Try Something New: Living out of a van

I cannot believe we are doing this. It’s early July 2015 and Hayley and I just bought our first vehicle in Brisbane, Australia just a week after we arrived – a 1995 VW Transporter. Luckily we bought the van from a nice Belgian couple that have it set up perfectly for us newbies. It comes with with a futon in the back so we can sit up, put it down when we want to sleep, and just enough storage to fit all our things comfortably. We are ecstatic to get our journey on the road.

Our new home which we end up naming Big Blue:

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We didn’t know what exactly to look for when we were on our van hunt which is why we bought a van previously owned by a backpacker. We ended up living in the van for a total of just over a month and these are some key things you want to look for when buying your new home on wheels:

Ensure you have a place to sit inside. At first you may question if you need a place to sit inside. Why would I sit in there when I can sit outdoors? Isn’t that the reason I’m living out of a van in the first place, to be outside? Unfortunately, it rains. Sometimes you are not in a place where there are covered places to sit. Sometimes it is just too damn cold to be sitting outside and you just want to be cozy inside your home.

The more storage space the better. When we first starting looking at vans I seriously questioned how much space we needed. I just came to this country with just a backpack… How much space could I possibly need? Well, just like your typical guy, I didn’t really think of all the other things. You need space for your gas cooker, utensils, outdoor gear, clothes, dish washing materials, laundry hangers, your massive water jug that you WILL NEED.

Comfortable seats up front for when you’re driving. The whole point of living in the van is to be mobile and go to new places all the time. Sometimes they’re close together, but most of the time – especially in Australia – there is a fair distance between them. You don’t want to be pulling up to your next amazing destination with a back that feels like an elephant just did a circus dance on you.

A strong reliable engine with no mechanical issues. Just like when you’re buying any car make sure you get everything checked. You don’t want to end up broken down in the middle of nowhere (like we inevitably did) and want to spend the little amount of grocery money you have left on fixing your palace. You can’t stop a breakdown from happening sometimes, but at least be aware if something may go wrong in the near future.

When we first get the van it is quite basic. It doesn’t really have any home touches to it. Although there isn’t really much you can do to make it like a real home given your limited space; We tried our best to make it look nice. It already came with an Australian flag on the top, but we decided we needed to add a bit of flash to it. Add some flash we did:

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So with our foot to the floor and our new home in good shape we head out to begin our journey. The fun part about this is that when you have no job, no responsibility, and the whole country at your fingertips, you just play it day by day and decide where you want to go. We got to Australia in the middle of their “Winter” (Mid to high teens during the day, so much for Winter) so all we knew is that we wanted to head North.

Our road trip of the East coast ends up being quick compared to other people. Some people take their whole year slowly going from Melbourne/Sydney up to Cairns. We manage to get from Brisbane to Cairns in just under a month then headed across to try to reach the West coast. We didn’t spend more than 3 days in any specific place. Our idea was basically to get to a new town (usually about 1-2 hours away), check it out, look for any national parks or beaches for the day, sleep there over night, then head out the next morning to our new spot.

What our trip looked like and some of our stops:

Full Trip

Van Trip

 

Kondalilla Falls

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Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

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Byron Bay

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Killen Falls

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Springbrook National Park

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Lady Musgrave Island

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Yeppoon

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Yarrawonga Park Reserve

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Townsville

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Little Crystal Creek

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Whitsunday Islands

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Millaa Millaa Falls

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Cairns Lagoon

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The Outback

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Shout out to Hayley who took all these photos!

We had a great time living out of the van. We normally stayed in free campsites and every couple days would either stay at a paid site or found a road stop that you could pay to use their showers. If you plan on doing a road trip in Australia I highly recommend getting Wikicamps. It will help you find camp sites, showers, look outs, and overall any places that you will want to stop. It is worth the money trust me.

Our good times in the van came to a screeching halt when our van died in the Outback. We ended up springing a coolant leak when we were 200km from any town. Our only choice was to ride it out as long as we could. We ended up running out of coolant causing the van to get too hot and drove it until the head gasket blew up. In other terms… we were fucked. The van was beyond repair and the mechanics didn’t even want to look at it. Even if we could have got it fixed it would have cost thousands of dollars.

 

So there we are, in the middle of the Outback, with no plans, no vehicle, and no idea where to go and how to get there…

 

*Want to see more photos and videos from our adventures? Let me know in the comments if I should make a media page!*

 

 

 

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Try Something New: Las Vegas

We had all our things in order. We were going to Australia and we were as prepared as we could be before leaving. Before we made our way to Australia we had one last thing we wanted to do before we left North America for a year – Las Vegas.

During our planning stage we quickly found out we were going to have to go through LA for a connecting flight. Hayley and I have been into music festivals for quite some time and always had an eye on Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas. This was our opportunity. We had to go near it anyway, so why not stop there on our way to Australia? So we bought our tickets and vowed not to lose all our travel money before even reaching our destination. In the end it helped us save money because we got the partying out of our system before Australia (alcohol is expensive here).

We landed on Wednesday and the festival was Friday-Monday over night. We had 2 days before the festival and 2 days after to explore what we wanted and actually have some energy to do it. Our days pretty much looked like this:

Wednesday: Land in LV from Ottawa and find our way to the MGM Grand where we’d spend the next 5 nights. Quickly realize the hotel is huge. Find the nearest liquor store and begin drinking. Spent the night walking up and down the strip checking out the hotels.

Thursday: Check out the pool and relax during the day at MGM. Vegas is incredibly hot and you can’t really do much during the day other than lay around. In the afternoon we went to a shooting range where I shot my first 3 guns. Hayley ends up having the best aim out of our group of 4. Don’t make Hayley angry. We try to make it out to an event at Cosmopolitan only to find out that event was last year (2014)… Oops. Continue drinking on the strip and gambling a little.

Friday-Monday: Friday during the day we head to Tao pool party with DJ Carnage at the venetian to get excited for the festival starting that night. The festival ends up running from 7pm-5am Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Now the festival was AMAZING and we saw tons of great shows. The first night it took us 4 hours to walk around and see all the stages. Seriously this festival is massive. I’ve posted some videos on Facebook and Instagram from the trip. Debating making a media page to upload pictures and videos so may upload them there later! During the day we… Slept. Followed by eating and immediately getting ready and drinking. Fastward to Monday. Monday is simply a struggle of a day. We wake up at 4pm hungover and starving. This is going to take a while to get back to normal. Weird thing about hotels in Vegas – you can’t really sleep more than 8 hours in a day. Its impossible… I assume its the air they pump into it. In the afternoon we do a zipline on top of a hotel to get our energy back up. Then we manage to make it to the Venetian again Monday night to see Jack Ü at their pool club. Unreal night.

Tuesday: It’s our last full day in Vegas and we are checking out of MGM to move to the Bellagio. You have to take at least one night to pretend to be a baller right? By the time we get into the Bellagio full blown post festival depression has kicked in. We use the rest of our day to see the rest of the strip and at night head over to “The Highroller” to get a view of the strip on top of the biggest ferris wheel in the world. We sleep like babies knowing we did Las Vegas as best as we could.

Wednesday: Check out day. It’s time to get on our way to Australia!

Our time in Las Vegas was so amazing we are going back again this year for the festival. In total I spent about $2000 CAD between the festival tickets, hotels, drinks and food. It was definitely worth it. Good news – we didn’t gamble away our travel funds either! This meant more time to spend not working in Australia.

I would definitely recommend people go to Las Vegas at least once for the experience. You will see some crazy looking people, have a great time, and create unforgettable memories. That is for what you remember. So what are you waiting for?

Go try something new. 

5 things you need before you travel

So once we decided we were going to leave it was time to prepare ourselves for the leap. It happens to be the first time we ever live without our parents and we planned on leaving for a year.

Now this was going to be a big change for us as our parents did everything for us. No seriously. Laundry, cooking, shopping, EVERYTHING. But, here are the basics you need to get lined up before you leave for your big adventure.

1) Passport

This may seem kind of obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard of people getting to an airport or applying for a visa last minute and their passport is expired. This should be the first thing to make sure is sorted out before you leave considering you need it to get into another country. Before you leave or apply for a visa it is normally required to have your passport be valid for at least 6 months longer than your intended departure date. If your passport is close then do yourself a favour and renew it. Chances are you’ll be staying away from home longer than you thought.

2) Visa

In a perfect world you’re allowed to go into any country as you please with no requirements. Unfortunately our world is far from perfect. Always check if you need a visa to enter your destination (including where you have layovers. Sometimes you still need a visa to just stay in the airport for a couple hours.) As a traveller your visa should fall under one of these categories: visitor, work, or student. With a visitor visa you cannot work or study. If you wish to work apply for a work visa. The same thing applies if you want to study.

Canadians can check if you need a visitor visa for specific countries at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp

If you plan on working or studying you will always need to apply for a specific visa with that country. For more info check your intended country’s government website.

3) Money

This is something I always get asked about. How much money did I leave with and how long did it last?

I left with $6000 CAD and hayley had over $10,000 CAD. Was this required? Definitely not. The more money the better, but it is not required. The more money you have (in our case) the longer you can travel without working. I’ve met people who came to Australia with $300 and the clothes on their back.

How long did it last? For us it lasted about 2 months. This could have lasted way longer if you’re careful with your money so don’t let that scare you off. A large part of that money ($5000) wen to a van that eventually broke down. In the end if you want to tavel “Not having money” is NOT an excuse. Make it happen.

4) Backpack/Suitcase

I cannot say this enough and I wish I listened when I read this before – PACK AS LIGHTLY AS POSSIBLE! I suggest only taking 2-3 of your favourite pairs of each clothing plus more socks and underwear for obvious reasons. If you don’t use it on a daily basis then don’t bring it. You can always buy things as you go while you are abroad.

Backpack or suitcase? The choice is ultimately up to you. If you plan on moving a lot and don’t feel like always carrying something then a suitcase may be for you. If you pack as light as possible weight shouldn’t pose much of an issue. Keep in mind airline luggage weight restrictions 😉

5) Courage

Last but not least… You need to have the courage to follow through on your plan and just do it. There will be times that you may start to question if you are making the right desicion. You have to trust yourself that you made this decision for a reason and it is time to follow through. Forget about those who say you’re crazy or should be doing something different with your life.

It’s YOUR life. Live YOUR adventure. Do as YOU please. Enjoy yourself. Adventure responsibly.. But please, have the time of your life and regret nothing.

Trying Something New: The Decision

I first decided to take the leap of faith in trying something new when both Hayley and I started to get bored with our jobs. There had to be something more to life than just working our boring (or stressful) jobs. Hayley was the Customer Service Manager at a grocery store and I was doing a desk job for the government of Canada. Boring as hell when you just finished college and are looking for some fun.

Deciding what to do on the large scale was quite easy. We wanted to leave the city and experience something else. We knew we didn’t like the cold and we both don’t know any other languages but English.. sorry my Quebecois friends. So it came down to two things: What country is English speaking AND has nice weather most of the year? AUSTRALIA.

A year before we actually left we decided that we were going to save up as much as we possibly could, pack only the essentials, and leave everything else behind for the time being. We’ve been having a blast and we haven’t regretted a thing. It took a lot of courage to make the huge change, but once we made that change it has been an addictive path full of new things. This has sparked the idea to keep trying new things and eventually making this blog.

Have any questions? Leave a comment below and be sure to follow as I continue to post about our trip in the past and keep up to date as we go.