The Vanlife seems to be all about the outdoors, nature, peace and love – why is that? Do you need to like those things to enjoy vanlife? We address one of the common stereotypes you’ll find under the hashtag Van Life.
When I first came across the #vanlife it was through pictures on Pinterest in about 2012. While I loved the concept of tiny houses since before it was cool, I disagreed that a van could be called a tiny home! Well a lot has changed and now I call a sprinter van, my home! What has happened to me? Today I will will share my journey to being a van life convert with you. Hopefully it will shed light where some of the stereotypes came from and assure you they are not true of all van travellers.
The 60’s and 70’s was when “hippies” and “greenies” became known in society and when my parents grew up. But this did not give them any affinity for the environmental peace and love movement from their younger years. So my parents made sure to raise me to be anything but a “hippy”, they believed in the convenience of plastic wrap in the kitchen and weedkiller for the garden. Dreamcatchers, macrame plant hangers and tie-dyed bed covers are all items recognised with “hippy” and “boho” style. Items and images that did not decorate my childhood bedroom. My mum made it pretty apparent how she felt to me, when a family friend gifted me a dreamcatcher (it did not survive long!) They were also items that decorated so many vans in images of camper conversions on Pinterest and Instagram. So my first encounter of modern day van life had me tuned out like a reflex thanks to my upbringing.
Despite my parents raising me with order, cling wrap and discipline, I was always a wild, curious spirit. Even if I didn’t recognise it so much as a kid. I think my family always feared it would tempt me to seek out more adventures away from home! After visiting China at 16, I couldn’t keep the travel bug at bay! My exploring soul led me all the way to life in Europe for a year. Europe lived up to it’s romantic reputation but what it truly taught me was just how beautiful my own country was, in Australia and how I was missing out on the other side of the world.
When I returned home I had so much more appreciation for the gum tree landscapes, ancient terrains with dinosaur footprints and extinct sea floors, how stunning our beaches were, and how unique the wilderness is here. It became so apparent suddenly what I took for granted in my own country before travelling. Europe helped me understand how little people knew about Australia too. It made me ask myself – why am I not exploring my own backyard? Where do I even tell people to visit in my home country? While Europe’s historical cities, culture and famous landmarks are what makes it so incredible, here in Australia the raw and unspoilt natural beauty is our country’s treasures.
Nearly all the treasures of Australia that make the country famous – is nature! The Great Barrier Reef, Koalas, the Daintree Rainforest, Uluru, Kangaroos, the Great Ocean Road, the Barossa Valley, Kakadu and more. Nature is also simply daily life here. When I dug deeper into how much Australians encounter nature in the average day – I only had to look at my childhood. 90% of Australians live within 100 kilometres (62 miles) of a beach (including myself). Many children here experienced beach cricket games growing up as well as learning to swim early on (because water safety is essential on an island but maybe also our olympic success?). Because of Australia’s climate and widespread gum trees – bushfires are a natural disaster we all have a story about or know someone that does (my mum saw the towns around her burn down in the 80’s). Every home here has a bushfire action plan. Likewise we all know what to do to avoid a snake if we see one. Out of the top 25 most poisonous snakes in the world, Australia is home to 21. Understanding and recognising snakes for safety has been built into our culture. Australia’s nature is second nature to us as a nation and in a way perhaps that make us all “greenies”?
So of course, if I was to start exploring my home and travel through it – I was going to hike into its’ national parks, roam its’ white sand beaches and swim its’ cool waterways! How to do that though? Australia is big! To access Australia any local knows, you have to get on the road to access such untamed nature. Camping is a popular past time but it is limited by how much you can carry, which limits how long you can camp before restocking. This is where the Vanlife and me collided.
Vans travel by the roads, roads that led to all of Australia’s natural treasures (even if it was a 4WD track). They can carry supplies, a very comfortable bed, can be insulated (yes it snows in Australia) and it was economical to travel in. I had a travel solution ideal for Australia’s sights. We first tried a van out from a hire company, Jucy in Sydney and drove back to Melbourne. It was a huge success and I loved this new found travel concept.
This introduction to vanlife also gave way to learning about practical aspects of life on the road. Staying in a van is very comfortable in the warmer weather. But it’s not always as luxurious in pouring rain. A van is small accommodation and every time you get back in you’ll need to clean your floor. Naturally all the vans congregate where the weather is warmest! When it’s hot – you go swimming in Australia so to no surprise the average van traveller is bikini clad or clasping a surfboard! Most vans don’t come with a bathroom included either – so if travellers aren’t going swimming, they’re often times trying to wash off and stay clean! Some van travellers for showers, skip the swimwear step and jump straight to the “hippy” past time of skinny dipping! After trying to dry out wet bathers day after day – you can begin to understand why they forego this part. I began to see, through my experience of travel in a van, that skinny dipping is not purely a “hippy” tradition and more an incidental practicality. If this made sense why should I hold such a grudge against a stereotype? The walls in my mind around these people began to fall down and open up.
So if Australian culture is inherently “green” and living in a van looks “hippy” to the average bystander or social media viewer. Perhaps we all need to take a step back at the way we already live or ask ourselves, “what would we do in that situation?” Should you call me a “greenie” and a “hippy” now? I don’t really mind if you do. Australia’s nature is spectacular, so I’m all for being a bit more ‘green’ conscious and doing my bit so my future children can enjoy its’ wonders. Through being curious at heart, wanderlust leading me to Europe and back again, then finding the ultimate way to roam the Australian wilderness and experiencing life in a van – I have become a self professed van life convert! While I have moved into a van full time now I still don’t have any macrame pot hangers nor a dreamcatcher! But I am certainly open to redecorating!
So don’t assume that someone travelling in a van or in a bikini did it for the “gram” or must be a “hippy” or “greenie”. Especially in Australia, it is an ideal way to travel and perhaps they’ve discovered the secret to see it all. We couldn’t recommend it more and would love to see you out on the roads of down under!
To see where we first started our own vanlife journey check out The Van that started it all…