By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 3/27/17

For the twenty fifth installment of our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are so happy to be sharing the adventures of Jasmine Burgan, her partner John, and their dog River. You may know them from their fantastic van build named The Cabin Camper. We spoke to them about #vanlife and I was excited to see they are fellow Blue Heeler owners.

One of things I like most about @thecabincamper Instagram account is that it begins when John and Jasmine decided to gut their van and start building out a van to call home more permanently. You follow along as things get done and the adventure are taking place. Educational and adventurous; Everything and Instagram account should be in my opinion.

I think there is great value in learning from people who are just beginning things. You share in their successes and their educational moments.

While you may learn an awful lot from the “real pros” on Youtube or any number of #vanlife forums or blogs, watching people get their feet wet for the first time has immense value.

We have all had the experience where you watch a Youtube video about changing the oil on your new motorcycle or installing that new bumper on your car, only to find it takes you four times longer than the person in the video or post. They have all the tools they need for the job laid out on a nice bench, while you walk back and forth to the garage each time you need something. They know all the right angles to crank on the wrench just right, while you bang up your knuckles repeatedly leaving your frustrated and bloodied.

Even though they are new to this, that doesn’t mean they aren’t great at this. Their van build has gone extremely well. It looks like a place you would be proud to call home. I highly recommend giving them a follow in Instagram and keeping an eye out for their blog, which will be up and running soon.

John and Jasmine are great reminders that when your simplify the details of your life, you are automatically giving yourself more opportunity to open yourself up to great experiences.

Tell me about your vehicle – Year, Make, Model?

It’s a 1985 Toyota Hiace, long wheel base with a pop top.


Did you name your van?

Yeah – ‘Evie’ – we can’t really remember why, but it stuck!


When and how did you get it?

In 2013, we were living in a grimy little apartment in South Brisbane and used to go for walks along the Brisbane River, where we would see people camped out in vans and various other vehicles. We often wondered why people would live like that, and if we could too. Suddenly, I landed what was a ‘dream job’ at the time, about an hour and a half north of Brisbane – we decided to take this opportunity to go ahead and buy a van and move into it temporarily until we found a place closer to my new job. We thought it would only be a couple of months max and then we would have a good weekend camper van for our new coastal neighborhood. It snowballed from there and before we knew it it’d been over a year.


What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the ones you bought? 

A lot of our initial research was just browsing online listings, looking at different brands, fit outs, mileage and price etc. We had an idea of our budget and what would suit us best before we inspected any. We honestly didn’t look at many vans in person at all. The first was a smaller Mazda van (I think an L300?) and we liked it, but it was tiny! The next one was a Toyota Hiace – much more suitable but had way too much rust for the price. When we found Evie, another Hiace, aptly priced, long wheel base, with no rust and only a few previous owners, we knew straight away we’d scored.


Have you made any upgrades or changes to it? 

The only initial changes we made were new curtains! We lived in it for 18 months as it was, before moving back into a house. We continued to live in rentals and use the van for the odd weekend or short trip, until late last year when we decide we were ready to live in it full-time again, but this time with a new layout. So we completely gutted it and started over.

What do you consider to be your current job or goal?

We have had a taste of the financial freedom that full-time van life can provide. We traveled so much and had so many great experiences that we could have never afforded if were renting. That’s a major drawcard for our second round of van life – travel goals paired with a new and improved layout have us feeling pretty certain that we won’t be back in a house anytime soon. We’re both working about 38 hours a week, and plan to continue that way for the rest of the year as we have a little bit of debt to work off and an overseas trip planned for September. We’re keen to get back on top of everything, whilst making the most of every day.


What is your favorite part about it living out of your vehicle? 

The minimalistic lifestyle – we have everything we need plus more in this tiny home. And virtually no bills to pay!

What is your least favorite part about it? 
Having to stay one step ahead of ourselves so that we don’t get fined for illegal camping.


How many miles have you put on it? 

About 50K

What is the best place you have taken it? Is there just one? 

We love inland northern New South Wales – Nimbin and Lamington National Park are two favourites!

Favorite road you’ve driven? 

The long, windy, mountainous road up to Lamington National Park – it’s full of switchbacks, wallabies and glorious views!

In one word, what describes your approach to life? 


If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living and traveling out of a vehicle, what would you tell them? 

Just let go! Of excess possessions, expectations, and inhibitions.

It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those kind of people? 

There wasn’t an exact point, rather a gradual realization. We received a lot of praise, encouragement and astonishment from everyone around us when we first started full time vanlife, which came as a bit of a surprise as we didn’t think what we were doing was such a huge deal. The extent of most people’s reliance on their homes and possessions really became clear through talking to people about how and why we were doing what we were doing. By living in our van and saving all the money we would have spent on rent, bills etc. we were able to backpack through multiple countries for months, and get the most out of our money! Trips like that allow for such multi-dimensional experiences.

What values do you think your hometown instilled in you that you take on the road and bring to your trips? 

We live in a beautiful part of the world, so when we travel, we don’t feel the need to seek out beautiful beaches, clear water and tropical weather because we have that at home. It allows us to look past the physical aspects of places, and focus on the local people and communities. And when we return home, we’re grateful for each and every moment. We don’t just look forward to the weekends. We travel for the full experience – the good and the not so good. It’s all relative!

Do you see yourselves as someone who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened? 

It just happened. It was meant to be a short-term, transitional phase and it turned into a lifestyle and belief system.

Where do you want to go next? 

India – if anyone has any suggestions or recommendations, we’re all ears!

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