The People Who Left Their Offices to Work From Boats

The future of work isn’t work from home; it’s work from wherever you want. For some people, that’s an apartment; for Brad Abbott, that’s a boat.

“Living on a boat is just part of who I am,” said Abbott, co-owner of Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, a world-renowned boatyard located in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. “Every aspect of my life has something to do with a boat.”

Abbott starts his day in the historic Vineyard Haven Harbor, waking up on the boat he lives on with his family. Then he rows a dinghy to the workshop, where he manages operations as well as builds and repairs wooden vessels.

Abbott said that Freedom drew him to boat life: “One thing I really like about working in a small boatyard is you get to do a lot of different things… you’re not working for months on one task,” he explains, “and it’s nice to row out to your boat at the end of the day and just be off on your own, on your own turf. It feels very comfortable.”

Freedom’s also what drove Courtnie Hamel and her husband Nate to embark on their van life journey. 

“I think van life’s gotten more popular over the course of the last year because with the pandemic, people want a little more freedom,” Hamel said.

She’s not wrong. According to a September report from the RV Industry Association (RVIA), total RV shipments are at record highs, and camper van sales have more than doubled since last year as consumers look to “experience the many physical and mental benefits of living an active outdoor lifestyle.” 

“We never really had the intention of traveling full-time and working remotely,” Hamel said. “But when the pandemic hit and we got laid off, we really had nothing else going on.” 

During the lockdown, Hamel started posting more and more on social media about van life because, as she puts it, “people seemed really interested in that.” 

“We saw the power of social media and how it could give us opportunities to do things we never really anticipated,” Hamel said.

Today, the Hamels have more than 200-thousand followers on Instagram, where they share pictures and videos of their van lifestyle. They also sell how-to guides and build custom vans for fellow van lifers.

“I think social media’s made starting a small business and creating income online so much more accessible, especially after the pandemic and things going remote,” Hamel said. 

As record numbers of Americans quit their jobs in search of opportunities with more pay, promise, and purpose, expect off-the-beaten-path professions like van life and boat life to become more popular. 

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