In our latest edition of people of coworking we sat down with Hannah & Thomas Schickedanz, founders of Shickedanz Design Studio. The creative duo lived what could only be described as the digital nomad dream, travelling around New Zealand living and working in a housebus which they self converted from a 1986 Hino schoolbus. We chatted to Hannah and Thomas about life on the road as a digital nomads, running a creative business and the transition from a workplace on wheels into a coworking space!
What is the story of Schickedanz Design? How was it formed?
We both have backgrounds in design, I (Hannah) worked as a graphic designer for a handful of studios here in Wellington and Thomas worked for a web design company. We made the move to Germany and lived there for a couple of years and started a family, at the time I wasn’t working and Thomas was working full time as web designer. When we returned to New Zealand we’d already planned to buy an old bus and convert into to a house bus in which we could live out of and travel around the country. Starting our own design studio was a means of funding our adventure! The combination of our different design skill sets and the ability to practice them remotely were ideal factors for making a living whilst on the road.
How was your experience as a digital nomad, living and working out of Liberty the great?
Living out of Liberty minimised our living costs, this meant we could work less and live more. Between the both of us we shared the equivalent of one full time position, resulting in a great work life balance. We began our journey with no clients or work load and picked them up steadily on the way, mainly from friends and past work connections.
It was also great for us as family, we were both able to hang out with the kids equally. Living in and working out of the same environment blurred the distinction between work & home life and this worked really well for us personally.
How much time went into the build of the house bus? Any past experience or did you learn as you go?
We had a pretty good vision of how we wanted the interior to look. We drew inspiration from the iconic kiwi batch aesthetic and also boat interiors, so lots of wood and big white walls which helped open the space up. Between us both we had a little bit of building experience but nothing to that scale. It was a great learning experience, building and designing the framing and walls. We also had a lot of help from Hannah’s father with all the technical pieces like the metal work and plumbing. The whole conversion from start to finish took around five months.
Because we’d built the bus ourselves and designed it exactly how we wanted, it just felt like you had your home with you at all times!
If you want to check out the full build of this seriously awesome conversion in more detail, Hannah & Thomas documented the whole journey on their Schickedanz Design Studio blog.
Gear and tech you’d recommend to others wanting to embark on a similar journey?
We approached this side quite minimally, we relied on hot spotting cellular networks from our phones to get internet on our other devices and most of the time this worked out fine for us. If you are planning on entering more remote locations, the addition of a external satellite receiver would help boost your connection. If we were ever in a situation where we had no connection, we’d work offline and then upload on a wifi connection from a cafe.
Aotearoa is a road tripping destination for many budding digital nomads, what was one of your favourite spots you stumbled upon during your time on the road?
We love the coastal locations, and over our two-year journey mainly stuck to the coastal highways of both the north and south island. We were parked up in some truly stunning parts of the country, and had our fair share of some pretty special backyards over the course of our adventure. Some spots that stand out are Punakaiki on the rugged South Island West Coast. We were blessed with three weeks of zero rain which is unheard of! Another spot that stands out was Boundary Creek on the Northern side of Lake Wanaka.
The best spots were down those unexplored bumpy gravel roads, where in the back of our minds we were thinking are we going to be able to get the bus back out of here!
What brought you back to Wellington?
We considered a few locations across the country Nelson, Raglan, Christchurch etc. We both just felt a connection with the capital — we love the space, location and the people.
How did you find yourself working out of a coworking space?
Neither of us had before worked out a coworking space, but the transition into BizDojo Wellington was great and super easy. We were lacking the professional human-to-human connection from working remotely, so working out of community-driven shared workplace was an awesome contrast. After a long stint of working solo and remotely it was great to be surrounded by an awesome bunch of humans — a great source of inspiration and fresh ideas.
Even being a small business like ourselves you still feel like you’ve got work mates!
Do you have any advice for creatives who are thinking about starting their entrepreneurial journey?
For anything you want to do — just do it, there is no harm in just getting stuck in and giving it a go! The worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t quite go to plan, but you can pivot and learn from your mistakes. What’s worse is the regret you’d feel if you hadn’t of given it a go — you’re bound to face ups and downs but it’s all part of the journey!
If you’re just starting out, reach out to your social circles, word of mouth will soon spread. Look at ways you can cut costs in different areas to help focus on what matters to you. For example living out of the bus let us reduce our workload and gave us more time to explore.
Hannah was invited to So Coded to share her story about living life as a Digital Nomad, her trip was sponsored by the peeps at Betahaus Hamburg coworking space. If you’re interested in finding out more about Hannah’s and Thomas’s epic journey check out the feature below!
A big thanks to Hannah & Thomas for chatting to us and sharing their journey, and also supplying the rad shots of Liberty The Great! We hope this motivates others who are thinking of setting out on a similar adventure that anything is possible!