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Chasing the Van Life

Jun 4, 2020 | Stories

Photo by: Chasing the Van Life
A holiday along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria was a turning point for the Matheson family, who enjoyed the freedom so much they decided to make a lifestyle change.

As full-time working parents with three young children (Halle, five, and one-year-old twins Indigo and Jett), Nicole and Chase Matheson had their hands full making ends meet. 

“Our lives were very busy, with Chase working as a high-voltage electrician and me in management for a large organisation,” Nicole says.

“We were working long hours and missing quality time with our children, let alone each other.”

The family was in need of a change of a pace, a fact brought home by a holiday along the Great Ocean Road that would prove life-changing.

“We realised we needed to slow down and live in the moment.”

“We soon became envious of the freedom to wake up wherever we wanted,” Nicole says.

“That’s when we became hooked on the idea of ‘chasing the van life’ and began researching makes and models of vans.”

The couple began looking at the Facebook and Instagram pages of other travelling families and started weighing up the pros and cons of a new van versus buying second-hand.

“Once we’d gathered all the information, we travelled to the closest caravan shows, viewing new caravans and keeping a close eye on the sales pages of our preferred second-hand makes and models,” Chase says.

“During one of the caravan shows in Mackay, we put a deposit on a new JB Scorpion Sting (21 foot 6) family van. Driving back to Townsville, we were like ‘We’re really doing this!’ and bought a celebration drink in Bowen.”

Chase submitted his long-service leave and Nicole decided to finish work once her contract expired. The dream of chasing the van life soon became very real with a start date of January 2020 to aim for.

“We spent our weekends becoming minimalist and saving our dollars,” Nicole says.

“Then we sold our investment property and turned our residential property into an investment property.”

The family is now two months into their adventure and loving life on the road.

“Our favourite coastal destination to date has been Rainbow Beach in the Sunshine Coast — testing our driving skills to access the best parts of the beach to swim and relax,” Chase says.

“In terms of island destinations, we rate Bluff Creek Campgrounds in Kenilworth. The campgrounds were green with a running creek and the fact they have no power or water gave us an opportunity to test out our solar and lithium battery limits.”

For now, the couple consider themselves “extremely lucky” as they’re are living off Chase’s wage, their savings and rental income.

“Watching our children swimming in the ocean or creeks on a daily basis, and experiencing the wildlife and natural rainforest environments is wonderful,” Nicole says.

“Like most children, they’re very active and prefer the freedom and adventure of the outdoors, which suits Chase and I too.”

“Our plan is to continue south to Sydney, cross over to Alice Springs, and continue up towards Darwin. We’ll continue anti-clockwise down the Western Australian coast to Adelaide, then to Melbourne and finish in Queensland (Fraser Island) for Christmas 2020.

“Our aim is to live the van life for a year but we have an open mind and will have a keen eye on any opportunities to extend our travel plans.”

Family friendly-fitout

It’s said that every item in a van should have at least two uses and the Matheson family couldn’t agree more.

“From the day we picked it up, we’ve arranged and rearranged our van set-up so many times,” Chase says.

“We decided to buy new because it meant we could select a van with all the extras we wanted to meet our travel requirements.”

High on the Matheson’s wish list was the ability to travel off-road, camping at sites with no power and water, so a van with solar and lithium batteries was a must. This does come at an extra cost, but with lots of value to have the opportunity to travel to spectacular destinations.

“The van has three bunk beds with Halle, our five-year-old, sleeping on the top while our 22-month-old twins, Jett and Indi, sleep in the middle and bottom bunk,” Nicole says.

“We transitioned our twins from cots to the van beds, which of course had its challenges, but Chase came up with a genius van hack. He asked an upholsterer to install a light mesh that zips up around the bunks, which lets in ventilation but keeps the twins in their bunks — winning!”

Follow the family’s journey

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Makala Elliott

Makala is the Marketing Manager at Finance One. She has worked in the Finance and Lending industry for over 10 years, gathering a wealth of experience. She is passionate about helping Australians get back on track with their finances by passing on her knowledge.

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