Whether you’re a musician or a digital entrepreneur, there are more opportunities than ever to go ‘nomad’ and travel the world while working, and Australian singer-songwriter Kim Churchill hasn’t had a permanent home in ten years. At one point he had three camper vans, one in Australia, one in the USA and one in Europe, using them to tour each continent, and build his career. So what has he learned about living life on the road?
1. Go Solo
When it comes to getting the most out of your travels, Churchill says traveling in a couple or a group is a much more insular experience, and it’s harder to make friends. ‘But travelling on your own is good – you can get some very undiluted moments of self-reflection that then spur you on for another month of your journey. And you get to meet a bunch of cool people.’ For Churchill, it’s taking time to reflect that stops you from getting burnt out as a long-term traveller.
‘For instance, I was in South Africa last week, staying in this surf spot called Victoria Bay for two nights and got on really well with this group of young people volunteering at this hostel. We created a really tight knit group for literally just 48 hours. Then I had a two-hour drive from Victoria to the next place, which was a good moment to check in with myself and appreciate the cool time I had just had. You need a bit of the Ying so you can go back out into the Yang with the headspace for it.’
2. Always Have Fruit And A Coffee Maker
After a decade of fine tuning life in a van, Churchill’s essential items list is refreshingly short. He often has to park his van in towns where he performs, so he can wake up in some grotty locations. ‘Fruit, especially apples for the morning, so you can get up brush your teeth and eat an apple, which will make you feel a bit fresher. Ear plugs and some way of blocking out the light are important. And coffee – there is a very basic plastic device called the Aeropress that you can use to make an exceptional cup of coffee every day, which is pretty important to my existence!’
‘Get in your van, start driving, figure it out as you go’
3. Don’t Plan Too Much
For Churchill, the whole #vanlife phenomenon has blown up while he has being living one, and he thinks its popularity may have created an expectation of what it should look like. ‘I don’t want everybody to start planning out these perfect little Instafamous lives, because all the best things that have happened to me living out of the back of a van are very, very random. They are the kinds of things that fall into your lap. Get in your van, start driving, figure it out as you go.’
4. Find The Different Things
They say travel broadens the mind and Churchill definitely finds that it drives his creative engine, but you have to seek out the surprising things in each place. ‘I have to travel for work and perform in a different city every night, but being in these places and being emotionally available for them to impact me, leads me to write music.’
‘It’s the different and unique things that lead me to feel inspired to create a new piece of music. That fuels my songwriting in a really cyclical way. If I just sat in hotel rooms and waited to get back to Australia to write, then I don’t know what I would write about.’
5. Explore But Set Up Home Too
Constant travel can leave you feeling rootless and with a desire to spend time in one place. But don’t let that make you insular, says Churchill. ‘I used to be a shocker for going to Peru or somewhere but just spending two weeks in the same surf town, surfing every day. People would get excited and ask if I had been to see all these amazing things but I hadn’t, so I had to get over that – I think the reaction to all that travel was to want to be somehow rooted. So now I unpack my bag wherever I go and make it feel like home.’
6. Walk Through Cities
When you land in a new city it’s all too easy to get sucked into the local metro system, or taxis, and spend half of your trip underground, or in traffic. So, make sure you take advantage of the chance to explore somewhere on your own two feet. ‘I spent about four hours on the London Underground yesterday, but then I got everything done and had 45 minutes to walk across a park to dinner. It was just such a beautiful English experience and that contrasting moment, going from high anxiety levels to a calm walk through a stunning British park, will inspire me to write a song.’
‘Owning very little has made me more critical of my possessions – it has to be incredibly good or I’m going to get rid of it’
*7. Live Minimally
For Churchill, traveling light is traveling easy, and owning less stuff can actually be an advantage. ‘Now, I own very little. I really like owning a small number of things that age and develop sentimental value. It has made me much, much more critical of anything I own. It has to be incredibly good or I am going to get rid of it.’
‘I think it’s a good way to live because otherwise you can build up this enormous amount of stuff and it actually weighs you down a bit – it takes up space in your head,’ he says.
8. Take The Life Lessons
Travel often challenges you in unexpected ways, but can also make you more resilient, says Churchill, who remembers climbing to the top of Rinjani volcano in Indonesia and fighting step by step through loose, volcanic sand, taking one step forwards and two steps back. ‘My feet were slipping down and we just trudged, man, taking four or five hours from 4am to cover a few hundred metres.’
‘You just had to put one foot in front of the other and eventually we got to the summit. It has resonated through my life in terms of the struggles, especially in music. The music industry is intense to navigate and you need to understand that you are constantly taking steps backwards, but if you have the determination, energy and passion then you will insist on taking steps forward as well,’ he says.
9. Chase Your Travel Dreams
The world is a very busy place and it can feel like the places you dreamed of visiting in the past are probably totally overrun by now. But, as Churchill discovered recently, it can pay to chase your dreams. ‘I had a poster on my wall as a kid of Jeffries Bay in South Africa, which is a phenomenal surf break, and I was playing a festival in South Africa this year, so I planned it all so I could get there.’
‘I had the most magical surf there when the surf came up after it was supposed to and everyone else had given up for the day. The crowd went from 70 people, with some of the most aggressive, insane surfing attitude, to having supertubes to myself and bringing that poster from my childhood to life.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Kim Churchill’s latest video for his song Look Too shot in an atmospheric abandoned German chemicals factory.