Víťa Válka: Designer on the road
Martin Rosulek interviewed me in 2014. Martin is a great and busy marketer who travels with his girlfriend and works from many awesome locations. We've met a few times and always had fruitful discussions about life, values and the joy of doing unusual things.
Since 2011 Martin has been traveling around the world and he usually spends many months abroad, but he always likes to go back to the Czech Republic. He's spent a year in Australia, Canada, several months in Central and South America, Morocco and he keeps returning to Southeast Asia, all of this while working as a freelancer. He is a specialist in content marketing. The lifestyle of traveling and working remotely, networking in coworking places and lecturing is the essence of life for him.
This is how Martin introduced me on his website:
Vita is a reliable designer who makes illustrations, icons, logos and websites. He loves his job and is not afraid to work hard. He's a graphic designer from a caravan with a goal of changing his life into one big experience the family will be always happy to remember. He travels by car with an English caravan from 1995. For him, traveling abroad is a balanced combination of work and relaxation. He prefers to go off-season for a month or longer. Undoubtedly, he belongs to one of the most watched digital nomads in the Czech Republic.
You have been involved in design business since 1999. From a freelancer point of view, how has it changed in the last 15 years?
In the network area, fifteen years is an infinitely long time. As a matter of fact, everything's changed. Only a few things have remained since then: the keyboard, the mouse, and the screen. Earlier, everything was more straightforward, and the amount of invested money was smaller. The Internet connection used to be only for geeks, the cell phone had a retractable antenna and a calculator resolution. A dial-up connection of 33 kbps was worth CZK 1300 (about $ 60 / 50 euros) a month. The mobile internet didn't exist.
Do you create only entirely custom-made design or do you also make “templates”?
When it comes to websites, I make only custom-made design for now. I keep an eye on the templates, but the workload doesn't allow me to dive into it properly. Certainly, they're great semi-passive money. Which can be useful for digital nomad of any kind.
Do you use the photobanks in your business (both as the seller and the buyer)?
For about three years, I fill up the photobanks with my own creations and it generates a nice financial pillow. From time to time I buy something for my work. Today's Internet communication is full of mainstream cheerful managers, so I'm trying to find new ways how to make unforgettable graphics. For some time I also used to be a head of the photobank Pixmac (now Pond5).
What do you need for your work (tools, software, environment, …)?
Of course, the most important is notebook, external keyboard and mouse. My performance is improved by an external monitor, drawing tablets, a workbook and a pencil, a desktop calculator and a headset with microphone. While working, I listen to music a lot and I recently discovered Spotify, which impressed me with it's playlists. I prefer listening to the electronics that keeps me moving all day.
I spend most of the work time in Inkscape, partly in Illustrato, InDesign and Photoshop. I discuss things on Skype for hours. Gmail and Google Calendar help me organize my day. I write my notes in the text files. I watch the news almost exclusively on Twitter.
When it comes to location, all I need is a shadow, good coffee, WiFi connection and electricity. At home I work at a flexible table adjusted both to sitting and standing, in the caravan I have a folding chair from IKEA and a small desk. When I really need to disconnect from the surroundings and work hard, I put the loud beats in my ears and increase the volume.
How many hours a week do you spend on self-education?
My whole life. That's what's really great about traveling. You can see the environment at home very differently. One stops dealing with the trivial neighborhood disputes and focuses on improving himself and his family and friends. I would like to read more books, for now I compensate the need by reading the Forbes magazine both in the Czech and US version.
What designer qualities do you think are the most important?
Reliability. Empathy. Ability to apply practice to your work. Only then comes the creativity and invention. I didn't get to where I am as a wonderful artist, but as a person who is hard on himself and tries to achieve higher goals.
What is the most difficult for today's freelance graphic designer in the terms of business (investing in expensive software, the ability to do marketing …)?
Definitely marketing. Competition is huge, so you constantly have to invent other ways to get the attention of your clients. On the other hand, victory loves preparation. When you work hard and you don't run away from often crazy or financially uninteresting occasions, you'll find the right path in time. And when your calendar is full, just adjust the price and increase the quality.
What made you start traveling and doing business on the road in the caravan?
I traveled a lot even before we got the caravan. Discovering other cultures is my passion. With the family, the caravan was a logical step to make everything more efficient. The caravan provides a great environment for my work and family, besides we can go on long journeys without spending all of our family savings. Right from the beginning I felt that the idea wasn't quite normal, so I started to write about it. It has already inspired several other caravan nomads.
Are there any differences between digital nomads in the Czech Republic and abroad?
I'd rather divide them into independent nomads and digital nomad families. They either travel by planes and sleep in hotels or via AirBnB, or they have some means of transport and they move without pulling trunks up and down. Robert organizes group nomadic trips, and Petr is opening the Surf Office on the canaries. Nomadism can take many forms, but its result is almost always an experience incomparable with the typical “a year at work and a week by the sea”.
What qualities do you think are the most important for today's digital nomads?
Each digital nomad is a well of information, everyone is a personality. People with the wind in their hair often don't talk about what are the discounts in the supermarket and which politician bought the villa. They think about the sense of their own effort, helping others, the joy both from work and life. In the essence, a digital nomad is a man who has often experienced incredible stories and forgot what it's like to have a nine-to-five job.
Do you plan where you would like to travel or does the decisions come spontaneously?
I plan to travel half a year in advance. Me and my wife have a list of candidate countries that we keep adjusting. Then we just need to plan the time and financial demands of the location and hit the road. After that, the travels are spontaneous. We are where we enjoy it. One observation from experience: We always spend more money than we planned.
Is there a nomad by whom you is inspired your business/traveling?
I have a lot of inspiration. I have read a lot of malimish.com and several other American caravaners who work and travel. For example, the story of 1337Stream is almost identical with ours. We watch travelers on www.expedice-apalucha.cz and www.toyota-adventure.com, but there is much more. I have a lot of links on my website about our trips with my family in the caravan.
Here is the original article in Czech language.