kids

Jen completely transformed a vintage caravan to travel around Australia with her kids.

I’d always loved the thought of owning my own caravan. Not just a modern-day one, an old vintage van. 

At times, I’d sit on Pinterest and start pinning these amazing renovated vans, then immediately start researching on Gumtree for one. It was only a dream, but one I’d had for some time. 

In the end it was a spontaneous decision - with the kids growing up so quickly I just thought, life's too short.

Watch: Things mums never hear. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia

My father owned a pop top camper van when I was young. I can still remember its smell, the rainbow door curtain and playing shops in its large brown annexe. Although we only went on a few camping trips in it, I still reminisce about those times. Exploring, freedom; the simple things. I wanted to give that to my kids.

I run my own business as a photographer in between mum life, and have always had a passion for creating and DIY projects. My two children, Isaac (12) and Cheyenne (10) are loud, crazy and adventurous. Taking after their mother I think!

It wasn’t until February of 2018 that I decided to take the plunge and I found the perfect vintage caravan when I opened up my Gumtree search Australia-wide. There sat a 1975 Millard Caravan on the outskirts of Victoria. It was a musty old mission brown - a definite blast from the past with its lino tiles, dark laminate wood grain cabinetry, brown vinyl dining setting, brown laminate walls and funky lime green curtains. It was reasonably priced, had registration and looked pretty good in the photos. It was listed for $3,800, but after some clever negotiation, we agreed on $3,000. And just like that, Millie the caravan joined our family.

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The Process.

From all my research and pinning on Pinterest, I could already see her potential with minimal fuss; something I could flip with a splash of paint, new linen and curtains. Once the van was in my hands, we took it out on the road for a few nights in its original state to get an idea of what worked and what didn't. The functional layout was a winner, but the van needed a new fridge, a microwave, outside cooking options, block-out blinds, and there was some pre-existing water damage to contend with. 

During the renovation, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The first step was to fix all the leaks, and then came jobs like cleaning up the chassis, removal of the water damaged panel, removing and resealing the j-rails, and cleaning up the windows. It was challenging and laborious and definitely not the most fun part of the renovation.

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It was also quite time consuming and surprisingly tolling on the body. At times it often felt like we were never going to have the beautiful results I’d so hoped for. There was a lot of time spent watching YouTube tutorials and projects on Instagram. But, after this process, the ball rolled quite easily, and I was able to get the look and feel I was after, largely inspired by TV personalities Michael and Carlene Duffy’s very first caravan renovation on Vonnie the Viscount.

I started in May 2018 while working part time for about six weeks. Then I had a six week break over winter, and then it took me another four weeks part time to get where I am now. From this I’ve learnt never to assume a van renovation could be a quick flip!

Image: Supplied. 

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The Reward.

Staying in a caravan allows us to disconnect from our everyday life. It gives us a chance to reconnect as a family and capture those moments that belong to us, even if it’s just for a few days. We live in such a beautiful country and were yet to experience and explore destinations right at our doorstep. 

In the past 18 months, we’ve managed to venture to ten different destinations within the area. Before this, we never went anywhere. To say this has given our family a new lease on life is an understatement.


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Of course there’s the constant challenge of keeping the kids entertained when we’re on the move. Because we’re all much more relaxed though, there’s less family fighting, and more of embracing what it means to be a kid.

We’ve travelled short distances along the south coast, exploring our own backyard. The unspoilt coastlines and glorious crystal-clear beaches and wonderful walking trails with breathtaking views of the coastline are just a few things that keep us wanting more. 

Holly and Andrew chat to Evie Farrell about taking her daughter out of the city life and moving to a tropical island on This Glorious Mess podcast. Post continues below. 

It’s no surprise to me that more people are searching for caravans right now, with overseas travel off the cards. Buying through the second hand economy can also make it that bit more affordable, and you can negotiate too. Buying a pre-loved caravan also meant I had no problem ripping bits out and doing my own design, where with a new model I’d be much less likely to do so.

I would absolutely recommend this to other parents. More than anything, Millie gives us family time. In this fast, digital world revolving around work, school, rushing to and from after-school sports and activities, homework, dinner, reading... Millie has taught our little family to slow down a bit.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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