Life On The Road: @sianleee

Leslie CarvittoJanuary 11, 2019

Life On The Road: @sianleee

Sian Murray is a freelance creative content manager currently traveling anti-clockwise around the continent of Australia in her 1994 Mitsubishi Delica named Dennis (the menace). Get a sneak peek at her life on the road and follow along on her journey @sianleee.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and where you are going?
“My name is Sian and I’m a Melbourne-born human with a love for all things that involve the water!

In October, my boyfriend Pat and I quit our full time jobs to set off on an open-ended trip around Australia. Pat’s a carpenter and I’m a digital creative content manager, which means I take photos and work with brands on their social media strategies—both of which are pretty handy skills to have when you’re on the road.

I love to surf, particularly on my new longboard and Pat loves fishing—and his beers.”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Sep 29, 2017 at 3:48pm PDT

How long have you been on the road?
“Not too long. Pat and I headed off at the start of November, so it’s been just over 2 months now, but god it feels longer!”

How do you plan your route?
“Prior to leaving Melbourne, we had one big decision to make—clockwise or anti-clockwise? I knew I wanted to spend lots of time surfing up the east coast and working in towns, so we headed anti-clockwise to ensure we weren’t rushing through the west.

Once the general direction was locked in, we kept things pretty open-ended. We’ve met a lot of friendly locals and other travelers who have recommended some awesome spots, so we’ve followed their lead while also using WikiCamps to find cool spots as we drive through towns. I honestly don’t know where we would be without WikiCamps …”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:33pm PST

What kind of vehicle are you traveling in and what is its best functions?
“We’ve chosen to tackle Australia in a 1994 Mitsubishi Delica named Dennis (the menace). He’s an absolute beast to look at!

Pat and I are both over 6 feet tall, so we were stoked to find a long wheel base version of our dream machine. Dennis’ best feature is that he’s a 4WD with a super high lift. This makes things a little cozy on the inside, but gives us an all-access pass to Australia—all of my favorite camp spots have needed 4WD access.

Some other awesome features include the hot shower that’s heated by the engine as we drive, a solar power system and a rotating passenger seat (which helps to create space in the van).”

Did you build it or make any modifications to it before hitting the road?
“We were lucky enough to find Dennis already pretty kitted out on Gumtree. We had him towed from Darwin, where the previous owner had done a lot of work to the engine, electrics, and exterior.

We did, however, completely redo the interior. We gutted the inside and did all of the woodwork and wiring so that Dennis was more suited to our height, more comfortable and, of course, better to look at.”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Nov 13, 2017 at 5:16pm PST

What are some of the challenges about living on the road?
“Our biggest challenge is space! Because our van is 4WD, it’s lifted and doesn’t give us much internal height to move around. Delica’s also have awesome sun roofs all across the ceiling, giving us very few storage options. We’ve had to put a lot of things in our storage container on the roof.

The challenge here is that each day, we need to set up and pack the bed while moving a few things around. At the start of the trip this was taking up to two hours a day, but we’ve managed to get a pretty good system now.

My other biggest frustration is finding spots to stay. I’m not a fan of caravan parks but also don’t like breaking rules so ‘no staying in cars signs’ are the bane of my existence.”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Nov 22, 2018 at 1:41am PST

What are the best things about living on the road?
“Finally feeling like I’m living life as it should be!

Before we left, so many people called us ‘brave’ for packing up everything and leaving it behind, I thought it was so strange because to me it seemed the easy way out. But living on the road and exploring my home country has been very intense for me. You become very conscious of time and how lucky we are to have it. When you sit in an office day-in and day-out, the days have a way of blending into one, and now I remember them all, I love them all and I experience them all.

Plus surfing everyday is pretty sweet!”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Dec 29, 2018 at 2:14pm PST

How do you balance work and travel?
“After 2 months on the road without working, we’ve watched our [bank account] drop way faster than we’d hoped, so we’re now in the process of locking in some work for the next few months.

My boyfriend Pat has just gotten some work as a Chippy near Noosa so we will be stopping there for a few months at the end of the month. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to set up my website for freelancing so I can get photography work while I’m on the road. If need be, I’ll also look for some part time work while we’re stationary.”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Dec 4, 2017 at 12:14am PST

What’s been the most magical spot on your trip thus far?
“There have been a lot of contenders. Every beach has just been beautiful in it’s own way.

I think I’d have to say Samurai Beach. It was an amazing free camp where you can drive along the beach and camp among the dunes. Located in Port Stephens, Samurai Beach is actually a nudist beach which kept it interesting, but everyone was very respectful of each other. Our days consisted of setting up day camp on the beach, longboarding on perfect rolling waves—I even had dolphins come close to my board!—and hunting for pipis.”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Oct 18, 2017 at 5:52pm PDT

What does your day-to-day look like?
“If we’re not catching up with family and friends on the road then things are actually pretty routine.”

  1. Wake up at sun rise, beg Pat to make me a coffee while I lay in bed.
  2. Eat breakfast while researching things to do or our next destination.
  3. Hitting the road.
  4. Swimming, snorkeling, or surfing.
  5. Sandwiches for lunch.
  6. More surfing or swimming, unless we need to drive to our next destination.
  7. Set up camp and start prepping dinner nice and early (around 5:30 p.m. as we quickly learned that cleaning up in the dark is the worst.)
  8. Bed once it’s dark (or a sneaky Netflix sesh).

What advice would you give someone looking to do a van trip around Australia?
“100% do it!

Prepare well, and make sure your rolling home is comfortable. If you can get someone to teach you a few things about car maintenance (changing a tire, etc.), that’s a massive help.

Pack lightly as you will only use half of what you pack!

If possible, try not to set deadlines. The best experiences happen when you go with the flow.

And finally, be respectful of those around you. So many locals have a bad taste in their mouth because of negative experiences with ‘van lifers.’ Please clean up after yourself and smile at those around you!”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Nov 18, 2018 at 2:52am PST

What are your 5 must have items for van life?

  1. My surfboard
  2. My photography gear
  3. My ‘Shewee’ (I cannot recommend this more for the ladies)
  4. A good picnic rug
  5. Adequate lighting

What’s surprised you the most about life on the road? What have you learned about yourself in the process?

“Once we left Melbourne, we were shocked by the amount of people out here living the ‘van life.’ There are amazing van set ups and cool people everywhere!

In terms of what I’ve learned about myself, I’d say trying to teach myself to let things go. I love structure, I love planning, and I love setting goals for myself. But when you’re living on the road, this causes more harm than good. As I mentioned earlier, time changes when you travel. It’s more free flowing and the best things happen when you go with what feels right.”


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A post shared by Sian Murray (@sianleee) on Nov 14, 2018 at 12:41pm PST

Rapid Fire Q&A

Eastern or Western Australia?

Sunrise or sunset?

Beach or mountains?

Nutella or Vegemite?

Winter or summer?

Leslie Carvitto, Outdoorsy Author

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