My adventures took an exciting turn at the beginning of this year. I was travelling through Laos when I crossed paths with a German man, who was also exploring Southeast Asia. Fast-forward eight months and we now have plans to cruise up the East coast of Australia together in a four-wheel drive van!

After purchasing an old van from a suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne, we spent a few months creating a travelling home. It was a long, cold Winter, so this van received lots of loving care and attention. The interior of the vehicle was fitted out with a wooden framework suitable for a mattress, plenty of storage space, a roll-out table and an incense burner to rid the van of any bad luck. Hopefully we will not have any more troubles with loading zones, leaking tyres or flat batteries!

The Van (born in 1987, resurrected in 2015):

The ebay purchase – unregistered and empty!

Things to keep in mind when buying a cheap van:

  • Ensure it has a Road Worthy Check (RWC) prior to purchase – ours didn’t and it cost quite a lot to get it up to scratch)
  • Be prepared to add on another $1000 in registration, appointment fees and insurance (a nasty shock for a backpacker on a budget)
  • Take your passport and any other important documents with you to the registration appointment or you will need to reschedule and pay the extra fee!

A photo journal of the process so far:

My first cup of tea in our empty van
Installation of multi-coloured LED lights, which follow the interior of the ceiling all the way around. These lights flash, fade and change colour!
Freshly painted interior (we used two coats of white gloss enamel, painted over a base coat). We made sure we taped up all the corners and covered the floor in newspaper to save any paint getting on the windows and carpet.
We cut the foam mattress to custom fit the van, before adapting the thick mattress cover and painfully handstitching it all together! The foam for the missing gap has been covered in padded cushion covers (stitched to size) and will fit on the woodern boards that fill the empty square.

Sewing the curtains and gearbox covers:

With the greatly-appreciated help of my sister, we spent a day at her place in Geelong cutting out the moroccan-patterned material, sewing hems and attaching all pieces to the stretch wire (screwed to the top and bottom of each window).   Where the van door opened, we just attached wire to the top, and velcro to the door so that when we sleep, the material covers the whole surface of the window.  Despite the fact that the material isn’t lined, it provides plenty of privacy – we allowed double the length of the windows and used a busy pattern so you cannot see through it.

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It was a great team effort, though I had nothing to do with the woodwork, electrics, painting, installing a second battery, attaching back speakers and cutting and laying new carpet, amongst many other jobs. I was employed to make curtains for the windows, sew the custom-sized mattress cover, help paint the cupboards and provide high-quality moral support! It is now Spring and we have our own little traveling home, complete with jungle quilt cover, multicoloured strobe lights and Moroccan-patterned curtains infused with myrrh incense.  Obviously, we are still adding some extra details, but it is starting to feel very real.  I am thoroughly looking forward to packing up all my belongings for storage and hitting the road again.  Just a few more months of work and we will be off!

9 thoughts

  1. Hey guys, me and my girlfriend did the exact same with a ute and a rooftop tent. We spent a year doing a lap of Aus and it was the best thing we have ever done. One thing I would suggest if you haven’t already bought one is a Epirb. Just a boat one will do, you never know when you might need it. have fun and I look forward to following your adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The only other thing I will say is really respect the roads, we saw so many people turn their cars on the gravel because they got way to complacent and took corners to fast, chill and enjoy it. Use 4wdL on gravel if you need to, it uses slightly more fuel but can you put a price on your life. Drop your tire pressure on the gravel so save yourself from blowouts. We went down to 24-28 psi. Are you just travelling the east coast?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The plan is very open-ended but we are starting on the East Coast. I have traveled the North alone but would love to make it up there again with Syd, especially to places like Cairns and Broome! Thanks for the tips 🙂


      3. Cool, if you are looking for work along the way let us know we worked at some great places and I can drop you their details. Kakadu and Australia’s most remote roadhouse. Great place to work if you want to see the real outback.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading through your post I was reminded of our process of building our campervan. The continual redesigning always trying to save space, fit in a few more climbing, or backpacking items. Look forward to seeing more of your adventures and travels. Great campervan build.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love it Jen! Reminds me of outfitting our Nissan Urvan with fold up/down benches (complete with drop-in tub for sink), thick insulating carpet, folding beds and more. Just love the nice touch of the decorative gear lever “socks” though – very special. Look forward to reading of your adventures to come.

    Liked by 1 person

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