There’s a tiresome list of things people tell you when you decide to work in the freelance or artistic world. The top three generally are:

  1. ‘The pay is shit’- Your parents.
  2. ‘How do expect to get on the housing ladder?’- Your grandparents.
  3. ‘It’s not a real job’- your racist Uncle Terry.*

And I usually answer thusly:

  1. ‘I know, I’ve been living off microwave lasagnes for a while now.’
  2. ‘I don’t, read a newspaper.’
  3. ‘Fuck. Off.’

*Disclaimer; neither of my uncles are called Terry, nor are they racist.

Things that people neglect to tell you which you actually should hear include:

  1. Travel expenses are NOT paid for by anyone other than you.
  2. Networking sometimes means staying up until the small hours in a dingy bar trying to hide the swirling drunken mess you’ve become after nine pints of anti-freeze laced beer, but it usually means skulking around the lobby of the National hoping Jonathan Pryce or Cumberbatch or whoever will take the CV you carry with you at all times.
  3. Taking a holiday is hard.

And today I’m here to talk about number three since I’m currently writing this article in the back of an SUV in Romania. So first, a bit of backstory.

I’m here because it’s my girlfriends home country. I’m meeting her family and closest friends so this is a pretty pivotal moment in the relationship.

It’s been pretty good so far aside from one or two hiccups which include, but are not limited to: poorly dealing with Romanian road etiquette, the general strength of the local cheeses and putting my clothes in not figurative, not spiritual, but literal bear shit.

I quickly realised that if I wasn’t in a relationship I’d be far too busy keeping on top of a constantly shifting employment topography and wouldn’t have even considered or made time for a holiday. That’s strike one.

Strike two. Organising work.

One bartending job, one rep job, one reading job and one big audition, all being juggled at once and all requiring me to approach my boss in each one and request time off. Thankfully they all said yes otherwise I’d have one very angry partner.

Strike three came when we knuckled down to pack our suitcase. As it turns out airlines are money grabbing bastards who will charge you half the monthly mortgage payment on the house we’ve established you’ll never own just to take 20 kilos between two people.

The reason this was a strike materialised when I tried to pack my complete works of Shakespeare. My long suffering girlfriend had to (rightfully) point out that although the sheer size and bulk of this tome was handy in a deadly home invasion scenario, it would take our suitcase over the weight limit and neither of us were willing to shell out enough money to get William his own seat on the plane.

Right and wrong aside I wasn’t best pleased. Drama school auditions are coming up and I want to keep reading to find the right monologues for me.

Which brings me neatly to strike four, switching off.

I think the fact that I’m writing an article while I’m supposed to be on my jollies says it all really. But let’s expand on it because I have a word count to fill and people to entertain.

In the end I brought a few modern plays with me to read and research (the nice thin Nick Hern editions that weight the same as a toothpick), which I could stick in my rucksack easily without breaking my spine like…well, like a toothpick. And while I’m happy that I used my time looking for a good speech I find myself wondering if it is at all possible to properly relax.

That old adage that actors work because they love their job is true and we all know it. So how exactly am I supposed to take a break from it when I’m actively missing it?

Granted this is a petty gripe when most people sit on the airplane home with the crushing realisation slowly rising in their stomachs that they have to go back to their hateful office job, but I can’t say I relaxed much while I’ve been here. First world problems for the millennial princeling.

Strike five (and you’re out! Sorry, couldn’t resist.) came with the inevitable missed opportunities. For any of you non-freelancers reading the one thing you guys do have over us is relative job security, we take opportunities were we can find them and when they crop up.

So of course Murphy’s Law dictates that when you pop off for a few weeks that’s when the good jobs land. It’s a fast moving industry, if you aren’t available then nine times out of ten you won’t get a look in.

Though a lovely counterpoint to this is that there are people out there who understand the need for a break and will pencil an audition in for you when you get back. So my tally over my two week break was two jobs lost, but two jobs gained, so not a bad result at all.

Ultimately I found that with some heavy organisational skills and a decent wifi link a holiday from work doesn’t have to be stressful. So I shall give this article wonderful symmetry by rounding it off with another list.

On an actors holiday you will need:

  1. Some books (as with any holiday) but take a play or two, they’re light, a quick read and you might find something useful in there.
  2. The ability to access your email account. I tried to limit it to once a day so I could feel good about organising/subtly begging for work without it totally cutting in to my break and it can usually be done in the morning while getting ready to go out for the day.
  3. A straw. Fifteen minute vocal exercises are more comfortable for everyone in the hotel if you’re strawing them.
  4. A yoga mat (we didn’t take one but wished we had), you don’t have to do a fully body con, but a good stretch is always worth your time. This counts for double if you’re on a road trip and find yourself driving down a Transylvanian mountain range in a storm while lunatics overtake you on tight corner/steep incline combination.

And remember, relax. No one likes a joyless workaholic, but a CREATIVE joyless workaholic, they’re fucking unbearable. Aren’t they?

Series 3 of the podcast is coming soon, including interviews with Adrian Lester, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Riley, Kate Fleetwood and Jonjo O’Neill. MAKE SURE YOU STILL SUBSCRIBE!

Series 1 & 2 are available free on iTunes, along with a special live episode for Equity recorded in November 2018, and follow-up interviews with all seven of the emerging actors, conducted in October. Go have a listen

Kieron Tufft

Actor, Playwright, Poet, Clown in training, Musician, Ex-Journalist (can’t you tell?), Bartender (of course). Using his bio as free advertising. Once did an orgy scene whilst in disguise.