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How These Accidental Vanlifers Ended up in Their Dream Rig

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Bai is Australian and Den is from the Netherlands. Their plans to be together were upended in 2020, and they wanted to hurry up and get back to Australia as lockdowns started closing borders — but they weren’t ready to buy a home. Instead, they bought a van to live in “until things got back to normal.” But they ended up falling in love with the lifestyle and upgrading to their dream rig!

Their beautiful yellow van includes a luxurious bathroom with an arched doorway, a kitchen with an oven, and a fixed double bed in the back. You’re going to love how they converted it! Enjoy the photo tour and hear from the couple about how they ended up loving van life.

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Their Beautiful Yellow Van!

Our story is a little bit different. We met shortly before the pandemic started, both backpacking in Thailand. Being in an international relationship, Bai from Australia and Den from the Netherlands, the lockdowns made it difficult for us to stay together. When countries started to close, we frantically came to Europe (the Netherlands), to wait it out. We honestly thought it would be a quick lockdown before the world would go back to normal…

We wanted to move to Australia as soon as possible, so committing to a house was not very appealing. The best option that we could find was to buy a cheap van as a temporary home that we could sell when the world opened up. This didn’t exactly go to plan. The main reason was that we fell in love with tiny living!

After a year of living and travelling in our first home on wheels, we knew that we couldn’t go back, though we were quickly growing out of our small and simple home. The idea of moving to Australia was still open. However, we came across our dream van which was slightly bigger and more reliable. We took the bait and bought it.

By this time the world had begun opening up, though we were very satisfied with our new life. We visited our Australian family and the whole time we missed our cosy little home. We knew it was for us.

Our home is self-built, in fact, both of our campers were built by ourselves. We started with almost no knowledge or experience of making a home. Many hours were spent watching YouTube videos and reading blogs to get an idea of the process. We took initiative to befriend many professionals in the area whom we could ask for advice and even borrow some tools. The first van was built in 4 and a half months, mostly by Bai with a bit of help on weekends. This built up some basic experience.

For the second van we decided to work together, and we spent another 4 months working continuously for about 10 hours a day. This time we had more of a foundation, and much bigger plans. There were some features that we previously missed such as a shower, a bigger bed, and a more reliable electrical system. Yes, the van was a little bigger, though we needed to get creative to fit this all in.

Mind you, both of our vans were built through the winter so it was cold and the sun hours were not very long. The van build for us will never really be finished. It is our home, built in a very small space. We are constantly changing things or neatening up the odd ends, but we wouldn’t have it another way.

Our lives have changed tremendously. Yes, we had to let go of some things. A large living room became a humongous backyard. The wide-screen TV became a laptop. And our closet became much, much smaller.

A lot of people say that we are constantly going on holiday. That is not completely true. Yes, we can see a new place every day, but that comes with many challenges. Every day keeps us busy, from finding services to overcoming language barriers or figuring out where to sleep next. Plus, we have both given up our standard jobs, keeping us busy financially.

Overall, tiny living changed a lot in our lives. While we are overcoming those challenges, we can live more open and free. Nowadays we are ticking off our bucket lists instead of building a resume or credit score. We don’t need to work 40 hours to pay our rent or mortgage. Instead, we’ve become satisfied with the little things that we have.

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. The challenges that we face are forever changing. Minimising our lives to fit in the back of a van was difficult, and we are constantly deciding what we can and can’t take. Our life doesn’t have much structure, meaning we constantly need to think about what is next. No longer do we have a steady income so we have to sacrifice normal luxuries and skip experiences on occasion.

The normal life chores have become smaller but more frequent. Things like cleaning the house are necessary almost every day. Laundry can quickly become a burden, needing to wait an hour or two in front of a laundromat. And our water and food storage is limited, keeping us busy a few days in the week.

The small space makes even the basic things more difficult. Cooking a meal in a tiny kitchen can take a long time when we are constantly moving things around to make space. And it is almost impossible to stay out of each other’s way or find privacy within a home of 6 square meters. We even wrote a post about it!

We are completely mobile. A few months ago, we met some people in Portugal who spoke highly of Greece. 2 months later, we drove off a boat in Greece. This is the way of our new life. We have wheels under our home which means we can drive almost anywhere that we want.

Our goal is not to get from A to B, it is to make the most of everything in between. The people that we meet along the way may become lifelong friends. The places that we see make our jaws drop almost daily. And the cultures that we learn about making us look at the world and our own lives in a completely different way.

The experience of seeing a part of the world in this sort of way is completely invaluable. It’s not like something you could read in a book or see on the TV. This is how we make memories that will be tattooed in our brains for the rest of our lives.

We know that the idea of leaving a traditional life is scary. It could be the craziest idea that you will ever have. Many sacrifices would need to be made and there’s no guarantee that it will work out. To go tiny can change your life for the better in so many ways. You may see the world differently and begin to appreciate things that you never even noticed.

To say that it is easy would be a joke, the only easy thing is that you can always go back. For us, this helped to make the choice, we could always sell the van and move back into a house. If we didn’t take the leap then we would never know how good it could be!

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Our big thanks to Jarrik & Vivian for sharing!

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Sherry
    February 16, 2023, 9:27 pm

    Just *love* your attitude about life, that is the most precious of all.

    • February 17, 2023, 10:17 am

      Thank you very much!
      Life is precious and we are trying our best to make the most of it. Seeing as much as possible will, in turn, give us more experiences to share.

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