Life Home Hit the road: the young people trading rental homes for vans

Hit the road: the young people trading rental homes for vans

Mitch Cox, 22, and girlfriend Cleo Codrington, 22, live out of a van. Photo: Instagram/@cleocohen
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The prospect of more time in nature, less responsibility and zero rent is particularly seductive at a time when Australians are spending up to 30 per cent of their income on accommodation.

According to the latest Biannual Rent Affordability Index (RAI), rental prices have risen in every major metropolitan area in the country, bar Perth. The average Melburnian is looking at 24 per cent of their income going towards accommodation.

So, move to Perth, or do as ‘van lifers’ do, and say goodbye to renting altogether?

In 2011, ex-Ralph Lauren designer Foster Huntington, 28, from Oregon, in the United States, took to photographing his experiences living out of a van.

Since then, a more mobile way of life has become a global phenomenon, both on the road and on social media, sparking hashtags such as #homeiswhereyouparkit, #livesimply and #wheresmyofficenow.

A lack of funds, combined with a desire to see more of Australia, inspired photographer Mitch Cox, 22, and girlfriend Cleo Codrington, 22, to do up a 2002 Toyota Hiace and make van life their primary living situation.

According to the young couple, their savings as a result have been exponential.

“Living in the van is far, far cheaper than renting,” Mr Cox tells The New Daily. “We have no water bills, all our power comes from solar, and we spend nothing on camping or accommodation.”

The Instagram-savvy pair – with more than 156,000 followers between them – tend to spend the most money when they’re sightseeing.

“If we’re just stationary and not exploring, we spend practically nothing each week,” Mr Cox explains.

“When we’re on trips (depending how far we are travelling), we’re looking at $60 a week, including phone bills per month, gym memberships, food, drinks and fuel fill ups.”

The pair is also adamant that attracting followers and sponsors hasn’t influenced the way they share or talk about their experiences.

“We’ve been genuine from the start,” insists Ms Codrington. “If we are promoting a product or an experience, they’re things we genuinely enjoy and love.”

But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of hygiene, van life is a dance between oceans and seasons.

“Keeping clean whilst living on the coast is definitely easier,” shares Mr Cox. “When we’re inland away from water sources, we heat some water up on the fire and have a shower with that. It’s just like a shower at home, but with a better view and less privacy.”

Privacy and alone time also seem to be an ongoing creative challenge.

“When you’re living literally on top of each other, getting your own space can be quite hard,” says Ms Codrington.

“Achieving this is something we’ve perfected after countless trips and a few arguments,” she laughs.

While Mr Cox surfs and edits photographs, Ms Codrington puts her energy into drawing, going for beach runs, cooking and visiting gyms.

“Then, when we unwind and spend one-on-one time with each other, we appreciate each other’s company more … It’s a win-win!” says Ms Codrington.

Kill Bill was the last film the couple watched, while parked at Dee Why in Sydney’s northern beaches.

They also spend a lot of time devouring whole series of books, including Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.

“I’m all for a good fantasy!” exclaims Ms Codrington.

This, coming from a woman who, by all accounts, appears to be living the dream.

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