3rd December 2021
Q&A: Vanlife Diaries
Teva speaks with founders Jared & Jonny of Vanlife Diaries, an online community and space for ‘vanlifers’ to share creative stories, tips and experiences of living in nature and exploring new places.
To begin, Hi! Can you tell us your names, a little bit about yourselves & how you like to start your day?
Jared: Hey! My name is Jared Melrose Campbell. I love making music, singing, writing, building peoples dream homes on wheels, my partner Ash and our identical twins, Arc and Etta. Currently, coffee and music are essential to finding the rhythm of forward motion in the morning.
Jonny: Hey! I’m Jonny Dustow and I’m a travelling musician (Dusty Boots) and long-time road tripper living from vans for over 10 years. Most days I try and start the day by searching the coastline early morning for some nice waves and parking by the ocean with a coffee, surf and a strum on the guitar.
We’re interested to know, how did living in a van full-time come about for you both? Did it always interest you?
Jonny: Vanlife came about for me as the best way to tour, share music and surf as many spots around the country as I could along the way. I noticed a few people in the surfing community setting up vans as homes and quickly swapped my wagon at the time for a van to convert into a rolling home. The lifestyle has always interested me as a cheap way to explore and travel whilst having the comfort of your own little studio apartment to take with you. I need a lot of space for all the music gear and surfboards so it works really well for my work and lifestyle needs most of the time.
Jared: My darling, Ash, pressed me for ages to bite the bullet and move into the van. In early 2015 we did. Two vans on, 6 years later we keep making incredible friendships and memories all around the world.
Jared, can you tell us how you and Jonny met and how the concept of Vanlife Diaries was born?
Jared: Jonny and I have been close friends since Grade 1 at primary school. We are also both musicians so have always stayed in touch regarding many aspects of life. In 2014, Jonny was staying at our place in Collingwood. Over coffee we discussed the need of creating an international hub for the entire nomadic community. To help people connect and unite, share individuals’ stories from the road, run events ‘Vanlife Gatherings’ and physically help people build their dream homes, @vanlifediaries was born.
Lockdown has been tough. It must have felt strange not travelling as much and as far spread as you did previously. Where are you dying to travel/drive to?
Jonny: It has been really difficult for the nomadic work and adventure lifestyle. Personally, I lost a lot of work like many others and have had to set up camp on a family property when we weren’t allowed to road trip here in Australia, which I was very fortunate to have this offer. I also had to find some other ways to work and do the best I can to survive financially with all the changes whilst there was no live music as it was cancelled.
Jared: I’m looking forward to connecting with our family, friends and community up north. After we are re-energised, I’m sure we will be looking to adventure internationally with this global community.
460,000 people alike sharing the passion for the outdoors & a network filled with irreplaceable experiences and stories to tell. What do you think makes Vanlife Diaries so unique?
Jonny: We have always felt people’s unique and personal stories were really important to our community so we have focused on sharing real stories from the road which include the challenges and the fun times, how to survive with different work opportunities and also tips on converting your own home. Right from the early days we wanted to connect face to face with the community so we set up Vanlife Diaries Gatherings in beautiful parts of nature to connect, camp out for the weekend, share stories, music, art, ideas and most of all meet like-minded folk to help each other on the journey of life. There have been so many beautiful moments along the way and seeing the community grow and people expanding their road tripping families has been so cool to be a part of.
Jared: People are always looking to connect, It’s a human need. We create personal, meaningful and authentic content along with safe spaces to gather outside of social media. We use social media as a tool to bring people together and that resonates with folks.
Jared, can you tell us about your van set-up? What is your number one must-have item that you can’t live without?
Jared: We currently have a Mercedes Sprinter van. It has everything a tiny home has, gas cooking, hot water, outdoor shower, solar and battery set up, fridge, queen bed etc, designed in an open plan living style to enhance and maximise the space. Life would not be the same without amplified music, so it would have to be our mini boom box!
How are you finding your new Original Universals, do they work well for your lifestyles living full-time in the van? How so?
Jonny: I spend a lot of time around the coastline of Australia which can be pretty warm temperatures so it’s really important to have sandals and thongs for the heat! With my hobbies such as searching coastlines and bush walking to new remote surf spots the Original Universals are definitely suited to this lifestyle for sure! Really comfortable and durable and great for an ocean and nature lover like myself.
Jared: Most of the time I’m either barefoot or have work boots on. It can be hard to strike a balance of footwear that feels comfortable and secure in the outdoors. Luckily the Original Universals do. The sandals are also made from recycled materials which is important today, as clothing and footwear is amongst the highest industries that contribute to land fill.
Jonny, what is one piece of advice you’d tell anyone considering living the van lifestyle?
Jonny: It is not always an easy or straight forward lifestyle choice, and don’t just look at all the pretty pictures online as it can paint an unrealistic image of the lifestyle, making people think it’s always waking up to beautiful nature locations and just spending all your time in paradise. For most of our community we all have to work and experience highs and lows on the road. I think it’s important to try the lifestyle out on a few small road trips to see if it fits for you. Everyone creates their own personal journey that could be part time, full time, based in one region, or working whilst adventuring, and can change depending on your needs. It really depends on your skills and your goals/passions for your life. Personally, I have found it’s the best lifestyle choice for my hobbies, work and lifestyle.
We’re keen to know: what’s in the pipeline for Vanlife 2022?
Jared: When things are looking more certain post-covid, we are so excited about running more Vanlife Gatherings and just connecting with this diverse and enriching community again.
Jonny: Hopefully many more road trips as restrictions and lockdowns ease. We had to cancel a bunch of Vanlife Gatherings due to lockdowns and we know the community is really looking forward to meet up and camp out with everyone again.
Jared: If you are interested in experiencing authentic community, please come along and get involved. You don’t need a van to attend, you just need to bring your wonderful self.
Images by @vanlifediaries.
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