Our story.

Where am I? What is BYDV?

We decided to start this website as a way to document all of the cool things we achieved on the way to completing our van build. We have learned so much from the process, that it only makes sense to share our knowledge with the awesome (and growing!) vanlife community.

When we were in the planning and building stage, it seemed like every spare moment we had was spent immersed in some van conversion resource or another. We must have read hundreds of thousands of words on an immeasurable number of van build subjects, watched countless hours of youtube and listened to an inestimable number of podcasts, on everything from van builds, budgets, inspiration, vanlife stories… you name it. 

Our hope is that with BYDV, we can bring you all of the knowledge we accumulated during the learning phase, and present it through our own individual lens, as people who have successfully built out and travelled in a van.

We’d love you to consider this a resource you can return to at any point in your van build journey to help you navigate the pitfalls and obstacles that come with building out your dream van. We’re here for you!

Thanks for visiting our site, and we hope it helps you create your path!

interior of our fod transit jumbo van conversion
Our home sweet home.



You see, we’ve always thrived on adventure, and on long stints of travel. 

As many young Aussies do, we backpacked through South East Asia multiple times from 2009 to 2011, slowly taking our time to explore the golden sandy beaches, lush rainforests, bustling markets and ancient ruins that countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos are renowned for. A world away from the metropolitan city of Sydney that we grew up in, the stark contrast of these colourful, bewitching and enchanting countries sparked a hunger in us; to see more, feel more and experience more.

A love affair with travel

In 2012 we decided to spend 3 months travelling through Africa. This was absolutely mindblowing, a true once in a lifetime adventure for us. From diving off the coast of Tofu in Mozambique, to sighting the big game in the Masai Mara national reserve, and climbing the glorious, almighty Mt Kilimanjaro, we chased adventure and returned to our homeland, Australia, full of strong memories and stories to tell. 

Our next titanic adventure came in 2014… and this time we had truly supersized. We had decided to quit our jobs, end our apartment lease and embark on a wild adventure for at least a year. Our destination… the whole world (or at least a good chunk of it!). We left Sydney,and headed, with a backpack each, on an adventure that would take us around the globe.

We spent 6 months in South America, hiking trails to Machu Piccu and exploring remote river systems of the Amazon jungle, navigating the highlands of Bolivia, walking through the sand dunes in Peru’s desert oasis, getting lost in the wilderness in Colombia. Then we trawled through the maze of night markets of Marrakesh in Morocco, waking to the sounds of prayer every morning. We drank red wine and ran with the bulls on our way through Spain, hot air ballooned over Turkey, before jumping into the pristine waters of the beautiful Mediterranian coast in Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece. 

Our foray led us on wild motorcycle journeys through Sri Lanka and India, before arriving in the majestic Himalaya, where we spent an incredible 17 days trekking through the nepalese mountains on our way to Everest Base Camp. Our around the world adventure ended watching the Northern lights from Chena Hot Springs in Alaska, knee deep in fresh snow as the sky danced above us. 

What we have seen on our travels truly, has always had a great capacity to open our eyes, and reset our perspectives around many of life’s daily struggles. And, more importantly, left an imprint on our souls that still defines us in some way, to this day. After our adventurous undertaking around the world, we once again returned home to our city by the sea, Sydney. We both returned back to work, slipping back into full time employment a week after landing back in the country. To say we suffered a reverse culture shock would be an understatement. 

Adventures into adulthood

It wasn’t long before we had our next grand adventure lined up, ready to take on head first. But this time, it didn’t involve travel, though it was still a gargantuan undertaking. Yep, two became one – we got married!

Alas, whilst the hit of adrenaline that a marriage and all its planning can deliver… it is no match for the open road, and its promise of exploration and adventure. We had hit the drawing board again and had begun to plan the next volume in our journal of experiences. 

We had tossed up the idea of slow travel… like really slow. Picking 4 places in the world, each completely different from the last, and then dividing a year up into 4 equal quarters and spending 3 months in each one. We had been throwing around places like Costa Rica, Russia, China, West Africa, Latvia, Guatamala, the list goes on. Then, as we were letting our travel plans marinade in our minds, we grasped onto an idea of a different kind. We had decided that we were ready to bring a baby into our lives, and pursue the ULTIMATE adventure… parenthood. 

Fast forward a year, and the days had suddenly grown a lot quicker, and the nights oh so so so much longer! 

Once our beautiful boy entered our life, everything changed, and obviously our next big travel adventure was put firmly on the backburner. But, then, slowly, bit by bit, through all the nappies, long nights and mental acrobatics that reigning in a newborn baby entails, somehow the travel itch resurfaced. We decided that our baby would fit into our lives, and that it was important to retain the things that we identify as such a vital part of us, in our case – travel and adventure. So we wouldn’t lose what makes us, us. With that in mind, it was back to the drawing board again, this time with an 8 month old baby in tow. 

Itchy feet and new ideas

We were still attracted to the idea of a slow journey overseas, but were concerned about the realities of traveling with a baby, at least in the places we found interesting. Plus, there’s nothing like having a child to make you truly realise how important family is. And the thought of being an ocean or more away from our siblings and parents was too much to bear. So that limited our options somewhat. 

It was while we were recollecting our thoughts that we discovered #vanlife. And oh my, did we fall in love, hard. 

We knew then what we wanted to do. Instead of hitting the big blue skies in a plane, we’d hit the big black tarmac in a van. Slow travel, in our own country. We had decided to embark on what is affectionately known in Australia as “The Big Lap”. One lap around this beautiful country of ours, following the coastline (note, that unlike the USA, the middle of our beautiful sunburnt land is desert, and lots of it!). We figured this would take us roughly a year. Being the start of 2019 at this point, we gave ourselves the lofty idea we’d be hitting the road mid November that same year. 

So now we had a plan, we had a time frame, all we needed now was a van… oh, and half a clue as to how to build it!

In March 2019, we purchased our van. A beautiful big Ford Transit Jumbo. It was love at first sight, though over the next 8 months, that love was certainly going to be tested! You can learn more about our purchase, and why we chose the Ford Transit here. 

The next 8 months of our lives were completely nuts, I (Charlie) was working full time, in a job where 50-60 hour weeks weren’t uncommon. Rissy was juggling work and being a stay at home mum to our little son. We were both utilising any free time we had to research and build out our van. Neither Rissy or I had a background in any sort of physical trade. Rissy was a marketing manager and I worked in television advertising. I’d worked on cars with my dad as a kid, and knew my way around a tool shed, but apart from that, we were going into this completely fresh, and naive. 

The next 8 months of our lives were completely nuts, I (Charlie) was working full time, in a job where 50-60 hour weeks weren’t uncommon. Rissy was juggling work and being a stay at home mum to our little son. We were both utilising any free time we had to research and build out our van. Neither Rissy or I had a background in any sort of physical trade. Rissy was a marketing manager and I worked in television advertising. I’d worked on cars with my dad as a kid, and knew my way around a tool shed, but apart from that, we were going into this completely fresh, and naive. 

The honest truth is that it actually might help to be naive. We certainly didn’t really know what we were getting into, not really.

The amount of self doubt, and worry you will face in your van conversion journey is real. It’s for this reason we wanted to create this website. We found some really fantastic resources online that allowed us to push through the more wobbly, insecure moments, and we will always be grateful for the knowledge and focus these resources brought. Now, we want to help in the same way. And for any people who think you need a massive yard or a huge workspace to build your van, we are living, breathing proof that you don’t! We created our van while it was parked on the road outside our apartment, which wasn’t some quiet backstreet, but rather a fairly busy road. 

Sure there were negatives to working in this way, such as having to make the 70 metre walk to and from the garage a million times in a day. Or the fact that we’d take the van to get supplies, only to return and our parking space was gone, along with any other parking space on our block. But, we just learnt to work through these frustrations, as we really had no other way. It got to the point where I was spending so much time in the van that my son, who was roughly 1 ½ at this time, thought I lived in the van. I’d be at work and Rissy would send me videos of our boy standing on the verandah (balcony) of our apartment looking at the van on the street, and shouting “Dada! Dada! Dada!”

After about 7 months of the van build we soon realised that we were not going to make our original November deadline, instead we would need to push it to the new year. We still had so much work to do, and it felt like we had been building out our van forever! But, there is nothing like a deadline to light a fire under you and encourage you to, as Nike puts it, Just Do It! 

To cement our resolve to get the build done, we rang our real estate agent and said we would be out of the apartment by Christmas. They then promptly began the process to advertise and lease it out to someone else. There was no turning back now! We’d have to get our collective shit together otherwise the three of us would be homeless! It was all hands on deck. We had mates come and help with the build, we had relatives coming over to look after our son so we could both work on the van.

Early mornings bled into late nights as we painstakingly built the van, with every spare minute allocated a task in those final few months. My sister and her family came over to help us move out of our apartment while we put the final touches on the van. It was truly a magic last few weeks where we felt everyone was pulling together to help us achieve our goal. We look back on this time most fondly out of all of the 8 months of the van conversion. 

Ready for departure

On January 1st, 2020, we loaded our van, jumped in the front seats and pulled out from the curb. The day had finally come and we were finally embarking on our year trip around Australia in the tiny home that we had literally built from scratch. We’ll never forget that feeling of coasting out of Sydney with our lives and everything we needed on our backs. Talk about freedom.

For the next three months, we explored central NSW, Tasmania’s east and west coasts, Victoria and South Australia’s coastline and peninsulas. Days were a mixture of long and lazy, spending hours on a beach or lake swimming or on our SUP; active and adventurous, embarking on hikes to see the area’s natural highlights or coastal cliffs, stunning waterfalls or redwood forests; or quiet and focussed as I (Charlie) worked on freelance gigs while Rissy and our son explored the areas nearby. 

It was, without a doubt, the most freeing and liberating feeling to travel with your life’s necessities on your back. The ability explore or park almost anywhere brought back our fondest memories from our international travels. 

As the days tricked into weeks, and the weeks tricked into months on the road, we felt our former life’s stresses melt away into the tarmac as we careened down the highway to our next campsite. Now this is what life is all about!

The Covid Curveball!

So, I guess it’s time to talk about the big C and how that affected our plans.

We were living our dream trip, and it was every bit as good as we thought it would be. Our glorious, memory making road trip was just over three months in, and we still had at least nine months of travel ahead of us. 

And then Covid hit. Like a freight train. 

We were watching covid unfold in China, and thinking, as most others in the west were, that this wouldn’t reach our shores, and much like sars, we wouldn’t need to worry. Then, I saw a news story about peoples doors being welded shut in Wuhan, and suddenly I thought this was going to get a whole lot worse. We then watched how it all unfolded in Italy, and in the UK. 

At first, we thought that being in our van was a blessing. We were stocked up on supplies, and had the whole open road of a big country in which to find space to wait this thing out. But, then the realities started appearing, and cracks started to surface. We were noticing that the small, regional towns we were passing through were starting to turn away travellers. People were being asked for ID at supermarkets, and only locals were allowed to purchase. We were starting to see civilisation turn on itself over toilet paper! Toilet… paper!

And, on top of that, we were seeing the whole of Italy go into lockdown. We started to realise that we would no longer be able to move around freely, and camp where we wanted. Sure enough, the government started closing campsites, and then closing state borders. We didn’t want to get locked down at some shitty RV park somewhere, stuck in our van for months (no matter how much we liked it, and how lovely we thought the build turned out!). And, after talking to my previous employer, there was an opportunity for me to return to work immediately. With all of this in mind, we made what we think was the right decision, and headed back to Sydney to bunker down, and wait this pandemic out. 

Since then, Australia has been incredibly fortunate with how Covid has affected our country. We have a few great things going for us down here though. We are an island, so international borders are a lot easier to maintain. We only have 25 million people, a small population, in comparison to most other countries. Though, we do have cities such as Sydney and Melbourne that have more than 5 million people in them. Our government wasn’t afraid to quickly and decisively enact policies that mitigated the hold Covid could take on our population. 

In hindsight, we may have been able to just keep on going on our way, and enjoy the last 9 months of our trip. But, it’s called hindsight for a reason, and we still stick by the decision we made at the time. We look back at our 3 months on the road as a blessing. Even though it was cut short, we made a lot of absolutely brilliant memories that will last our lifetimes. Rissy and I got to spend every day together, and we got to indulge in our little boy completely, instead of only an hour or so before and after work. In fact, we shared our son’s 2nd birthday in the van. That was a really special moment for us, and in time, we will be able to share the photos of his special day with him, and the memory of our vanlife adventure will live on. 

Another positive of the trip, one that will have a definite lasting impact in our lives, is that Rissy fell pregnant! We left with the three of us, and returned with the makings of one more. That was another reason why we decided not to continue our travels throughout the Covid pandemic. 

So, in a long winded way, that brings us to now.

We are currently back in the Emerald City of Sydney, and once again, we’ve pulled out the figurative drawing board and are planning our next great escape. This time, we will need a bit more room, as we have another stowaway to think about! As our new adventure develops we will be sure to share with you all the opportunities and pitfalls we come across. 

Here’s to our next journey, and to yours!

What it is like living in a van full time?

Here are the most frequently asked questions that pop up in our lives when people find out that we designed and lived full time in our van.

What kind of van do you have?

We bought a second hand 2014 LWB Ford Transit Jumbo. 350E with a long wheel base. We chose this van due to the great internal dimensions (1985mm H by 1,762mm wide) which meant we could comfortably stand up in the van without our heads skirting the ceiling. We also chose it due to the availability of Ford parts at garages around Australia.

As we planned to travel the Big Lap, we knew if we came into any mechanical problems with the van, parts needed to be readily accessible or easily sourced in both cities and remote towns.

How much did your van cost?

Our van cost $31,000 AUD + stamp duty tax ($930) to buy which is roughly $24,000 USD.

The conversion cost about $30,000 AUD ($23,100) by the time all was said and done. This includes every screw and every canister of sikaflex. Keep in mind, this is in Australian dollars, and also, in Australia, some common van build tools and materials are considerably more expensive than in the USA .

How long do you plan on traveling?

We had planned to travel full time for a year. We had set out to complete the “Big Lap” of Australia, which we figured would take us a full year to do properly. Our trip came to a standstill along with the rest of the world when Covid hit. We’re now waiting out the pandemic back in Sydney. We will be back on the road one day. But, now that we have had our second child, our original van is not big enough for us!
Time to upsize! We are thinking of a caravan or even a bus! Exciting times ahead!

How do you make money on the road?

We had saved up enough money to fund our travels before we left. We budgeted enough to last us the year. We supplemented this with dividend income from shares (the ultimate passive income) and I (Charlie) picked up bits of video editing freelance work along the way. Like most things in life, working in a van has its positives and negatives! 

Read more about our tips on how to work effectively in a van, and tips on surviving vanlife with kids here.

Where do you go to the bathroom, take showers ect.?

In our van we had a portable toilet (read more about our guide on choosing the best portable toilet for your van here). We decided against installing a shower in our van, preferring to use the space for a lounge area to seat 3-4 people. We have met many people on the road with showers in their vans and caravans, most of them go unused and the showers end up being used as storage space for random stuff that comes along in vanlife!

If you didn’t have a shower in the van, where did you shower?

We didn’t shower for a full 3 months that we were on the road. Boy oh boy were we stinky. Nah, jks, not really! Even though we didn’t have a shower in the van, we didn’t find it too inconvenient. We would simply use the facilities of the places we stayed at. Most caravan parks would have a good amenities building with high pressure hot showers, way better than any van shower could deliver. 

If we were free camping or were parked up somewhere without showers, we would simply set up our outdoor shower with our 20L solar shower bags. These can be purchased for less than $30 and are adequate to get you out of a bind.

What was vanlife with kids like?

When we left for our Big Lap of Australia, there were three of us; My wife and I and our son, who was 1 year 9 months old when we hit the road.
One of the main reasons for our big lap was to be able to spend more time with our son in such an important developmental stage of his life. We totally embraced being together with him all day, going on new adventures every day, and he blossomed throughout the journey. There is no doubt in our minds that he absolutely loved living in the van! 

We would sit three across the front when driving (Driver, baby, passenger)  which meant he could see so much of the world going by out the front window, and meant that the person in the window passenger seat could play games with him, and read books with him as we drove. It was magic. Now when we drive around in our normal everyday car, we really miss that aspect.

He really adjusted well to the confines of van life. I mean, why wouldn’t he love it. He gets to be with his parents all day and night, we’re going on adventures and seeing new things every day. And, then at night he gets to sleep with us and wake up with us to have new adventures all over again! What a dream for him.  Not convinced? Check out our top 20 families who are doing vanlife with kids here.

How did you cook food in your van?

One of the biggest decisions you will make during your van life build planning is what sort of kitchen you are going to have. Will your kitchen be powered by gas or electricity? Will your van kitchen be an outdoor kitchen or within your van? How many cooktops will you have? How much storage will you have in your van kitchen? What kind of fridge will you have in your van, and how large will its storage capacity be? All of these questions are important as they will directly affect what kinds of meals you cook and how you cook them. 

With our van conversion, we decided that we didn’t want to install gas, preferring to power our cooking with good ol’ electricity. We made this decision because of a few factors, but mainly that we weren’t really comfortable with gas in the van. We were planning the trip not just for us, but also for our baby boy. The idea of open flames, as well as gas leaks, seemed to us that there was a higher risk of an accident occurring. Regardless of whether this rationale is justified or not,  all we know is that not having gas in the van with our son helped us sleep better at night. 

In order to not have gas, and to solely rely on electric induction cooking, we needed to make sure that our power system was juiced up enough to be able to handle the wattage that running an induction cooktop needs. This meant bigger battery, bigger inverter, thicker wiring, more solar to farm more power. As you can see, one simple decision like electric or gas, can mean a much bigger hit to the wallet. 

We did all of our cooking on one induction cooktop. We had three pot sizes.
Both Rissy and I follow a vegetarian diet, with minimal dairy intake. This didn’t change when we travelled and lived in the van. In fact, the fact that we are vegetarian actually helped us in many ways, and suits van life in many ways. For instance, it is cheaper. Meat (or at least good meat) is expensive, whereas vegetables are, for the most part, cheap. Meat needs to be refrigerated. Many vegetables do not (therefore increasing your fridge’s capacity, by virtue of it not holding meat).

We would cook vegetarian pasta dishes, rice or noodle dishes, each jam packed with vegetables. Or we would cook faux meat patties and make burgers. For breakfasts, it was cereal, or if we were in cooler climates, porridge! Nothing better than a cold morning and a steaming bowl of porridge.

Did your diet change at all when you started living in your van?

No, not really. We didn’t eat at many cafes or restaurants as we typically would living at home. This was both because we wanted to keep prices down, but also because we loved cooking and eating in or around the van.

If you could change one thing about your van what would it be?

When we first were designing it, we wanted to be able to have the cabin seats spin around to face the back of the van. We weren’t able to do this, as the kinds of seats that spin wouldn’t allow us to attach a child seat for our son. They wouldn’t pass an engineering test, as they didn’t have the structural integrity within the seat that is apparently needed to attach a child seat. Anyway, it was a big fat no on that one. It would have been great as it would have made the interior of our livable space bigger, but also, by using our cabin seats we would have saved precious floor space. 

What was your biggest surprise?

How long it took to adjust to the pace of van life. I reckon it took at least a month to really feel settled to the rhythms of life on the road in a van. I’m sure that has to do with how hectic our lives were leading up to our trip. Between work, being new parents, and building the van, it was pretty crazy. And then when we left for our trip, it all just…. Stopped. It was surreal. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Then slowly but surely, we found a rhythm and hit our stride.

What advice do you have for people wanting to start van life?

Just do it! Corny as it sounds, it is so worth it. There are a million different ways to build out a van for van life, and there are a million different ways to live your life once you have a van, so it’s not really a one answer rules them all kind of scenario… but if it was, then I’d say “just do it”. You’ll never regret the satisfaction and pride you experience after completing your build, nor the feeling of freedom and adventure you have from being on the road and able to live cheaply and sustainably. 

What’s next?

We are currently planning our next great adventure. Timelines are still being thought out, but when we know, you’ll be sure to hear about it here. It’ll involve new builds, new ideas, and new destinations. We can’t wait. For now, we are saving our pennies, enjoying our new baby girl and trying to survive the ups, downs, twists and turns that life as parents of 2 kids throws at you.