Earning an income while living the #vanlife
I’m kinda surprised that working while travelling around Australia isn’t talked about more often on websites about van life.
Maybe it’s because there aren’t as many people wanting to live in a van full time, like I do.
If you’re intending to use your campervan for weekends away, or your 2 weeks summer holiday, then of course you can keep your current job and have your camper van ready for adventures whenever you have leave.
But if you swoon over all these vanlifers on Instagram and YouTube as they seem to live a life of adventure and new experiences every week, and you want that too; well, you need to figure out how you’re going to finance a lifestyle like that (at least until you get enough followers and you can become the next great social media influencer, of course.)
So I’ll tell you our story. What we’ve done to create a life on the road, and what we’re doing now.
Maybe you could follow a similar path, or maybe it will just give you some ideas of what you could do to make your #vanlife dreams a reality.
If there’s anything good that could come out of this pandemic, I think the working from home situation would be it. Companies that were sure they couldn’t have their workforce working anywhere except the office, were forced to find solutions.
And remote working became the norm.
If you’ve got a job that can now be worked from anywhere with internet, you may already be perfectly set up for the nomadic vanlife.
But since our story is mostly pre-pandemic, I haven’t talked about Working From Home roles.
To set the scene, let me tell you what our life looks like at the moment…
We are nomadic.
However, we have no van, caravan or camper trailer to call our own. Heck we don’t even own a tent.
We live in AirBnBs and holiday rentals.
Okay, let’s wind back a bit.
I’ll put a table of contents here, so you can skip the back story if you wish.
How we got here
In mid 2017, my husband Ben and I, were living in Auckland (my hometown) and both of us had full time jobs. He worked on the maintenance team of a high school, and I was in health and safety administration for a large roading contractor.
After coming to the realisation that we couldn’t have kids of our own, we decided to totally change our lives and do something that we were both really keen on.
Travelling around Australia.
So we quit our jobs, came back to Australia with our meagre savings, bought a car and camper trailer and hit the road.
That trip lasted for almost 5 months and then our savings ran out. (We share our story over on BenAndMichelle.com if you’re interested.)
We loved the lifestyle so much though, and were determined to keep going, but to upgrade to a caravan.
We stopped in Dubbo, sold the camper trailer, stayed at a friends dilapidated reno project, and got jobs.
We bought a cute little caravan, and then moved to Maitland where we stayed in the caravan, for another year.
Early 2020 we spent a couple of months in Malaysia and then returned to Australia just as the pandemic was starting to grip the world.
We lived in our little caravan for another 3.5 months before deciding to treat ourselves to a month in an AirBnB. Within 2 weeks of moving into the AirBnB we had sold the caravan (for a profit!) and decided to live in AirBnBs and holiday rentals until we figured out what our next move was going to be.
That was 17 months ago.
And so while we dream of our ideal camper van, and save for it (!), we happily bide our time up and down the NSW coastline.
Now, I’m not saying that we live a lifestyle that others aspire to, but it’s a lifestyle that WE love.
We get to explore new places every month, we can stay near family and spend some quality time with them, we have seen more of Australia than many of our friends and family.
It’s certainly not perfect, but heck, we love it.
But the question is, how do we pay for it? Especially if we’re always moving around and not at permanent, well paid jobs.
There have been 3 key ways we have funded our on-the-road lifestyle:
1. Stopping to work, 2. being a virtual assistant and 3. blogging.
How WE earn money while travelling Australia
Before we even left NZ, we had started a couple of blogs – one in the RVing niche because I loved everything to do with RVs. And another personal blog that we would use to document all our travels. We worked on them when we had time, with the hope that they would become ‘successful’ one day, but by the time we left NZ they were still only new and not getting many readers.
1. Stopping to work
After 5 months of travelling around half of Australia, our savings pretty much dried up.
We were in Dubbo visiting friends and decided to stop there and look for work.
We signed up to employment agencies and I got a couple of good contracts doing administration work, while Ben did a few labouring type jobs.
During this year, Ben also got his HR license and then found a job working at a tyre supplier, while also building up his truck driving hours doing deliveries each week.
If you’re planning to stop and look for work, my friends over All Around Oz have a comprehensive post on How to find work when travelling Australia.
2. Virtual assistant work
After a year in Dubbo the idea of spending another summer there (but this time in our caravan, with no air con) was untenable. So we headed closer to the coast and found ourselves in Maitland.
As luck would have it, the show grounds we were staying in needed a new after hours caretaker, and we needed the cheap rent.
I took on the role of caretaker (basically camp host, collecting money from campers who arrived after office hours) and Ben got a job driving for a local hardware supplier.
I also started working as a virtual assistant for a couple of clients. My tasks included managing a growing Instagram account, writing articles, and managing their Pinterest account. These were all skills that I had developed from working on our own blogs.
You can read about how I got started as a virtual assistant, with tips on how you can do it too, over on our blog. Virtual assistant – work from home or the road
The 2 blogs that we started in early 2017, finally started to make some decent-ish income by mid 2020.
There are 2 main ways that the blogs generate income, advertising income and affiliate income.
If you think that blogging is something that you’d like to pursue as a way of making money while travelling, I have lots of information about that.
I gotta say though, making money blogging is not easy. Not. At. All.
I spent almost 3 years plugging away at these blogs before they were able to generate more than just a few dollars per month.
If you want to see how much we earn in a typical month, here’s our monthly income report from October 2021 which tells you exactly how much I made last month and the expenses incurred in running the blogs.
So that’s our story.
It’s been a convoluted journey where we had to stop to work at ‘normal’ jobs, and has slowly progressed to ‘working online’ for others, and now we have our own business running the blogs.
And I love it.
Even though we’re not making heaps of money (yet!), I love that I get to work on projects that I want to work on; I can work early in the morning (which is my preference) and explore or relax later in the day.
I love that we’re not tied to one location and we can go anywhere we want to.
Our only requirement is that we have access to internet (usually via hot-spotting off our phones) and a table and chair to sit at.
I wish I could have done this years ago. But c’est la vie, at least I get to do it now.