On the road since 2008
How many countries have you visited so far?
What led you to start living mobile?
What do your family and your friends say about your lifestyle?
Australia 2008 – We paid a fortune (AU$4600) for a Ford Falcon Station Wagon from a company specializing in vans and cars for travelers. We’ve learned from our rushed decision and have only bought privately since then. As you can imagine, it was a tiny home on wheels, but we made it work for nine very cozy months. It was a challenging road trip with unbearably hot temperatures until the winter when it was below zero in the mountains. Huntsman spiders and mice also called our car home.
Canada/USA 2010 – We bought a Chevy G20 van which we named Beatrice Beauville. She was the biggest van we’ve ever owned with a full-size double bed and plenty of space to move around and cook. She was also a very easy van to convert as the walls and ceiling were already lined with carpet. A simple wooden pallet bed and a trip to IKEA had us on the road in less than 24 hours.
New Zealand 2012 – We bought an old kindergarten van painted with monkeys and already converted into a home by the previous owners. Her suspension was horrendous, so we named her Shakey, and she was probably our most unreliable van, forever struggling to start in the cold weather.
Europe 2014 – While in England we got a cheap Nissan Vannette Cargo Van and named her Pablo. It was our biggest conversion project where we insulated the van, laid flooring, painted the walls and made a bed from scratch. We then drove around Europe which was one of our most exciting road trips with varied scenery and cultures.
Alaska to Florida 2016 – For our most recent road trip we purchased a 1999 Dodge Ram Van called Daphne. She already had a rock and roll style bed, so we just had to add some touches to make her more homely. Daphne had a few freak accidents like a rock smashing our windscreen, and a loose screw being spun around a fan, but she was probably our favorite and most stylish camper.
Spade – our outdoors toilet
Spices – for flavourful meals
Rope – perfect to wrap inside the camper or around trees for a washing line
We also check out blogs and Pinterest for tips on lesser known destinations or photos of places we hadn’t even heard.
Usually, we’ll read through a Lonely Planet guide book and write down places we like the sound of, then Lauren will draw a map and work out the best route to see everything.
Bregenzerwald in Austria blew us away with its dramatic Alp views, bright green rolling hills, the sound of bells on cows and traditional farmhouses dotted across the landscape.
The road from Whitehorse, Canada to Skagway, Alaska was such a fun ride. The road skirted alongside beautiful lakes and dramatic mountains. Free camping was easy and bear sightings abundant.
Driving across the Lofoten Islands in Norway. The scenery is jaw dropping! Bridges led us across islands with turquoise water, jagged mountains and bright red wooden buildings.
Marching Powder by Rusty Young
The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann
The Beach by Alex Garland
Any Harlen Coben books
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
A mama black bear and two cubs must’ve smelt us cooking inside our van and came to investigate, the mom actual stood up, and leaned on our bonnet to get a look inside.
We’ve also seen whales breaching while camping around Cape Breton, Canada, and dolphins in Norway.
While backpacking though we’ve come face to face with a wild orangutan in Indonesia, ran from elephants in India and hid from rhinos in Nepal.
A grizzly bear came out the woods just 4 meters from us as we were drying off after having a solar shower!! Luckily he continued walking away from us.
We’re not climbers, but we love hiking so have done some crazy hikes, like standing on Kjerag Boulder in Norway which is just a rock wedged between two sheer walls and a 1000m drop. That was probably the scariest ‘free’ activity we’ve done. And Angles Landing hike in Zion National Park had our vertigo going too.
We’ve tried most extreme activities and have skydived over a beach in Australia and also the Mountains on New Zealand’s South Island.
We also did a bungee jump in New Zealand and white water rafting down a 7m waterfall where almost everyone fell out the raft. The white water rafting at the start of the Ganges was probably a lot scarier though with less safety knowledge and seriously wild rapids, at times we’d pass locals scattering ashes into the river.
In Alaska, we hiked the Matanuska Glacier which you can do without a guide. So we loved this thrill seeking option and had so much fun wearily jumping over cracks and sliding down sections of a giant glacier.
Lauren is the main photographer, she studied it at college and can’t stop taking photos. Because we backpack and campervan, we tend to stick to cheaper, smaller camera gear, sometimes we stay in grotesque hotels or travel through dangerous areas and don’t want to risk having an expensive piece of gear stolen.
For about seven years of our travels we had the most basic digital cameras (kind of gutted about that now), but since 2016 we got a couple of upgrades:
Lauren won a competition on a GoPro photo so got half price off a camera, and we purchased a GoPro Hero 4 which we love. It’s ideal for van life as the wide lens fits the whole interior in and of course it’s amazing for action shots and underwater.
Lauren also uses an iPhone 5 while Craig has a Canon SX710 HS as we wanted a digital camera that had a better zoom for wildlife.
We’re not the sort of people that go to the gym or do yoga. Instead, we just hike and are grateful that we have fast metabolisms as we eat lots.
We cook our own meals when we live in a van, not only is it cheaper but it’s much tastier and rewarding. We just eat vegetarian food as Lauren is a vegetarian, so it’s easier than cooking two different meals. Craigs not thrilled about this arrangement!
When we’re backpacking it’s very hard to eat healthy, we try to eat like the locals, and a lot of the meals are full of meat, carbs and very little veg. So Lauren loses her winter chub, and Craig gains it.
The USA – Alaska, Idaho and Utah are our favorites for free camping, but generally western USA is just heaven for a vanlifer.
Scandinavia – here they have ‘every man’s right’ which means your free to camp where ever you like as long as you are respectful – which of course goes for anywhere you camp. But Norway has the most impressive free camp spots for sure, and throughout Lapland, you’ll likely have reindeer come past your camp spot and an idyllic lake to swim in.
We work as bartenders and waiters for six months to a year. We work hard, live cheap and then go explore. We get working holiday visas so we can work and travel around the world, and by buying and then selling our campervans, we can live rent free. In over eight years traveling the world, we’ve only worked for about 3.5 years. All the money we earn we spend wisely, live cheaply and that’s how we’ve managed to do it for so long, and to many people’s disbelief, we haven’t received a penny of money from anyone, not even our parents. And we’re pretty proud of that.
A drugged up lady threatened to slash our tires in Australia. And we also had guys driving doughnuts around our station wagon in Australia where we were sure they were going to crash into us.
We met some people what we will call ‘hillbillies’ in Canada who were pretty scary. It was near the border with The States, and they’d come hunting for moose, they were drunk and drove through the complete wilderness and rolled into our little camp spot, blocking us in and being incredibly creepy. They kept saying how remote we were and how no one would find us etc. It’s the only time I’ve had a knife at the ready in case things turned nasty. Which they didn’t, but we certainly didn’t sleep well, worried that they’d come back.
There have been a few iffy situations; a guy tried getting into our van early one morning in the middle of nowhere in Utah. That got our hearts pumping.
We think it’s fantastic! We only found out about it all a couple of years ago. We were a little behind on that bandwagon! The vanlife community seems to be spreading so fast; people are buying and converting vans left, right and center, so it’s great to see more people exploring the world in the best possible way. It’s also an excellent way to meet like-minded people along the way too.
But it’s also a bit worrying how it’s spreading so quickly, and vanlife isn’t a unique thing anymore. We just hope that everyone doing it is respectful to the land they camp on. We’ve seen some pretty horrendous free camp spots, covered in litter and scattered with feces. Or people camping in front of houses or in places where the police will no doubt move them on, and it’s making it harder for the more savvy vanlifers to camp for free. But, the community can help this too; it can promote keeping a clean camp, taking all rubbish with you, dig a hole for number twos away from camp and water sources and help keep this planet beautiful.
Nope. Everyone asks us this and no we don’t have any plan. All we know is that we’ve managed to travel for an extended period without working much, and that’s promising. For us, we’ve chosen to travel while we’re young. We can afford it because we don’t have kids or a mortgage and our hips are still happy to take us hiking. The world is changing so quickly that we couldn’t risk working 9-5 until retirement, then find out that the glacier we wanted to visit has totally reseeded. We know it’s a risk we’re taking, but we’d prefer to live our life now while we’re fit and healthy.
Just do it! Save hard, buy a van, live off grid, explore this beautiful world and be happy. What more could you want?
We have a few ideas up our sleeves. We’ll probably convert another van in the UK, or even a little log cabin home on wheels (we need the wheels because we can’t afford the land!). And we’d love to have an Etsy shop on the road as we both love making things so why not do something we love?
Africa is also on the cards although maybe not campervanning, but who knows? And we have no doubt that we’ll be coming back to the USA for six months to do another road trip…there’s still so much to see out there!
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