IF I earned a pound for every time someone tells me I have the best job in the world, I really would have. A travel writer: the dream job. Swanning around the world from First Class to hot tub, Cristal in hand, occasionally getting my feather quill pen wet, before sticking a pin in the map for my next "holiday". Sadly, that travel writing life is but a dream.

I am not saying I don’t like my job; indeed I often love it. Travel writing has – in more than two decades – taken me to more than 100 countries. It has given me a world of memories, and rewarded me with safaris, epic train rides and too many once-in-a-lifetime experiences to detail in a lifetime. But that’s the thing – my job hasn’t "taken", "given" or "rewarded" me with anything.

It has all come the old-fashioned way. From working hours that would make a junior doctor blush – though, of course, I make no claims for my job being vital to society. From running an entire business doing the stuff everyone hates, like cold calling and debt collecting. From always being on call. Think Friday dinner cancelled last minute to fix errors a sub has introduced. Think constantly picking up the pieces from nine-to-five PRs and tourist offices failing to do the simple stuff on time, whilst always expecting me to.

Travel writing is a spinning wheel, a modern-day (admittedly more enjoyable) Dickensian workhouse. If you stop for a second so does any semblance of cash. And the money constantly shrinks. And I don’t just mean with inflation, as some outlets no longer pay for travel articles. If you’ve the best job in the world who needs to feed the kids? Increasingly you need to work seven days a week, unless you’re landed gentry or have a rich spouse. Some of my colleagues are or do, but not the ones who turn a profit – if you don’t treat it like a business you simply won’t pay your mortgage.

My job has changed massively with the pandemic, of course, as many of our jobs have. During lockdown it just didn’t exist. I’ve had tough times after 9/11 and during the 2009 crash, but not like this. But as with any freelance role you have to adapt. So – much as you probably hate the word too – I switched for more than a year solely to "staycations". I didn’t leave Scotland from February 2020 to October 2021.

I’ve come to appreciate Scotland even more. I have always been a passionate advocate, but now I understand it offers many experiences previously I felt I needed to travel abroad for. Cannot dig for clams in the Rio Formosa? Dig them up on Harris. No snorkelling in the Med? Check out the new Arran snorkel trails. I love the idea of helping in a small way to alert readers to just what we have here.

Covid has made me consider what my job is and why I do it. Yes, I do appreciate a wee hot tub and glass of bubbly, but what is best about travel writing is being able to share experiences with readers. And that I can offer experiences to the people I care about and those I love that I just couldn’t when I worked at Sky TV on the phones. I’m writing this on Eigg as my kids enjoy a window into another way of living on a community-owned island. We’ve just come from a week-long boat trip along the Great Glen with good pals. Through that prism, I guess maybe I do have the best job in the world.