Name : Tegan Phillips
D.O.B: 25 November 1992
Where’s home? Cape Town, South Africa
Company Name: Unclipped Adventure
Did you go to university? Yes, I went to Rhodes University in South Africa (with an exchange at Leicester Uni)
What did you study? Originally I thought I wanted to study journalism and be a foreign correspondent, but I later switched to Law & Politics.
Was it necessary in hindsight to what you’re doing now?
Short answer – not at all!
Was it a clear-cut path after you left in terms of what you wanted to do?
Honestly – no. Not even a little bit. I sort of knew that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and I knew I really enjoyed making cartoons, but then again I also really enjoyed ice cream.
What pressures do you think most twenty something’s are faced with?
I’ve heard that today’s young people are more stressed out than any generation before us, despite us having an unprecedented selection of opportunities and different kinds of support for our growth. But I think that people being generally more connected with everything all the time has led to these images and ideas of ‘perfection’ basically being shoved down our throats at such a rate that it’s difficult to breathe! Any aspect of our lives that don’t quite meet these impossibly high standards is regarded as being an area for urgent improvement – essentially we’ve stopped being ok with just being ok.
Can you explain what Unclipped Adventure?
Unclipped Adventure is a silly name that I came up with for a blog that I was only going to run for a few weeks when I went on my first cycle tour. I’d won a touring bike and some gear from adventurer Tom Allen by making a short video using very badly drawn cartoons to explain why I wanted the bike. Everybody had liked the video so I thought it would be fun to document the trip I did with the bike using the same sort of cartoons. Mostly they depicted me being lost or crashing or meeting interesting people or looking for loos and WIFI, and I think a lot of people could relate to that depiction of adventure and I started to get a few followers who weren’t my family. I continued with the blog on our Africa cycle trip (the next year) and I guess I’ve just kept it up since then – now I’m trying to think about cartoon things as a career.
Please can you tell our readers about the most recent excursion you did, how you were able to do it (competition) and what it was in aid of….
In June, I came across a grant called “The Altumate Challenge” that was offering to fully fund a record-setting adventure for charity. I came up with this idea to do a triathlon circumnavigating New Zealand’s South Island – the equivalent of 10 Iron Mans – to raise money for World Bicycle Relief, and I illustrated the whole ridiculous idea with cartoons. To my surprise, I actually got the grant (Altum liked the ‘innovative’ cartoon approach for my entry) and the next few months that followed were a kind of chaos and preparation that I have never known in my life, but I set off on November 1st and finished on target 25 days later, on my 24th birthday.
How did you train for this?
I didn’t have much time to train as much as I would have liked, so all of my physical preparation was focused mainly on swimming, hard sessions at least three or four times a week, because I’m really not a strong swimmer at all. As in, I’m used to being overtaken by small children in public swimming pools. For the rest I basically did a little bit at home when I could and then closed my eyes and hoped for the best.
How many calories were you eating per day? Easily up to 8,000 a day on some days.
What was the hardest bit? Surprisingly the hardest part was trying to coordinate all of the admin (route-planning, accommodation, keeping everyone updated, fundraising etc) while I was on the road, and still get enough sleep. The lack of sleep ended up taking a huge toll on my body and my mind and one night Niela found me wandering on the road (finishing off a run) just talking to myself like a crazy person. And she got it all on film, so that’s going to be really entertaining to watch one day.
Did you secretly have a cry at any point (or perhaps openly just bawled?)
Yes! On day 5 for some reason I arrived at the lunch stop and saw the support team and out of the blue just burst into tears. I think I was putting so much pressure on myself to be more in control of everything than was actually possible, and for some reason it just erupted then. Out of my eyes. In the form of salt water. And then a couple times after that, just out of exhaustion.
Any mishaps that stood out?
Thanks to my excitement in eating all the food on this last trip, I gained some weight around my tummy and on two occasions had to take my shorts off mid-cycle and ride in my underwear for a few hours until I met up with the support vehicle who could give me looser shorts. One of those times, I came across a cycle tourist riding in the opposite direction to me and he stopped me for a chat and to take a picture. I was too embarrassed to explain why I was cycling in my underwear, so I just tied my jacket around my waist and acted like it was totally normal, even though it was freezing cold. It was actually a pretty nice feeling riding without those tight shorts, I’m considering carrying on the habit on future adventures.
Probably on the last day – my birthday – I still had 2km left to swim and I’d been swimming for three days already and it was pouring with rain and freezing cold, but when I got to the last few hundred meters I suddenly looked up and saw my support team (Gill and Niela) jump into the sea! Seeing them freezing their butts off to come and swim with me just meant the world to me.
What did you achieve on the New Zealand Adventure? To date I have raised 86 bicycles (over £8000) which will be given to schoolchildren in Africa to mobilise them. But the fundraising is ongoing and I hope to raise even more!
How do you sustain a living from doing this?
I supplement my cartoon income by selling my non-vital organs on the black market. At least, I have considered doing that. Last year I made a little bit of money by doing a couple of commissioned cartoons for organisations/magazines etc, but most of the year I was organising various adventures and not making any money. So, the quick answer is I’m not exactly sure how to make it sustainable, without draining on savings and borrowing from parents, but I’m hoping to find out this year. If you find out before me, please let me know.
Were your parents initially skeptical about your career choice?
They were the ones who initially put the idea in my head about pursuing something creative rather than law, and in all honesty if it wasn’t for the encouragement they give me, I reckon I might be doing something a bit ‘safer’. I feel really grateful for their confidence in me.
Is there an expiry date on this kind of career?
The weird adventure/cartoon combination? For me, I think so. A big lesson I learned last year is that adventuring as a career is a lot of hard admin and PR work and not the same as just going on a really long adventure and dwindling down your savings, (which I prefer infinitely). So this year I’ve decided to shift the focus from being an adventurer who does cartoons to being a cartoonist who sometimes goes on adventures. At least then if I break both my legs I can still do my job.
Who do you seek advice and support from?
One of the hardest things about not choosing a predefined career has been not having any guidelines or co workers or official mentors who can tell me if I’m doing the right things the right way. Or, more like, the wrong things the wrong way. At the moment I’m working with a life coach and I chat to my dad a lot about my ideas, and then anybody who happens to stand still for long enough in my general vicinity gets an earful about how I don’t know what I’m doing with my life and sometimes they give good advice. The Internet is my other great mentor.
What advice would you give anyone considering this kind of career choice?
If this – or anything creative – is your passion, then go for it! Do it now, before you have a cat and a pot plant and a baby and a flat that you’re trying to pay off. But don’t expect that it’s just fun and easy because you’re doing what you love, and don’t expect that doing that thing is all there is to it. To make your own path in anything requires learning a lot of new skills, and if you can’t afford to outsource your admin then your days are long and filled with lots of emailing and organising and you are totally responsible for the quality and outcome of all of it, which is overwhelming sometimes. But it is so worth it, because even if things are hard and go wrong, you don’t have to deal with that little voice in your head that says “What if you could have made it? What could you have given the world as your best self?’. At this stage, failure is good – it means you’ve not only pushed yourself to your limits but gone past them. Well done, that’s brave, keep trying!
What is next for you?
I’m thinking about keeping my adventures a bit more low-key this year and focusing on drawing my nose-less neckless cartoon people, building and redefining the Unclipped brand. I also need to figure out how to use Instagram properly.
What’s the dream end goal?
I just want to be happy, and from where I’m sitting now I can see myself being very happy if I’m able to create funny cartoons that help people understand or deal with stuff in some way, like Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half who made cartoons about her ‘adventures in depression’.
- In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are… (1) What should I have for breakfast? (2) Is this shirt really dirty? Because I don’t see any dirt. (3) How do you even be an adult? Is there some sort of course that you can do? Is it compulsory?
- When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually… don’t. I live in denial until the bank says I have insufficient funds to buy an ice cream.
- The Twenty Mile Club… the first rule of the Twenty Mile Club is don’t talk about the Twenty Mile Club (but everybody knows it’s the best)
New Zealand Adventure: