Australia native Mitch Cox is one of van life movement most talented photographer. His girlfriend Cleo definitely enhances his art but I think he clearly has a way to capture the best moments of this nomadic lifestyle. I wanted to understand how he makes every sunset and every meal looks so perfect!
Can you tell us more about your van ?
The van is a 2002 Toyota Hiace Diesel, which started life as a beaten up tradies van. Over many months I slowly converted it to become my perfect camper, designed to have heaps of storage space but still have a enough living room for two people full time. The walls and ceiling are fully insulated and lined with timber – plywood for the walls and Western Red Cedar for the roof. Cedar is used throughout the van for drawers, cupboards and most other furnishings due to its strength and extremely light weight – it also looks rad. The van is fully equiped for off-grid living with a 200w solar panel, a 100amp Hour second battery and LED lighting both inside and out. I also fitted a 40L Engel fridge as well as slide out cooking area, complete with a gas stove. This allows us to live completely off the grid and not waste any money on caravan parks or accommodation. In the the last 4 months we’ve spent a grand total of $0 on accommodation.
What were you doing before living in your van ? Do you work from the road too?
Before moving full time into the van I was working casually at a hardware store and also doing occasional freelance design work. Since living in the van, my only income comes from occasional freelance design work and also doing photography work and licensing images to companies. My income is by no means substantial, hence we spend as little as possible whilst on the road.
How is the Australian van life movement ?
The Aussie vanlife movement seems to be growing everyday and its an awesome way to connect with like minded people. Everyday I get messages from wanna-be vanlifers wanting tips on what van they should buy, and how much they should spend. Its a great way to be able to give back to this rad community by helping out in anyway I can.
As a photographer, can you share a tip with us?
My biggest tip would have to be to take as many photos as possible every day. Try not to go a day without taking at least one photo. Get up early for sunrise, stay up late for some stars, push yourself to always take photos and eventually they will get better and better.
I think you got your van stolen, did you find it back ?
Luckily my van wasn’t stolen, but it was broken into and pretty much everything in it was stolen. In total around 17K AUD worth of camera gear, camping gear, tools, and pretty much everything else you could think of was stolen. Fortunately the amazing people in the vanlife community managed to raise a massive $4000 thanks to my incredible girlfriend Cleo. This allowed to replace a few of my most prized positions, however both my hard drives coutaining all the images I’d ever taken were also stolen, and these are impossible to replace.
Can you share a tip about how to live with your girlfriend in a van?
I think every couple fights occasionally, and living in such a tiny van every single day certainly makes those fights a little more common. However, being in such close quarters has also taught us to make up faster, and move on with life. The best tip I can give to avoid fights it to try and do at least one special thing together each day – maybe a nice sunset dinner or even a movie with some drinks – but also try and have a few things that you can enjoy separately. For me going for a surf is something I can enjoy by myself, and Cleo is an extremely talented artist who loves to sketch and draw most days.
How do you manage to find the perfect spots every time? Do you ever Wal Mart sometimes?
Not every night is spent camping right next to the beach – many evenings we’ve been forced to camp in parking lots and even on busy streets, but we’ve become pretty good at sussing out the best spots in every area. Google maps is a great way to see if any houses are nearby, if there is any smaller roads not on the map and even if there are too many trees blocking the view! The best way to find a great spot it to be discrete, clean up after yourselves and not do anything to annoy the locals.