After more than a decade of travelling the world, living as nomads and not owning anything more than some backpacks, camera gear, snowboards and clothes, we went and did something completely crazy…
We bought a home!
Well, sort of.
In fact we bought a motorhome, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Our History with Van Life
For those out there who have been following us for a while, you might know that we actually had a rundown campervan back in Canada called Latoya.
She was a 1986 GMC Vandura, tricked out with a queen-sized bed, captain’s chairs, red velvet carpet and a disco ball hanging from the rearview mirror.
She cost CAD$1600, broke down every other day, but somehow managed to take us from Vancouver, BC to St John’s, Newfoundland and back, clocking up over 40,000km on her rusted chassis.
The freedom we felt living out of the van was something we’ve never really had since, even as we’ve wandered around the world with no itinerary or plans.
Later on, when we were living in Western Australia saving money for our cross-Asia adventures, we bought another campervan. This time a bit more of an upgrade, but still relatively basic.
His name was Big Randy, and he was a 2004 Mitsubishi Express with a small bed and a simple kitchen in the back.
We never had the chance to take Big Randy on any big road trips though, other than some week-long expeditions around the state.
Nevertheless, we loved having another van, and we knew that one day we’d go back to living the #VanLife dream.
Life Gets in the Way of Living
Back in 2014 we started NOMADasaurus and flew off to Thailand to start our biggest adventure yet – travelling to South Africa without flying.
Through a mix of hard work and a healthy dose of luck, NOMADasaurus eventually grew into a full-time business, and suddenly travelling the world became our jobs.
That story is saved for another post (you can read about the evolution of NOMADasaurus here), but even though we were living our best lives as nomadic travellers, we always talked about buying another campervan and living out of full time.
We rented motorhomes in Ireland, Chile and New Zealand, and every time we did, we knew it was the life for us. But when?
As the business grew, our lives became even more hectic. We were constantly jumping on planes, flying into incredible destinations for work and then jetting off to the next exciting place.
We tried to make Sydney a bit of a base in 2017, living with family on the Northern Beaches, but as the business kept rising to higher levels, we never spent much time at home.
We’d fly in for a day or two, repack our bags, and then fly out.
As amazing as it was, it truly was exhausting.
Whenever we had some downtime, we’d chat about our dream of buying a campervan. But the timing never felt right.
First of all, we had no structure or routine in our lives. How could we justify buying a campervan when we’d only get to spend a month or two a year out of it?
Second, we couldn’t decide on where to buy it. We longed to go back to Canada and re-do our original road trip when we were young, broke backpackers, chasing mountains and giant wildlife.
And if we were in Canada, we could explore the United States as well, a country that we’ve seen very little of.
But then we’d start daydreaming about driving through Europe, visiting historic cities and hiking through the Alps.
We’d jump on online classified sites, searching for vans and trying to work out how much we’d need to spend, logistics of living out of a van in these countries, dealing with visas, etc.
Then life would throw us more curveballs, and we’d spend the next 6 months bouncing between continents. The #VanLife dream getting pushed to the back of our minds yet again.
As time went on we contemplated taking the plunge and buying a motorhome in Australia, but we never felt fully sold on the idea.
As much as we wanted to travel around our home country, we felt as though it was something we could do when we were older. A common theme it turns out for young Aussie travellers.
Plus vehicles in Australia are notoriously expensive, and we didn’t want to spend an enormous chunk of our savings on a van that would sit and gather dust most of the year.
Still, for two years we trawled Facebook groups, marketplaces and websites trying to work out what kind of vans were available, and how much we’d have to spend should we decide to buy.
We’d research different journeys, hikes, landscapes and regions we could experience in Australia, sending each other ads for campervans for sale, but believing that it was all just a pipe dream.
At the end of 2019 we started to get serious about the idea. Living with family was amazing, and we are forever grateful that we have such a wonderful family that looked after us so well, but we felt like it was time to get our own space.
As 2020 rolled around we were looking on sites every day for vans for sale, but we still remained hesitant, as our entire year was already fully-booked with international jobs.
Looking at our calendar, we had Japan, Kyrgyzstan, the USA, the Arctic, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan (again), Tajikistan, Canada, Papua New Guinea and Thailand taking us right through to November.
Then COVID-19 hit.
I returned from my winter tourism project in Kyrgyzstan and as we were getting ready to start the next campaign, everything changed.
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and within the space of a few days, our next 3 months got cancelled.
Just like everyone else, we watched in disbelief as the pandemic took hold of the entire world.
All of our work dried up. Clients ghosted. Our website traffic dropped drastically almost overnight. Income teetered away to the lowest numbers we’d seen in years.
But rather than feel sorry for ourselves, we made a conscious effort to stay positive. After all, in the grand scheme of things, we were actually very lucky to be safe and healthy.
While we were locked in the house, watching our government’s restrictions roll out and global news getting worse every day, it became clear that we might be staying in Australia for a long time.
Trying to make the best of the situation, it dawned on us that now was the perfect time to go back to our original dream and look at buying a motorhome.
The Dream Becomes a Reality
“Did you see that van I sent you last night?”
Alesha has a habit of sending me hundreds of messages of random things, mainly for her own notes, and I’ve gotten in the habit of only skimming through them every few days.
So naturally, I had missed it.
I opened the ad, read it twice, studied the photos, and looked at Lesh.
“It’s perfect. Let’s call him.”
Having spent the better part of two years looking at vans online, we knew what we were looking for. And this one ticked all the boxes.
Everything happened extremely fast after that. The guy responded to our enquiry a few hours later, and we organised a viewing the next day (maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene of course).
The van was absolutely beautiful, and had almost everything we need for our particular lifestyle.
The owner and his wife had been hoping to travel Australia in the van when they finished building it.
But an unexpected pregnancy put a halt to their plans, and they decided they would sell the van and move back to their native New Zealand with the new baby.
We checked out the van on a Thursday, came back with a mechanic on Tuesday and handed over a cheque.
It was official – We had just bought our dream home!
Meet Marlee – Our New Campervan
Marlee is a 2008 Mercedes Sprinter 518CDI with a long-wheelbase and super-high roof. And she is gorgeous.
She is fully decked out, having been custom built by the previous owner for full-time remote work living.
Marlee is completely off-grid and self-contained, with a 110 litres freshwater tank, a 65-litre grey-water tank, compost toilet, shower and high-quality electrical system.
The 327w solar panel is connected to the 200aH lithium battery, with a 1000w inverter and DC2DC charger keeping everything topped up when we’re driving.
It’s a 12v system, and can power all of our camera gear, laptops, lights and kitchen for almost a week without a charge. 240v outlets and USB points are scattered everywhere.
The kitchen has a 2-burner gas stove, filtered drinking water, a large sink and plenty of bench space. There’s a 130l fridge/freezer as well to keep our food (and beers) cold.
Instant hot water running on gas is hooked up to the shower and kitchen, and we have a decent amount of storage space.
At the back is the dining/work area and bed. During the day we have a huge table to work on with two comfortable couches, and we can walk straight through the van and out the rear doors.
At night it turns into a king-size bed, and is very comfortable.
Make sure you follow our journey on our brand new Instagram account, Van Life Theory!
The turbo-charged 3.0l V6 diesel engine is in excellent condition, and while pretty thirsty on fuel, has tonnes of power to get us around Australia and up some of the steep highland roads you find in the interior of the country.
She was completely ready to go, and besides a few minor renovations (installing cam locks on the cupboard doors, a bathroom cabinet and adding personal touches for example), there’s nothing we needed to do.
We’ve been living out of the van for over a month now and are extremely happy and content with our tiny home!
Now that we’ve bought our home on wheels, we have some big plans for where we’re going and what we’re doing.
COVID-19 is still a real concern, and with international borders shut off indefinitely, we will be exploring our own backyard, starting in New South Wales
The exact plans will be saved for a future post, but it’s going to involve finding the best Australian landscapes and adventures imaginable.
It’s hard to put into words just how excited we are to finally own a campervan again, and to hit the road with so much freedom and opportunity ahead of us.
Business is still slow, the future is still unknown, but one thing for certain is that no matter what happens, we’re happy with where we are at in our personal lives.
Can’t wait to share this next chapter of our lives with you all! Thanks for following along.