A week ago I asked if anyone had any questions about Vanlife... and I definitely wasn't expecting quite so many questions! :)
I loved them, and thank you all for the very diverse topics. As I mentioned, we certainly are no experts, but we've been at this a little while and I'm happy to share our experience, and answer your questions, both the practical and the curious.
Just to put it out there... I have tagged some of our most well used and well loved products for your reference and convenience, but none of this is sponsored, and anything that's tagged is only tagged because we use it, eat it, or love it.
So without further ado, here we go:
Road Trip Essentials
- aka the important STUFF -
How do you travel lightly? Any essentials you recommend on the road?
How do you power your fridge and other items?
I see a lot of photos with a couch in them - where does that fit in the van?
I would love to know how you keep everything charged while you stay at a spot for a couple of days (laptop, fridge, phone...) & how much water do take with you while camping somewhere for some days and where do you store it?
A VAN. :)
A comfy bed. If you’re going to spend a lot of time holidaying, travelling or even living in a van or caravan, a comfy bed is going to make a world of difference. We’ve stayed in some pretty nice places from time to time, generally when we’ve had a breakdown and decided to treat ourselves, but I always look forward to being back in our bed, because it’s so comfy. We had an Ecosa memory foam mattress topper cut up and installed into our seat (that converts into our bed) and then we got an extra mattress topper (the same one) that folds in half (with the bedding in place) when we pack the bed up. It works well because it means we just flip it open and the bed’s made :) Speaking of - good bedding also goes a long way. We have the softest bamboo bedding and... I just love my bed.
The double deck chair. This is the ‘couch’ looking thing we always have out. As we were driving out of Adelaide, I made Dom stop at 9 different camping stores until we found one with a double fold out deck chair. Perfect for that ‘couples’ couch time - and amazing to laze out on alone. It’s been a winner. I love it. And - it lives on the roof when we aren’t using it.
A good fridge setup. While everything else in our van interior was in great original working order, the old fridge no longer worked. So we pulled it out, turned that space into an insulated pantry with shelves, and got ourselves a good camping fridge that fits in a space under our stove. We got a Dometic Waeco CFX Compressor Fridge. You can set the temperature, it works wonderfully and uses minimal power.
POWER. We have a marine grade second battery setup for all of the auxiliary - running to a powerpoint in the back (which is runs through an inverter) and to a cigarette lighter. This runs our fridge, charging phones and laptops. The battery charges when we drive and then we have a fold-out solar panel that we pop out whenever we stop. Having solar on the roof is probably more practical, but I didn’t like the look of it! Haha, and our mechanic warned it’d mark the roof a fair bit. The panels fold down flat and have been great.
- We also try and keep a battery power pack charged in case we ever run the car battery right down (we have an Anker power pack).
A travel hammock. We packed a macrame swing chair that wraps up super skinny around it’s wooden rod, and slides on the roof. It’s been amazing, is so quick and easy to throw up on a tree, and makes camp feel so homey. We got this one from Hendrix & Harlow (it was a while ago now). We also always have our big canvas hammock with us. It packs down really small into a canvas bag with a zip, so we’ll even take it on hikes. We got ours from Aussie brand - Well Hung Hammocks.
Keep it simple. Less is best when living in a small space. Pack one good fry pan. One good saucepan. One wooden spoon. One good multipurpose knife. One chopping board. One pair of small rubber tongs. Two mugs. etc… you get the picture. The only time to break this rule is with wine glasses - always be prepared with a couple of extra wine glasses so you can offer people you meet a wine. ;)
Toilet Paper. Always carry toilet paper. And a small hand shovel, you’ll need that too. You’ll thank me someday. Toilets are long and far between in much of Australia.
Lighting. Head torches. Torches. Lantern candles. Battery & solar powered fairy lights. The van also has lights built in. And we have a great hanging battery powered light that doubles as a fan - which we use all the time.
Tools. As I mentioned on my Instagram post, we left SA with a tiny screwdriver and a hammer. When we had our first breakdown halfway across the Nullarbor we really regretted this decision. Having a basic tool kit on us has been absolutely essential. We are also both now apprentice mechanics (kidding… but pretty much).
Picnic rugs. We use these a lot, and have a few throws and rugs (extras in the case on the roof and one rolled up in the front ready to go at all times). Our absolutely favourite rugs are from Wandering Folk.
Wooden Crate. This is something we randomly packed once on a short trip, and have had it in the van ever since. It lives between the two front seats, and while on the road it stores our picnic rug, hammock, the fire extinguisher, and my handbag. When we stop, it becomes our outdoor coffee table or picnic table.
Fire Extinguisher & First Aid Kit & A lighter + matches. Basics - have them.
WINE. Let us know if you need a recommendation ;)
- Water. Get refillable jugs if you can, and always carry plenty of drinking water. Running out when your in a beautiful spot and have to leave so you don’t die of thirst is the worst. Also, you never know where you might breakdown… always carry lots of water. We store ours in the luggage compartment on the top when carrying extra, or just in the boot. And on the top - always carry a reusable water bottle. If you don't, you'll end up buying a plastic one - and if you think one more plastic bottle won't make a difference, consider how many million people may be having that exact same thought. If you want a really great water bottle, made by some wonderful people on a really wonderful mission, have a look at Yuhme, and read a little about what they're doing while you're there.
- Bug Spray. It's Australia and you'll need it (or at least one of you will - poor Dom gets eaten for both of us). We have tried a bunch of natural options, and there are some great options out there! Before you cover yourself in Bushmans... consider the fact that it can melt plastic... you sure you want to put that on your skin?
Showers & Toilets
Q - What do you do in terms of toilets and showering?
A - SHOWERS - It depends where we are. We tend to stick to the coast a lot, and will swim in the sea and use beach showers (when possible). When we are on the coast at least once a week I’ll make sure I have a hot shower and get to wash my hair properly. We’ll either stay at a caravan park or just pay to use their showers and keep moving. If we are passing a town the local swimming centre is always a great option - you can pay the $5 entry, have a swim and a hot shower :)
TOILETS - You just work it out. Haha. Campgrounds either have long drops, or if you’re off the beaten path use your hand shovel. Or there’s roadhouses, petrol stations, busy cafes where you can just walk through quickly haha…
Finding Campsites & Our Favourite Places
Q - How do you find the most secluded and beautiful camping spots?
A -I love using the satellite on the google maps app and just taking a wild guess. I look for remote spots close to water. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes we end up on roads we shouldn’t be on, or in very odd spots.
I also love using Wikicamps, all the comments are so helpful (especially when free camping and trying to work out if you’ll get a fine or what time the ranger comes).
Q - Do you always feel safe when you park the van for the night, especially in the bush jus the two of you?
A - In the beginning, I honestly used to have horror scenes playing out in my head, and I’d often get my kitchen knife out and accidentally fall asleep with it. Dom didn’t enjoy that, so I had to give it up.
In all honesty, I don’t get scared at all anymore. I feel incredible safe, and it’s only ever been animals that have given me a fright. Also - the more remote we are, the safer we feel. It’s in towns or cities that you get a little more edgy.
Q - What have been your favourite places you’ve visited?
The Kimberley, WA
Fleurieu Peninsula, SA
Bay of Fires, TAS
Byron Bay, NSW
Random Useful Tips
From random, but useful questions :)
Q - Your clothes are never creased! Surely you don't have a sneaky iron in there! How do you store your clothes without creasing them?
A - Ok… this is a great question! They get super creased. I used to plug my hair straightener in while we were driving, and iron whatever I had to wear - so slow. And then we bought water spray bottles to stay cool driving through the outback and I realised I could spray a mist over my clothing and all the wrinkles drop out! So now, whatever I have to wear, I spray down, hang in the back, drive with the windows down and wallah! Crease free. If I’m in a rush and it’s warm I’ll even just spray it while I’m wearing it. We do the same for Dom’s shirts.
Q - Where do people post you things if you're always moving around and don't have a set address?
A - Right before we began Australia Post introduced this thing called Parcel Collect. It’s amazing. Most of the small town post offices hadn’t even heard of it when we began so I was giving tutorials whenever I went in to pick up my parcels.
You download the app, create an account, and select any post office in any town and add it to your account. You have a parcel collect number so when a parcel arrives at the post office you get a notification on your app. You can then use that number to have it transferred to another post office if you miss it. It works great.
Q - Do you have a hard time finding “alone time?” I would love to travel in a van but I am also independent and I think my husband would drive me insane!
Q - Hi guys! What do you do to ensure you have time apart or don’t get sick of each of one another being together all the time☺️☺️
A - In truth, we are together 95% of the day, if not the entire day. Alone time only really comes if one of us goes for a solo walk, run or swim.
However, what's interesting here is that our relationship has never been better. I mean, it's always been good... but now it's (in my opinion) pretty bloody wonderful. We used to live in a four bedroom, two story house and we felt like we needed more space from eachother, and alone time, back then than we do now.
We are constantly telling eachother how weird it is that we don't get sick of eachother, given that we pretty much live on top of eachother in a very small space.
But with that small space, comes a huge sense of freedom and we are generally camping in the great outdoors with endless space around us.
It kind of feels like we have softened into eachother, and learnt eachother's ins and outs in a way we never could have in our busy lives.
Q - Have you had any horror stories?
A - None involving humans. My worst night in the van involved a very large, hungry possum. Ask me sometime and I'll tell you the story :)
Q - Are you planning on travelling beyond Australia?
A - All I ever wanted to do was travel overseas. But because we had no time or money to do that when we first started our business, we bought a van - Scout. She was only meant for weekend getaways, but she changed something in us and we also fell in love with exploring this incredible country we live in.
We are absolutely loving Australia, and have a lot of land to cover still, but the answer, in short is YES. We would love to. When we have enough time we'd like to do some other continents by van too.
On a sidenote... Dom actually surprised me by buying tickets to India for a few weeks of this year. It's always been a huge dream of mine. We were sitting in the library in Byron and he spun his laptop around and had just booked flights. I thought he was mad! And then I burst into tears. I am so excited. So, yes... that's on the cards for this year as well as exploring the rest of Australia.
Q - Do you have room for passengers? Can you pick me up on your way? Will you ever give scout up?
A - YES! Always. Haha. And no - we will never, ever give Scout up. She's part of our family for life.
Q - How do you keep your white clothes, white ?
A - I wash them.
Q - What do you guys do for a living?
A - We own and run Down The Rabbit Hole Wines. Click the ABOUT or SHOP tab above to see a little more...
If you had asked me two years ago if I thought we would ever be living in a van together, travelling around Australia - I would have said I would LOVE to, but 'no way' is that possible! Our whole reason for buying the van was because while I desperately wanted to travel and explore while still in my twenties, we'd just started Down The Rabbit Hole (Dom's dream) and every cent we had went into doing so. We had no spare money to go off travelling, and definitley no spare time. Dom was working around the clock. So, we thought a van would be a good solution... we could travel on the weekends cheaply. (Unfortunately I had expensive taste in vans... but that's another story, which you can find on this blog if you'd like to read it.)
Once we started doing little trips, stepping back, and slowing down... something being to shift in our perpective. Then did slightly bigger trips, and realised we could keep selling the wine as we travelled, and if things slowed down a little bit... that's ok.
We began to have conversations we'd never had, our view on what and how much we really needed began to change, and before I knew it Dom turned to me and said - "let's live in the van full time and work out what it really means to be happy".
Our original plan (before we decided to move into the van) was to open our cellar door last year. However, we knew once we did that, we'd be there every day, working pretty hard. So we pushed that back, and gave ourselves the space and time to work out our why a little more... which we feel we have. We have really united in the purpose behind why we want to do what we plan to do, what we want to create together, and the impact we want to eventually have - all in a way we probably wouldn't have otherwise.
We will head home later this year and begin to build our cellar door in McLaren Vale, SA - and we honestly can't wait.
Q - How much did you have to save up to make this change ?
A - For us, it wasn't a matter of saving up and then not working ever again. We just literally, took our lives on the road with us. We still work, and run the business from the road.
Q - How do you manage on the road? I mean, surely it is expensive to drive around in a old van, so how do you afford food and fuel?
A - Because we got rid of most of the things we owned, and no longer have a house, in some regards, life on the road is much more affordable. It would be WAY more afforable if we weren't driving a 1972 Kombi van prone to expensive breakdowns though. If you're thinking of doing this, a reliable car is probably much more sensible. In our defence, we had two years of roadtrips without a thing going wrong before we moved in... and then everything started to go wrong haha.
But I honestly believe the breakdowns have been so much a part of this journey. Scout has brought us so much happiness, so much good luck, and brought so many amazing people into our lives. Each time we've broken down, I'll admit, it's been a hard hit and we've been very upset at times... but with every single breakdown, minor or major, we look back and think... "if that didn't happen... all of these incredible things that followed, or people we met because of it, or lessons we learnt from it wouldn't have happened." So, we are greatful for all of it.
Now, when we breakdown we have learnt to accept it with an open heart as it's happening. I know that might sound odd, and we've had a number of tow truck drivers and mechanics question how calm we seem, but this is the journey we have chosen... so it just is what it is - the good and the bad.
Q - How do you maintain your fitness while on the road?
A - Every morning, Dom and I start the day by stretching together for ten minutes, followed by a ten minute meditation. This sets us up for a beautiful day, no matter where we are, and it’s one of my favourite parts of the day. That, and the coffee that follows :)
After that we might go for a walk, run, or do a mat workout - we carry a yoga mat with us. It’s honestly just a matter of keeping active and moving at least a little bit every day.
I’ll post a blog on exactly what we do very soon, I promise.
What are some of the best things to cook and the best foods to keep stocked in the van?
What kinds of food do you eat on the road?
What kind of food do you usually eat on the go?
I would love to know how/where you store food and how you plan your meals to make sure you don’t run out when you’re in remote locations! Dom sounds like a wonderful chef so it would be great to see a recipe from him, too!
For some reason there's this idea that it must be hard to eat healthy on the road. For us, the opposite couldn’t be more true. We find that we are our absolute healthiest when on the road. Maybe it’s having control over what you carry with you and what you’re eating for every meal. Throughout most of WA last year you couldn’t just stop and grab something, and we made every meal of every day 97% of the time. I’m pretty luck because Dom loves to cook, and loves wholesome food.
We have cut out pretty much all processed food, and Dom can’t eat wheat, so we cook with a lot of fresh produce. This can be difficult when camping in remote spots, and we have to plan it out. It would definitely be easier if we ate a lot of dried goods like rice, pasta, and canned food - and by all means - they are great options - but we don’t.
We can normally go 5 days without a shop. Cook with most of the fresh stuff early in the week and then keep it in containers in the fridge. We almost never cook with meat in the van. This began out of convenience, because when you’re camping with minimal water, meat just makes things harder, and we really love our veggies. But as we went we found that we stopped craving meat, and began to learn a lot more about nutrition and what our bodies really need. Now Dom will eat meat around once a fortnight, or if in a social setting, and I’ll eat meat maybe once or twice a month, or as I need.
Dom is actually planning to share a heap of recipes with you, so stay tuned for a new section coming to the website. But, for now, here’s some favourites:
Curry - a one pan wonder :) A Simple veggie curry can be 2 or 3 veggies, some beans, and some nuts. We mostly skip the rice and just fill the curry with lentils or split mung beans. For a super quick meal we LOVE the spice mixes or pastes by Zest Byron Bay. We discovered these at a market two years ago, they are sugar free (which is almost impossible to find in the supermarket) and absolutely delicious. We order in bulk online but you can find them around the place. Chuck it in with a can of coconut milk, and maybe a dollop of coconut yogurt & cucumber on top at the end if you’re feeling fancy.
Dom’s Italian peasant food that I LOVE. It’s spinach (normally silvertbeet or english spinach) wilted down and cooked slowly with water, olive oil, whole garlic cloves, salt and pepper, a pinch of chilli, a can of cannellini beans, baby spinach at the end. We have it over sweet potato mash.
Zucchini Spaghetti. We have one of those peelers that turns anything, of any shape and size, into spaghetti. So we’ll throw that in a pan with some pesto, with chopped mushrooms and pumpkin for a really quick meal.
And the list goes on… more to come soon.
Breakfastis normally a banana with natural peanut butter, or sugar & fruit free granola with unsweetened almond milk, peanut butter and banana.
I also just discovered Mighty Spread - an organic version of Vegemite made with black sesame seeds - it’s amazing! That with some avocado on sweet potato bread is amazing. We use our fry pan as a toaster.
My one naughty treat I can’t live without - Scotch Fingers. I’m like an old lady with my Scotch Fingers. If you’re not Australian… these are biscuits you’ll often find at your Nan’s house or in retirement homes. Anyone who knows me knows they make me very happy.
Storage of Stuff
Q - Do you have a trailer we never see to carry all your stuff around?
A - No trailer, but we do have a luggage compartment on the roof. We have the original leather cover, which still works great. We keep a hard suitcase up there, as well as bits and pieces like our deck chair and table, the beach tent, the brolly, extra water etc…
Q - Where do you keep all your clothes?
A - The bench seat in the back lifts up, and underneath is where we keep all our basic clothing. We have a teeny tiny wardrobe where we can hang a few things each, and any other pieces I might need go in the roof storage. The basics I have always, and then I tend to rotate through other pieces. I’ll sell things on ebay before getting anything new, or pass things along to my little sister and friends, or send special pieces back to my Mum to keep for me, as I got rid of pretty much everything before we moved into the van. I also do regular op shop drops.
All my shoes live behind the passenger seat, and all of Dom’s live behind the drivers seat :)
Q - Can you describe/show pictures of your storage spaces in the van? My van looked overflowing (and not as cute!) compared to yours.
A - Well there’s the bench seat storage, with all the basic clothing. There’s a side seat that stores all our kitchen bits and pieces. The tiny wardrobe with a few hanging pieces of clothing and a bottom full of wine. The pantry and above it a cutlery draw and a space for our kettle and mugs. Under the fold out stove are two little cupboards where we keep eco cleaning products, and the gas tanks in the bottom one. Under the front seats are the tools and our broom.
And then there’s the boot. When we drive we have a bunch of stuff there, most of it in two big tubs. When we stop, we pop up our pop-top and move the tubs and any other bits to the inside storage space in the roof pop top, it’s a fairly easy process.
Q - How do you take such amazing shots together?
A - Short answer - We use a tripod.
We'll often connect the camera to my phone if we want to capture 'in the moment' stuff - like sunset wines... That way, we can sit wherever we are, forget about the camera, and take a shot as soon as the moment presents itself.
Q - What photography equipment do you take with you on your journeys?
A - We have one good camera. I love my Canon and generally use my landscape lens (a 16 - 35mm).
We have a drone. We chose the DJI mavic for it's size (with our limited space).
We use a GoPro for most of our underwater videos.
We also have a Sony Action Cam which we use for both filming in and out of water.
If you're still reading... Well done!
Phewf... that was longer than I expected. If you have any comments... or more questions... please do leave them below.