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Aussie ‘van life’ couple reveals budget secrets and why they’ve never looked back


An Aussie couple has spurned home ownership – to live in a $24,000 van and travel around Australia.

Former lawyer Mia Smith, 26, and electrician Brody Williams, 27, have lived in their 2018 Ford Transit van full time for the past 15 months – on under $470 a week.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Mia and Brody threw in their jobs for life on the road.

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So far, they’ve toured 30,000km since leaving their home in Townsville in North Queensland.

Mia and Brody were both just 20 when they became hooked on the van lifestyle after completing small trips.

They took the 2020 COVID pandemic as a sign to leap into full time van life, after they both had overseas trips cancelled.

Mia Smith and Brody Williams are travelling around Australia in a $24,000 van. Credit: Driving.With.Sunnie Instagram/ MediaDrumWorld/ Australscope

They bought their van for $24,000 and spent $15,000 renovating it, doing most of the work themselves.

And with a dream of seeing Australia, they set off on the open road.

The couple budgets about $500 a week for outgoings but usually lives for less than that.

Their earnings from odd jobs – such as hospitality, farm work and housekeeping – are used for experiences and miscellaneous purchases.

“We had previously done a few van trips in 2020/21 and were instantly hooked,” Mia said.

“We have always wanted to explore our own country because it is so beautiful.

“As it is so huge, we thought what better way to explore than in a van.

“When our overseas trips planned for the start of 2020 were cancelled because of COVID, we thought that must be a sign to build our van now and explore our own incredible country first.”

Mia and Brody outside their home on wheels. Credit: Driving.With.Sunnie Instagram/ MediaDrumWorld/ Australscope

From having the idea of leaving their home town, to actually living in the van full time, was roughly 18 months.

“The process of finding the perfect van was painstakingly slow and took about a year,” Mia said.

“We flew to Melbourne to pick up our future home on wheels and drove it 2,470km back to Townsville where the van build took place.

“The build took Brody about six months by working on it part-time and before we knew it we were on the road.”

The couple swapped a four-bedroom house and big backyard for the van and could not be happier.

“We can’t say how good it is to not maintain a huge house and yard,” Mia said.

“It takes us 10-15 minutes to clean the entire van compared to two hours or more to clean our house, plus the yard work.

A view inside the couple’s converted 2018 Ford Transit van. Credit: Driving.With.Sunnie Instagram/ MediaDrumWorld/ Australscope

“Let’s just say, we don’t miss living in a house at all.

“The ever changing views from our back doors is something we will never get tired of.”

The van is a 2018 Ford Transit Long Wheel Base and “mid roof”, which means Mia and Brody can stand up and move around comfortably inside.

The couple’s life is now all about adapting.

They find clean drinking water through the wiki camps app and, for power, use a combination of battery and solar.

Their favourite feature is the kitchen.

Mia in the kitchen. The 178cm height of the van allows the couple to move around comfortably. Credit: Driving.With.Sunnie Instagram/ MediaDrumWorld/ Australscope

“We worked out that it was almost bigger than the kitchen we had in our house,” Mia said.

“There is so much space to prepare meals and our sink is large so it can store dirty dishes if we don’t want to do them straight away.”

In their 15 months on the road, the only major problem has been needing the van’s clutch replaced.

They also had a stranger knocking on the van door in the middle of the night once but their dog scared the person away.

Another time, strong winds posed an issue.

“We have only had to move the van once in the middle of the night due to very strong winds,” Mia said.

“The wind was making the van rock so much that it felt like we were on a boat and could not sleep.”

The couple never gets sick of the ever-changing views. Credit: Driving.With.Sunnie Instagram/ MediaDrumWorld/ Australscope

Mia and Brody are part of a very supportive, thriving nomad community and have great advice for others looking to join the lifestyle.

“There is a large van life community in Australia so this way of life is well known, especially amongst grey nomads,” said Mia.

“The older generation cannot commend us enough for starting van life now, while we are young.

“They all say they wish they had done something similar when they were our age.

“We receive an abundance of compliments on the custom build and design of our van conversion which is appreciated because Brody put a lot of time and effort into creating our home on wheels.”

Those interested in van life should first hire a van to see how they go, the couple advises. Credit: Driving.With.Sunnie Instagram/ MediaDrumWorld/ Australscope

Those interested in van life should first hire a van for a week or two to see if the lifestyle is for them, the couple advises.

“If you have the time, also try hiring out different types of transportation (caravan, smaller van, larger van) to see what type is best suited to you,” Mia said.

“Secondly, my advice is to not think about it too much and just bloody do it.

“We have not looked back once, it has been the best decision of our lives.”

Van life is also a financial commitment and Mia and Brody provide a detailed breakdown of what to expect.

Cost breakdown per week

Fuel – $100-$150

Accommodation – $0 (The couple has paid for accommodation only once the entire time. They have not stayed in caravan parks and mostly “stealth camp”)

Food – $130-$150

Laundry – $10-$20 (once every one-to-two-weeks)

Phone and internet – $35

Spotify, kayo, lightroom etc – $15

Takeaway – $50-$60 (They allow themselves to eat out only once a week)

Insurance and rego – $40

Total – $380-$470

You can follow Mia and Brody’s journey on Instagram.

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Source: 7News