As news of a world-changing virus began to hit the headlines at the end of 2019, Sydney-based software developer Geoff Huntley’s life took on a whole new direction.
Her long-term relationship had failed, leaving Geoff’s young family fractured.
“The whole experience left me shattered, soul shattered and burned beyond belief,” Geoff wrote on his blog.
Luckily, an acquaintance invited Geoff on a camping trip which helped him find some perspective on life. Geoff soon found himself traveling through the Tasmanian bush where he came across a host of fun-loving hippies for whom “love was free”.
For some of that crowd, it was no temporary holiday in Tasmania. Rather, they lived the lifestyle permanently – in vans.
It was a period of inspiring self-reflection that helped Geoff see more clearly the trappings of modern society, particularly the notoriously high cost of housing in Sydney.
Upon returning to the mainland, Geoff began planning a nomadic life. He bought a van, outfitted it and hit the road.
“I had already worked remotely a few years before the pandemic,” Geoff said. information age on the phone, parked on land he recently purchased on Kangaroo Island where the ocean views are idyllic and the sunsets brilliant.
“I thought the Sydney accommodation was stupid, it’s absolutely destroyed. And I figured that since I’m working remotely, I don’t need to pay Sydney accommodation prices – I can work anywhere. »
Kangaroo Island’s sunsets are particularly spectacular. Picture: provided
Geoff was not alone. The sudden popularization of remote working has caused an increase in the number of people performing a “tree change” by leaving expensive capital cities for quieter and more affordable regional areas.
“I calculated the numbers,” Geoff said. “Let’s say the average cost of a house in Sydney is between $900,000 and $1.1 million.
“Now I figured if you could work anywhere with an IT salary, you could buy land with money – you just had to find the right place.”
Why take out a $700,000 mortgage for a Sydney shoe flat, Geoff thought, when you could buy a 1.3 acre piece of land with its own barn?
To save money for his own part of Australia, Geoff set off in a van and learned a new way of life.
Work anywhere, literally
He changed jobs and was extremely grateful to find an employer at Gitpod who is totally remote and who more than welcomes his adventurous spirit.
Speaking to Geoff, it’s clear he’s been thinking deeply about how to make life easier, more relaxing and more meaningful – something anyone who’s been on long camping trips knows can be difficult.
In his professional life, that means doing much of his day-to-day software development from an iPad.
“I bought myself this hiking chair that has a sun canopy,” he said. “It’s very small and fits in a backpack, so what I’ll often do is grab that chair, find a spot with a great view, pull out my iPad, and it’s my desk for the day.”
Naturally, Geoff needs an internet connection – so he carries a bunch of ways to connect to the rest of the world.
In his backpack, Geoff keeps a set of 4G devices that he links together using Speedify to strengthen the connection while working on a tree halfway up a mountain.
The world is Geoff’s office. Picture: provided
In the van he keeps Telstra, Optus and Vodafone (plus Optus 5G) modems and there is a Starlink connection on order which he is looking forward to.
For electricity, Geoff’s van is fitted with solar panels that draw nearly 900W from the sun, with the excess stored in a lithium battery bank. Yet he also carries a generator “just in case”.
Geoff has built several levels of redundancy into his new lifestyle – a necessity because, as he put it, “this is how I earn an income”.
Geoff has certainly been well connected with the outside world and has helped lead the discussion on technical issues with the COVIDSafe app in 2020.
Lately, he’s been having fun building The NFT Bay, an art project to help reshape the out-of-control hype surrounding non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Although he’s settled in nicely now, it took him some time to set up the van properly and get used to life in a van. Geoff talks openly on his blog about being knocked down Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs when the journey began.
Far from the modern conveniences we take for granted in cities and suburbs, he had to find new workarounds to match his nomadic lifestyle.
“People get the idea from Instagram that the van life is all about pulling up on a beach, opening the doors, and it’s all glamorous and quaint – and sometimes it is, but there are some difficulties “, said Geoff. information age.
“It’s really about making sure you have access to food, showers, water, electricity, internet, because you’re now living some abstractions down there.”
Geoff can be a campfire developer at night. Picture: provided
“I do all my washing by hand, for example. There are barbecues everywhere, so you can always cook something even though I have an oven and a pressure cooker in the van.
“As for showers, you can get an Anytime Fitness membership which gives you access to showers in many places, but there are also often public showers available.”
Most importantly, Geoff continued to be a loving father as he traveled across the country, taking his two children – aged five and seven – with him on weekends and school holidays.
“The van is designed for three people to travel and sleep in, and the kids love it,” he said.
“They saw amazing things and had lots of fun adventures.
“We started these school holidays in Queensland and then traveled to Sydney, Canberra and Geelong and Melbourne.
“From there we took the Great Ocean Road to South Australia and finally to Kangaroo Island, all in one long trip.”