Friday Feature #9 – HAYDEN WARNER

Every Friday we will feature fellow binge-explorers/adventure seekers who are living the ultimate Australian dream of exploring the amazing country in a camper. Our aim is to get an insight on the lifestyle of this idolised community. Salty Summits takes no responsibility of severely increased FOMO!



Q1 – Like always, lets start with the lowdown. Tell us a bit about yourself and your #vanlife lifestyle.

G’day! I’m Hayden, I’m 26 and I was born & raised in Sydney, Australia in the western suburbs. I’m an Australian-Kiwi with two New Zealand parents and two older sisters. I’ve been traveling solo now for just under a year in myself set-up camper-van with the help & carpentry knowledge from my old man. I set up the van to be a 5 year+ project, complete with solar-power powering the fridge, roof fan, lights, phone chargers, laptop chargers and my camera batteries. Then fitting an outdoor solar shower to the roof racks that also hold my kayak, surfboards and roll out awning. This lifestyle was inspired to me through a natural progression of wanting to simply travel and see the world around me. After spending three years camping in the back of my 2011 Subaru Impreza on the weekend while I worked a full-time job in the CBD of Sydney, fitted with a blow up camping mattress and a chilly-bin (esky) to keep the drinks and food cold, I began discovering my passion for living on the road. I travelled this way around Tasmania, with a mate. This lend me to hiring a camper van in New Zealand for 20 days and exploring my home land. After that I was hooked and this helped with my decision that I needed this become my full-time life-style.

Q2 – Your photography is M I N D – B L O W I N G. Where do you get your inspiration from? Or are you just naturally talented 😉

I fell into photography at an early age (14). When I was age 11 – 15, I spent all my spare time & weekends out skateboarding with friends and wanted to capture some of the epic stunts my friends were doing at the time. When I was 13, I successfully begged my oldest sister to let me borrow her brand new Sony VCR camcorder which also had still photography options. With two years of arguments & disagreements, my mother brought me a Pentax digital with a starter kit lens for my 15th birthday, this camera had no video option.

I continued to experiment with photography in my backyard and neighbourhood capturing photos of almost every flower, blade of grass, insect and anything I thought was interesting that was in front of me. I remember the day, actually, it was late at night while laying in my bed, the moment I discovered the long exposure feature, the only source of light I had was a small old TV, dimly lighting the corner of my room, I would exposure for 5”, shoot and wave my camera in my hands, pointing it towards the TV, the results gave a rush of realisation and mind expanding ideas, I almost grasped a small but very powerful understand how light functions and how the camera interacted with it. This developed my consistent fascination with light. I begin shooting with 35mm film & Polaroids cameras, this had a hugely impactful learning curve to my photography knowledge. So, in some kind of way, I think I inspired myself in the early days with simply being curious. I am also dyslexic and have always thought in pictures and I think that helps. Im not sure if I’m naturally talented, I definitely still take some pretty horrible photographs.

Q3 – Sunrise or Sunset?

One of my favourite questions! Sunrise, by far! Why? Living on the east coast of Australia, where the sun rises over the water and sets over the land, its a no-brainer. There’s something special to me about waking up and jumping straight out the van, taking a few deep morning breaths and having a small stretch, way before the sun even rises during twilight. The beaches are empty, the roads are quiet, the air is clean, our 5 sensors are fresh and the day is anew. Plus, early starts to the day merit the excuse for having a mid day snooze and who doesn’t love that.

Q4 – Do you have any hot tips on free camping and how to be stealth!?

Free camping can be quite easy to come across if you don’t fancy larger cities like Sydney, Melbourne or major tourist locations like Byron Bay or The Great Ocean Road. However, if you use your street smarts and common sense, you are able to pick out some places that aren’t as nice as a beach front camp spot but doesn’t require an over night fee, such as behind a Bunnings, major shopping centres or even residential streets can become a easy snooze location. My major hot tip for stealth is simple, if no one can see or hear you, you’ll most likely go unnoticed.
Then waking up before Sunrise to return back to the beach for sunrise & breakie. It’s important to me to stay clean with my camp spots, so I’ll always give back to the gem location, by not only packing-out my own rubbish, but filling a spare plastic bag or two of litter I find nearest to me, I see this a repayment back to the community. Sometimes, I’ll even make it seen I’m cleaning a small town beach car park and speak to the locals about it, letting them know I don’t approve of littering and that I’ll be staying the night and this is “my camp fee”, locals LOVE this.

Q5 – Have you had any major disasters in your van yet?

Besides the odd spilt coffee or two, nothing too major. Oh wait….. I have sadly. I’ve lost (damaged) about three camera lenses inside the van. In the early days, I was still learning the art of making sure everything has its place or is secure from moving around in the back of the van, going around round-a-bouts and hearing the dreaded sound, its shoots a lightning bolt up your spine, only to find out it was your daily DSLR camera with a not so cheap lens on the front. NOW, everything has a place and or is tied down when I’m on the move, this also makes for a quiet smooth ride.

Q6 – If you could have ANYONE (real or fantasied) as a passenger for just one day, who would it be and why?

Neil deGrasse Tyson! As nerdy as this answer is, Neil is an American Astrophysicist and Director of the HAYDEN Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in NYC. He communicates modern science to the public through invoking fascination and curiosity. He’s a huge influencer for my inner child-like scientist approach to life and a important part of the why. I’d love to cruise around for a day with him talking about our universe and everything in it.
“Test ideas by experiment and observation, build on those ideas that pass the test, reject the ones that fail, follow the evidence where ever is leads and question everything” – NDT.

Q7 – #vanlife really is not as glamorous as it looks on insta. What do you find the most challenging aspect of it?

The biggest challenge for me is funding my journey to keep me going. I currently don’t and will never have a credit card, I’m not in debt and I currently have no contracts to my name. But many times have I been 1000km from my childhood home and seen all zeros in my bank accounts. Although I’m completely content with minimalism and not needing very much to keep me happy, not having money is and I’m sure is for anybody, very stressful. However, in dire situation like going broke, this has forced me to think of way to make money on the road, like selling prints, or selling old belongs I just don’t need or use. I occasionally work the odd portrait photography job or video editing job to top up my wallet for a few months to keep me going.

Q8 – Fill in the blanks: Hold my __________ and watch me __________

“Hold my SHOES and watch me GO BARE FOOT”.

I often don’t wear shoes, like ever, unless my friends drag me into a pub or club, or if I go skateboarding, which I mostly do barefoot anyway. I’ll find any excuse to not wear shoes or often stay away from those activities that require them, which isn’t much. Although I understand why shoes are sometimes a good thing, I often think to myself “I would feel more connected to the earth if I wasn’t wearing these casts on my feet”. If you think about what happens to your muscles when you break a bone and the doctors apply’s a cast to help with the healing process, this is kinda the same thing with the bottoms of our feet. Plus it saves me buying shoes or replacement jandals (flip-flops or thongs) when they blow out.

Q9 – Where in Australia are you REALLY looking forward to exploring and photographing?

As I now have covered the entire East Coast of Australia from Great Ocean Road to Cairns, I continuously hear nothing but amazing things about Western Australia. I honestly really look forward to continuing to travel the amazing land for many years to come. The people I’ve met, and all the places I’ve seen, I haven’t even skimmed the surface. I do aspire to see the world in my life time, but for now, I’m truly happy the greatest place on earth in my backyard, Australia.



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