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Van Life: Things I Learnt Whilst Converting A Van

Freedom Camping
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When I told everyone my plan to go to Australia, buy a van and convert it, I think it was only fair that everyone looked at me with slight concern and worry. For anyone who knows me personally, knows that the sentence “I’m going to convert a van” Is not one you ever think you’d hear come out of my mouth. Me neither. Nevertheless I did it (With a lot of help) and today I’m going to tell you about all the things I learnt whilst converting a van.

// Find Someone Who Knows What They’re Doing \\

I’m clearly not in denial at the fact I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing when it comes to van conversions. I can barely fill up my own oil. So if you’re thinking of heading off around the world and converting your own van, it’s so important to find someone who knows what they’re actually talking about.

For me I’m lucky that my Grandad has always been in the motor trade and has extensive knowledge when it comes to cars and their engines. So when it came to purchasing the van, I was semi-aware of the things I needed to look for in regards to the condition of the vehicle.

When it came to the conversion I couldn’t believe my luck in how helpful Gracie’s parents were. Her Dad spent his time off helping us take out the seats in the back and build the platform for the bed to sit on. We spent hours in the midday heat, figuring out the entire conversion and I’ve never been so grateful. As for her Mum, she made the perfect curtains for the van to give us that extra level of privacy.

So whether you think you can do it or not, find someone who does. It’s always good to have someone there to help you out and to bounce ideas off.

Van

// It’s Never Plain Sailing \\

When you purchase the vehicle to start with, you have no idea what you’re going to find when you start taking it apart. Unfortunately it’s the risk you have to take. It’s not until you get it home and rip out the seats, that you’ll get a good idea of the space you have to work with. Sometimes it might be a simple fix, sometimes it might need a little more of a work around.

So go into your project knowing it’s never going to be as easy as you think. There will be hurdles you have the jump and obstacles you’ll have to get over. Whatever you do, don’t rush the decisions. You’ll just want to get the project finished and at the time, the quickest option sometimes feels like the best. But don’t do it. Take a step back, do your research and take your time with each step of your build.

// Storage Is Key \\

In my case, I’m going to be on the road for over a month. There are 2 of us who are going to have a lot of stuff. Clothes, shoes, cooking equipment, camping equipment, food… the list goes on. So needless to say, the importance of making sure you optimise ALL of your storage. When my van is full, every single inch of my storage is taken up and used. This allows us to make the most of everything we have on the trip but also keeps the car super organised and everything easily accessible.

Before going in and making any permanent changes, make sure you plan exactly how you want your storage channels to look. I decided on three channels underneath the bed, with each channel used for something different. In the narrower ones, I have the camping equipment and our every day items, then in the main larger one, I have 2 large boxes in which we fill with cooking items and food.

Whenever you buy anything for the van, make sure you measure it. The last thing you want to be doing is buying storage containers for the car, to get home and realise they don’t fit. Be prepared with everything and maximise what you have.

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// Weight Is Everything \\

Let’s not forget, you’re doing to be driving around for a long time, covering thousands of miles and seeing a hell of a lot of things. So don’t weight your car down with things you’re never going to use. The more weight you have in the car, the slower you’re going to go and the more money you’re going to waste in fuel. Pack efficiently and sensibly, you’ll thank me later!

// The Pro’s Out-way The Con’s \\

I didn’t want to create this blog post and just talk about everything I struggled with during the conversion. So let’s talk about how worthwhile doing this can be. I never thought in a million years, I would enjoy this as much as I have. From getting the van and having it as a blank canvas, to then planning how I want it to be and executing that. The whole process is so rewarding.

There is nothing more satisfying though than having my friend over from the UK and being able to show her around Australia and go on this epic road trip of a lifetime, in the vehicle I’ve converted. I bought this once owner-less van, and turned it into our very own home on wheels. You definitely have such a strong feeling of pride when your van conversion is complete.

Van

Van Life is definitely hard work sometimes. You say goodbye to the comfort of running water and a wardrobe, to fulfil that dream of living out of a tiny home on wheels. It’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, I’ve learnt a lot about myself and I would highly suggest every single person, at one time in their lives, experiences that van life!

| By Harrison |

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