Leaving everything behind to follow one’s passion sounds like something to be done when one is young, but the urge to be adventurous can strike anytime! In her 60’s, Australian Clare Colins sold her large house, paid off her mortgage, and gifted or sold all her collections, including antiques, musical instruments, and works of art, to travel in a van.
Colins has named her van the Mouse House. She bought it for $26,000, and spent $45,000 and a year on design and remodeling, turning the van into her dream home. Colins drew the plan herself, and asked RV professionals for remodeling, putting a lot of work into the Mouse House, though it’s only 86 ft2 (8 m2) large, even smaller than a normal room.
The Mouse House looks like an ordinary white van from the outside. As soon as you open the white slider, however, you’ll be impressed by the wooden windows and inner door that make you feel at home. Two cute mouses are engraved on the door, acting as the mascot of the Mouse House.
The first thing you see when walking in is a tiny but well-equipped kitchen. On the ceiling is an L-shaped cupboard for cups and less commonly used utensils. The wall between the cupboard and the stove is exploited: On the left is a magnetic shelf to which knives of various sizes are attached; on the right is a wooden shelf that holds cooking oil, spices, etc.
The space below the gas stove is also reasonably designed. Under the stove is a compact oven that can bake bread or roast a chicken for one person. On the left of the oven is a pull-out rack that keeps kitchen items handy. The drawers on the right of the oven are filled with all kinds of cutlery.
Beside the stove is simply a “storage cabinet”, if its lid is closed. Once you open the lid, however, you’ll see a bathroom with a shower and flushable toilet. The interior of this hidden bathroom is waterproof, so there’s no leakage problems.
In the rear of the van is Colins’ bed, which is large enough for one adult. Over her bed is a small skylight for daylighting and stargazing. Sit on the simple bench next to the bed, and draw out the wooden board from under the bed; now you can have a meal, read a book, or do your work.
Colins also designed a standing workstation behind the door, as sitting too much is bad for the cervical spine. This desk allows her to process her photos in a standing position, and look at the beautiful view outside the windows when she’s tired.
All the facilities are powered by the sun and Li-ion batteries, so a power shortage is unlikely. As for water, Colins goes to campgrounds for water regularly.
After the remodeling, Colins began her journey and has been on the road for two years. She’s learned how to use a GoPro camera, and become a unique YouTube vlogger.
Colins came across a lovely herd of cattle in the New South Wales rangelands. She stopped to smell flowers and capture their beauty when she saw a beautiful garden in the town of Hamilton. She took photos of many vacant homes on the Olympic Highway. She also biked to the estuary early in the morning, waited quietly for sunrise, and then returned to her van for breakfast.
Colins has found on the road that many other people also live the life of a nomad. At camps, she made friends with Annie, who lived in a huge old Mercedes bus, and Rosie, who lived in a caravan. Sometimes they drove for an outdoor gathering. Other times they got together just to chat and bask in the sun. When night fell, they might hold a small concert under a tree.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a problem-free life. For example, Colins once returned to her van, only to find the skylight leaking and her bed all wet. She had to go to a special repair shop by night, and trying to get some sleep on the van floor wasn’t so much fun.
When asked if she’s ever regretted selling her house, Colins smiled, “At times I have. I miss my organic veggie garden and my fabulous kitchen. I sometimes miss the lovely artworks that covered the walls. I don’t, however, miss the anxiety I felt of not quite having enough income for the mortgage and the maintenance. There’s nothing worse than feeling poor—financially, physically, or emotionally!”
Life goals vary from person to person. Living a van life isn’t for everyone. Live the life you want and leave no regrets.