Escapee Interview: Campervan Couple John & Jasmine of ‘The Cabin Camper’
Here at Escape, we get renters from all over the world with all different levels of experience in the art of campervan living, from first-timers to veterans. Our friends John and Jasmine (also known as The Cabin Camper) are the latter. The seasoned campervan couple recently took a break from their van home in Australia and explored the American Southwest in an Escape Campervan. They’ve written about their escapades on their blog, but we wanted to share their story and tips with the Escape community as well!
Give us some background on who you and and what you do.
We are two twenty-somethings and a dog in Queensland, Australia, living small in our 1985 Toyota Hiace. Contrary to many vanlifers, we are not traveling full time, rather working 4-5 days per week and saving our dollars for overseas adventures and eventually a piece of land to call our own.
What made you decide to live out of a van? How did you make your dream a reality?
We moved into a tiny, grungy apartment building on the outskirts of the city and were paying way too much rent, just for the location. In the mornings before work, we would walk along the river and started noticing vans parked there quite often with people who appeared to be living out of them. We wondered who they were, where they were from and why they were doing it – it became a topic of conversation for us as the weeks went on. This was early 2013 and there really wasn’t much of a ‘vanlife’ culture on social media at all. Eventually, we had totally convinced ourselves that we needed to try the lifestyle.
Toward the end of our six-month lease, we had inspected a few vans, had an idea of what we wanted and a little stack of cash ready to throw at the right home on wheels. We were getting a bit nervous as time ran out and a little disheartened, when suddenly, in the final week of our lease, we found the perfect van and bought it the same day. On top of that, the next day, I managed to land my dream job about an hour north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. We took this as a sign and agreed that we would get rid of everything, move into the van and head north, living out of it for a while until we had time to suss out a rental place up the coast. That transitional period quickly turned into months and before we knew it, we were full-time vanlifers. Fast forward four years, a brief stint in a ‘real’ home, and a full van re-build, and here we are, still living in our van on the coast and loving it more than ever.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a result of vanlife?
We’ve learned to lower our expectations and focus on the journey. To not compare our experiences to others experiences. The very essence of vanlife is the freedom and simplicity it provides, and comparison can detract from that fulfillment. Above all, we’ve learned how little we really need to be happy. We got rid of most of our possessions when we moved into our van, and even now, after a few years of van dwelling, I look around and realize we could probably live without half the things that made the initial cut. It has really made us slow down and focus on the here and now.
Tell us a story about one of your favorite vanlife adventures.
Last year we attended our first vanlife gathering hosted by @vanlifediaries – it was on a property in the Byron Bay hinterland, only a few minutes from the ocean. It was an amazing weekend spent making friends with like-minded people, telling stories around a bonfire, picking and eating fresh fruit, jamming out to some awesome local van dwelling musicians, cleaning up the beach and discussing important social and environmental issues. We really valued the sense of community there and felt right at home, and we still bump into people we met there on the road from time to time.
What are your top tips for people who have never rented a campervan before?
Have a loose plan, but let your surroundings and circumstances guide your adventure. Allow for detours and extra stops – you never know what the scenic route might hold. Perhaps a fresh fruit stall, a hidden hot spring, or a glimpse of an animal you’ve never seen in the wild before? Life in the slow lane doesn’t have to be boring!
Practical tips – learn to be comfortable doing things that you’d normally do inside, outside. For example; brushing your teeth, cooking, and washing dishes. Trust me, it’s way more fun to stare into a national forest when brushing your teeth than your own face in a mirror. Mundane tasks like that can turn into beautiful rituals!
Tell us about your recent trip with Escape. How is vanlife different in the US than in Australia?
John’s a US citizen and his family all live in Indiana, so we visit America as often as we can. This time, we were coming back for a wedding so decided to spend a couple of weeks afterward exploring the southwest, starting and finishing in Denver. We knew we wanted to travel in some kind of RV or van, and when we found Escape Campervans online we instantly knew they would be perfect. They’re not huge and bulky like a lot of RVs, and they come with everything you need to get straight into your trip. Having lived in a van for quite some time, we needed no time to adjust and hit the road feeling completely at home in the Rocky Mountains.
The biggest difference we found to vanlife in Australia was the abundance of free camping – it was incredible! We never had to go out of our way to find a free campsite, they were everywhere and we really appreciated that.
What’s next for you?
Travel is our main focus. We absolutely love exploring new places and cultures. India is at the top of our list for 2018, and we’re even considering another road trip in the US as we’ve never explored the west coast and really want to explore it via van.