The Science Of Making Friends

Something I have been thinking about lately has been the notion of relationships. Relationships with family, friends and lovers. I’ve been trying to deconstruct the science of making friends- how to find people you connect with and more importantly start being ‘friends’ with. I like to put the ideal scenario into a bit of a chain reaction- you muster the courage to go to a bar on your own-> you start talking to someone-> you find common ground-> you make time to see each other again= you make a friend. I have been incredibly blessed to have so many genuine close relationships in my life and haven’t had to give “making friends” much thought. However, spending ample time on my own and not spending a whole heap of time in one place has left me… lonely.

Solo travel has so many positives and I have experienced these every single day. I have been lucky to have friends and family come and visit on the road for short periods of time. I’ve also had the luxury of catching up with or staying with family and friends at different points along the journey. But new friendships have been limited and I’ve been asking the big question of why this might be so?

I thought I would be meeting heaps of people on the road. I thought there would be lots of people doing what I am doing. And I was right. I have met some really genuine, kind and helpful people from backpackers doing the stretch between Melbourne and Cairns to grey nomads that are travelling with their caravan visiting all their grandbabies. Each connection I have had I cherish, but lately I am craving deeper connections that come from ‘friends’ so I started to think on how is it we make friends and even more to the point-  how do I make friends at 29?!

I have come to the conclusion that there are many reasons or perhaps obstacles that have prevented me from making deeper connections with the people I meet.

  1. Timing– I have come to realise how pertinent timing is for everything in your life- friendships included. I try to spend at least a few days in the places I explore and a few weeks in and around the city hubs. I haven’t met anyone organically at the pub or cafe because its only retirees and mother’s groups at the cafe at 11am on a Wednesday. Always up and leaving places leaves little space to meet up again with anyone that you do meet so you get really good at saying hello which is quickly followed with goodbye.
  2. People my age have different priorities– I look at my friends from home and many of them are in loving relationships and/or married with children and their priorities have shifted. They have their support group and perhaps don’t feel the need to make new friends. They spend time with their family and make friends through their children. Which is all well and good and I support everything they choose to do, but perhaps that’s why I don’t meet many people in their late 20s on the road. I’m at a weird transitional age where most stop mingling as much and start nesting.
  3. Common courtesy– I hate to say it but I feel like humans are becoming less friendly. I grew up in North Queensland and when you went for a walk and passed someone it was expected to make eye contact, do a very awkward ‘I don’t really know you’ smile and say ‘hello’, ‘g’day’ or ‘morning’. I still do this, but much of the time it isn’t reciprocated. Occasionally I get the odd nod or hello in return but sometimes I get a reaction of what I can only explain as concern or discomfort. Some people intentionally look down as if their shoes are the greatest things they have every seen, or they are distracted by something spectacular in the distance and turn away or my absolute nightmare… they’re staring at their god damn phones! My heart is breaking that the younger generations (or even my own) are losing the skills of genuinely connecting and having a conversation without the influence of technology. Some people I’ve spoken to this about have agreed and said they feel anxious when they talk to other people. Of course you are going to feel anxious or uneasy if you never do it! I’m not saying you have to have deep and meaningful conversations with everyone you meet, just be friendly and say hello in return.
  4. Online platforms– we are living in 2018 and as much as I would love every connection I have to be made by organically meeting in person it just isn’t realistic anymore. So many of us are on platforms that stimulate and connect us with lots of different audiences all over the world. Recently I have turned to social networks like Bumble and Tinder to just find someone to hang out with! Lordy help me! This was short lived because I’m a big chicken when it comes to chatrooms that objectify sex and how are you meant to know what a person is really like from five pictures and a few words.
  5. Gender– this is a hard nut for me to crack and if anyone can give me insight I would love to hear it! I have recently had my Dad travel with me from Melbourne to Adelaide and I was in awe with how many people came over to talk to him while he sat outside the van reading the newspaper. I get the odd greeting but no more than a ‘how are you going’ and they continue on their way. Why are people hesitant to talk to me? Do I look like a massive creep in my van when I’m on my own? I think I’m pretty friendly.. but I am very rarely approached in campsites or in pubs/cafes etc. I actually asked a young couple I camped near in the woods outside of Melbourne because I was curious about how I am perceived by others. I struck a conversation with them about the native bees (there were bees but I was just craving conversation) and it went from there. I got good vibes from them so I continued to tell them my travel story and that I am on my own. They were shocked at first and proceeded to tell me that they just assumed I had someone with me. I then asked if I look like a big creep in the woods in a white van with very dark tinted windows. They laughed and quickly responded with no we didn’t really notice you, we were just doing our own thing. Which also strikes a cord in me.. I understand that people go camping in the woods for solace but why are we not even acknowledging the existence of the humans camping beside us? It may not even be that I’m female (and I hope its not) I’m sure there are many contributing factors. I just noticed a big difference between my Dad and me. We were both doing exactly the same behaviours but he was spoken to more.
  6. Avenues to make friends– at home I would make friends at work, playing sport, through other friends or with my dog at the dog park, but I don’t have any of those avenues with my on the road and have had to think more creatively. I have even been to hostel bars to try meet people that are doing similar things to me, but they’re all going anti-clockwise around the country. Alas.. who in their right mind goes south for the winter?

So if anyone has any suggestions on how to make friends as a 29 year old and on the road, or there are meet up groups for 20 somethings that I don’t know about please let me know! Yes I spend a lot of time in my head traveling solo, but I thought it was worth the convesation.

Han x


The Second Leg: Canberra- Adelaide

Upon leaving the comfort of a long time friend in Canberra, I headed back to the coastline to follow it down to Melbourne. This was all uncharted territory for me so I posted to the Facebook world for suggestions of where to go and what to do. I followed the coast to Batemans Bay- a little town with an impressive marina and a gorgeous shallow bay (perfect for SUP boarding). I didn’t stop for long and continued to follow the coastal road to Bermagui. A friend had told me to visit the blue pool and he wasn’t exaggerating- that place is BEAUT! On a sunny day you can ‘pretend’ to dive in the three-meter deep pool that has fish and live reef growing on the base. The angry sea crashes its waves against the side rocks and all kinds of goodies fall into the pool. The water was ‘cool’ to put it politely, but incredibly refreshing. I took my mask down and swam with the little fish for hours. A must do if you are ever on the south east coast of New South Wales.

I found a cheap campsite on Campermate and decided to stay a few days in the area. A lovely couple that has fenced off part of their land to allow campers owned the campsite. An honesty box is left at the gate for you to deposit your $5 and away you go! I got in contact with an old friend that lived in Townsville and was now living in the nearby town of Cobargo- a one street town with the friendliest folk I’ve met on the road. The beauty about using social media while traveling has got to be the connections you rekindle when in far away towns. When I post my location to Facebook or Instagram I find I get contacted by all kinds of new and old friends willing to show me around, have a beer or offer a warm shower. I appreciate every single one of them! Nothing beats local knowledge… There are only so many times you can google “things to do in…”

I continued on my journey along the coastline through Bega (yes I bought cheese) and out to Tathra. I didn’t have a plan of where I wanted to get to or where I would stay so I just continued to drive. Before I knew it the towns ended and the National Parks started. I was caught on the ocean side of the Coopracambra National Park with no notable towns in sight. I stumbled across a free campsite at Cann River and stayed the night. It had no owner and only cold showers but was really popular with travellers between Melbourne and southern New South Wales. My intention was to travel landside of the big green parks and travel through Albury, Beechworth and view country Victoria but decided to bite the bullet and travel the four hours to Melbourne. It was windy and the van definitely got knocked about (hands a ten-to-two the entire way). I made it to the outskirts of Melbourne and decided to free camp in the Kurth Kiln Regional Park while I lined up some catch-ups with friends. When catch up plans fell through on the Friday night I decided to go watch the penguin parade at Phillip Island. Cute factor through the roof! It was very tourist heavy and school holidays (sigh) but the little penguins stole my heart and I promised to ‘blow bubbles and not balloons’ at every celebration from now on after learning the devastating number of penguin deaths rouge balloons cause.

My time in Melbourne was spent between roaming the endless laneways sipping coffee in the city, doing a high ropes course at Trees Adventure Park at Belgrave (so much fun!) and catching up with friends before Papa White decided to join the Vanlife adventure.

I was blown away when I got a phone call from my Dad asking if I would have him join the road trip between Melbourne and Adelaide. You must understand that I love my father to bits but he is an incredibly safe and comfortable man that lives a very relaxed retired life in Mackay. He is not a camper nor overly adventurous, so for him to book a one way ticket to Melbourne and see how long it takes to get to Adelaide was huge! Of course I encourage anyone and everyone to do what I’m doing. It is by far the best way to see this country. So, he booked his ticket and I picked him up from Melbourne airport with his packed bag and pillow (he looked like he was going on school camp). Bless his cotton socks.

Dad and I spent a few days in Melbourne checking out the sights and going to an AFL game (just like old times). Our first night in the van was in Torquay- just before we started our trek down the Great Ocean Road. I would be lying if I wasn’t nervous about making Dad feel comfortable, but he fit into the nomad lifestyle like a gem! Before long he was helping with set ups, cooking meals and giving suggestions on how I could streamline my set up even more. The quality time spent with my Dad and sharing something I love with him will stay with me for a lifetime. We share similar humour and personality traits so the entire trip was full of incredibly lame jokes, banter and pranks- I wouldn’t have it any other way.



Papa White

The Great Ocean Road took us through Torquay, Bells Beach, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne and Apollo Bay before setting up camp at Port Campbell. All places were as beautiful as the next. Nothing beats a warm autumn day, windows down, wind in your hair, sun on your skin and your papa in the seat beside you. We stopped with the thousands of tourists and the 12 Apostles, it was hazy and incredibly crowded but a must do on the Great Ocean Road.

We met a lovely couple in Port Campbell that suggested we go up into the Grampians, and I am so glad they did! What a place. There are so many incredible nature walks for all kinds of abilities. My favourite part would have to be the balconies at Reeds lookout, Dad wouldn’t watch as I climbed over the railing and sat at the ledge of a rock face. What an incredible view and a quick way to make you feel incredibly small and insignificant in the grand scale of the universe. We stayed at Halls Gap and visited places such as MacKenzie Falls, Boroka lookout and Reeds lookout. All a must do if you are ever in the area.

‘The Balconies’, Grampian’s National Park

We hit the road again and were headed back to the coastline. We travelled through Portland, Mount Gambier and Millicent. Memories of a friend lost too soon came rushing back as we travelled the road between Millicent and Kingston. She had rolled her car a minimum of seven times on this stretch of road and died back in 2015. It was nice to finally say my goodbyes and get closure as I laid flowers at her final resting place. Dad and I decided to camp the night at Kingston. We got a picture with the giant Lobster (giant things of Australia!) and went to the local pub for a meal. It was another long drive along the Great Southern Drive to Victor Harbor. There wasn’t much to see besides sheep and windmills- but a lovely drive none-the-less.

Victor Harbor is a young families dream, pony and camel rides, a permanent fair with a ferris wheel and dodge-em-cars (they were definitely my fav growing up), hotdog stands and traditional horse and cart rides across the jetty to Granite Island. The streets are lined with cute cafes and pubs that overlook the harbour AND televise the footy.

On our way to Adelaide we followed the coast yet again to Second Valley. This little gem is in the middle of nowhere, but has quickly rocketed into my top five beaches. The water is crystal blue and the cliff coastline leaves nothing to be desired. Follow the road to Normanville and hit up the local bakery for a “custard thingy” you’ll understand when you get there and you definitely won’t be disappointed! Continuing the road through Aldinga beach and into McLaren Vale. This part of Australia is incredibly scenic and a very pleasing drive through the hills of Adelaide. We spent a day visiting the tourist hot spots like Glenelg, Christies Beach and Port Adelaide before camping at West Beach. The second day we had together we drove into the Adelaide Hills near Mount Lofty and ventured into Hahndorf- a little German settlement established in 1839. Of course we first visited the fudge shop before eating our body weight in pork knuckle and German beer.

I’ve now been hanging in Adelaide for just over a week. I don’t know many people down here and am struggling to make adult friends. Where are all the youngish people hanging out? If anyone knows… please give me a holla! I love my alone time but I’d love to meet new people! Oh and Adelaide has some of the most impressive sunsets I have ever seen.

Moana Beach, A

Han x

*The intention was to post regularly for each ‘leg’ between capital cities. Turns out, reliable internet has been hard to find to upload photos AND I have been avoiding paying money on powered campsites. So this post is two ‘legs’ smooshed into one.

The First Leg: Brisbane-Sydney

I have been on the road now for six weeks and have been incredibly busy for an unemployed traveller. I am definitely in the swing of all things Vanlife. Between sneaking into ‘paying campers only’ showers to free camping and sleeping on the street. There have been a few lows and a whole heap of highs. When leaving Brisbane I was mixed with emotions. I was excited, nervous, apprehensive, enthusiastic and above all relieved that the day for my big trip south had finally arrived.

My first stop was the Gold Coast to see family and friends before I ventured into uncharted territory. I spent the day with my mum and caught up with old friends to share hopes and dreams of my pending trip. At the Gold Coast is where I ran into my first speed bump… my fridge died. I was expecting it to give way eventually and had packed an esky because I had massive trust issues with it. I had it re-gassed a couple of weeks before hand because it didn’t seem to be cooling as quick as it should have. This worked temporarily, but then the compressor died and there was no coming back from that. It was a very cheap brand and actually came with the van when I bought it. So I bit the bullet and paid $946 for a Waeco CFX 35L. It hurt the budget, but the fridge has been fantastic! No more trust issues and it can be used as a fridge or freezer. Chilling those beers to a cheeky 0 degrees is an absolute treat on a hot day. After measuring literally every fridge in BCF I couldn’t find one to fit the pre-existing drawer. So I borrowed a screwdriver from BCF and removed the drawer and runners. It was a snug fit and no runners meant I was working my biceps every time I tried to pull it out, so I decided to leave it at the foot of the bed. This allows full elevation of the lid, a seat when I’m organising my stuff (which is ALWAYS) and a sneaky hidey-hole in the old fridge space to store my inflatable SUP board. Beside the dent in my budget, it all worked out for the better.

I then spent a good week exploring the Byron Bay area while I waited for friends to join me for my birthday. I ventured into Bangalow, Nimbin and the Whian Whian Forest. The rain followed me wherever I went and was putting a real dampener on my first two weeks on the road. I have been zigzagging down the east coast between staying in holiday parks (average $30 a night unpowered), nature reserves and free camping near public parks in the cities. Campermate has been an absolute lifesaver! The filters allow me to not only find campsites but public toilets and showers too. I spent a lot of the first leg to Sydney staying in holiday parks; I think this was a confidence thing as I got used to living in my van for more than a week at a time. However, my bank account quickly put a stop to this luxury!

Byron Bay, New South Wales.

I’ve seen some gorgeous scenery from the forest to the sea and are always looking for protected bays to use my SUP board. Some standouts so far have been Byron Bay, Brunswick Heads, the blue pools at Angourie, Yamba, the Promised Land at Gleniffer, Nelson Bay, Jervis Bay and Kiama. The Blue Mountains don’t compare to anywhere I have been before. The views of the limestone plateaus and valleys covered in greenery are breathtaking on a clear day. I decided to go canyoning at Wentworth Falls, in a canyon called Empress, while staying at Katoomba too. It was a beginners canyon following a waterway for almost three hours. There were rock jumps from 2-5m and finished with a 30m abseil down a waterfall. The guide at Eagle Rock Adventures was incredibly knowledgeable of the area and very friendly. Absolutely worth every penny spent! But my favourite place I’ve stayed so far has to be the campground near the old gaol at South West Rocks. You don’t get any better real estate than that!

South West Rocks, New South Wales.

The second challenge came about when I updated my iPhone to the latest IOS software- lesson learned. My modest iPhone 6S could not support the new software and started to do all kinds of weird things. This was incredibly frustrating considering how reliant I am on my phone for EVERYTHING while on the road. My phone would randomly turn off and take hours on charge to turn back on again. I had the battery replaced and it was still going down in battery life while being on the charger! So while in Sydney I bit the bullet and bought a new iPhone 8. A reliable phone with hours of charge makes for a happy Hannah! You win again Mr Jobs.

I’ve spent the last three weeks exploring the Sydney area. There is so much to see and do. I got to spend Easter with a friend and a few days with family squishing their beautiful babies. I’m now traveling solo again and am in the Canberra area. It’s nice to go your own pace after having visitors. Days are slow and quiet- just how I like them.

Woods Reserve, Tidbindilla, ACT.

I did ask my first visitor Kelly Dee to share some light on her experience with Vanlife. Kel was with me for four weeks between Brisbane and Sydney. She asks about one thousand questions a day so it was nice to reverse the question master role and put her in the hot seat. I hope these responses encourage anyone else that is interested in joining me on the road to book that plane ticket and send me the dates! It is nice having someone to share the memories with so if you are interested please send me a message!

The truth about Vanlife from the mouth of Kelly Dee:

Kelly Dee at Black Rocks, Bundjalung National Park.

Was Vanlife what you expected?

Yes, I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. But I wanted to see beaches and waterfalls and natural stuff. Having lived in Toronto for five years, even the sound of native birds has been a nice reminder of what its like to be home.

What was your favourite part?

All of it… because I wasn’t working (haha). There’s so much. I feel like I was surprised when I reflected on the day when we went to bed. It felt like we just travelled a lot but we actually did a lot during the day. There was a lot of packing up our shit and organising where we would go next. Having two people made this easier. Our first hike in the rainforest when we got rained on was definitely a highlight. Oh and the two leeches on me (actually, minus the leeches). It was our first adventure.

My second stand out moment was our campsite at South West Rocks. It was relaxing looking at the beach and being near an old gaol.

What challenged you?

Goannas. Thinking they were going to eat me.

It took a few days of adjusting to where everything was and how to pack my bags so everything was easily accessible. Everything takes a little bit longer when living in a van.

Being a hypochondriac and thinking my toe was infected and that is was going to fall off when really it was just a little cut underneath.

Losing my razor- armpit hair issues. Full hippie.

I was surprised that it was relatively easy to find campsites when we needed. The only challenge was trying to find somewhere in Newcastle over the weekend. I think we learned that lesson that cities on the weekend would be harder.

Would you recommend travelling Australia in a van to your friends?

Yes, definitely by road. It’s been really cool to see how much beach and little towns there are along the east coast. How spread out everything is. I don’t think you have the full scale of the beach and little towns unless you’re travelling by road.

What advice would you give them?

Campermate has been really helpful. Develop an appetite for falafel, hummus and all things vege. Everyday reflections and being present in the moment. There are always things happening and it’s hard to stay present and appreciate the moment so daily reflections have helped me take a moment to appreciate what I did for the day. Journaling or making notes helps you truly appreciate what you did to fill your day.

 What was it like travelling with Hannah?

Really good, I think we are both laid back people. It was easy to agree on what we wanted to do/see/stay. I feel safe with her behind the wheel.

Han x

Solo Female Travel

In my experience, solo travel gives you as much as you put into it. I have travelled many places on my own and if you ask me it gets easier and more rewarding every time I do it. I cannot deny the feelings of fear and self doubt though- there are definitely days where these little critters creep in. Especially when people I’m talking to about my trip respond with, “Haven’t you seen Wolf Creek?” “Hannah, you’re either really brave or really silly.” “You’re going alone? Please tell me you have a taser for protection”. Yes, I have seen Wolf Creek. I like to think I am both brave and a little silly. And no, tasers are illegal in Australia. My advice for solo female travellers is to be confident, smart, and informed. Additionally, have a little faith in humanity.

I am well and truly aware that the world isn’t rainbows and lollipops and some people genuinely want to destroy the lives of others, but I am a big believer in trusting your gut and attracting the good. Common sense is your best friend when travelling on your own. We all know that uneasy feeling you get in your stomach when things are just not right, I listen to that little voice, that is my intuition and it has kept me out of trouble for the last 28 years. I have and will continue to meet creepy people but I don’t let this deter me from achieving my goals on the road and enjoying the adventure.

My tips for solo female travellers of all ages:

Safety: Use your common sense, be present and aware. Don’t skite about you traveling on your own to people you meet. I often put two chairs outside my van and talk about my friends that I am meeting up with or tell stories of the times I experienced things on the road with friends. Keep your valuables close and hidden. Listen to your gut and if they give off creepy vibes, politely (or unapologetically) leave.

Be brave: Open up, be warm and friendly, and get to know the locals. Information centres are located all around Australia and are great for local knowledge of things to do and see. I’m one of those annoying people that smile and say hello when you walk past me and yes I will look you in the eye while I do it. A smile can go a long way in helping you meet fascinating people and like-minded travellers.

Assure your loved ones: One of the most difficult conversations I had leading up to my adventure was with my Nan. She was adamant that I needed to take a male with me. She even asked my older brother and cousin to go with me, unknowingly to me. I get it, she loves me and it’s a natural reaction to worry so I tried to reassure her by having a plan and promised to keep in contact regularly. Phone calls, text messages, letters, emails, ravens, whatever communication tool you prefer be sure to use it. You will sometimes meet people that try and talk you out of travelling solo too, or at least them challenging your ideas may instil a little self doubt, that’s okay. Listen to them and acknowledge what they’re saying then remember it’s their opinion. Take what you want and leave the rest. I get nervous and doubt my ability to do things all the time. Honestly, that doubt for me melts away as soon as I get in my van and hit the road. So just take a deep breath and try.

Challenge yourself: Break out of your comfort zone and break down your own self-set boundaries. Solo travel is a perfect time to reflect and grow as a person. Try new things everyday. Don’t be intimidated by failing (you have no one around to judge you!) I’m teaching myself how to skate and play the ukulele. I tried with a guitar a few years back but my fingers are way too short and fat for that glorious instrument.

Be resilient: There is no one to come swoop in and save the day for you. You have to put your big girl pants on and do it yourself. If you’re upset- cry. Cry those little eyes out, then take a deep breath and problem solve. I can be pretty pragmatic and if I can’t see a solution I’ll write a pros and cons list while I drink a bottle of Rosè. The most important thing is to bounce back and not give up. Remember why you started and imagine the feeling you’ll have once you achieve your goal.

Make friends with the Grey Nomads: They’re on the same journey as you, just 40 years your superior. If I feel unsafe while I am camping on my own I tend to make friends with an older couple and ask if it’s okay to camp close to them. I have never been declined and it often ends in a night sitting around the campfire sharing stories about experiences on the road. They are a wealth of knowledge and tend to treat me like their daughter. One time they even fed me pesto chicken! Winning!

Why travel solo?

It is the greatest gift you’ll ever give yourself. You will feel empowered and enjoy the wonderful experiences that cross your path. You have freedom to do and go wherever you like. You can be unapologetically selfish and do all the things YOU want to do. If you’re an easy-going people pleaser (like me) this is the greatest achievement of all. Too many times I have found myself going with the flow and doing things that other people want to do. Most of the time it hasn’t bothered me and I take pleasure in people being happy to share experiences with me, but having a voice and making decisions is an important skill to practice and while you travel alone, you will practice it a million times a day!

Meeting people is easier when you are on your own. While sitting at a restaurant or bar on your own can be pretty daunting it’s not long before you get chatting to someone. Having to strike up conversations with strangers and go places solo is an adrenaline injection straight to your self confidence tank.

You’ve got this. Be brave. Travel solo.

Han x

Mount Tambourine, Queensland.


Vera’s First Stop

Since buying my van a month ago I have been doing little trips up and down the east coast of Australia to familiar places between Mackay and Port Macquarie. I wanted to iron out any kinks and assess what I needed or didn’t need to take with me. My first trip was to Somerset Dam with some friends for Australia Day. I was set up and ready to camp in three minutes flat, I then cracked a cider and watched my friends battle tents, tarps, pegs and gazebos. I offered to help, of course, but when my offer was declined I took great satisfaction in how easy the ‘set up’ for Vera was.

Somerset Dam, Queensland.

The weekend was a perfect first trip to experience everything Vera had to offer. I worked out how to use the fridge and how to use the multimeter to ensure the spare battery had enough charge. I learnt how to set up the solar panels and connect it successfully to the battery. I set up the mosquito net, which doesn’t seem like a big deal but those hooks were incredibly hard to screw into the body of the van- thanks handyman Brady for the assistance! I set up the awning for the first time and ended up having to use rocks for the support ropes as the ground was super hard! I used my camper stove and remembered that gas screws always go the opposite direction (no righty tighty, lefty loosey here!). All of these things seem little and mundane but they are items I needed to test and


trail before my big trip on February 28.

Everyone was envious of my 12v portable fan and twinkle lights for mood lighting, but my first nights in Vera were comfortable and only made me more excited that this is now how I am going to live my life for the coming months.

The weekend was spent jet-skiing, drinking, napping and catching up with old friends. We romantically watched sunsets and shared freshly cooked snags on bread. We listened to the Hottest 100 countdown and battled the rowdy neighbours in a very busy campground. All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better first trip in Vera. Success all round. I then made a list of all the things I needed to buy, fix and add when I returned to Brisbane.

Thanks for the good times old pals, you know who you are!


Han x

The 10 Essentials

I have been following travel blogs for as long as I can remember and more recently ‘how to live in a van’ blogs. How do I simplify my belongings to live for months in such a small space? What do I actually need rather than want? And how can I make sure I have enough things to keep me occupied during the quiet alone times? IMG_7044

So this blog outlines what in my opinion are the essentials for a van trip around Australia. I was lucky that my van conversion has everything from solar power, 45L battery operated fridge and an awning for shade. These essentials go beyond the structure of the van and look more at what I need to take with me. So here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Camping App– whether you want a free app like Campermate or paid app like Camps9 there are so many on offer and honestly they all do much the same thing. I am currently using Campermate and Camps 9 together. I’ve also dallied in Wiki Camps which seems to be very popular with Australian Travellers. All of these apps work on a community of travellers adding and commenting on facilities, campgrounds and attractions in the area in which they’re exploring. I first look at the pricing- because I have to keep to my budget. Campermate grades their pricing from purple- expensive, blue- low cost to green- free. You can also put filters on the map when needing other facilities like information centres and laundromats. Camps9 offers offline maps to stop chewing into your data and a trip diary to log all the places you have been. It’s a little excessive to use both, but I like it. Both offer reviews and often photos too. You can also upload reviews and photos to help keep the campground details up to date- which I strongly encourage you to do!
  2. USB and 12V charger– I have put three USB ports at the front of my van for when I’m driving and a USB port and 12V at the back of my van for when I’m relaxing in bed. Lately I’ve been running a 12V fan constantly off the back port because it’s been so damn hot! Life saver!
  3. Gym Membership– For work outs, but mostly for clean showers! I have a membership with Goodlife as I have been living in Brisbane and there is a Goodlife just down the road. But if I had my time again I would join Snap as they have gyms in smaller rural towns as well as big cities. Goodlife have hubs of what seems to be an excessive amount of gyms in the capital cities ONLY. Nonetheless, they are nice gyms with lots of equipment and clean showers. I vow to use my membership more than the 10 times in past years…. even if it is for a warm shower. Money well spent if you ask me!
  4. Physical Map of Aus- I am a teacher and I love highlighting and scribbling notes on EVERYTHING! So a digital map just doesn’t cut it for me. The satisfaction comes from the tactile “ticking off” of places on my list. So my lovely teacher friends actually bought me a Maps of Australia book as my going away gift and on the very first page is a big BEAUTIFUL map of Australia, all ready for my colour coding and handwritten notes!
  5. Telstra Internet–  So I have been a very loyal Vodafone member for at least the last 11 years. And the service is great in built up areas (which I have been living), but travel one kilometre out of the main hub and you have SOS for the remainder of the trip. Internet data and phone reception are essential for communication with loved ones. As I am travelling solo I check in with family and friends regularly through social media or phone calls. I can only imagine the anxiety my parents would have if I didn’t reassure them that I am still alive every morning. So I’ve bought a $30 prepaid Telstra sim that doubles my phone calls and data AND has the most reliable reception in Australia. You could also buy a Boost sim which now runs off the Telstra network, a little cheaper but just as good if you want to support the little guys. I’ve also set up ‘Find my friends’ on my Iphone so those close to me can actually track where I am. A little creepy, but best to be safe than sorry. Puts their mind at ease anyway..
  6. Camera– I love photography but have never owned a decent camera. My Iphone 6S takes good enough photos for me! Plus I always have it on me so it’s one less thing to carry. One of my students bought be a ‘selfie kit’ too. I laughed at first but it is amazing how many cool pics you can get using a selfie stick, tripod and bluetooth remote!
  7. First Aid Kit– Obvious reasons. I just made my own- thanks nursing friends!
  8. RACQ Ultimate Membership– It costs $289 for full roadside assistance, but it offers so much more than just a tyre change. I get free towing for 200km, jump starts, lock outs, emergency fuel and loads of discounts! The latest being 4c off every litre at Puma fuel stations.
  9. Music- An absolute essential! I download playlists off Spotify when I can get Wifi to save my data. I also have music on Itunes on both my Iphone and Ipod when I’m desperate. I love how music can instantly change your mood so I have a variety of playlists to suit. Nothing beats the feeling of driving down the wide open road, windows down and music on. I also have earphones nearby on my road trips as a Hiace can be pretty noisy due to the wind and if the windows are down I can never truly appreciate the sound coming out of the speakers.
  10. Rough timeline and checkpoints– I have written a list of places I would like to go and have mapped out a rough timeline of where I will be and when. This was for budgeting reasons AND for friends. I have had a number of friends interested in coming on this adventure with me so I’ve decided to make what I am calling ‘checkpoints’. I will be roughly spending a month in each state and hope to zigzag my way down the coastline. I have a friend coming for the first leg from Brisbane to Sydney. Another friend meeting me in Sydney to come for a week in the Blue Mountains and another friend meeting me in Adelaide to cross the Nullarbor with me to Perth. This will not only help with loneliness and fuel expenses, but experiences are way better when they are shared with good people. I hope more friends come and join me and that I continue to make new friends on the road.

Han x



Vera the Van

You know when you really, really, really want something and it almost consumes the entirety of your everyday thoughts. Like when I wanted to buy my miniature dachshund, I was on trading post everyday for almost two years until I found Gretel. Well similarly I was on almost everyday for six months looking at van options- until one day I found Vera.

Not having owned a van before I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I knew I wanted something reliable and cheap to maintain. I wanted something big enough to have a bed in it and still move around. I wanted an awning for shade and outdoor cooking, a couple of drawers for storage and an alright fuel economy. I was looking at Hyundai Iload, Mercedes Vito, VW Transporter and Toyota Hiace. After having multiple conversations with family and friends that had any mechanical knowledge and researching online I came up with the following results:

  • Hyundai Iload- reliable, becoming more popular Australia wide, transmission has improved, cheap to buy and cheap mechanical maintenance, if buying turbo diesel- great fuel economy and still has a good get-up-and-go!
  • Mercedes Vito- expensive for mechanical maintenance and parts, reliable if looked after and has a cool rep (hey I own a Mercedes!).
  • VW Transporter- great shape, average transmission, expensive to maintain, also has a great rep (travelling Aus in my VW!) But I went with the old faithful..
  •  Toyota Hiace- has been around for decades and gets better with age, reliable, great transmission, well known Australia wide, when looked after the mechanics will last a lifetime, alright fuel economy with petrol- would have preferred diesel.

So along came Vera, a 2008 Toyota Hiace LWB, manual transmission, petrol van kit out with a bed, drawers, awning and solar panels. It was love at first site. I did have this hunch that I wanted to do the conversion myself and learn new skills, but it came down to money and time. I was going to spend close to $19k on a tradie van and factored in the cost of doing the conversion myself (materials and time) and it was going to be well over the $23k I spent on Vera. Of course I made her my own- I added four new tyres (which got me entry into the Midas club- free rotation and check ups for the life of the tyres anywhere in Australia) inside foldable table, lighting, curtains for privacy at night, mosquito net and fan for those hot Queensland nights and some much loved camping gear. Now she’s ready to hit the road!

The original conversion was completed by an English gal named Vicky who lived down at Port Macquarie. She was a single traveller making tracks between Darwin and the NSW coastline. Like anyone that has owned a van, she cried as I drove off with her baby. She was really down to earth and I hope she contacts me whenever she is back in Aus. Like any handover of possessions with emotional attachment, we had an obligatory photo. We both agreed on the name Vera and took pleasure in knowing that the van will be continuing her adventures, with me.

Han x

Vicky, Han and Vera.