Rhiannon Phillips is like many young Australians who are being locked out of the housing market because of rising prices.
The 24-year-old from the Blue Mountains in New South Wales can still remember the day it ‘dawned on her’ that any kind of deposit she wanted to make on a property would be a long way down the track.
‘Rent in Sydney was ridiculous and even though I was working about 30 hours a week throughout my veterinary studies there was no way I was saving for a deposit with my travel addiction,’ she told FEMAIL.
That’s when she started to ‘seriously consider’ purchasing her own home on wheels that would allow her to tour Australia, work from any location, and save money at the same time.
‘I loved the idea of tiny living and reducing my impact mostly but the idea of saving money on rent and utilities was also a huge draw card,’ she said.
So when a regular customer at the cafe she was working at during her last year of university mentioned a school selling their old bus, Rhiannon was eager to see it.
‘He told me the details and I said I’d take it. One week later I owned a bus for less than the cost of my first car! The bus is a 1990 model Nissan Civilian diesel and had 91,000kms on the clock,’ she said.
‘It was all pretty mechanically sound with a bit of rush and rot here and there. When people ask me how do they find a good deal like I did I will usually say ask local churches and schools or community groups that may be ready to upgrade.’
Dubbing her new piece of transport ‘Mintie’, Rhiannon spent all of her spare time between uni and work ‘gutting it and sanding the roof rust’ by hand.
‘Lucky for me my Dad and Pop are both very, very handy in almost very single way so they guided me through it all and even did a lot of hand work themselves,’ she said.
‘Sometimes I found myself just being the observer and putting my two cents worth in here and there keeping them on track with my vision.’
Collecting most of her materials from Bunnings Warehouse, Rhiannon also used as many recycled and re-purposed products she could find.
‘So apart from the 240v electrics, solar and gas (which I had done professionally) I managed to fumble my way through it with help from some pro DIYers,’ she said.
While some ‘van lifers’ are able to live off their savings Rhiannon has decided to work as she travels along the east coast of Australia, putting all her best skills to good use.
‘I’m making use of my animal science degree working on farms. Although the pay usually isn’t great it gives me an opportunity to build my skill set, experience level and help me decide what career path I’d like to take in the future,’ she said.
‘As well as this I have a small art business where I sell my Australian native leaf paintings on Instagram. This gives me a little bit of extra cash here and there which is always nice. Not enough to live on at the moment though.
‘I have also continued to work as an equestrian coach on the road. I have been coaching in the Blue Mountains for five years and have ridden for 15+ years which always provides great opportunities.
‘While I was travelling in southern NSW I coached at a few pony clubs as well as some private clients which was great money.’
She said the only difference between her work day and someone else’s is that ‘my house comes with me and I never need to worry about forgetting my lunch’.
Rhiannon has a little oven and two burner stove that she uses to roast vegetables and make stir fries and she stores her leftovers in a 70 litre fridge.
‘It’s super easy and I have a lot of bench space which I love so preparing meals is easy,’ she said.
She can park anywhere to sleep ‘within reason’ but tries not to upset people in the process.
‘I’ll park up at a dog beach or a local sports field and if I have time will go for a drive by of an area after sussing it out on Google satellite,’ she said.
‘I will try and arrive just before dark or on dark to avoid drawing attention to myself, for safety reasons as well as not to upset anyone. So far I’ve been travelling out of tourist season, which helps a lot. Most places are deserted.’
While living out of her bus gives Rhiannon a great amount of freedom and independence it can be somewhat isolating if you don’t push yourself to socialise or explore a new area.
‘The lifestyle I’ve chosen is definitely not for everyone however I enjoy my own space as well as getting out of my comfort zone,’ she said.