Life as a Van Nomad

What happens when you trade 9-5 for the van life?

The endless road-trip is a dream nurtured by many, but only a few will ever be in the position to make the jump. In 2015, high school sweethearts Jess and Jonny, traded their full-time jobs for a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van, and a free life on the road. Jonny says, “We did the fairly normal routine of full time work and annual holidays for seven years. Over the last few years we were struggling with stress, anxiety and the expectations of society. So, we decided we wanted more out of life than the standard work vs life balance.”

Australia is a country well-suited to road-trips. Vast landscapes populated by wildlife, empty beaches, and backroads that wind their way through forgotten towns make life in a van an achievable and romantic proposition. For Jess and Johnny, weekend trips in their Sprinter ignited the spark that would lead them to a full embrace of the nomad lifestyle.

Both part-time high school teachers, Jonny says, “We started doing adventures on weekends and school holidays. We loved it so much that we decided to live full-time in the van. Jess loves her long-distance hiking and I am a musician who travels around Australia. We share other passions such as surfing, snowboarding, exploring new places, connecting with like-minded communities and just being in nature.”

The lack of space is an occasional sticking point, but Jess feels they are more than adequately compensated. “It’s the best feeling to wake up in a forest or at the beach, next to the ocean or a stream and listen to the wildlife or take a swim. It’s very peaceful, and our favourite way to travel.” 

Jess and Jonny’s 13 years of memories have not been spent idle. At the beginning of 2015, they founded the travel blog ‘Rebel on a Rainbow,’ ROAR, to record the experience of life in a van. They also use Facebook, Vimeo and Instagram to add extra colour to their documentary work. ‘Rainbow’ is also the name they have christened their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

With a couple of friends, other connoisseurs of the nomadic existence, they started a new blog called ‘Vanlife.’ Jonny says, “It has been such an exciting movement and project. Three mates and I got together in 2015 and brainstormed about how to connect and interact with the international van community.” Vanlife now reaches almost 350,000 people on Instagram alone.

Through Vanlife, people organise events where van travellers can meet, barbecue and exchange ideas. They also cooperate with brands and organisations that share the lifestyle and attitude of the blog. There is also plenty of reading material, photos, and tips on life traveling in a van. 

When it comes to recommendations for people wanting to start their own journey, Jess says, “Starting on the East Coast and driving all the way around Australia for 6 months to a year would be the most amazing trip. Also, getting inland to see our desert and remote areas.” Their personal favourites are the South Coast of NSW and the bottom of Western Australia. So, what are you waiting for?

For more stories about Sprinter conversions, check out MYVAN