Road-trips are often imagined as completely spontaneous. No time schedules, no rules, no worries.

It’s a beautiful dream, but not quite our reality…

We are Tom and Lily; two 20-year-old Aussies fighting to find the perfect balance between vanlife and UNI/college life. We are the proud owners of our much-loved van @eileentheiload.

As full-time university students we are, of course, both fairly time and money poor. Which puts a little strain on our relationship with vanlife. We must organise our lives around a schedule someone else decided for us and work casual jobs to afford our life needs, namely; festivals, drinking, an occasional $300 textbook and, for us, ‘vanning’.

But nonetheless we love vanlife and we want to share our tips and tricks for anyone else out there who wants to be a ‘part-time vanlifer’.

As students in our 20’s, our budget doesn’t allow for that glorious mid-life 2-car business. So, for Tom (as the actual owner of the van), Eileen is his everyday car. This meant that when buying a van to convert, we had to consider things like still being able to park at UNI and making a quick dash into the shops. So, as much as we would love the room of a transit or a sprinter, they just don’t lend themselves to everyday city-drivers.

This also meant some tricky yet fun space-planning. Lucky for us, Lil is studying Design with Honours in Interior Design so, when Tom bought the van in May 2017, Lil was straight onto the design, having it built by August 2017. It took a few more months of fine tuning and the addition of solar-electrics before we were almost completely self-sufficient and ready to rumble!

Our first big(ish) road trip was Brisbane to Tasmania in the first couple of months this year. It was on this trip that we learnt so many of these vanlife hacks and fell truly in love with life on the road.

van life in Australia

As neither of us reap the rewards of a full-time job, budgeting our road-trips is definitely a must! We love our food and tend to buy a lot of fresh produce and groceries so we tend to give ourselves a pretty generous food allowance. Budgeting fuel really depends on how far you’re going. But if you know the rough fuel consumption of your van you can get a fairly good idea of how much you’ll need for gas. Then there’s the frustrating cost of where you’ll actually sleep. Naturally, one would think sleeping in a van = free sleeping. Well, in most of Australia, this is not the case. Whilst you can sometime get away with it, free-camping on the side of the road is illegal, so you have to find a designated camping spot! Most places around beaches and other popular areas charge fees… unless you’re lucky enough to find a secluded beach-side carpark with no one around – a trick we often use ourselves 😉

UNI also means our trips must fall within the holiday period. However, we LOVE being in the van so we use it AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE during the semester too. What we have learnt is that it doesn’t take km’s of travel to get an escape and live more freely. All it takes is a drive somewhere new and your boot open to a beautiful view! We often have study days in the van where we will drive for only 30 minutes up a nearby mountain, pull over, open-up the doors and there you have it… a beautiful new study zone with fresh air and no distractions (except maybe each other). It’s the perfect place for Tom’s science brain and Lil’s design mind to merge.

The next best thing to big road-trips, are mini-trips! When we both have a night or two off work and UNI we will drive up or down the coast. Somewhere, anywhere, to get away in Eileen. It’s amazing how much time you do find once you have the van. It’s so easy with everything you need right there, waiting for you to hop in and go!

Another GIANT plus for us is there is ALWAYS a bed to sleep in. I’m sure all other UNI and College students out there understand the pain of figuring out where you will sleep when you go to a friend’s place or a night out for drinks. But now we never have to worry! Trusty Eileen has got our backs and she never leaves a mate stranded.

Not to mention, Eileen is also a festival DREAM!! We love music festivals. And honestly, there is no better feeling than watching all your mates squirm amongst the grass in the hot or cold of their tents as you wake up from the most comfortable and cosy sleep of your life.

So, to our fellow UNI/College students, or anyone else who can only be a part-time vanlifer, YOU CAN (and should) DO IT TOO! Eileen is our best friend and our favourite travel buddy! We can now go on the most epic of adventures and she makes our lives so sweet and easy.

It doesn’t take a fortune and we can ALL find the time!

Come and join us on the road!


Tom & Lily.

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