Couple ditch jobs and city centre flat for van life – saving themselves over £11,000 per year in bills and rent

Tia and Jordan love travelling in their van Stella.

A couple have revealed how they ditched their 9-5 jobs and city centre flat for a nomad lifestyle – saving themselves a fortune in the process.

Before embracing their new way of life, Tia Carson, 25, used to work as a barista and a photographer in her spare time, while partner Jordan McArthur, 36, held down a role in real estate for a property development company.

But in 2017, fed up of the daily grind, they gave up their home in Perth to travel full time in an orange 1975 VW campervan that they named Stella.

Not only has this changed the couple’s lives – allowing them to explore the Australian content with all the adventures that come with – but they are also saving around $15,000-$20,000 AUD (£8,300-£11,100) every year in rent and bills.

Tia and Jordan, holding a dog, sit in front of Stella the campervan
Tia and Jordan with Stella the VW Campervan, on their travels (Picture: Jam Press)

“From the moment we make our first cup of coffee in the morning until we rest our heads at night, our lives revolve heavily around Stella,” Tia told Jam Press.

“She’s our little time machine and she teleports us back to a simpler time where life is enjoyed in the slow lane.”

“Stella had already been given a fresh coat of paint when we got her.

“She was a perfect shell with an empty interior. A blank canvas that took us eight months to fully decorate and build out.

“With limited space inside we made our decisions carefully on how to make our home practical and pretty.”

Inside Stella the campervan with lots of cushions, two mugs on a tray, a hat and some sunglasses
Inside Stella the VW Campervan (Picture: Jam Press)

The couple, who also brought along their dog Zenna, spent $22,500 AUD (£12,500) on the van and a further $6,450 (£3,600) to renovate the interior and motor, as well as adding a solar panel.

Tia also sewed cushion covers and curtains to add a homely touch.

Tia said: “We pulled out the old interior, which stripped her back to just the rock and roll bed.

“We had custom made cupboards installed by a close friend.

“This allowed us to store our essential items and cook outside using the pull-out drawer.

Tia with dog sitting in the doorway of Stella
The couple have been travelling around Australia (Picture: Jam Press)

“I had two 100 amp hour batteries installed, with a 600W inverter for us to have power.

“We had two new seats installed at the same time for more comfort while driving.

“Then we added new flooring and door cards to make the interior look retro.”

Tia, who is originally from Canada, has had dreams of exploring Australia since she was a child.

She arrived in the country in 2015 and randomly met Jordan when booking a stay through a CouchSurfing app.

He was her host and the pair quickly fell in love, with the Canadian deciding to remain permanently in the city.

Two years later, adventure came knocking.

The pull-out kitchen bench
The pull-out kitchen bench (Picture: Jam Press)

In 2017, while on a family trip to Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, they spotted a classic VW Kombi van and fell in love.

Tia said: “We pulled into a town called Broome where we briefly saw a Kombi parked at a fuel station.

“It sat there under the dim lights filled with camping gear and the little vibe machine put a smile on our face.

“That was it, the seed was planted.

“We began our search and four months later we had our Stella.

“Like most VW’s we saw she was a bit worse for wear but we got her none the less and our new journey began.”

Since then, the couple have explored the continent while living full-time in Stella and working by creating photos and videos for brands and tourism boards on social media.

Tia said: “Beginning our trip from the west coast, we travelled up the north-west of Australia, where desert meets sea.

A video showing inside Stella (Video: Jam Press)

“The rugged terrain was harsh, yet extremely beautiful, we were mesmerised by bright pink lakes, touched by the experience of hand-feeding wild dolphins and amazed by some of the best surf spots in the world.

“Like most people though, our plans changed when Covid hit, so we redirected our journey to be with family in Byron Bay.

“We spent time in the beauty of the northern rivers, which now feels like our second home until travel was possible again.

“Ever since, we’ve been tripping around tropical north Queensland deep into crocodile country and recently made our way down to the South Coast where we’ll visit Kangaroo Island.”

Although they love seeing new places, the couple’s focus is on “slow living” – enjoying each day and really getting to know the places where they stop.

Tia said: “Our day usually starts early.

“We hop out of bed straight into nature. We’ve noticed how good movement in the morning makes us feel so we’re always sure to get our blood flowing, whether it be a walk, yoga, or a solid workout.

“If we’re just heading out for a stroll, we bring along our camera and our pup Zenna.

“We then roll out our kitchen bench to cook up some coffee and breakfast.

“After this is when we get our work day going.

Stella with the door open so we can see inside the kitcehn area
They live and work in Stella full time (Picture: Jam Press)

“We take a few hours to do any necessary chores (tidy our living space, do our washing at a laundromat, make bookings, plan our next route), and work tasks (check our emails, edit images and videos).

“Then we’re free to explore.”

Both photographers, the couple spend sunset taking snaps of the incredible places they visit, before returning to the camp site to “sit by the fire, catch up with fellow travellers and break out the guitar”.

With travel restrictions in the country easing again, they are planning more trips.

Tia added: ‘For now, we’ll hop along the south coast of Australia until the weather becomes too cold.

“We then head north into the heart of Australia.

“Our dream is to spend time in the red centre around Ayres Rock, Uluru and Alice Springs before continuing onto Darwin.

“The roads will be long and unforgiving but we feel we are up for the challenge.”

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