For my partner Jake and I, living in a van has become a dream come true. The feeling of freedom it brings really can't be matched.
I remember the day we first talked about buying and converting a van to live in while we travel around Australia. The idea came to us while we were on a two-week road trip through America in our beloved 1984 Westfalia. We fell in love with the freedom of being able to go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Seriously, how cool is it to wake up somewhere new every single day?
Jake definitely didn’t waste any time finding a van to work on. If there’s anything we learnt about finding the van you want online, it’s to be persistent. The more often you check for new listings, the more likely you are to get lucky and snag a killer deal before someone else even gets the chance to look at it.
In the end we got our hands on a 2002 Ford Econovan. Its overall condition was good but, let’s be honest, the inside was an absolute mess – we had a lot of work ahead of us if we wanted to get it looking like a real home on wheels.
It took a massive clean up and a trip to the landfill, but eventually the whole inside was gutted and left with only the basics. After days upon days of research, designing and drawing out plans, Jake finally came up with a layout that worked for both of us.
The beauty of converting your own van is that you can completely customise it and design it however you want.. There’s so much inspiration out there nowadays on how to deck out a tiny space and make it comfortable by optimising every inch of space you have.
Here’s a basic rundown of all the things we did for our van build:
- subflooring installed with a hardwood style vinyl on top
- a plywood lining on the walls and roof with pine wood panelling laid over top
- all cabinetry and storage built from basic pine with pre-made acacia brown countertops (we painted all the cabinetry and storage white along with the walls and left the roof panelling regular pine)
- installed a dual battery system with inverter inside the cabinets as well as outlets and switches for running appliances and charging things such as phones, laptops and cameras.
- installed 12V LED downlight on roof panelling
- built a simple pine bed frame with a custom cut foam mattress on top with basic storage underneath
After what felt like endless trips to Bunnings for building supplies, it was finally coming together. It was time for the exciting part of decorating and adding all of our little personal touches to make it feel as cosy and home-like as we possibly could. This was extremely important to us since we knew we would be spending a lot of time in this small space.
While a project like this is a whole lot of fun, at times it can also be incredibly frustrating. Things like design faults, joins not fitting together, stuff getting broken, poorly calculated measurements (and in Jake’s case a sliced open finger and an emergency trip to the doctor) can really drive you nuts. But in the end, it’s all was all worthwhile. Now we have our ideal adventure-mobile and a home we can take wherever we want.
I can honestly say that choosing to live and travel in a van was probably the best decision we could have made. It really gives us the opportunity to explore and experience Australia in ways we normally wouldn’t.
In the best way possible, it forces us to live a simple life with only what we need and nothing more and teaches us to detach ourselves from material items. When you have only the basics, you just make it work! We take our home and our belongings everywhere with us and have the freedom to set off down any route we want.
Being on the road all the time allows us to live the adventurous lifestyle we are always seeking and lets us explore so many new places without a time limit. No two days are ever the same and it usually means we have a different backyard everywhere we go. It’s a great way to break out of routine and have every day be a new adventure.
First on the list of travel plans is a road trip up North, starting from Sydney and heading as far as the road will take us. We’re currently calling Byron Bay home for a few days and soaking up all the good vibes it has to offer us. Our intentions on the road are to hit up as many spots as we possibly can, live slow, and enjoy the van life.
We’ll be chasing sunrises and sunsets, soaking up the sunshine on all the beautiful beaches, exploring lush green forests, finding magical waterfalls and scoping out swimming holes. In the end, we don’t really have a real plan… and that’s the best part of it all. Our daily routine is going with the flow and seeing where we end up and truthfully, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you want to deck out a van or RV and hit the road, check out Outdoria for a heap of gear, accommodation and inspiration.