Nat - Second Loves Vintage - Byron Bay
How did you begin your ‘Vanlife’ lifestyle? What van and set up did you start out in?
I got my first van about 4 years ago, a Toyota Hiace. I would say the Hiace is the most reliable of all vans and I highly recommend anyone looking for a van to look at these first. It was already fitted out with a super cute set up and vintage interior. All it needed was a little fresh paint on the inside in the kitchen along with a little interior styling like vintage throws and pillows etc. The craziest part of getting my first van was having my friend and artist paint the outside. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into but knew I couldn’t travel around in a plain white van. The paint job ended up pretty psychedelic and drew a lot of attention, which was great for my business and added to the fun of travelling in a van.
That first summer I set off from Byron for just a couple of months, packed the van to the brim with as much clothing that would fit in, left behind my other work, and decided to take a chance and work solely on my little business, Second Loves Vintage. I have travelled for the last twenty years, so it seems only fitting now to have built a little business that I can run whilst living on the road. I have been living Vanlife full time for about a year.
You ended upsizing and getting a bigger van? What have you appreciated about the change?
After the second summer on the road I realised I had to upgrade and get a bigger van. The Hiace was unfortunately just too small. I have since upgraded to a Ford Transit. I couldn’t quite stand up in the Hiace or fit all my market gear in and still have a liveable area to enjoy from day to day. The Ford Transit has a high roof, and a queen bed fitted up high, so I can store everything I need for the market underneath. A feature I love is having the kitchen inside. Most people enjoy cooking outside on the road, I prefer having the convenience of pulling up and not having to get out if I don’t want to. It’s great for when I stop and its already dark or wet and cold. I roll out of bed in the morning and take one step to put the kettle on. Everything I need is basically in arms reach. I have a cupboard above the front seats where I keep my clothes, linen and toiletries. Great all in one space. There’s a small spice/storage rack, kitchen cupboards and a book shelf. I would have to say the two most useful features are the fan in the roof above my bed. And the storage compartment that runs along one side of the van for my surfboard. Everything has its place.
What has this lifestyle meant to you and what have been some of the things you appreciate most about living on the road?
Vanlife appeals to me in many ways. It allows me to travel and work at the same time, enjoying the freedom of being on the road. Living in a small space has taught me about what’s really needed for a simple life. For me that’s being outside in nature as much as possible and treading lightly on our planet as I go.
Vanlife is just a different way of every day living. I would say a simpler way of living. Having a small space simplifies thing. Less space, less stuff, more life. I have always loved this saying. It is also a more sustainable way of living. I do however constantly dream of the day when there is another option apart from the current fossil fuel available to run our vehicles on.
Has the transition from a stationary home to a mobile home been challenging? No lifestyle is perfect, what have been some difficulties with living life from the van? And what have you learnt that may also allow for personal growth?
I moved out of a four bedroom home, sold most of my possessions and feel lighter than ever. Every now and then I do miss that beautiful home and space and especially the people that used to fill it, but I am freer than ever right now. Having a home I can move is such an amazing experience. I feel at home in many different places on the road.
It can be challenging when the weather turns. For example I got back to Byron earlier this year and had a lot of extra stock for the Byron Bay Blues Festival which I needed to sort and wash for the shop. I am lucky to have such generous friends that offered their beautiful place for me to stay, right in the heart of Byron. I’m not sure how I would of got through that one otherwise. When it rains it really can restrict me when I need to pack and unpack the van for work.
Sometimes in the van I am definitely out of my comfort zone. There are often new challenges that teach me things I wouldn’t learn any other way. Sometimes I’m not sure where I am staying until I arrive at a place that same evening. On the flip side being flexible and stepping out of my comfort zone takes me to places I wouldn’t arrive at otherwise. And the interactions I have with communities happen in a more organic and natural way. People are so giving and I have met people for a short time that invite me to stay, use their shower, come for dinner or join them on an adventure. One of the best things about being on the road is the people I connect with.
Tell us about your beautiful ‘Second Loves Vintage’ clothing business you run from the van and how the vanlife has been with growing this beautiful brand and meeting people through all your different pop up shops from your rolling home/business?
For me Vanlife started out as a part time way to travel more often. A perfect way to explore new places around Australia, catch up with friends and family that I wouldn’t necessarily see as much and find new places to surf and be in nature. I feel it is through my passion for travel and seeing new places and meeting like minded individuals that lead me to get a van in the first place. In the beginning I had no idea I would now be living full time in a van. After the first summer on the road I was hooked. What really had an impact was when I went to my first Vanlife gathering, hosted by the lads from Vanlife Diaries, and had the best weekend ever! It was a perfect insight in Vanlife.
I did a small Popup Shop from the van which was a great success and realised there were even more ways to sell clothes on the road than just at markets. I met some of the loveliest and friendliest people travelling and living in their vans, each with their own unique story and van. We shared stories, surfed together and cleaned the beach. Different individuals offered their time and a skill, for example we did a guided meditation by one persons van. Later in the day we all met up around a camp fire to hear a few guest speakers and enjoyed live music and dancing in the evening.
Where are you headed next? Any new exciting adventures?1
I am about to start a loop from South oz, headed to Uluru, Darwin, The Kimberlies, Broome and down the WA coast. Crossing back over the Nullarbour. I can’t wait to see these parts of Australia for the first time. And I can’t think of a better way than by van to do so.
I am constantly working as I travel, booking in markets, popup shops and events as I go. I am excited to be able to bring my little passion and business on this next part of the journey, to people in some of these more remote areas of Australia. And especially to spread the love for vintage and secondhand clothing, sustainable fashion and a slower way of living. Being mobile allows me to share that with many more people than if I was in one place.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us Nat! We love you and think you are such a wonderful woman who brings so much joy/colour/creativity and inspiration to the world. Follow along and meet up with Nat along the way by clicking her social media and website buttons below and check out more of her rad photos from the adventures so far! All photos from Nat and her Second Loves Vintage library.