Wasatch creative director doesn’t let job keep him from world travels

David Leach, creative director for Wasatch Academy, gets some work done at Coffee Depot in Mt. Pleasant. He took off July 1 to travel around the world with a goal of not coming back for a year. While he is away, he will work remotely for Wasatch.

MT. PLEASANT—A Mt. Pleasant man who works for Wasatch Academy headed out July 1 on a trip around the world without knowing exactly where he was going.

“The idea is to not come back for a year,” David Leach said as he took a break as creative director for Wasatch, in his favorite local hang-out, Coffee Depot in Mt. Pleasant.

He said he plans to spend one month in each of 12 foreign countries. He had identified six of the target locations: Brazil, South Africa, Iceland, New Zealand and Russia (specifically St. Petersburg).

Oh, add Antarctica, he said. “Absolutely, it’s on my list because I would like to hit every continent…in a year’s time.” And, he said, “I know the route” to Antarctica.

Leach’s life hasn’t always been so nomadic. He grew up in Southern California and graduated from BYU in 2007 in film-making. In 2008, he got married, but later got divorced. He has two children who live with their mother in Manti.

One of his first jobs out of college was working for Snow College in marketing—creating websites, doing photography and shooting videos.

In 2017, he moved to a similar position at Wasatch Academy, where his title is creative director. He does much of the writing and photography, and all of the graphic design, for the school’s annual magazine, which last year was 100 pages. He also does all website design, billboards and sometimes radio and TV ads, among other projects.

After working at the private school for about a year, Leach said he went to Joe Loftin, the headmaster at the time, and said, “I’m going to quit unless you let me work remote.”

“Let’s make that happen,” Loftin told him.

So Leach and Loftin agreed Leach would work remote for one month, but be back at the school the next month, and so on. Leach has been working that schedule for the past three years.

Then recently, he went to the new headmaster and asked for permission to work remote year-round. His boss agreed except that he has to be back on campus during September when the magazine goes out.

During a typical month over the past three years when he has been working remote and traveling, he might go to a town like Tulum, Mexico near Cancun. “I’ll try to be within walking distance of a beach,” he said.

He might go to coffee shops, strike up conversations and try to find someone who is willing to rent an apartment on a month-to-month basis. Or he might rent an Airbnb.

He usually does his work in coffee shops or in his lodging. “I don’t have to work at a specific time,” he said. “Whenever I’m feeling creative, I spend several hours doing what I need to do. I do have deadlines to meet.”

He spends the rest of his time, seeing the sights, and when he was in Mexico, learning to surf.

He makes friends with people he meets along the way. He discovered there are a lot of Russians living in Mexico. “I’ve made a lot of really dear friends” in that sub community, he said.

“Going to all these places is what keeps the creative juices flowing versus sitting in an office all day looking at white walls,” he said.

During a previous period of working remote, he visited the island of Bali in Indonesia. The island has a mix of jungles heavily populated by monkeys, volcanic mountains and beaches.

After his time there, he said he noticed “my designs were looking more exotic.” He adds, “Design work is more lively, more fresh, more energetic when I’m out in an environment that has more variety in culture, sights and sounds.”

Recently, he wrote a children’s book, a fictional story “with a historic framework,” about a Navajo girl who is taken from her family and placed in a boarding school, “but escapes and makes it home.”

He said he wants to do more writing of children’s books, along with adult novels in the fantasy and science-fiction genres.

When he returns to home base, Wasatch Academy lets him stay in Pearce Hall, a restored historic mansion turned guest house owned by the school.

“I’ve met some really great people” at Pearce House, he said. One woman from India who was staying at the house invited him to spend some time at her home in India.

While in Sanpete County, he also visits with his children.

He said one time when he returned to Sanpete County after weeks of traveling, he noticed how grateful he was to be back. “Maybe I just appreciate this place more than when I was always here,” he said.