The Passenger Manifest: Carrie Smith on ‘Van Life’

A lover of wine and a bird of passage, Carrie Smith tells us about life on the road in her van. Originally from New Zealand, Carrie is currently travelling around Australia and has been for the last 10 months. Having created a digital nomadic lifestyle for herself, Carrie is enjoying the adventures and experiences that van life brings.
1. Having named yourself the 'typsy gypsy' (great name!), you have mentioned that you "escaped the corporate prison for life on the road". What was this corporate prison, and what are you doing currently? 
I called myself The Typsy Gypsy on instagram as I am currently traveling around Australia in my van whilst continuing my love affair with wine. Although I have had to cut back my budget for the bottle dramatically! It all started when I was working for The Good Food & Wine Shows here in Australia looking after the wine portfolio. I [thought] about how little I used my car as I biked to work each day. I camped a lot with friends and went to a lot of festivals so every weekend it seemed I was loading up my car. I started to think about replacing my car with a van to use on my weekends away. Then another thought started to creep in, what if I get the van and go travelling!
Bed in Van
As soon as this idea formed I couldn't shake it and about a month later I had finished up with my company, bought the van, sold all my furniture and moved out of my apartment. For the first 7 months, I didn't earn any money, I was just living off my savings stretching them as far as I could go. In the last few months, I have started earning money again, I contracted back to The Good Food & Wine Shows around the country and I have set up a small business running the social media platforms for various companies.
Parked Van
2. In reality, what do you find are the big ups and downs of van life?
The biggest 'up' that I have experienced with van life has been the sense of freedom. Not just from taking each day as it comes but from realising that I don't need a fancy job title to make me feel important. I don't actually have to have a salary and earn the big bucks to be happy. Every day I wake up proud to be the person that I have become and excited to go out and meet all the new people and places that await.

Life on the road to me consists of daily swims [and] eating copious amounts of curry. I became vegetarian about 6 months into my trip. I generally stay in free campsites and find myself hanging out with grey nomads most nights. I really enjoy their company and hearing how they have transformed their lives by being on the road.

The downside to travelling is the constant thought of breaking down somewhere. As I am travelling solo in an old van with no mechanical skills whatsoever, I am relying solely on the universe to look out for me.

Beach With friends

A funny story I have [is that] one day it was super hot and I decided to go to the beach. I reversed my van out and ended up getting bogged down with my back wheel spinning. I couldn't get my van out no matter how hard I tried with wood and angels. Another person was heading to the beach so I left my van and jumped in their car. I had the loveliest time swimming, sunbathing and reading my book. I got back a couple of hours later and without even asking a very kind man had towed me out and I was able to drive off once again.
Every day I find myself surrounded by kind-hearted interesting people [and] so far, I have only had to do minor repairs on my van. Just yesterday I had to pop into a mechanic as my break light came on. Luckily all I needed was a little top up of brake fluid.

3. In your opinion do you need to be a particular kind of person to hack van life?
I don't think it takes a particular type of person to hack van life as everyone who I have met on this journey are so different. Budgets, vans, goals, highlights [and] destinations change person to person. I guess the universal thing that ties everyone together is the thirst for adventure.
Lately, it seems that it has become quite trendy to live in a van and post unbelievable photos to Instagram to make the world jealous. I have met people that have been living in and out of their vans way before Instagram. They believed in the tiny house and small footprint movement from as long as they can remember. I bought my van [from] a couple in their 80's who had had it for 12 years. Not some young, funky backpackers!
van with awning
4.  What advice would you give to anyone thinking about taking to the road?
The advice I would give to people starting out is just that - Start out. Don't worry about money or your career. Take a chance and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and if you have to cut your trip short at least you know you gave it a chance. I hear day after day "I am so jealous of your life" and I used to be stuck in that corporate prison once too saying that exact same thing to my travelling friends. Now I just chuckle to myself whenever I hear it. Be like Nike and JUST DO IT!

Follow the Typsy Gypsy here on Instagram.
Questions for Carrie via Twitter at one_van_no_plan
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August 22, 2016