If Tracy Chapman‘s Fast Car has become increasingly relatable to you this year, there might still be hope that you can follow Chapman’s lead and cross the border away from the city. (I’m aware that she’s heading to the city in the song but let’s not be that person.)
A couple by the name of Tegan and Nathan (you might know them as @dolcesolecamper on Insta) have spent a good portion of their time driving a van across Queensland – Fast Van, the follow-up track dropping soon – and they’ve managed to do it while still working at their respective jobs.
If there’s one positive to take away from this year, it’s that a lot of Aussies have figured out they actually can work remotely, which truly opens the van doors to what you can see and do during a normal workweek (employers permitting).
The van that Tegan and Nathan transformed into their home was “originally used for a delivery plant business so the inside was empty and very beaten up,” Tegan explains.
“We worked on the van from December 2019 to March 2020 and put in our blood, sweat and a lot of tears but now we have our dream home,” she continues.
It’s worth noting that Nathan was a carpenter prior to this so, before you buy a used van and attack it with curtains and a wrench, it might be wise to ask a mate who knows what they’re doing.
After their makeshift home was complete, the couple has journeyed across Australia while working remotely for their respective jobs – setting up a home base in Burleigh Heads.
“Majority of our friends all live here now which makes it’s that much more special,” Tegan says. “There are so many amazing local businesses, the beaches are beautiful, the people are relaxed, there is always, always something on – you can sit at Rick Shores and have a cocktail on the beach while watching the sunset, grab a coffee from SeaDog Burleigh and treat yourself to copious amounts of yummy restaurants.
“Every morning people are up early and exercising and it’s just an amazing way of life that suits us right now – this is definitely our home now.”
If you haven’t ventured to Burleigh Heads, it’s as accessible as can be to the average traveller. Just south of the Gold Coast, far enough away to enjoy the peace and quiet but close enough to the action that you wouldn’t have to spend an entire night venturing in, the coastal suburb is brimming with everything you could want in a place.
The Village Markets are a short walk to Burleigh Heads National Park, but an even shorter walk to the beach. There are so many creeks and lakes (as well as the beach, obviously), it looks like the entire place is made up of 90% water. You can also do what every other country thinks all Australians do – walk down to the local fish and chip shop barefoot and sandy.
“I love our local walk along the Esplanade and up around Burleigh Heads National Park – it’s beautiful,” Tegan explains. “It’s full of stunning lookout points, lush bushland & ends at Tallebudgera Creek. There is also the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre nearby the hike that has all the info on historical Aboriginal sites in the area too!”
As Tegan mentioned, you should hit up a little place called Seadog Burleigh for a coffee, which I can only assume is brimming with attractive, tanned patrons based on its aesthetic.
If you’re after some fuel before venturing to the park/beach/creek/chickie shop/wildlife park or any other or the 5,000,000 parks, Tegan has nominated Commune Cafe as her numero uno brekkie joint.
North of Brisbane, Tegan hinted at a little country town called Maleny, if you really want to (try to) blend in with the locals.
I say ‘try to’ because no matter where you are, locals can sniff out a non-local in a heartbeat. Don’t ask me what it is, it’s just an innate trait that every local possesses.
Perhaps it’s the fact that you’re wearing closed-toe shoes with a sweater in a Queensland of all places, or maybe it’s your scent. It’s all a mystery.
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If you’re excited about getting your own van with a pal/pal with benefits/lifelong pal and are hesitant about the close quarters you’ll be living in, let Tegan quash those concerns.
“For the past seven years we work together, travel together and live together so we’re pretty used to it now – I think taking time for yourself with things like exercising, going for a walk etc helps.
“I love waking up in the morning in a random small town beachfront listening to the waves & feeling like no one is around.”
Tegan and Nathan actually rent out their moving home on Camplify – an Airbnb for campervans, essentially – which means you can fulfil your dream of getting in a Fast Van across the border right now, without having to put in the effort of constructing your home from scratch.
“Majority of our guest head to Sunshine Coast but one that stood out was Lake Moogerah – these two young legends that were shooting for GoPro stayed out there and it looked dreamy!”
Honestly, I’d never heard of Lake Moogerah until .05 seconds ago, and it’s just made its way up to the top of my to-do list.
Does it, or does it not, look like the set of Jurassic Park? Any minute now, I’m waiting for a pterodactyl to fly out of the picture and steal the sunnies I just realised I’ve left on my head for six hours.
On my next trip up to the Sunny State, my game plan is to set up shop in Brisbane (and by ‘shop’ I mean stay at a hotel, I’m not selling anything without a permit that’s downright illegal), rent out Tegan’s van and making a day trip out of it to Jurassic Moogerah.
I’ve changed the name. It’s now officially called Jurassic Moogerah.
After going pterodactyl hunting, and assuming I’ve caught one to keep as my pet, I’ll then head to the nearest winery – Kooroomba Kitchen – to sit back with a vino and reminisce about the time I caught an ancient species right there in Queensland.
Wait, scratch that, after seeing the layout (above), I might meet a stranger and propose so I can have my wedding there instead. Enough about my hopes and unrealistic dreams, though.
Now that Australia seems to be returning to some semblance of normalcy, Tegan and Nathan have their sights set further up north.
“We’re itching to go further north – Port Douglas & Cairns are high on the list at the moment,” Tegan says.
Now, I don’t want to insert my own experience into this too much (lies), but as someone who recently went to Cairns (last year, time’s a blur), I can confirm Tegan and Nathan are right to have it on their bucket list.
You won’t find a more chilled out place in Australia than Cairns, and yet it’s far from slow or boring. Everything you need is within a five-minute walking distance from wherever you’re staying, which is ideal for people who just cannot be bothered walking when they’re on holiday.
Plus, Cairns is a great place to check out the Great Barrier Reef. What’s that? Did someone say they wanted to read up on my trip to the Great Barrier Reef?
Wherever it is you want to explore in Queensland next, don’t think – just do it. We’ve lost a lot of exploration time this year, so don’t hesitate when you’re planning your next trip.
If you need a hand planning, Tegan recommends an app that might just help you out: “There are also some amazing apps like HipCamp where you can camp on private land – some people own huge amazing lots of land with lakes and farm animals that you can stay on super cheap!”
We have about seven months’ worth of vacation to cram into the remainder of our lives and I, for one, plan on wasting no more time sitting on my bum watching reruns of Gilmore Girls.
See you all in Queensland, crew.Image: Instagram / @dolcecamper