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We promoted our new picture books and did a 'van life' tour of Australia at the same time

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

After months of searching we finally took the leap last October and bought a van! The plan was to embark on a series of book tours around Australia to meet some hardy booksellers and learn the book trade, whilst promoting our new picture book series, Willow the Wonderer. The trip soon morphed into a fantastic lifestyle where we not only got to connect with great local businesses but also get a taste of a free bohemian lifestyle of yester years. We had not even converted our van into a camper either yet somehow got it functioning as our mini office, warehouse, bedroom and kitchen! It was our tentative first steps into van life, which has become all the rage these days. We share a brief history of van life and the adventures we've had on our book tour of Australia in this blog - and plenty of pics.

For the uninitiated, a brief overview of van life

Van-life is an oft romanticised as a lifestyle choice, where one lives simply and freely, carrying with them only the bare essentials of life and a spirit of adventure.

It is about the the freedom to travel, stop and stay where-ever the fancy takes you.

Mostly, it's about waking up to a truly spectacular view :)

It may be all the rage now, but van is life hardly a 'new thing'. It has been around for as long as vans I dare say, and certainly had it's moment during the last hippy revolution in the 60s/70s/80s.

Once the domain of hippies, surfers, climbers and other bohemians, there are a wider array of people now embracing van-life.

With generational and demographic shift, the lure of the freedom has persisted but vans have become markedly more fancy in their finish and trimmings, containing every comfort one can think of. Lets face it, we aren't exactly a generation that wants to compromise on comforts...

It's all about the comfort, darling

Better renewable energy and battery tech combined with more energy efficient appliances means that folks can have everything these days; from full sized fridges/freezers to high speed blenders for those who can't live without those smoothies, espresso machines for the coffee aficionados and even induction cooktops.

Clever, modular and space saving designs and pop-up roofs allows for dedicated living space, bedroom, bathroom and work area - all nicely laid out against wood paneled, tiled and vinyl ceilings, walls and floors.

With water tanks and a mobile hot water system, even hot showers on the road are within reach. Add in a compost or chemical toilet, you don't have to stress about finding a dunny whilst driving! Some vans even come with full sized wardrobes and wood fired heaters for cold weather.

Before buying our van, we hired and holidayed in a kitted-out van for two weeks. Even without all the frills of hot showers, a toilet and wood fire, it was a dream.

Just to be clear - I am not complaining about the comforts at all; rather, I marvel at the technology and nifty design ideas that everyone has come up with to fit so much in such a small space.

In a weirdly claustrophobic way, van life forces minimalism.

And before slagging the millennials for upscaling van life, spare a thought that many today aren't able to afford to buy a house. In fact, lack of affordable houses, COVID travel restrictions and ironically more liberal work practices due to COVID lockdowns, have been the catalyst for young folks and families in the mainstream to embrace the change.

One can also legitimately argue that it was the boomers and not the millennials that led the trend of taking every comfort with them when travelling.

RVs (recreational vehicles), motor homes and caravans were amongst the first to be kitted out with everything including the kitchen sink. These seven figure vehicles remains the vehicle of choice for many grey nomads who have taken it upon themselves to, as they say, spend the kids inheritance ... and good on them I say - If you are going to travel after a lifetime of toil, may as well do it in comfort.

Bohemian but not Bourgeois

It's not all 'hunky dory' though.

Over the years, many more rules and restrictions have been introduced to contain the impact 'van-lifers' can have on the surrounds. As anyone who has travelled and camped will know, there are just some people (in the minority) who don't clean up after themselves and end-up giving everyone a bad look...

With 'no camping' signs cropping up everywhere, it has become harder and harder to find those nice scenic places where you can just pull up and spend the night.

Van life forums are full of posts and questions around all the different rules that apply to sleeping in vehicles across the state, camping in 'no-camping' zones, avoiding rangers and fines, and the nightmarish scenario of getting 'tapped' and being told to move on in the early hours of the morning ...

There are plenty of helpful hints and suggestions for all the above, including the very pragmatic - camp in one of those privately-run camping grounds. These always seem to be full so no doubt there are folks who absolutely love camping here. For others, it defeats the point of van-life...