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Living the Van Life & 3 Unique Hacks

How do you just give up everything you have in your quiet, comfortable environment and move your life into a tiny home on wheels?

The #vanlife trend is real and, against common belief, this isn't just reserved for free-spirited hippies and grey nomads. A quick search of #vanlife on Instagram and you'll see a variety of people living out of their tiny homes. You might even see young families making the move, just like our friends @6reasonswhy_travelblog.

Now the great outdoors may be large, but a tiny home on wheels is... well... obviously tiny. So when it comes to building a tiny home and planning your journey, there is a lot to consider. Especially if you've got a 2 year old with you!

For the last 6 months, Emma, Cam and little Flynn have been moving from Aussie town to town, living out of their tiny home.

We caught up with the young family to find out a bit more about their van life experience and give you some tips and unique hacks for van life.

Hey guys, we've been enjoying following your travels on Instagram, where are you at the moment?

Hello! We are currently sitting by the stunning Cottlesloe Beach in Perth watching the sunset!

How far have you travelled?

Since September 2018 we have done approx 35,000kms. Starting in Sydney then literally following the coastline south through Victoria, with a 5 week stop over in Tasmania, before heading along the coastline of South Australia and then all the way across the Nullarbor into WA! Its been a crazy 6 months!

Living out of a van would be pretty tough for a couple, let alone one with a 2 year old! Tell us about the decision to take on van life at this stage in your lives.

Honestly it was all about timing, we felt like things were just lining up for us. We had an online business that was covering both our incomes, Cam's contract in Sydney had finished and we had such a chilled out little legend of a baby that we just thought why not! Driving around Australia has always been something we wanted to do and we just thought "let's do it now", while we're both young and healthy and can enjoy it all!

You converted the Mercedes Sprinter into a tiny home yourselves. Where did you start in the design process?

I think the first stage was just binge watching almost every YouTube video we could on Van conversions and really picking them apart as to how they would functionally work for a family. There weren't many people we could find that had a baby or a toddler on the road with them so a lot of it was our own design. But we are so happy with how it has all turned out!

Were there any areas you had to compromise on?

Sure there were! We are living in 8sqm! The biggest one would have to be our bed area. We installed a permanent double bed in the back of the Van that runs across. The main reason we did this was to increase our living space, however, as the Van is 1.8m wide and Cam is 1.8m tall it has made for slightly cramped sleeps. We have, however, only a couple of weekends ago rectified this with a pull out extension for the bed.

Is there anything you would have done differently in the build?

We probably wouldn't have put in such a big shower! It is massive and has been amazing being able to have hot showers whenever we want, however, we could honestly half the size of it and it would still be everything we need it to be but we would have more space to either have a full size queen bed or a proper extension on our double as I mentioned before!

How do you guys plan your journey and where you stay?

We are awful at planning and are the family that rocks into an Information Centre in a new town and asks what there is to do there! We do generally plan a few days ahead of time and are always conscious of our food and water levels, especially if we are heading out into more rural areas. But mostly we are happy to go with the flow! The best part of our Van and a big component in our design was the fact that we can stealth camp almost anywhere as it genuinely looks like a tradie's van from the outside. So when planning on where we are going to spend the night our top picks are designated free camps or RV stop-overs, national parks, stealth camping right in the middle of town and our last resort is to go into a caravan park.

You recently did a video about your hacks for Van Life. What would be your top 3 unique van life hacks?

We sure did! There are so many, however, our top three favourite ones are...

  1. Having a stealth Van - This was a huge part of our planning when it came to what our van looks like from the outside. This means that we can almost park wherever we want. We also got the darkest tint on all the back windows of the van which means no one can see inside during the day or even at night when we have our window covers up. 
  2. Dedicated Charging station - It sounds so simple, however, when you are planning your design, make sure you have a dedicated charging station. Somewhere you can mount your devices that is near power outlets, it's even better if you can leave them there while you're driving! We use the Quad Lock Wall Mount to mount our iPhone's there.
  3. All the fans - Especially in Australia it gets HOT in Summer so having fans in the Van is a must! We have four and would definitely install an additional one in the living area if we did another build!

Watch the full video here:

What are some challenges you've faced along the way?

It may sound silly, but something that we didn't expect with van life is how much constant thinking is often involved. Small things like power, gas and water that you often take for granted in your home has to be constantly monitored, measured, then topped up if the levels are too low. So constantly feeling switched on has been tiring! But the positives definitely outweigh this feeling!

What has been the highlight of the journey so far?

Honestly watching Flynn grow up and see how he just adapts to any environment we put him in is amazing! He will make friends at any playground we go to, or is equally happy running nude up and down the beach by himself. We moved into the Van when he was 1 and will most likely celebrate his second birthday on the road so watching him grow up on the road has been amazing!

Where is next for the three of you?

We actually fly out to Bali soon for 10 days in our first ever van swap! When we are back in the Van we are escaping winter and heading up the west coast towards Exmouth.

Thanks for catching up. If you are ever in Melbourne let us know.

Will do! Great to chat.

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