a new chapter: full-time working from a van in a forest

a new chapter: full-time working from a van in a forest

For many people, the year 2020 will go down as a moment in time of hardship in their lives but for me, the year 2019 was dramatically harder as it was the realization that a long-term relationship wasn't going to work out...

Geoffrey Huntley
I authored this blog post whilst I was an employee of Gitpod for Gitpod. I no longer work at Gitpod.

For many people, the year 2020 will go down as a moment in time of hardship in their lives but for me, the year 2019 was dramatically harder as it was the realization that a long-term relationship wasn't going to work out and that everyone, including my children, would be homeless within 14 days. Oomph.

I packed all of my artefacts and office equipment into a u-haul and left everything else, including the family car to my now ex-wife. To cut a long story short the cost of housing in Sydney, Australia and sole-income was a leading factor in the dissolution of the relationship.


I'm doing excellent, now, but back then the entire experience left me shattered, soul destroyed and burnt out beyond belief. Luckily an el-rando, now friend, saw that I was in need and reached out:

"Heading camping to Stradbroke week after next if you want to totally unplug. If you need anything, let me know."

I just want to say, thank-you. I needed that.

Dear reader, if you ever find yourself in crisis or a situation similar to mine please do not hesitate to contact me if you need a shoulder or advice. You deserve to live a life that makes you happy and not miserable.

People often ask me what got you interested in #vanlife, now you know. It wasn't an interest as-per-say but more of a necessity and a key ingredient to ensuring my children would grow up with a father in their lives.

I first heard about the concept of #vanlife back in 2015 after reading this article about a Google employee who lived in a box-truck in the company's parking lot:

“I realized I was paying an exorbitant amount of money for the apartment I was staying in — and I was almost never home,” he says. “It’s really hard to justify throwing that kind of money away. You’re essentially burning it — you’re not putting equity in anything and you’re not building it up for a future — and that was really hard for me to reconcile"

The events that followed the Stradbroke camping trip put me on a path towards thinking about okay, what-next and how will I get there? Fast-forward a couple of months later I found myself on my own month-long camping trip down in Tasmania where I learned some important life lessons, bushcraft skills and met some interesting characters, some of whom were living #vanlife.

I was amazed at the quality of life these people had, how they were able to make ends meet and their resourcefulness. They also knew how to have a freaking good time...

Over the course of a month, a small group of people camping on crown land grew to over 500 people. Love was free and it was custom to hug everyone. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, this was happening...

With the new-found knowledge and experiences, I flew back to sunny Queensland, Australia and started my research. After watching hundreds of hours of videos on YouTube I found this video, which to this day, represents my north star:

Over the months that followed through 2020, my father and mother helped make the dream a reality. I never wanted to live in Sydney, Australia ever again, yet, much to my dismay, my children would remain living in a city that makes no sense. Putting together a van was a major step in getting my life back on track and ensuring that my children would know their father.

It's now 2021, I'm doing better than I was in the relationship and my children are having more quality time with their father than they have ever had. Over the last 12 months during various stages of the van kit-out, my kids and I have been going away on overnight, weekend and school holiday adventures where they get to experience the sights and sounds of Australia.

On the relationship front, I'm pleased to share that there has been minimal conflict and day-by-day we each learn to love and respect each other as the parents of our children. A large part of that is due to some early advice I received from a man who had also recently divorced:

It will all work out. Just keep the focus on the kids and relationship will improve. We're at the stage where my ex will come around and have drinks with my girlfriend and I. You have drop everything (hurt, money, etc) from before on the floor and move past it. You'll be much happier.

To that person, thank you for sharing your perspectives and advice on how to ensure that, unlike you see in the movies, co-parenting does not need to be adversarial.

So, in summary - everything has been going well but there was still one thing left to resolve:

✔️ housing.
✔️ conflict free co-parenting.
✔️ children having quality time with their father.
🚧 meaningful work

Approx 21% to 35% of our time awake is spent at work and every two years that goes by at a company you don't like (or unemployed) is wasting 2% of your working life. Time is valuable and there are no guarantees that tomorrow will come thus it is exceedinly important for happiness that you find work that is meaningful and that treats you well.

One of my first employers had meaningful work but didn't treat people well. 

Work keeps us busy.  It gives us structure, it defines us as functioning, contributing, worthwhile citizens.  It makes us part of the team, a community of fellow workers — even if we do our work remotely in isolation.

meaningful work

Pause for a moment and think about this...

What brings meaning into your life?

After what I had been through in 2019 I spent a considerable amount of time in 2020 thinking about the above question.

The clock rolled over to 2021 and fortunately I have answers to the above question, a kick-ass van but what good is a van if you can't go on adventures and work remotely from it indefinitely?

So anyway, I've got some news...

The founders of Gitpod recently approached me about joining them and it was a no-brainer. I have joined Gitpod. 🎉

The company is remote-first (✔️), embraces asyncrony (✔️), filled with brilliant people (✔️), the product is open-source (✔️) and built on GitHub (✔️) using the light weight Visual Studio code process (✔️).

Gitpod has been a meaningful and key piece of software in my toolkit over the last couple years because Gitpod enables me to develop on any device from anywhere. I can hop between pull-requests with a single click and there's no waiting because the pull-request has already been pre-compiled.

Gitpod has enabled me to standardize development environments between people and, like docker, move to ephemeral instances so that I never experience "but it works on my machine" ever again.

I could talk for hours on end on how meaningful the work Gitpod is doing and how it makes it easier for open-source maintainers to onboard new contributors to their project but it's better that you just experience it for yourself.

Gitpod – Dev environments built for the cloud
Gitpod streamlines developer workflows by providing prebuilt, collaborative development environments in your browser – powered by VS Code.
Try Gitpod for yourself by mashing the above link!
Visit https://gitpod.io/#https://github.com/gitpod-io/website/ in your browser

So, that's the news. Things are doing really well. I want to say thank-you for those whom have supported me over the last couple years whilst I figured this all out.

This chapter is only just beginning. I'm blogging more and tweeting less so if you want to learn about sweet places to visit in Australia, working remotely from a van or how I get internet whilst camping out in a remote forest, like, subscribe (free) and enter your email address to be notified when future blog posts ship.