It's the Aussie Travellers here! Excited to share our story with you and all the vanlifers out there.
Our names are Ash Turner and Jasmin Maccoll. We are both 23 years old and are from the Gold Coast, Queensland.
After working up north on the mines for a year and a half and buying our first house at 21 years old, we got so caught up in creating a life of stability we forgot about really living. We always loved travelling especially when we first met but got lost waiting for marriage and kids to just happen. We finally realised it wasn't what we wanted just yet. We starting planning our next big adventure and brought our Volskwagon Transporter Van, Vinny.
Vinny cost $700 off a young guy that unfortunately didn't know cars well.
As Ash and his dad are mechanics, they knew this was a bargain that could easily be fixed and after ordering a $45 part for it off ebay, it was back on the road and ready to go. Since then we have replaced everything and anything to make sure it is 100% up to scratch ready for our trip around Australia which we will be leaving for this July. Most of the mechanic work has been done by Ash and his dad which has reduced the cost immensely. If you know these cars we definitely recommend buying parts off ebay as they are much cheaper overseas then trying to locate and buy them in Australia. The only time we used a mechanic was to connect the computer system and scan the van for any errors which was printed out and worked on back home again. The van fit out was also all custom designed and made by Ash and Jaz which again reduced the total overall cost as cabinet makers can be very pricey. We recommend anyone with some carpentry skills to give it ago as we priced a second hand, very basic bed and cupboard fit out which wouldn't do the job for $500!
Our van roof and walls have all been insulated and the floor was laid with rubber matting, carpet and vinyl on on to to help block out noise while keeping the temperature right. We have found many designs on Pintrest including our bed design which we just adjusted measurements to and custom fit to our van size. Since then we have made some slight modifications which included putting access doors at each end of the bed. This allowed us to access the storage space under the bed without having to push the bed in if it was already made and lift the bed tops up. We have also installed our deep cycle battery box and inverter under the bed and put power point plug points at each end of the bed for easy access.
As Ash worked at a mattress factory when he was 16, we got a custom made 2 piece mattress. When the bed is pushed in, the mattress works as a couch and when the bed slides out, the 2 paces fit together perfectly to make the width of a double bed. We will also be sewing on straps so we can hook the mattress up to the roof so it is out of the way when we are accessing under the bed. This bed is fantastic for storage space however also provides enough room to still enjoy a good night sleep.
Making the cupboards and shelves in the van was difficult as it isn't 100% square. It took a lot of measuring, cutting and trial and error to ensure it fit. Once we got the initial frame up, we cut the shelves as best we could, would see if it fit then mark and cut some more. In the end, our doors could of been cut better as some areas don't look straight but it does the job and saved us from contracting the job to a cabinet maker. Once we added stain to the walls, roof, bed and cupboards it all started to flow and the little imperfections fit right in adding character. Our cupboards are about 1.6m long and 30cm in depth which has provided us more then enough space for pantry food, clothes and anything else we need. We cut the cupboard doors so that when the bed is out, we can still access the top 2 shelves.
When we travel we intend to stop at places for a couple of days at a time. As we unfortunately don't have a pop top, we needed something that would provide space, somewhere to stand and get out of the van even if it was pouring rain. We opted for an awning that had the option of a connecting 3m x 3m tent which we brought off ebay for approximately $550. The brand is G Camp and it is great quality as well as very easy to set up while providing a large space to set up a table, chairs, bins, etc. The tent also has 2 doors, 1 that fits perfectly over the van sliding door and one to get out which means you can get straight out of the van without getting wet and have privacy.
We were luckily enough to have an electrician friend who worked for a company that use to install solar panels. As the company opted not to do this anymore he had spare house solar panels which we got in exchange for a bottle of rum. We originally installed this under our roof racks but thanks to some fellow vanlifers on Instagram, they advised this would reduce power supply a lot and since then they are now on top and our 2 deep cycle batteries have stayed fully charged. We chose to run 2 deep cycle batteries which we brought from Isuzu for $130 each which are 110amp hour each to ensure long lasting power supply. We got the batteries at half price thanks to mates rates. We than ran the solar panels through a bluesolar MPPT7-15 regulator which is one of the only regulators that can regulate from house solar panel to deep cycle batteries. We also have put a volt meter gauge on the battery box so we constantly check how charged the batteries are. From the batteries we have run 4 x 12V cigarette plugs for accessories and also wired in a 1000w sine wave inverter to supply us with 240v power when needed.
On our roof, we have installed a 100mm pvc water pipe which is 3.2m long and holds approximately 32L. We have painted this black as it's main use will be for showers however it is also a back up water supply in the event of an emergency. On the end, we have installed a ball value and shower head using a simple garden hose fixing. This also has a T piece in the end which has a 100mm opening with a cap where we can pour new water in and also add boiling water for a warmer shower.
We have also installed security screens to the windows on the side of the van. This allows air flow for a nice breeze but security at all times so no one can break in and bugs are kept out. The curtains were also custom made by Jaz. We brought 2 curtains on sale from Spotlight for $10 and used the fabric which also blocks out the sun to fit each individual window. We opted for custom made curtains as we found it hard to find them anywhere in store or online and if we did they were very expensive. Some other small touches include adding an 12v water pump for the kitchen sink working off a button system. It helps save water and makes washing up easier if we have to use the small sink. Under the sink we have a 25L water drum which the water goes in, then the sink drops down through the floor onto the ground so we don't have to worry about emptying any dirty water drums. We brought an 80L fridge off ebay for $480 which runs off both 240v and 12v and also includes a freezer section.
There are a few more things we are hoping to get done before the big trip and will definitely keep you updated :)
To be honest, we have been really lucky when it comes to Vinny our Van with mates rates, bargain hunting and knowing the mechanical aspects of the car. We really do recommend shopping on line for parts and accessories as these have been the cheapest places for us so far. We also recommend using free facilities whenever possible to save. Instead of using your own gas, use free BBQ 's at parks, beaches, etc. Whenever there is free water especially drinking water, we fill up our water pipe, sink water drums and water bottles.If we don't need to set up our tent, we will try find somewhere quiet and free to sleep for the night in between destinations instead of paying camping fees which can add up fast.
We have taken Vinny on some lovely trips to Minnie Waters, Wooli, Yamba and down the coast road dropping into Lennox Head and Byron Bay where Vinny has exceeded all of our expectations. We love seeing fellow vanners and often get caught up looking at each others set ups and hearing about their adventures. We can't wait to set off in July around Australia and will keep you all updated with photos and blogs.
Thanks again for giving us this opportunity to share our story and we look forward to sending through more photos, tips and ideas soon.
Jaz and Ash
The Aussie Travellers