She contributes to a plethora of reputable websites and print publications. Jordannah’s passion for music, fashion and culture is unprecedented, and her wide range of knowledge of indie, psych, and experimental rock makes her a sought after insider in the music industry.