CARAVAN OR BUS THAT WAS OUR BIGGEST DILEMMA,
When we finally decided to pack up our life and our earthmoving business and throw caution to the wind to travel around Australia with our 2 teenage kids our second biggest decision we had to make was do we travel in a caravan or purchase a converted coach. We already owned a caravan, it was a Jayco expanda with bathroom and slideout lounge and we had done a fair amount of camping/travelling in her for weeks on end over the years, but for me I wasn’t totally convinced that now that the kids were teenagers this was going to be the best accommodation for us for the next 2 years and maybe even more. So when I started looking for bigger vans to fit us all in I was so disappointed that I couldn’t find anything that suited our needs so my next option was a 5th wheeler but with a hefty price tag and a need to have to upgrade our car to a suitable tow vehicle was definitely not an option, so the fun and many interstate trips began to search for a 40ft motorhome.
I know you may be thinking wow what an expensive option especially for the fuel consumption, but our beautiful home on wheels fuel consumption ranges between 33-36 ltrs per 100km, for us we find this affordable when we are literally travelling in our house. So after months of searching all along the east coast we finally found the perfect motorhome for us. She is a 40ft coach which has been converted to a 3 bedroom house on wheels. She is a Volvo Volgren twin deck, almost a double decker, but the beauty with this type of coach is you have the double deck (only at the rear) and you still have the massive bins area downstairs for all your storage, water tanks, batteries etc, you would be shocked with the amount of “stuff” we have in there….surfboards, skateboards scooters, gazebo’s, chairs tables and the list just goes on and on.
The Volvo was only about 80% completed when we bought her so we knew we still had at least another $40k that we needed to invest into her to make it perfect. Firstly we needed to convert the co-drivers bunk room into an amazing bedroom for our youngest, which included windows, fan, TV, PlayStation, LED lighting and new carpeting and bedding.
Next I needed to get my kitchen sorted, we had a new stainless steel free standing gas cooker/oven installed, with new custom painted glass splashbacks and all new LED lighting. Another decision that we had to do a fair amount of research on was for our new toilet. We decided on a compost toilet as well as a wall hung vanity for our separate toilet. I’m so happy with this decision as originally I wanted a macerator toilet, but the hassle of always needing to be near a dump point and the extra tank that was needed made our decision a lot easier. Now came the time for the really big expensive items, power and water, as well as fitting out all of the downstairs bin area. We installed a second kitchen downstairs with a 120ltr bar fridge, microwave, LED strip lighting, hot and cold water and slide out bbq area. Another bin was converted to my laundry with an 8kg front load washer and shelving for extra towels and laundry detergents. The 3 other bins on the driver’s side house the generator room which had exhaust fans fitted and all sound proofed, hubbys workshop and more storage.
Now for the next biggest expense apart from the original purchase of the bus was the solar/battery set up. This was an area that I wasn’t going to penny pinch in, for me there was no point having this amazing 3 bedroom house on wheels if it didn’t function just like a house. When I started searching for companies to do our work I was very impressed with my initial call to Springers Solar in Brisbane. I rang Luke and gave him a whole list of appliances that I wanted to be able to run in our motorhome and he didn’t patronize me like some other companies I had spoken to. He listened to my needs and wants and put together a quote and system that would do what I needed it to do. Our set up runs exactly like a 3 bedroom house off the grid. We have 2 house fridges running 24/7 and a Rheem electric HWS also we have 4 tvs, dvds, playstaions, microwave, toaster, kettle, coffee machine, 2 split system aircons, thermomix, slow cooker, bread machine, hairdryer and straightner, you name it this set up will run it. We have 12x250ah 6 volt batteries, with 6x 300 watt solar panels on the roof and to be able to run all of my electric appliances we also have a 5000W inverter which handles everything perfect. We also invested in the smart system which is a system that automatically knows exactly where it is drawing its power from at all times, be it shore power, alternator, batteries, or gennie. I absolutely love it and by investing in this system it gives us the freedom to free camp for as long as we want without ever running out of power.
In the first 12 months the system practically paid for itself with what we saved from not having to stay in caravan parks, with 2 teenage kids our nightly rate the parks would charge is anywhere from $60 to $70 per night. After the power system was all set up the next project was our water tanks. We now carry 1000 litres of fresh water and 450ltrs of grey water, as we have a compost toilet there is no need for a black water tank. Once the tanks were installed we also had our plumber hook up our Rinnai Instant Gas HWS, so just incase we get days of rain we will always at least have a nice hot shower without having to put any extra load on our gennie.
Now with the bus all set up we did quite a few weekends away testing her out, the only annoyance was that I had to usually follow behind in our Nissan Patrol as at that point will still hadn’t been able to find a trailer that could carry the weight of our car, so after months of looking and only 6weeks before our departure date we finally bit the bullet and had a dual axle tilt tray trailer specifically designed and built to accommodate the Nissan. We have now been on the road for over a year and a half and I can honestly say there isn’t a thing a would change about our set up it works so well for our family and their needs, lots of space and privacy as we all have our own bedrooms.
I think that if we had decided on a caravan our nearly 17 year old would of well and truly been over it by now, but both our kids are enjoying our adventures so much they don’t have any desire to head back home in a hurry mmmm maybe I should look at selling our home and become full time gypsies. If you would like to follow us on our once in a life time adventure please feel free to like and follow our Facebook page Done Diggin Now Livin.