Vanlife Q&A

Why did you decide to move into a van?
Vanlife has long been a lifestyle I desired.  There was something about the community, living off the grid, the minimalism, and the huge savings potential that all drew me in.  I feel like it brings me close to the outside world and makes exploring, adventuring and traveling all feel so much accessible and desirable.  No packing bags, no planning food etc, everything is always with me and ready to go.
I never had travel plans while wanting to live in a van (although traveling is great), since it was originally just going to be a cheap way to live in Sydney.  Through COVID I’ve been lucky enough to be in a position where I can travel while I wait for work to re-open.  It’s been a great way to break in the van.

Are you doing a lap of Australia?
No not at this stage.  While I do like travelling in the van I never built it with a lap in mind.  I would need to increase my water capacity and fuel storage if I was to do a bigger trip.  In saying that I plan to roam far and wide in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland.  COVID restrictions will determine a lot of the travel I do, and so will work opportunities.
I also am happy to accept it’s not a solid no, I’m very open to whatever/wherever comes up, but I have no immediate plans to do a lap.

How much did you spend on the conversion/How long did it take?
The build details can all be found here.  Over the 3months of full-time building I spent $5745 converting the van which fell exactly into my budget.  

Do you work/how do you earn money on the road?
Due to COVID I was stood down from work and have been supported by job keeper.  I worked in outdoor education so we are waiting for our industry to re-open still.  
I have an E-book, The Corporate Adventurer which you can purchase here to support me and gain some inspiration and information on how to be more adventurous while working full time.  
I am working on growing my YouTube channel to eventually monetize from the content I make for my followers.  It would really really help if you went over and subscribed, I share videos on van life and thru hiking.  
I also write articles with affiliate links to products I use, which cost nothing for the viewer but help support me to provide content for free, and I’m in the process of enabling ads on my website as well.

Where do you sleep?
I tend to find tucked away carparks to park in for the night.  Beachside carparks are a favourite of mine but often they have no camping signs or are a hotspot for teenage hoons and drinkers on Friday and Saturday nights.  Midweek I sometimes try my luck in gorgeous destinations and will leave early so locals don’t report campers to rangers, however this isn’t yet peak season… I wouldn’t do that in the middle of summer.
I spend many nights out the front of friends’ places or in privately owned carparks (like Woolworths) which don’t issue fines or restrict overnight parking.
Caravan parks are an option and are great because you can use their facilities however it’s not what I have budgeted for so I prefer to not have to stay there.   If you are smart, respectful and leave no trace then I don’t see the harm in sleeping parked in the streets of a town, just try not to be out the front of people’s houses.

Where do you shower?
So far beach showers have been my go to.  Surf life saver clubs and ocean baths often even have free hot  (warm) showers which has been great.  Gyms, pools and caravan parks also have great facilities but so far I’ve been lucky enough to go without.    If all else fails, baby wipe baths and hanging shower bag will have to do.

Where do you go to the toilet?
It’s just like traveling, you utilise public toilets in parks, shopping centres, Bunnings, friends places etc.  Often the places you are visiting in a van are beaches, tourist destinations or national parks which all have public toilets available. 
That being said I also have an emergency pee bottle and funnel for when I’m in the city and there is nowhere appropriate to pee behind a bush.  It’s all glamour over here.
There are toilets available to go into vans, and I could fit one under my bed however I’m not yet convinced I want or need one.  If this changes then the option is always there though.

Where do you get power?
I have solar (260W) and a secondary battery (120amh) so I run my fridge, lights, charge my laptop and phone etc all off my own power.  I can plug into mains power if I need to after a few cloudy days but so far I haven’t needed to – it’s great!

Where is all your stuff?
What stuff?? I sold pretty much all of my furniture, donated all my unnecessary clothes and gave away a lot of my duplicate camping gear.  Pretty much everything I own is in the van with me aside from a spare bed at my sisters place, a suitcase of formal work and event cloths and a tub of outdoor gear at my parents place.  I’ve been focused on minimalism for the last 2 years now since I got home from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and always knew I wanted to eventually live in a van, so had plenty of time to downsize my life.

How are your mechanical skills in case you breakdown?
I was lucky enough to be raised by my father who values passing on life skills.  I can change my tyres, do my services, do basic diagnostics/problem solving but tend to leave all repairs to the professionals.  I am with NRMA for roadside assist if things ever go terribly wrong. 
As far as the internal build goes, I’m so glad I built so I can also fix it if anything breaks.  Electrically I am across it all with my electrician Dad just a phone call away to talk me through any problems, I have a trusty screw driver for basic repairs and friends all over who I can probably borrow tools from if ever needed.  If all else fails Bunnings is only ever a town away.

Have any more questions?  Ask them in the comments section!

(6) Comments

  1. Hey how’s it goin, your van looks amazing!
    I have the same van just a bit older and am looking to convert it and your build is very similar to the ideas I had mind but was wondering about the insulation, is it necessary? Does it not hold too much heat in the van?

    1. Heather Porter says:

      Hey, insulating a van is pretty common for converting, it helps keep it warmer in the cooler temps and from getting as hot in the warmer. At the end of the day it’s still a car… but it’d say it’s worth it. Made a big difference to external sound as well.

  2. Samantha says:

    Hi ! Thank you for the write up, it is so useful. your van looks amazing. How did you attach the timber the the roof braces ? As well
    As the walls ? Did you glue it ? Or did you use screws ? I see there are not other wooden supports just the straight timber stops to the roof ?? Thanks

    1. Heather Porter says:

      Hey Samantha, I screwed it all straight into the body! If you head over to my Instagram @thisramblingrover it’s all in my story highlights. Good luck!

  3. Chloe says:

    Hey Heather! I’m about to start a van build (with the same model) of my own. I’m wondering how you go cooking and living in a space that has little standing room, I have found even being 5 foot 2 doesn’t protect my head from the hiace roof!

    1. Heather Porter says:

      Hey Chloe! I’m 170cm so need to slouch a little but am completely used to it so it’s fine 🙂 The taller you get the harder it is to find the right van.. good luck with your build!!

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