Andy Austin lives out of his van most of the time. But don’t get the idea that he has suddenly abandoned his friends and family and gone off the deep end, adopting the lifestyle of a reclusive hermit.
As it turns out, the Sprinter van where Austin rests his head most nights makes a versatile platform for him to pursue his business as an adventure photographer. Austin frequently roams far and wide, searching for the perfect combination of stunning scenery and perfect lighting.
Growing up, Austin traveled the world working for the family travel business, Austin Adventures. The itch to hit the road has never left Austin, and he occasionally works as a guide for the business.
“It was great to grow up in that adventure lifestyle,” he said. “It would be hard for me to go and do a normal lifestyle.”
He came to photography naturally. As a kid, he often toted a camera to document the skateboarding and bicycling adventures that he and his friends shared. “Sometimes, we would stage crashes, and we’d even put ketchup all over ourselves to make it look like blood,” he said.
Austin became dedicated to improving his photography after his initial efforts to document his travels sometimes yielded disappointing results. His portfolio includes portraiture, weddings, landscapes and nature photography.
Another passion is volunteering for Wheels of Change, a non-profit organization started in 2010 by his father, Dan Austin. Wheels of Change collects used bikes and distributes them in developing countries.
“We take bicycles that would otherwise end up in landfills and give them a new life in rural villages in Africa,” he said. “The container the bikes are shipped in is turned into a bike shop and the bikes are sold, fixed, and rented from the shop. All proceeds pay for the staff (made up of local villagers) as well as support community projects like schools and orphanages.”
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? Having my home and my office be a full converted Sprinter van has allowed me to constantly be working and chasing light. My biggest challenge is learning to slow down from time to time to not burn myself out. This summer I worked four and a half months straight with no days off, and while I’m doing what I love it was still draining.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Things will go wrong, and those who push through the failures and learn from them will find success.
Who gave you that advice? My father, Dan Austin
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I would like to see the community take advantage of the amazing adventure opportunities we have in the area. Once the community begins to realize the potential, the hope would be to better support the plans in place.
Which living person do you most admire? My father, Dan Austin. He never had the opportunity to go to college, but through perseverance and hard work he built one of the top adventure travel companies in the world.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By how many people I inspire to follow their dreams and to get out and see the beautiful world we have around us. I receive messages often from people who tell me that my photos and writing has given them the courage to chase their dreams. And these messages mean more than any monetary success to me.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Putting life aside to chase my dreams. Buying my van and setting sail was not an easy decision as I gave up a good job and a very comfortable life to do it.
I'm happiest when I'm... helping others