Kennesaw State student documents cross-country adventure for national contest

Ally Lothman
Ally Lothman

(Jul 27, 2021)
— Driven by her free spirit and love of adventure, Kennesaw State student Ally Lothman
embarked on the journey of a lifetime at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic when
she packed up a renovated work van and traveled the desolate roads, documenting her
remarkable journey along the way.

Lothman, a senior majoring in journalism and emerging media who will graduate this month, was inspired by the Academy Award-winning film Nomadland, which follows the journey of a woman who travels the country as a van-dwelling nomad.
She decided to create her own version of the film and renovate the van owned by her
parents, and it earned her national recognition for her creativity.

“My boyfriend and I decided on a whim to go and travel when the pandemic hit, and
I wanted to live the van life that I saw on Instagram all the time,” the 28-year-old
Kennesaw native said. “It was amazing and was definitely one of the best trips that
I’ve ever taken.”

Ally LothmanLothman and her boyfriend explored different towns, settling in campgrounds and parking
lots and biking through nearly deserted cities in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, Louisiana
and Florida before heading back to Georgia. Lothman worked on her summer classes online
using a hotspot from her phone throughout the trip. Her documentation of her unique
journey through the pandemic reignited her love of photography and video production,
she said.

Combining her travel footage into a video titled “This Old Van,” she documented her
two-month journey and entered it into the Adobe Creative Jam, a national competition
that serves as an outlet for undergraduate college students to share their creative
projects. Lothman’s specific session, presented by Adobe Systems and Home Box Office
(HBO), tasked participants to share a unique project that got them through the pandemic
in a 60- to 90-second video.

Creative JamThe top 10 projects from across the country were awarded best overall, and an additional
five, including Lothman’s video, earned an honorable mention. Another KSU student,
Lamont Hall, also earned an honorable mention for his project titled “The Enigma Diary.”

David Cassilo, assistant professor of communication in KSU’s School of Communication and Media, had encouraged Lothman to submit a project for the contest.

“I’ve had Ally for three courses at KSU, and she has been a terrific student in each,”
Cassilo said. “She is a curious learner who works very hard, and she also leads great
conversations within the classroom. I know that she will succeed in whatever she chooses
to do beyond graduation, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.”

Lothman has been no stranger to travel. After beginning her freshman year at KSU in
2012, she put her academic career on hold and taught English in Spain for over a year.
She returned to KSU and settled into a corporate job in the magazine industry but
found the perfect opportunity to rediscover her love of adventure after she was let
go from her job at the beginning of the pandemic.

Lothman’s participation in the Creative Jam rekindled her love of photography and
filmmaking, which she hopes she can integrate into her career after she graduates
from KSU later this month.

“Participating in the Creative Jam reignited my love of creating meaningful content
to share with the world, and I know that I would be happiest if I had a camera and
was making some sort of creative content with movies or photography,” Lothman said.
“Any job where I’m holding and using a camera will be the best job ever.”

While she may not know where her career path will lead her after graduation, Lothman
knows that her renovated van won’t stay parked at her parents’ house much longer.
As a graduation gift for herself, she plans to take a month to travel with her boyfriend
out West, driving through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and visiting the Grand Canyon.

“I don’t dream about working, I dream about living. I’ve always been one to take the
road less traveled, and I know that it’ll be worth it in the end,” she added.

– Josh Milton

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit