Out in the field. In a Van.


My last year of University is coming to a close. Next semester will be a whirlwind of deadlines, degree show and desperation, while we all scramble towards the finish line of our Graphic Design degree. We’ll have our photos taken outside the Caird Hall wearing our gowns and proudly holding our medals of achievement, that piece of paper that certifies we did in fact, spend four years of our lives learning how to place type on a page (and much more obviously, I <3 Graphic Design). Our parents will be proud and if we’re lucky they might take us out to Gallery 48 for our graduation lunch. Then the question will start; ‘What are you going to do now?’. Perhaps you haven’t even considered this question, you figured it would all just fall into place when graduation comes around. Maybe you’ll get spotted at New Blood and offered some impressive job in London. Or perhaps not. Then what?

I started thinking about this question a while ago. Not just thinking about, obsessing over. Life up until now aside from a few gap years has been pretty much a casual stroll along the straight and narrow. My path was fairly set and any forks were minor. I knew where I wanted to go; Art School. Then I knew I wanted to study Graphic Design, then for a while, rather naively I thought, ‘Well after that I’ll probably just go work at Google or something’. I have no idea what a graphic designer at google does, but it would look shit hot on my cv. Then it suddenly dawned on me, that terrifying uncertainty . . . What if I DIDN’T want an impressive sounding job in the city? What if the thought of sitting at the same desk day after day, churning out work for clients I didn't like or worse down right didn't agree with didn't sound like the success story I wanted? 

I am scared of a few things:

1. Not fulfilling my potential: Ever since I can remember I have found it incredibly hard not to try hard at things. I like things to be done well otherwise I don’t see the point.

2. Not taking the time to travel: For a while I thought this would be the easy route and finding a job would be difficult. But Recently I have discovered I should do the thing I am scared of, I am scared of going against what is expected.

3. I am terrified of putting things off until tomorrow and then realising tomorrow came and went. 

So, what have I done to try and combat this early 20’s crisis? Well aside from basing my final year dissertation on it, my boyfriend and I have bought a van. This van to be precise:

She is called Matilda, and she is yellow because yellow is the happiest colour I know. She is also yellow because we figured that would look great in photographs (after all you’ve got the think about the Instagram likes).




After discovering a few early adopters of the new trend of digital nomads living in vans (#vanlife) we started following along on their journeys. We figured out pretty quickly that this might be the answer to our ‘after uni plans’ problem. What if we didn’t have to choose between meaningful work and travel? What if we could do both? Matilda offers that minus the reliable internet connection. She allows us the freedom to travel around, she can be a kitchen, a home, a studio, a van. She has her limitations, there is no shower, no plumbed-in toilet, internet which is fairly crucial in order to work remotely is also not included and current alternatives like dongles still rely on you being in a fairly non-remote area. It’s completely true that our lives would have to be simplified drastically in order to live in her for a period of time let alone full time, but who doesn't want a simpler life? 

As designers we are always preoccupied with ‘things’, we want to make them better, more beautiful, more meaningful. We do this with ‘things’ all the time, but why don't we spend as much time and energy on ourselves and our own lives. I think the world would be a considerable better place if we all just focused a little more on bettering ourselves. Our health, our relationships, our passions. I don't think that's an idealised view, I think its a simple one. But the problem is, simple doesn’t mean the same as easy. Simple is never easy, but simple is always worthwhile, easy is always more complicated in the long run. 

I am sitting writing this parked up next to the beach. It's December and -1 outside. I felt we needed to go somewhere for me to write this post authentically. The van has a heater though so, no worries. After spending the last few month researching and talking with other Digital Nomads it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of it. The freedom, the stunning photographs, and as I have progressed it’s been difficult to find the negative side of this way of life. The people who have chosen to sell all their stuff and make their work mobile in order to pursue what they see as a meaningful life, don't seem to have too much bad stuff to say about the whole thing. But I think that's where the key to that issue is, this a lifestyle that is chosen, it by no means would suit everyone, it is something you would have to be prepared for. Taking your work on the road or across the world is scary, it could be lonely, it could leave you penniless, but it also might make you incredibly happy, it might give you experiences you would have never had had you taken that job in the city straight away. For those who wonder is it just a phase, like beards or something? Just like beards nomads have been around since the dawn of humanity. Just because it’s become trendy doesn’t mean it's going anywhere. There’s no right or wrong way, there’s only your way. I think the main objective of this whole thing is to prove not only to myself but to anyone else out there unsure about what their options are, that at the end of the day it’s your future, so make sure you live it. Certainly when it comes to travel and adventure if you don’t do it now next year you’ll just be another year older, so I’ll end with the quote I started with;

‘You have a life. Not a career.’ - Cheryl Strayed