Vanlife, 1st version: Subaru Outback in Australia (and a throwback)
Ever looked at everything hashtagged #vanlife on Instagram and dreamed of your future home on wheels?
The concept started tempting me when I lived in Australia last year. That’s when I bought my first car (yes, EVER) and used for about half a year while travelling around, it wasn’t a van or not even a big car but I used it to sleep in occasionally and it was my only home for a long time. An upgrade from the backpack I “lived” in before that. I had a tent and all the camping gear I needed to live in/from the car while traveling, and although the tent was way more comfy if finding a flat area to put it up on, I did sometimes “have to” sleep where camping wasn’t allowed and I used the fact that sleeping in a car is kind of a grey area in this sense. We (yeah sometimes it was a “we” because a friend came down to travel around with me, and sometimes only me) parked in all kinds of weird places when we for example arrived late at night and couldn’t find a good spot. In Tasmania, free camping was usually easy to find, but on mainland Australia it could be much harder and in some popular places they even have signs that forbid sleeping in cars (widely ignored).
But it was always temporary since I wasn’t settling down in Australia, and it felt like part of the trip to buy the car for traveling, for some reason it is a very different feeling buying a car at home and rebuilding it to use it as a camper compared to just getting it for traveling in for a limited time in a different country. Either way, Effie, my Australian car, was a great start off for trying the car-camping lifestyle. It’s a Subaru Outback, 4W-drive, with broken air conditioning (!). I drove her for many miles, on beaches, in deep sand, through storms and bumpy forest roads. A secret: I stole the “Subaru” tag from the car key as a souvenir when I sold the car to another traveler when leaving Australia and I’ll put it on the key of my next car to bring some outback Aussie-spirit to my journeys in Europe…
My Australian car was called Elphaba, “Effie”, from the witch in the musical Wicked because she is green and has a temper (the car – and the witch). A mechanic told me that this was the kind of car that sometimes shows a warning light for no reason, and I would have to live with that and only worry if it stayed for too long. Charming, in a way.
However, Effie wasn’t my first experience of roadtripping Australia. More than ten years ago I was in Australia visiting a friend who lived there for a year back when we were 19. He had a little Daihatsu Charade and we used it for a six week roadtrip on the east coast. While mainly sleeping in hostels, this little car was used as our home and we did save money by sleeping in it some nights. We lowered the seats and had an okey bed for some rest on the road. Fun looking back at how cool and free we felt for having a car at all back then, younglings on the big continent. Some times we drove in the most beautiful direction, not knowing and not really caring where we was… This was before we had internet on our phones, before GPS and google maps, and our road map book and an old Lonely Planet was our only guides. I don’t remember if the car had a name but I remember that we called the little teddy bear that was hanging in the rear-view mirror Barne because of a misspelling in a text message from Johans brother (who was gonna wright “barnen”, swedish for “the kids”).
Shout out to my friend for life: Johan Larsson who was the enduring driver (I had no drivers license back then) and who’s also the photographer of these last four photos. Many adventures begun back then!