Amber: a DN travelling the world in a camper van10 min read
Amber: a DN travelling the world in a camper van10 min readReading Time: 7 minutes
Hi Amber, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your lifestyle?
I’m a rock climber and writer who’s been living with my fiance in a self converted camper van named Giovanni Camperosa for almost a year and a half now. Before that, however, I’ve been living pretty nomadically for the past eight years, having moved across the country twice, moved to England, moved to Alaska, and spent a collective year backpacking around the world. Having an actual home that suits my wanderlust was just the next logical step.
On the road, I work both as a freelance writer and as CEO/writer of my own website Always the Adventure. On it, I write all sorts of guides for the practical aspects of van living, destination guides, as well as camper van build tutorials. I’m also really interested in sustainable living and how it intersects with my passions of vanlife and rock climbing, so I have a section about sustainable vanlife and climbing there as well.
What is your current destination?
After sheltering in place for the last four months (thanks COVID) in my hometown of Bigfork, MT, we’re finally hitting the road again bound for Lander, WY. Lander is home to some of the U.S.’s premier limestone rock climbing and it’s an overall mecca for outdoor adventuring. Plus, I hear vanlife is pretty easy there considering they even let vans camp for free in the city park, so we’re pretty stoked to check it out!
Can you tell us a bit about the projects you are currently working on? Are you currently looking for some new projects and clients?
Aside from my main contract as a writer and editor for a sustainable living website called Sustainable Jungle, and a few less frequent projects for the climbing website Moja Gear, I’m mostly working on growing my own website (Always the Adventure). I’ve always been really bad about putting my own business on the backburning in favor of freelance projects (AKA a more tangible, immediate revenue stream), but I’m finally starting to take the time for myself. After all, I’ll never have the web business I want if I don’t devote the time to it.
My fiance Chris is also in the process of launching a remote rock climbing coaching and training business so I’m helping him in whatever way I can with that. Suffice it to say we keep busy!
While I’m not currently looking for any long term projects or clients, I am fully interested in any short term collaborations with folks either looking to write a guest post for my website or would like me to write one for theirs.
What do you like the most about being a Digital Nomad/Traveller?
In short, freedom. Isn’t that really just the greatest appeal to digital nomadship? Freedom from the 9-to-5, freedom from having your fun time limited to a week or two of yearly vacation, and freedom from the monotony of the same old commute to the same old cubicle. Being a traveling worker means I get to go anywhere I choose while still being able to pay the bills. It means fitting work around my life, not the other way around.
And as a business owner and freelancer, I also have the immense privilege of freedom to choose the kind of work I do. I get to choose to work with companies that share my values, that value me as a contributor, and I feel are genuinely making an impact on the world. Job satisfaction: So many of us get stuck in jobs we hate. Even digital nomads don’t necessarily get to enjoy the work they do.
And what are the downsides of it (in case there are any)?
There are definitely downsides. I like to say there are two sides to vanlife: the hashtag and the other 90% that doesn’t make it to Instagram. The same goes for all manner of digital nomad lifestyles.
One of the biggest downsides is the difficulty in setting boundaries. So many digital nomads, myself included, struggle with feeling like they’re always working. It’s hard to separate work life from home life when the two share such an intimate physical space. For me, this leads to a lot of conflict between FOMO (my fear of missing out on fully enjoying the amazing areas I visit) and genuinely enjoying my work and wanting to grow my business. I’m working on setting better boundaries, but it’s a constant work in progress.
Another downside to digital nomadship is the sheer uncertainty and unpredictability. With great freedom comes great inconsistency: of workflow, sometimes of demand, and of connectivity and Internet access (less of an issue if you spend most of your time in urban areas but a HUGE issue for folks like me who spend most their time in the mountains and other remote areas). Plus, there’s the fact that it’s almost impossible to have a consistent work routine when you travel. That lack can sometimes seriously mess with my productivity.
All that said, I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle of anything. It’s so important we remember that nothing is perfect, but it’s most certainly better than the “9-to-5 until you’re too old to even enjoy retirement” model.
What is a place/country you liked the most while traveling and why? What’s on your to-travel-list?
Since living in the van, we’ve pretty much stayed on the North American continent, traveling down from our former home in Alaska, through Canada, and all over the U.S. west (though we did also drive to Pennsylvania and back for the holidays). Of the many places we’ve been, the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California (particularly near the town of Bishop) is by far our favorite place. Not only is Bishop nestled in the stunning alpine desert, but it’s an amazingly easy place to vanlife. Tons of free camping and two great coffee shops for work days (shoutout to Black Sheep and Looney Bean).
And the better question is what isn’t on my to-travel list! Within the next year, we hope to spend a lot more time in Colorado and Arizona (namely the Flagstaff area) and more areas in Utah. We’ve already spent a lot of time in Utah, but it keeps bringing me back.
Before vanlife, however, I did a significant amount of backpacking through Europe and Latin America. By far my favorite country I’ve been to (and one I really hope to return to in the near future once international travel is more encouraged) is Spain.
Amber, what do you like the most about traveling/living in a van?
Again, there’s the freedom of getting to see so many places without being tied down. More than that, however, I love getting to take my home around with me (even though that can also be really stressful at times- like on rough dirt roads or high crime areas). As a minimalist, the simplicity of having everything I own in this box on four wheels is pretty satisfying.
Plus, the low overhead and living costs sure aren’t something to scoff about! A $400 monthly van payment compared to the $1500 monthly rent I was paying makes life so much less stressful.
Can you tell us what is your biggest dream?
My biggest dream is to get my website to a place where I’m satisfied with it. I’m still learning so much about how to run a successful blog business and I have so many article ideas, it’s just a matter of finding the time to get it all done without sacrificing being able to enjoy and experience places. Ideally, one day soon I won’t need to work for other people, but can entirely exist on the relatively passive income formulated by my website.
I’m also really interested in subsistence and growing your own food (which unfortunately you just can’t do in a van). This is why we’re hoping to build our own little cabin somewhere in the near future so that we can spend half our time traveling in the van and the other half at our own “basecamp” farm.
In case you have a motto, could you share it with us?
“Always the Adventure,” of course! For years now, that’s been my motto and it seemed only fitting that it became my personal brand. The idea for the phrase initially came from a quote by Chris McCandless (the infamous vagabond who died in the “Magic Bus” in the wilds of Alaska). He wrote: “The very basic core of man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon. For each day to have a new and different sun.”
For me, the words “always the adventure” are an ethos by which I live. A reminder to always see the adventure in life, even when things seem dull or when misfortune strikes. My greatest challenges are what I look back on and consider my greatest adventures. Absolutely everything in life is an adventure if we choose to see it as such.
Could you share with us the names of two inspiring digital nomads that you are following?
I really like Sydney Ferbrache of Divine on the Road. She lives in a van with two adorable dogs and runs a really genuine, informative podcast about vanlife and how she earns a remote income.
I also follow Abbi Hearne, who is somewhat of a part-time digital nomad. While she lives in Moab, she and her husband Callen run a wildly successful elopement photography business and spend about half the year travelling for that. I urge you to check out their work; it’s gorgeous. Abbi is a pretty great example of how hard work pays off and she uses her huge following for public land advocacy.
Is there something that you would like to add?
Just some advice for those dreaming of vanlife or being a digital nomad but don’t know if they can make it work: go for it! The two most common sentiments I hear are “I wish I could do that” and “you’re so lucky”. To that I said, you CAN do that because luck had absolutely nothing to do with getting here.
It was a lot of hard work, two people working three jobs for two years (and spending any free moment off building the van itself) to make this lifestyle happen. We weren’t gifted this pre-built van or our remote work opportunities. We sought them out, worked hard, and MADE it happen. If we can do that, so can anyone.