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:
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:
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:
Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Springbrook National Park
Lady Musgrave Island
Yarrawonga Park Reserve
Little Crystal Creek
Millaa Millaa Falls
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…