Photographer & Musician
Questions by Jai Morton
Hayden was born and raised in the western suburbs of Sydney. He has held a number of different retail jobs from packing shelves at a grocery store to being a computer technician for one of the biggest known tech companies which was never appealing to him. Hayden is now a content creator with the Vanlife Diaries team. He started out travelling in his Suburu hatch in 2014 developing a travel and photography portfolio as seen on Instagram @haydenseyes whilst honing his mobile living skills. Two years ago Hayden purchased a Toyota Hiace 03’ which he converted into a comfortable and practical travelling home. He spends a lot of his time road tripping along the East Coast of Australia surfing, playing music in a band called Dusty Boots and spending as much time as possible in nature. Read along to hear how Hayden goes about this creative roaming lifestyle and see more amazing photos that he has captured along the way.
1. How do you spend your days lately?
Lately, my days are spent mostly doing the things I love. Working towards staying fit, staying creative and earning an income. I surf basically everyday, if not twice a day. 4-5 days a week I spend at my retail job, which i don’t mind but I always dream to work for myself. Weekends and nights are left free for music, whether I’m busking with friends in the streets of Byron bay or on stage with my good mate Jonny Dustow, either duo / trio or in a full band playing rhythm guitar.
2. Where have you found yourself to be based lately?
I’m currently based mostly in Byron Bay and that’s where my retail job is. I’m happily stuck in the most beautiful part of Australia, the Northern rivers. It’s been an interesting journey living around Byron town one of the most populated areas for vanlifers, nomads and tourists of all kinds. I have definitely felt welcomed at times and at other times felt despised and looked down upon by locals and council. I have been in this region for over 15 months and now I really feel like I have found my groove and flow.
I enjoy the feeling of escaping whenever possible, so when I know I have a day free coming up, I’ll prep the van, slip away at night to beat the traffic and to be able to wake up somewhere new the next day. I choose a spot depending however I imagine my day going, whether Id like to bush walk to a waterfall or spend the day following the waves and tides.
3.Have you had any stand out moments when you realised this is what you are meant to be doing? Or on the other hand, did you have a moment when you realised living a "normal" life right now wasn't for you?
I knew from an early age I never wanted to live a regular lifestyle. I have done the apartment life working full time in Sydney CDB for 6 years and commuting an hour to work via a peak-hour packed train. Those mornings staring out the train window with headphones in watching the same urban landscape pass by, I think these were the moments I felt the need to escape or run away. So I did, step by step.
4. If you could choose any film or song to describe you, which would it be?
I think Jim Carrey’s “Yes man” might be it, I say yes to a lot of things, even if it’s some things I don’t feel like I should. They open up opportunities and lead to more chances to say yes. However, Im a huge fan of film, visual arts and creative composition films like Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ or any nonlinear storylines by Quentin Tarantino which are littered with stunning cinema-photography techniques which i use in my way and apply to my creative work.
5. Tell me about your recent adventures?
The most recent trip that really resonated with me was one that actually took place in October 2015. My friend and I decided we wanted to be more immersed in nature while taking a road trip to somewhere we’ve never been, so we decided where else better would that but Tasmania. We packed my Subaru Hatch full with camping gear and anything we thought we might need for a 2 week trip around the untouched land of Tazzie. We set out at the top to explore anything and everything from the coastlines, mountain ranges and National Parks to the city of Hobart and all the pubs in between. This trip really set me off on a new path. I discovered the potential possibility of living out of a vehicle for long periods at a time and finding a sense of freedom.
I recently traveled to Melbourne without my van actually, I flew down to participate in the recent Vanlife sessions x Hireakombi weekend which was so splendid to have that opportunity. I shared music with Dusty Boots and helped with A Clean Coast beach clean in Barwon along the Ocean Grove area which was inspiring to see the locals care for their surrounding water ways and oceans, the Victorian community is strong in numbers and excited for more gatherings in their region.
7. What's the best thing about living in a van?
In my opinion, the best thing about living on the road is finding the feeling of freedom, the ability to surround yourself with the things and activities you love most. I love the ocean and surfing, so that’s a no brainer, so I always have a cabin next to any beach that i can retreat to. Also being a landscape and lifestyle photographer since I was 14, these go hand in hand with living in a van which exposes me to a lot of different subjects and ever changing scenic locations.
8. And the most challenging?
The most challenging would have to be finding a high enough or sustainable income from doing what I love whilst I’m living on the road. Freelancing has challenged for me for years, like finding the right lines for creative jobs and partnering with fair trade / environmentally friendly companies and earning enough to survive from these types of jobs. I want everything to feel right with positive exchanges between like minded brands and my creative works which is necessary for me and I will continue to keep finding the right balance.
9. Has living the vanlife, and reconnecting with nature and a simple life felt healing or healthy? Do you think it is good for mental health? If so, why?
Mental health is a wide subject. I believe we all suffer from some form of mental health issues. It’s important for me to remember that it is something we can’t run away from. Yes, we can lively up ourselves by changing lifestyle patterns and behaviours and this usually helps with coping. Since I have been on the road for the last 2+ years I’ve been more socially active then I had been in the last two decades, but the road can still be a lonely place from time to time, especially when you’re moving on the road a lot. I’m sold on believing the only thing good for mental health is being and staying creative. Nature is a huge decompressor for me. I’m reminded with every visit how small my problems actually are when I’m outside, because nature doesn’t care for my issues and focuses me to become my best self. Having the access to nature from my van has been my church and place of reflection which I’ve enjoyed visiting everyday. I use the ocean as my gym and the land as a stage for my creative outlets, i’ve found an even and fair balance between them.
10. What do you think about society today – particularly the expectations on our generation and how we go about things?
Society has settled into a pattern of fast-paced consumerism, where everything from entertainment to fashion has been intentionally created to only be a temporary solution. Nothing lasts like they used to or at least everything seems to be disposable today. The expectations from society are never forced on anyone, yet it’s incredibly powerful how subliminal its messages are through advertisements and cultural trends. I believe since the industrial revolution they saw money in the masses and I believe consumerism provides us with the idea of a lifestyle that can be purchased and based around pure endless happiness, which is never actually achievable. We are taught from a young age the beginning and middle aren’t the most important parts, but that the end is where happiness and comfort are waiting to be collected. I have noticed all my friends fall into a safe lifestyle, which I saw and knew was something they never dreamt of doing, setting themselves up for success, they said. But success is measured differently from person to person and the idea of “making it” is something that we won’t or might never have. Each day is a new opportunity to make that day its best, being efficiently present as much as possible, applying ourselves to each task with full focus by giving your all and being aware of not spreading ourselves too thin has helped me through tough societal pressures.
11, You've said you've noticed a lot of young people struggle to follow their dreams or pursue the thing we really want to. Why do you think that is?
People don’t really live in the moment, we like to think we do or can, but if we did, no one would show up for work on Monday morning. A powerful survival tool we obtain is to plan out our future or at least to try to understand and prepare for it. Dreams are simple, they are based around happiness, a product from doing the things we love which can be a very hard path to follow, which I’m noticing for myself. Efficient and practical paths are easy to fall into as we are comfort creatures. The older Im getting the more easier my dreams are becoming. I’ll always have dreams and something to aspire towards, however I’m beginning to remould my dreams into a more of a simple lifestyle and sustainable living that gives back not only to the land I’m occupying but to my mind and body as well.
12. What's your advice for people who feel trapped by expectations or what's considered "normal", who want to chase down their dreams?
Start small, maybe with an idea, or start slowly surrounding yourself with people who might share a similar dream. Patience is important, sometimes you feel like you are so far from your dream you might as well not having any. There’s been days where I pinched myself or have had a moment where I say “Hayden, you’re living your dream right now” and those come out of days you least expect would resemble anything to do with living the dream, like a day off in the middle of the week and sitting at the beach after a sunset surf with friends. It’s good to remember that our dreams aren’t going to be lived in forever, they come alive in mini packages of small experiences. We are a product of our imagination and creatures of habit, don’t be shy to shake up the norm once in a while.
13. What's your advice for those living the vanlife, or those who want to?
I found its important to slow down when possible, life can become very overwhelming at times as I believe living on the road exposes us to more sensory input. And by slow down, I don’t mean drive slowly or do less in the day, it means a release or output is needed such as finding the creative flow and stay present during that time, surfing is creative, music, art, writing or even learning a new skill, taking something that wasn’t there before and turning it into something real, this can be very rewarding. If you want to try it, do it, but I still strongly believe it’s not for everyone, so just trial becoming a weekend warrior and see how it feels for you. The road opens up so many door ways and overloads you with inspiration.