Karstan and Maxine are living their best vanlife
Karstan and Maxine believe that life is one big adventure. Together, they have travelled around the world, appeared on the renovation competition TV show The Block, and they are now about to embark on their next epic journey – travelling across Australia in their 1968 VW Kombi with their baby daughter Zuri. We chat with the couple about what made them
decide to hit the road, what they love about van life, travelling as a family, and more.
You’ve worked hard as a young couple to purchase your first home. What made you decide to rent out your house and hit the road in a van?
Our van life journey started back in 2009 when we purchased our first Kombi and went around Australia for 12 months. That trip really opened our eyes to the magic of the whole vanlife experience, and we’ve been dreaming of those adventures
ever since. Over the years we’ve had a variety of different vans, learning lots along the way and most recently we spent five months travelling with our daughter Zuri, who was only eight months old when we left.
We surprised a lot of people with the destinations we travelled to which included outback NSW and QLD as well as the tip of Australia (Cape York). During this trip we could easily go days without seeing anyone, it was such an amazing feeling - we love nothing more than to drive along a dirt road and have it all to ourselves. This trip really put our lives into perspective and made us realise that we wanted to continue our adventures across Australia. After our time on The Block we worked so hard to renovate our house over three years. We literally did not stop - there were no holidays, every spare minute and dollar was spent on building our home. We’ve put in the hard yards and now it’s time for our next chapter, living a simpler life on the road and showing our daughter the true beauty of Australia!
How long are you planning to be on the road for? What destinations are you planning to visit?
The goal is to be on the road for 12 months, although with COVID we really can’t plan too much, but we’re happy to just go with the flow. In saying that, we definitely have some epic adventures on our bucket list. We’re aiming to cross / camp all 10 of the Australian deserts and tick off some of Australia’s most iconic 4WD tracks in our 2WD Kombi!
What are your favourite parts of vanlife?
We just love the simplicity and freedom that vanlife brings. One of our most favourite things to do is wake up in the dark, get the fire started, boil the billy and sip on a steaming cup of coffee while we listen to the wildlife wake and watch the sunrise. We pretty much do the same routine when the sun goes down - but with a mug of wine.
Another part that really excites and motivates us is the amazing like-minded people we meet on the road. You never know who you will bump into and some of our fondest memories are not actually destinations, but people.
Finally, living in a small space means less stuff and you quickly realise that you don’t need much to be happy. Our focus is on experiences and being together, rather than objects or material things.
Are there any challenges to living in a van?
There are constant challenges on the road, but that’s all part of the journey. The most important thing is that you are prepared both mentally and physically. We don’t set too many expectations and we take each day as it comes.
The weather is unpredictable, there have been times where we have been stuck outside in a random outback storm holding down the awning for an hour, or the roads we had planned to travel closed. Breaking down can also be a challenge, that’s why it is so important to have the highest cover of roadside assistance, know your van, and carry spare parts!
Living in a small space can also be challenging at times, you really need to stay on top of keeping it
tidy – everything must have a purpose and place.
Your young daughter Zuri is turning two in October – how is she enjoying her new mobile life?
Zuri absolutely thrives on the road, being outdoors suits her wild and curious personality. We first
started taking her in our van as a newborn, so she is very comfortable and has adapted so well to life on the road. The Kombi is her home and safe place, and the outdoors is her playground. It makes us so happy to see her cheeky grin as we pull up
to new places, drive through different terrain and watch her as she sees and hears wildlife for the first time. Zu’s energy is just so infectious, she’s always bursting to get out and explore. It’s during these moments that we know we are giving her a
pretty damn awesome life! We have no doubt that the adventures we are taking her on are having a positive impact on her growth and development.
You’ve done lots of renovations to your Kombi, which includes an awesome fit out. Do you have any
recommendations on what additions and modifications others could make to their vans?
After years of life on the road we knew what we wanted and needed, and the simple additions and modifications we’ve done have made a huge difference to our daily life.
Here are our top recommendations to consider for your van:
- Dometic fridge / freezer - now this is a game changer! We can now freeze and keep meals for longer and have ice blocks in the warmer months (super important for our little one). We actually didn’t realise how much we needed a freezer until we got it, so if you are tossing up whether to invest in a fridge / freezer - the answer is yes!
- Built-in Dometic cooktop - we have a two-burner gas stove with a glass lid which
expands our bench space when we aren’t using it - GENIUS!
- Built-in Dometic stainless steel sink - this also comes with a glass lid ensuring we maximise our space inside our van. Now we can wash up our dishes quickly, clean our teeth or simply fill up a drink bottle.
- New all-terrain tyres - if you want to see more of Australia (off the beaten track) chase out a set of good quality all terrains … something with strong sidewalls. We use the BF Goodrich All Terrains KO2s. When we hit the dirt, we let the pressure out to 25ish psi which reduces the chance of a puncture but most of all makes the corrugations bearable.
- Portable shower - for years we’ve just used cheap solar showers. But they only work if you have sun and the trickle of water really doesn’t do the trick. So, we got ourselves a water heater which means no matter what we can have a hot shower!
- A comfortable foam mattress - spend the extra money to get a good dense mattress that doesn't compress too much. Your future self will thank you!
What would be your top tip for people about to go on their first van trip?
Oh, we really cannot just give ONE TIP, as we have many that we would like to share. There is so much to learn, and you will constantly adapt and find what works for you. Here are our top tips for new vanlifers:
- Download your maps in case you lose reception.
- Less is more - only take what you need. The beauty of vanlife is living with less and really appreciating and taking care of the items you choose to travel with.
- Choose light clothes which dry quickly.
- Know how to change your tyres, oil and water.
- Keep at least five litres of water per day.
- Carry a comprehensive first aid kit, know what is inside and store it in an easy to access location.
- Pack safety equipment: fire extinguisher, headlamp, EPIRB.
- Take a blower, this can be used to keep your fire going and clean your van, we can’t travel without ours.
- Pre-book your campsites or if free camping, try and arrive early, there is nothing worse than rocking up at night and having to set up or being turned away when you are exhausted.
- Solar power will be your best friend! Staying charged is super important.
Image credit: Karstan & Maxine