Jonny is a lot of things all at once. He’s a musician with millions of plays on Spotify as Dusty Boots, but he’s also a surfer, a published author, founder of a global van life community, and a NSW Tweed Shire local.

We acknowledge that these adventures and interviews took place on the traditional Country of the Bundjalung people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and to Elders past, present and emerging.

Sat in the front seat of his van while we talk, I can see the surf crashing behind him. Even on an ever-so-slightly gloomy day like today, it’s easy to see the appeal of Cabarita Beach for a surf-lover like Jonny Dustow.

It’d be easy to be in intimidated by someone who’s done so much, but he speaks about it all with such laid-back nonchalance that I soon feel like I’m just having a yarn to a mate down the pub.

There’s no ego here – it’s just someone doing what they love, in a place they love. And, no matter what pursuit he’s chasing, it’s clear that it’s done with a love of the simple things in life.


Jonny lives a simple life out of his van.


Whether he’s talking about the awe he feels when he watches a sunset, the healing power of water, or the simple joy of helping others, Jonny oozes a childlike sense of wonder that’s catching. Honestly, I think I’ve just met the real-life Peter Pan.

A typical day for Jonny always involves a dose or two of nature (or, let’s face it, as many as he can fit in).

‘I jump in the ocean nearly every day, go for a surf, or just sit and watch the river, or the wind through the trees,’ he says. ‘It helps me feel like everything’s going to be okay, because nature always figures it out.’

Born in Byron Bay, Jonny spent his younger years growing up on various family farms across the Byron and Tweed area. Just 20 minutes from the coast, he quickly developed an equal love of the bush and the ocean and lived a quintessential Aussie upbringing between the two.


The hinterland is a lush adventure playground!


‘During the week we’d be running around the farm exploring, bush bashing on horses, and then at the weekend we’d be off to the beach,’ he explains.


At Home in The Tweed with Musician Jonny Dustow


Painting the Tweed Through the Power of Music

Those early days have influenced every inch of Jonny’s life. He quit his full-time job as a school teacher a few years back to pursue his love of music – another passion from childhood. Many of his songs are influenced by his connection to nature and places around the Tweed that he holds dear to his heart.


‘So many of my songs have been influenced by the area I call home, which for me is everywhere from Lennox Head to Tweed,’ he continued.

Riverside is about taking someone special to my favourite places in nature. To see her eyes light up in awe at the places that make me the most happy is just a beautiful connection.’


Song inspiration comes from nature and memories

‘Meanwhile, one of my earlier songs is all about the ocean and water, and how connecting with water can take away pain and heartbreak. It’s about just letting it go, by immersing yourself in something bigger than yourself.’

A good day for Jonny isn’t complete without time spent writing music. As well as influencing his songs, he does much of his writing whilst sitting taking in the stunning vistas of Cabarita Beach, Hastings Point, or childhood spots like Clarrie Hall Dam. His song Morning Light was written on his family’s farm in Kingscliff.

He wrote much of Find Our Way, his latest single, right where he’s sat now, overlooking the cliffs and crashing surf of Cabarita. The song captures the feeling of adventure that people get when they’re heading off on a road trip.

The Tweed is a must-stop on a lap of Australia or an East Coast road trip, and this sense of anticipation and excitement is easy to picture, even without Jonny’s magical songwriting skills.



Jonny’s no stranger to road tripping himself, and even co-founded a community for van-lifers which has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, and has hosted meet-ups all over the world including Australia, America, Canada, and Germany.

Although the project takes more of a back seat now so he can focus on his music. One memorable Vanlife meetup was held on his family’s farm.

Van Life Meet Up on the Family Farm

‘That was the best one so far,’ he says, a huge grin appearing on his face. ‘My whole family live there; my brothers, sisters, parents, and we had 150 people come for a huge camp out with a fire and a big jamming session.

‘It’s pretty special to share this area with so many like-minded people. The reason I was a teacher is because I like helping people, so this community lets me do that still, but in a different way.’

Speaking to me this early in the morning is a change from Jonny’s usual routine; where he likes to spend the first couple of hours of the day with just him and nature.

It’s where his best writing happens, and with the freedom of the van and Tweed as his home, he’s never short of spots to choose from. But, although Jonny enjoys solitude, he’s realised that connection is also essential.

‘I usually meet up with mates for a surf and a jam too,’ he explains. ‘We show each other half written songs and go oh, that could go here, or that could go there. It gives me that little sense of community.’


Community and connection enriches Jonny’s life.


Of course, the man’s got to eat too, and luckily Tweed is a place full of good places for a decent feed or sneaky beer or two.

‘I’ll often visit Farm & Co Cafe, which is a beautiful family-owned business doing farm-to-plate food, and it’s only two minutes from me,’ he says.


Farm & Co Cafe kitchen garden


‘There’s also Earth Beer Company, which is only around five minutes’ walk away, or sometimes, I’ll head up there on my nephew’s dirt bike,’ he says.

‘Honestly though, I just love businesses that are community orientated, where you know who you’re supporting.’


There’s Always Time for a Sunset

Finally, Jonny loves to finish his day with a sunset if he can, and tonight he’s planning to head to Hastings Point. Despite living here for over 20 years, Jonny never tires of exploring all that Tweed has to offer.

And, wherever he talks about, you can see his eyes light up as if it’s his first time visiting.

‘I never want to grow up,’ he says. ‘I want to keep hold of that child-like excitement, awe, and wonder of nature and everything going on around you.

That’s why I go to different spots all the time but also go back to experience my favourites. To go, wow, look at that. Look at that sunset. Look at that mountain. Look at that river. Just look at it all.’

After my short time chatting to Jonny, I’m pretty sure I want to keep that sense of wonder too.