Alesha and Jarryd are no strangers to van life. In fact, they’re the passionate pair that created NOMADasaurus – an adventure travel blog that dishes the dirt on the world’s best destinations and adventures. We chatted to them about how they manage to work and live on the road.
Jono: Let’s start from the beginning, how did you two meet?
Alesha: We met at a hostel in Vancouver in 2008. I was heading out for a drink with an 18 year old backpacker I was travelling with. This was tricky because, in Canada, different states have different age restrictions on drinking. For example, in Alberta, you have to be 18 but in the next state over, British Columbia, you must be 19.
My friend had recently been rejected entry from a bar because of this, but I tried to convince her she’d be fine. Jarryd was the bouncer that night and made it pretty clear that she wasn’t having a drink on his watch!
We struck up a conversation and had a drink at the bar that night, and as Jarryd was actually buying a campervan the following day, we hung out then as well. Funnily enough, we only got as far as the petrol station before the engine decided it wouldn’t start again. So I waited while the roadside assist came, and we’ve been together ever since.
So I know you’ve hitchhiked quite a bit on your travels, what was that like?
Jarryd: Yeah we’ve hitchhiked in Tibet, Mongolia, Turkey, and all around Canada. We’ve never really done any big hitchhiking trips, nothing more than a few days. We like to travel by land and used to have a very tight budget, so hitchhiking helped out a lot.
Alesha: We’ve even hitched on a sailboat over to an island once, but the guy loved us so much that we ended up working for him! Any time we’ve had a campervan, we’ve always picked up hitchhikers because we truly believe what goes around comes around.
How was NOMADasaurus born?
J: We were travelling around Central America and hanging out with a few filmmakers when the idea of documenting people that we met began. We were at the point in our lives where we were travelling as long as we could, and though we were having good experiences, didn’t feel like we had a purpose.
At first, we were going to create a YouTube channel but that quickly changed into a blog when we realised we didn’t have the patience to shoot a hell of a lot of videos.
A: One of our friends kept on us, saying we needed to start a blog because of all the cool things that happened to us. When in truth, cool things always happen to those who travel.
When we started the blog, we had some other writers sharing their experiences as well and then it took off. So it really started as an online diary before it became what it is today.
Was winning the World Nomads scholarship in 2014 a pivotal step in taking yourselves more seriously in the space?
J: Most definitely. At the time, we were trying to get from Thailand to South Africa without flying and we met someone in a dive shop who mentioned how the World Nomads scholarship could be a great opportunity if we were trying to get into writing.
So I filled out an application and wrote a story super last minute, like 15 minutes before the deadline – trying to upload it in a remote area in Thailand was a mission! After that, I kind of forgot about it, but six weeks later got an email saying that I’d won!
It was a window into a new world. The scholarship sent me to Europe, provided me with a mentorship with the Lonely Planet Editor, and allowed me to start freelancing with some big publications.
I know that We Are Explorers have kickstarted a bunch of people that wanted to get into travel writing, travel journalism and photography. Like a lot of people, we didn’t know the opportunities that were out there until it was staring us in the face.
What’s one thing that you learnt from the scholarship that still sticks with you?
J: The pitch. If you know how to construct a really interesting pitch and get the attention of an editor, it’ll open doors for you.
I know you guys bought a campervan not too long ago, where are you parked up at the moment?
J: We’re actually in the van as we speak and are currently parked up on my Mum’s property. We only bought it about five weeks ago so we’ve been living in it for about a month now.
What’s the make and model?
J: It’s a 2008 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 518CDI. It’s got a V6 turbodiesel, long wheelbase, and a super high roof. It’s an absolute monster but we love it.
Off-Grid Mercedes Sprinter Campervan TourPLAY VIDEO
What have your experiences living in a mobile home been like?
A: We lived in the campervan that was bought when I first met Jarryd on and off for three years. We went from Vancouver all the way to Newfoundland in her, but that van was so tiny that we basically lived on top of each other!
Then when we came back to Australia, we bought another one. So we’ve actually lived in a few vans together but this is the fanciest van I’ve ever lived in. I keep calling this a tiny home because it feels too nice to be a campervan.
So you’ve gone from just a bed in a van to now a tiny home on wheels, what was the hardest part of transitioning to living on the road?
J: Well this is actually the first home we’ve had for a very long time. From 2014 until the beginning of 2020, we were basically nomadic. With our job we’re very fortunate that we’re constantly on the road and always overseas.
We’re actually meant to be in the Arctic right now, but this whole COVID pandemic has forced us to rethink where we’re at in life and was the reason why we bought this campervan.
A: I think one of the biggest things for me was deciding what to take with us. When we were backpacking for five years continually, everything had to fit in a 60L and a 40L bag.
So it’s always been about finding a happy medium and being practical with what we actually need. Now that we’re permanently living in the van, we’ve been able to squeeze in a few more things for camping and water activities, but are still thinking long term about what we bring with us.
What’s a piece of kit that you need to have in the van at all times?
J: An Aeropress!
A: A UE Boom. Music and coffee is obviously our happy place.
J: Don’t forget the dustpan. You’d be amazed at how much you use a dustpan when you’re in a van. Those are the three essentials.
What’s the best place you’ve parked up?
J: Probably the Atacama Desert in Chile. We rented a campervan for a couple of weeks and we found this tree which the locals named ‘The Lonely Tree’. It was basically the only tree in the Atacama Desert and a really cool spot.
A: My choice would be Lucky Bay in Esperance. You could easily spend months on end there, so I don’t mind that they restrict you on how many days you can stay. You have kangaroos bounding, turquoise waters and stunning beaches all around. It’s just the most beautiful campground.
Where are you guys heading to first when regional travel is allowed?
J: We are getting straight in the van and heading south. Everyone we know is heading north but we just think there’s so much beauty in the south. Part of our goal is to promote tourism in regions heavily affected by the bushfires, drought, and current pandemic.
So we’ll be starting from Cronulla and zigzagging down the coast as far as Eden before circling inland to experience the outback. It’s totally open-ended so we’ll see what happens.
Are there any future projects we can look forward to?
A: We’ve just launched a new channel called Van Life Theory which is going to be about all things, you guessed it, van life. We’ll be sharing our experiences, tips and people we meet along the way. Hopefully, we’ll inspire some people to get out there and are able to share our knowledge with the world.
I love that you guys have always thought about paying it forward in terms of your experience and your knowledge, that’s so important.
A: We’ve always had that mindset. Though it’s been about six years that we’ve been running Nomadasaurus, we honestly still pinch ourselves when we think about how far we’ve come today and we never forget what our roots are. It’s never been about us, it’s always been about the journey and how we can help others experience that too.
J: If you’re fortunate enough to end up with a platform that people follow, the best thing you can do is give back to that community. It’s something we’ve always tried to do. There are a lot of people out there that need a few tips or reassurance that what they’re doing is worth following and we’ll do anything we can to help.
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