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The Loneliness of a Long-time Freelancer: Navigating Isolation and Finding Joy in Commuting

Hi, I'm Mike Bell, a UK-based show and event designer, also now known for creating unique tube maps during the lockdown. My journey in freelancing, particularly during the quiet times for live production during the Covid emergency, has taught me a lot about the solitude that comes with this line of work. Initially, the freedom was exhilarating, but soon, the quietness of working alone set in.

Mike Bell's band and film map gallery in Lewes
MikeBellMaps Gallery - Lewes, East Sussex

Transitioning from Home Office to Gallery

As my work evolved, so did my workspace. I moved from working solely at home, on event, exhibition and experiential design, to map making and opening my own gallery in Lewes, which you can explore at This transition brought a new dimension to my work life, offering a daily dose of community interaction that was missing in my earlier freelance days.

The Unexpected Joy of Commuting

In the life of a freelancer, especially one accustomed to the confines of a home office, the concept of commuting might initially seem mundane or even unappealing. However, for me a transition to regular commuting between local towns became a source of unexpected joy and a pivotal change in my daily routine.

A New Perspective on Daily Travel

The commute, which I initially regarded as just a necessary part of running my gallery in Lewes and my show design business at, quickly transformed into something more significant. The bus journey became a window to the world outside my studio, offering fresh sights, sounds, and the rhythm of everyday life that I missed while working from home.

There's a unique pleasure in observing the changing scenery, the routine stops, and the diverse group of people who share the journey. These moments allow for a mental break from the solitary focus of freelancing. It’s during these commutes that I often find myself reflecting, brainstorming new ideas, or simply enjoying the brief respite from work.

Another unexpected benefit of commuting has been the opportunity to connect with the local community. Casual conversations with fellow commuters or just the familiar nod to a regular on the same route add a sense of belonging and connection that is often missing in freelance work.

Ultimately, commuting has helped strike a balance between the solitude of freelance work and the need for social interaction. It’s a reminder that even in the most routine activities, there's an opportunity to find joy and inspiration. This journey, seemingly simple, has become an integral part of my day, enriching both my personal and professional life.

Managing Diverse Creative Demands

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, I've been juggling two very different creative demands - designing shows and creating unique maps. Each brings its unique challenges and rewards, shaping my daily life as a freelancer. Read my expanded thoughts on that subject here.

In conclusion, freelancing can be a solitary journey, but it's also filled with opportunities to find joy in unexpected places. Whether it’s through the community at my Lewes gallery or the simple routine of commuting, these experiences have shaped my freelance journey in meaningful ways.

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