Don’t you wish you could just go? Pack up the bare essentials, set a very loose itinerary, grab your significant other and hit the road. Not to escape responsibilities but to discover how to live. Imagine finding the perfect campsites by accident or reading a book with your toes in a crystalline river. Maybe you’ll live in a van (down by said river?), that certainly seems like the move these days. But not just any van — a van you designed and customized to fit your vibe. You should probably bring along a camera too, you never know what you’re going to see out there.
That, in a nutshell, is the life of the modern vagabond. Wandering to live, working when it’s needed, and creating custom comforts — also, wearing as few clothes as possible. Which is a pretty neat summary of 22-year-old graphic designer and illustrator Cleo Cohen Codrington. Not too long ago, we sat down with Cleo’s boyfriend, photographer, and fellow van-companion, Mitch Cox to talk about the tech specifics and intricacies of how they do what they do. This time around we wanted the feminine perspective. What’s going on in the mind of the girl who poses for all those photos?
Cleo was kind enough to answer some questions and help amp up our summer wanderlust.
What keeps you excited about life on the road?
Not knowing where to go next. We have a general idea where we are going but it’s those random camp spots you find on a random dirt road in the middle of nowhere that make traveling so much more exciting!
Not knowing what we’ll stumble upon next, that’s the best part.
How do you guys afford it?
Affording to live the lifestyle that we do isn’t super hard, especially when our home is pretty self-sufficient. We have solar energy! We have a diesel engine, which helps to save a heap of money on fuel.
We also have a membership with Anytime Fitness which keeps us fit while traveling but also provides us with nice hot showers (the gyms are scattered throughout Australia, so there’s always one close by.)
The other main expense would be food, while we do eat regularly and quite well you can change what you consume to suit any budget. You can spend $20 a week each on food by cutting out luxuries and living off rice, tuna, oats, etc.
If you want the lifestyle so bad and it’s worth the extra effort, cost isn’t a huge factor.
Do you still keep a normal day job while living on the road?
Hopefully one day, that would be the ideal lifestyle. It’s just a matter of finding a job that best suits life on the road and constantly changing your location.
At the moment, we’re working part time between larger trips saving up a bit of money — but that isn’t to say we’re stationary in Sydney while doing so. In between work we are constantly venturing out to places throughout NSW for mini holidays — we can’t stay still.
How was the process of turning your van into “home”?
The process was long but worthwhile. I’d like to say it was a 50/50 effort, but Mitch certainly did most of the designing and all the manual labor (he’s quite good at that). The layout and design has changed completely from the first one we did two years ago, the best way to test if it works is to start living in it. That’s when you start to realize what works best where.
Life on the road as a couple can be tricky, any advice to people out there trying to live together in such a tiny space?
There’s definitely no room to hide from each other when a disagreement arises (someone leaving a light on or the milk out), but it makes you resolve those silly smaller fights a whole lot quicker.
It’s not easy to live completely on top of each other 24/7, everyone needs time to themselves, but we still manage to do that… even if it’s for 30 minutes a day. We have different hobbies, Mitch will go for a surf while I will go for a run, or Mitch will brave some big waves to take photos while I draw. At the end of the day we’re in this big adventure together and I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else.
There’s no surer way to find out if you truly get along with someone!
If you could go back in time and give pre-van Cleo some wisdom, what would you tell her?
There’s a lot I’ve learned from living the simple van life. I definitely would have stopped myself from wasting money on clothes and stuff I didn’t need. Money can go a long way and all those pointless things could have been more adventures!
And another important lesson has been that you see so much more of a place/country/region when you road trip rather than take a quick flight… The best places are usually those along the way to your destination.
Do the sponsors you guys work with support you financially or just with product? Any advice to people out there looking to do the same?
At the moment, sponsors are people we support based on their product, their lifestyles or their brand identity — receiving products we use daily rather than financial support. If we can do what we do while supporting local or global brands that have similar vibes and interests to ours that’s great… but we definitely aren’t doing it for money or even to simply receive product. We definitely want to show our followers how they can live similarly to us, and what equipment and product gets us through day-to-day. We aren’t into shout outs or products deliberately being advertised for the sake of the product, if we love something and it benefits our trip and travel we support that! No bullshit here!
Not everyone can receive sponsors or free products and to think so would be unrealistic, and we are in no way trying to promote a way of travel that’s unrealistic. What we do is realistic and that’s why I think people can relate. But that’s not to say that if we were ever given financial support to keep traveling that we would refuse, it would mean we could share more adventures and more stories! We would just continue to travel the way we do (road tripping in our home) because that’s who we are and that’s what travel means to us!
What’s been your favorite spot to travel in the van and why?
We’ve loved everywhere we’ve been in the van, but so far Tropical North Queensland definitely stands out for us. Pristine beaches that you can park at and open up your back door to, amazing weather, lush rainforests, mountains for hiking, a reef to explore, and bountiful waterfalls.
It’s got a little bit of everything we love right at our doorstep.
You’ve had some bumps in the road (Mitch shared the story of your recent break in). With all the heartache is the vagabond life still worth it?
It might set us back a couple of days or a few weeks, but at the end of the day it wouldn’t make it any less worthwhile. We have definitely learned a lot from the break in and a recent fire and we’ll just be more careful — but no less adventurous.
How can people support you guys following the fire?
Just continue to enjoy our posts! To have people enjoy what we do is the best support we can receive.
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Whilst we work in between larger trips to save money, we like to go on shorter road trips at least once a week 👌🏽☀️🚐 Seeing new and exciting places is definitely a priority – there is so much to see in your own country before you blow all your savings exploring only one city of another😝🙌🏽😁 #vanlifediaries // Photo by @mitch.cox 📷
The Mad Ones is a reference to a famous quote from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road: “…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”
Watch this series for interviews and profiles with people doing big, wild, bold, creative things with their lives. #TheMadOnes