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Between writing sessions, I took in B.C.'s best surfing, mountainbiking and hiking

In 2015 I decided to quit my job and leave Vancouver after sixteen years of working and living in the corporate world. In 2016, working as a freelance writer for the video game industry, I hit the road for seven months living and working out of my truck.

And surfed. A lot.

My reasons for leaving the city were typical – the rising cost of living, traffic, cubicle life. I had been working as a writer/producer/game designer for companies such as Electronic Arts, Walt Disney and Ubisoft. The work was challenging, the people were great and I appreciated being able to do what I loved. But then I had a motorcycle crash that left me physically broken and very aware of one thing – I needed a change.

While recovering from my injuries I took a break from full-time studio work and took on freelance writing for video games and marketing. As I regained my strength and the use of a badly shattered arm and leg I found myself wanting to get back to playing in the mountains. When you're told you may not be able to do something you've taken for granted, you end up experiencing a new sense of urgency around it.

Having once spent time in the military and also working for a high-end outdoor apparel/gear company, I understood the value of good equipment and how to work with your environment.

My vehicle is a 2013 Ford F150 Supercab with canopy and (a rather ridiculously large) roof rack capable of carrying kayak, surfboard, stand up paddle board, mountain bike and road bike. I made the canopy my bedroom, complete with a comfortable mattress and lots of room for the clothing and gear needed to handle all aspects of B.C. weather.

My typical work day went something like this. I'd have my morning coffee at 6 am, and then I'd take advantage of whatever mountain or body of water I was on to ride my bike, surf or paddle. By 9:30 am I was back at the truck, spending the mornings writing game fiction and the afternoons catching up with clients by phone or e-mail.

The truck's cab is roomy and one can comfortably work at a laptop for hours. When the weather was good I wrote from a hammock or the tailgate. Getting a cellphone signal was often a challenge, so often I'd take the truck to the local coffee shop to take advantage of free WiFi.

On a good afternoon I would get three to four hours of focused writing done, then wrap up the day with another surf, paddle or ride followed by quality time thinking about tomorrow's surf, paddle, ride while staring into a campfire. A work week is all the better when you know it's going to be filled with adventure and a side-dish of awesome. At night I'd fire up my camp kitchen to make dinner and then settle down for a comfortable night's sleep in the back of the truck.

Without constant meetings, being cc'd on every e-mail, and staring at a cubicle's flat grey colour scheme it's incredible how much attention you can actually give your work. Overall I found my productivity was double what it would normally be and I continued my mandate of never missing a deadline. I even managed to write my first novel.

Hitting the road for seven months is definitely not for everybody. But the idea came at a time when I was re-evaluating some pretty key life decisions. Around me I was seeing some pretty intriguing directions close friends were taking: one was starting a family, another was moving overseas, and another had decided to run for prime minister (and won!). My seven-month adventure had taught me quite a bit. It left me changing my priorities and vowing never to take for granted the ability to go play outside.

One of the things that affected me the most was the culture of the many small towns I visited. Tofino, Ucluelet, Cumberland, Pemberton, Squamish, Revelstoke, Golden, Kimberly, Fernie, Nelson were just a few of the places I enjoyed.

At the end of my journey I was offered what many in the game industry would consider a dream job. But after giving it some consideration (not much actually), I realized I needed something else entirely. I wanted to fully experience everything these unique towns could offer. I was greatly impressed by the independently owned coffee shops I found seemingly everywhere, loved the farmers' markets that provided some of the best food I have ever tasted, and appreciated buying from small businesses where your money didn't feed a corporate machine – it fed a family.

From one board to three fins to two tires.

A photo posted by Sean Smillie (@hellguy) on

So I've decided to "settle down" in my hometown of Rossland (home to Red Mountain ski resort and often called North America's best-kept secret). I will keep doing freelance creative work but will be a bit more selective of my clients, because life's too short to work with people you don't respect. I will teach (online) a UBC video game writing program I developed, because working with new writers is incredibly inspiring. And I am starting a driving school in the West Kootenays, one that will serve the communities I grew up enjoying. It will allow me to meet new people everyday, afford me quick powder runs between lessons, and ample time to start a second novel.

Plus the commute through the mountains each day is nothing short of amazing.

Sean Smillie runs Planet Fiction Studios, a creative agency based in Rossland, B.C., which focuses on writing and developing new entertainment franchises for film, TV, games, comics and books. He is also launching, a driving school focused on operating in mountain towns throughout the West Kootenays.