Attention groupies: Change of plan

Have you ever had it where you plan your freelance travel writing career in absurd detail, spend weeks fine-tuning a masterful itinerary to hit six destinations in four countries on two continents (four of them being islands) without paying more than a grand total of 300 euros in transport, then you provide friends/family/colleagues/editors on three continents with these arrangements, then smugly blab about the whole deal on your blog, and finally, just as several hundred people have read and internalized your plans and your groupies have sold their refrigerators and acquired VW camper-vans so they can follow you around like a Grateful Dead tour, a vague rumor surfaces and mushrooms into an insane job opportunity over the course of three days, completely changing your life for the next three months?

So, remember that detailed magazine assignment itinerary for Tunis, Florence, Venice, Ibiza (and Majorca and Minorca) and Barcelona and the week-long chillout session in Malta that I laid out in the previous post? Chuck that. New plan:

I’m still going to London on the 20th to provide stimulating conversation and a possible dinnertime pants-dropping at the LP author workshop. From London, I fly directly to Venice, whack out that magazine article on the fly, zip to Florence to write a smaller article there, then… Wait for it… I jump into a rental car and spend the next three months frantically researching and writing about large parts of Tuscany for Lonely Planet’s Italy 8 and Tuscany and Umbria 5!!!

Aaaawwww yeah! My LP groupie numbers are going to bloody skyrocket after this gig, though when you start at ‘2’, just about any increase could be construed as ‘skyrocketing’. I’m gonna have to beat off the girls with, well, with the previous editions of Tuscany and Umbria and Italy that I’ll pick up while I’m in London, which, as those of you who have handled those tomes know, can collapse a human skull if swung properly.

How did this unlikely, professional madness come about? The gentleman who usually writes about Tuscany, nay owns it, fell ill. LP needed to fill that slot like yesterday. As I understand it, they went into their extensive Author Psychological Profiling Database (APPD) and ran a search with the following keywords: ‘Italy’ + ‘available now’ + ‘workaholic’ + ‘willing to do a four month assignment in two and a half while juggling several iron-clad magazine assignments’ + ‘weak willed’ + ‘nutter’

The rest is very recent history.

As if to cement my fate as the next Tuscany author, a delectable gig in Australia and New Zealand that was tentatively scheduled to kick off in June fell through at virtually the same instant. Now I don’t believe in destiny, astrology and all those curses I earned from gypsies last year while tearing through Romanian villages at high speeds, half-dead from exhaustion, in a Dacia 1310 with bad brakes and no muffler, but the eerie timing of all this effectively spooked me into accepting the job. Plus, I’ll get paid to drink wine and eat things like lobster ravioli and roasted pigeon with caviar-truffle sauce for a couple months.

I’ll start research about six weeks behind schedule all told. I’ll be getting much appreciated pre-research notes from the ailing author and a deadline extension from production, but I’m still pretty much in for the equivalent of an Olympic Travel Writing Decathlon from now until the middle of July. Well, actually the end of July when you factor in the magazine assignments for Ibiza and Barcelona that I have to barf out virtually the minute after my LP stuff is due.

So, this is going to be equal parts really effing awesome and potentially professionally suicidal. It could go either way – spectacularly so. I can’t wait to see what happens next, can you? What I wouldn’t give for Jesus’ Tivo right now, not only so I could zip ahead and see if I land in Red Bull Rehab in August, but also so I could ‘pause’ the thing on the day that I research Tuscany’s nudist beaches. Tuscany has nudist beaches, right? That are active in April? (Note to self, make time to read the brief.)

Anyhoo, the somewhat unfortunate part is that you guys probably aren’t going to be able to follow along in the same step-by-step, riotous detail that I’ve been providing about my career up until now on this almost-award winning blog, because there simply won’t be time for extended blogging indulgence. Instead of reliably posting 1,500 words of carefully considered gibberish each Monday morning (or Sunday afternoon in this case), I’ll be reduced to zapping off 250 word, incoherent sentence fragments on those occasions when a free WiFi cloud intersects with a hostel toilet seat.

But you know what would kick so much ass? Take the Lambo idea from two posts ago and the LP research trip and combine them! Are you shitting me? An LP author researching Tuscany out of a Lamborghini Diablo? I’d be a legend that guidebook authors, tourism officials and impressionable girls talk about for decades to come. Just picture it… I come roaring up to the bus station in Siena, do a controlled 180 degree drifting turn into a parking spot with less than a foot clearance on either side, roll out, interrogate the ticket office lady for prices, take a digital picture of the departure schedule, jump back into the Lambo and lay rubber for the HI hostel (where I’d spend the night, just to mess with people).

Legendary. They’ll write folk songs about me. Tuscan museums will dedicate wings to me. Jesus will rewind the Tivo, call the Apostles over from the card table and watch the episode all over again.

So, I repeat, any leads about how I might secure a highly insured Lambo loaner for about 30 days starting around April 1st, with absolutely no tangible benefit for the person(s) providing the car, please pass them along.

Apart from the patent brass ring nature of this guidebook assignment, Tuscany is going to be a giddying far cry from my research trips in Romania and Moldova. I’m looking forward researching a destination that A) employs people who give two shits about tourism, and B) has other travelers that will be in the area at the time, who aren’t drunken, Romanian businessmen. Furthermore, not driving through perilous wintry conditions, on busted roads, in a contraption that is only distantly related to the term “car”, will undoubtedly add a measure of style to the otherwise controlled hysteria (times two) that usually underscores guidebook research.

My need for a sexually charged, Note-Taking Nymph is far less vital now, but if someone with cartography experience and exquisite penmanship happens to be in the area, I’d be happy to make space for you in the Diablo or, failing that, a sub-compact Fiat Panda.

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