Living in a caravan – Australia
You may be planning an epic road trip around Australia, or simply wanting to downsize and live a more simple life; either way, we think that living in a caravan is a great life!
We’ve been living full-time in our caravan for over 2 years now, most of that time we’ve been stationary and either one of us, or both of us, working. Ben at trade type jobs and me in an office.
Our caravan is a teeny weeny 14ft pop-top with no bathroom, yet it has become our home on wheels and we’ve totally adjusted to this different way of life.
That being said, it is still a huge adjustment going from living in a normal house or apartment, to living in a caravan.
These are the lessons we’ve learnt since we’ve been living tiny in our caravan, and the things that make that life easier.
1. Being organised is everything
You must downsize and you MUST be organised. I’m not just talking about being organised in your storage, like how you organise your clothes and pantry. I’m talking about being organised in every area of your life.
You have to put your clothes away as soon as you’re finished with them or they come off the line / out of the dryer / back from the laundromat. There is no chair in the corner where clothes, scarves or hats can accumulate. You have to put everything away.
You also will need to rotate your winter and summer clothes. In summer, the winter woolies can’t stay in the wardrobe or cabinets, they have to be stored under the bed or some other equally annoying place to get to.
Here are some ideas for organising your caravan wardrobe.
Not only do you have to keep your pantry well organised, with only the items that you know you will use. But you have to be more conscientious about meal planning. We don’t have a big freezer (it’s literally the size of a shoe box) and our fridge is a mere 80L so it only holds a couple of days of fresh food. There’s no use deciding you’re going to have spaghetti bolognese if you’ve got a head of cauli slowly wilting in the fridge and taking up all the space.
Organised in all the other areas of your life
When you decide to live on the road, you need to be organised in other areas too. For example, making sure that you have a site booked during public holidays, or getting the car rego sorted while you’re still in your home state, and even organising all your health check-ups when you’re back visiting the family.
2. Life will be a lot easier with the less stuff you have.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “I need this gadget’, or ‘that tool’ for just-in-case.
But you have to find that balance between taking the stuff that you need and will get used regularly, and the just-in-case items. It’s too easy to take loads of tools, or toys, clothes, appliances or camping gear, but you have to temper your desire for all this stuff against the inconvenience and annoyance of lugging it around and needing to move it.
We have bought, and thrown out, so much stuff over the last ten months. It’s embarrassing.
We’ve bought things that we thought we’d definitely use and it got used twice in four months…. yet you had to move it every time you wanted to use that space. It’s hard to know what you will use and what you won’t. If you just took the stuff that you use at least a couple of times a week, plus the stuff that you MUST have for emergencies or any other reason (fire extinguisher, medications etc) and used that as a starting point, I think you’d be on the right track.
If you’re one of those people that find you’ve got too much stuff and you’re sick of moving it around all the time, don’t worry, I think all of us need to experience the non-joy of moving our stuff around too many times to really understand and appreciate the joys of not-much-stuff.
If you think that this new life of living in your caravan full-time will mean that you will now have the time and motivation to make green smoothies every morning, so you’d better buy a small blender to take with you. Hmmm, think again. If you’re not making green smoothies every day now; chances are, you won’t be making them when you hit the road either.
3. You must stay on top of maintenance
This goes hand in hand with the point about being organised, but it’s really important to have your vehicle serviced regularly and any issues dealt with promptly. When you live on the road, your car (or motorhome/campervan) is usually your only means of transport and when it’s broken, life can get really complicated (and expensive) really quickly.
Sure, you’ll have roadside assistance and insurance, but you don’t have that safety net around you of being able to call up your brother to move the caravan cos your car is at the mechanic, or use your other car for errands and grocery shopping (cos you’ve now only got the one car).
4. Be prepared to spend A LOT of time with your partner
I know that you love the person that you’re living with… but do you love spending ALL your time with them?
When you live in a caravan full-time, you may not actually get that much time apart from them.
And for some, that can be a problem.
But there are ways around that. Apart from being kind and considerate to one another, you can make time to be apart, it’s good and healthy!
One of you can go for a walk, head off for some shopping or fishing or visiting friends or family. There’s no need to be in each others company constantly if you need some time apart.
For us, just reading a book, playing a video game or watching Netflix with earphones in is enough time apart from each other. You’ve just got to be careful to not make it too much of a habit!
5. Comfort is important (well, to us it is!)
I’d really like to think that we’re the kind of people that will happily ‘rough it’, in order to get out to the remote places with no people and beautiful scenery. But… umm… we’re not. We love the idea of that, and for a short trip I would be more than happy to rough it. But as a lifestyle? Hmmm, not so much.
I really like having a caravan with a bed that’s already made, and a kitchen (even if it it minuscule), and somewhere to put my clothes that isn’t a backpack.
I like having somewhere warm and dry to sit when it’s pelting outside.
I would really like to be able to shower and toilet in my home too, but that’s going to have to wait until we can upgrade.
Living this way is awesome
When we first set off on our trip around Australia, we gave each other the ‘out’ that if we didn’t like it we could go back to ‘normal’ life (whatever that is) whenever we wanted to. We’d get jobs, rent a unit, make friends and slot back into life as we’ve always known it.
After 5 months travelling around Australia in the camper trailer, we’ve found that we love living this way! We stopped in Dubbo to save up some money, buy a small caravan and hit the road again.
We still can’t afford to be on road full-time just yet, so we’re still in NSW living in our caravan and working while we save up again.
We’ve now been living in our caravan for 2 years, and it’s still wonderful. We love this life. Sure, there’s some things we miss, but we don’t miss big rent, utilities bills and being stuck in one place!
What about you… if you live in your caravan or motorhome, what lessons have you learnt?
Thursday 8th of October 2020
Hi Michelle, my partner and I are about to purchase our first caravan to live in full time. We were wanting to find jobs in qld and live cheaply in our van. Where do you park up for long periods of time? On someone’s property or caravan parks? I’m trying to figure out where we can comfortably park for a few months next year. Would love any ideas, thanks 😊
Thursday 8th of October 2020
Hi Skye, that's a great question! We have done it a few different ways. We've stayed in caravan parks, but most have a time limit, like a month, so we would just move parks every month. We also do our best to be a 'good' resident: never be late with paying fees, always pay at least a week in advance, keeping our site spotless and not accumulating things outside the van (like pot plants or anything else that makes us look 'settled'). We've also stayed at show grounds that had a 3 week limit, so every 3 weeks we would head off to the nearest park (about 30kms away) for the weekend and then come back on Monday for another 3 weeks. We've found that if you're a nice, pleasant person, are quiet and amenable, pay on time, stick to their rules and all that normal stuff, then parks are happy to work with you. We've also house sat at a friends farm, so house/farm sitting could also be something you look into? I hope that helps! Michelle :)
Thursday 19th of March 2020
Nice read :) GO the gypsy life! been in a van for 2 years now have one knife one fork one plate one pot one pair of jeans well you get the idea ......being a Gypsy minamlist is super chill
Thursday 19th of March 2020
Sounds just perfect, Andy! :-)
Saturday 23rd of November 2019
Hi Michelle, just discovered you today. Love your articles. We've just bought a 1980's something, 17 foot pop-top that we've parked in my mum's carport. We plan on living in it full time with our son. I've been wanting to "tiny live" for years and years but only recently convinced my husband!!! My dad used to always say "...the less you have, the less you have to worry about...", and this is very true - as you would know too. I'm painting, I'm getting new mattresses, I'm tossing lots of stuff both in the van and in our storage (we don't have an awful lot anyway but it's still good to toss!), and generally getting used to living super small. I've never been big on large living anyway! There are so many wonderful caravan reno's to follow in Australia, and thanks for introducing me to some more via one of your last posts. All the best, and keep posting!
Saturday 23rd of November 2019
Hi Petra, It's so true, having less stuff is kinda liberating! Thank you so much for your kind words, I'm so glad you're getting benefit out of some of our posts. All the best with your renos and getting ready for full-timing!! Michelle :-)
Wednesday 24th of July 2019
WOW, Michelle I was so happy to come across your post today. My husband and I have been living in our caravan for 18 months now and we are wanting to remodel our caravan as we have a pop top coromal 1992 model. I have spent endless hours on the internet looking for ideas & help on how to diy our van but have been unable to find caravans in Australia, it always showed me pics & info on r.v.’s in other countries....until today phew,was I happy to find you guys. We have a 16.4ft pop top (roughly) and as you would know we are limited on storage,& living permanently in our van has been the hardest transformation after moving out of our 3 bedroom home. The reason for my text is to thank you for your wonderful pics and ideas that you share. I am also wondering if you could give me some guidance on decorating my van, as I do not have a crafty bone in my body. Lol....& I really have no one else who I could ask. Looking forward to hearing from you if at all possible. Kind regards, safe travels. Dee
Sunday 17th of November 2019
Dee, I'm so sorry I missed this comment! It's taken me so long to reply that you've probably finished any renovations you were planning to do on it anyway! I don't have a crafty bone in my body either... that's why I have to collect ideas from all these other people! There are some super talented people who can take a dirty old caravan, and make it so light and inviting... I wish I was one of those people. :-) If you're still looking for caravan renovation inspiration, then I've found there is quite a lot on Instagram, just search the hashtag #caravanrenovations and that should bring up lots of accounts to follow. Thank you for such a kind comment, you've made my day! (Even if it is four months later. :-))