If there’s one human being’s Instagram feed that grabs us by the unmentionables and gives them a daily digital twist to the point of eye-bulging awakeness, it’s that of Mitch Cox. Travelling around Australia living the van life with his girlfriend in a homemade van, Mitch is living the life of a hobo, like a king.

Can you fill us in on the trip, when and why you started it?

Our main trip started in June 2015, and was started by a desire to explore as much of our own country as possible, as cheaply as possible. We love the van life and honestly think it is the best way to travel, so it was only natural that we decided to travel our own country and see what so many Australians haven’t.

What were you doing before and when was the moment you decided to jack it in and take to the road?

We had both just finished up our design degrees at uni, and were well and truly over the routine of uni and work. Instead of spending a couple of grand on two weeks overseas, we spent the same amount travelling for three months up the East Coast of Australia.

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How did you go about decking out your van to make it camper travel worthy? Are you an expert carpenter or did you wing it and figure it out on the fly?

I’m in no way an expert carpenter! I have worked at a hardware store since I was 14 though, so that definitely helped in my never-ending quest for the best materials. I built everything in the van myself, and most things were learnt with some Googling and some trial and error. It definitely took a few attempts, but I’ve learnt a ridiculous amount on the way and feel pretty confident in most things electrical and mechanical now.

Living with your missus (or anyone for that matter) in such a tight knit environment for such long periods of time must have its highs and lows. What are some of the challenges? Do you need ‘time-out’?!

Living in a tiny van for 3 months at a time definitely isn’t easy! Luckily we get on stupidly well and share a heap of the same interests. We also have different hobbies, which mix up our days and ensure we don’t get stuck in boring patterns. I’m not saying we don’t fight (far from it) but it has definitely taught us to resolve our fights quicker — you don’t really have much choice in the van.

The main challenge would most likely be making every day enjoyable and exciting without spending all your money in the first week. We had to learn to negotiate and compromise, and quickly figured out that we actually get along pretty well!

Time to ourselves didn’t really occur to us until towards the end of the trip. When we really began getting used to living every single day in a campground in the middle of nowhere, we realised that it was essential we did our own individual activities. I did a lot of surfing and Cleo did some amazing sketches of Australian plants and wildlife. Even kicking back and reading a good book helps us unwind and relax.

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Your Instagram feed is eye-meltingly stunning. The images you capture are spectacular and unique — they’re not just of sunsets and dramatic scenery, but it’s all the other moments that make your stories special. What is your approach to photography?

Cheers! They are some very kind words. I guess my approach to photography has changed a lot over years, especially since living in a van. I’ve found I’ve stopped caring about gear — how good the lens is and how many megapixels the body has. None of that really matters anymore. I would rather have one solid lens and body combination that can survive the beatings I give them.

I think my photography reflects this change, as my images are becoming more simple but at the same time, more thought is going into each one. I find myself looking back at photos from a few years ago and wonder what I was thinking!

What have some of the highlights been on your trip so far?

There are a whole heap of highlights! I would have to say kayaking to a completely deserted island in the Whitsundays, making a massive fire and camping out under one of the clearest skies I’ve ever seen would have to be up there. Most of the highlights involved feeling totally isolated, just me, Cleo and endless miles of oceans or forests surrounding us.

It’s a really inspiring trip you’re doing. What’s the one hard-earned nugget of wisdom you would share with us to help others thinking about swapping the office for van life?

One thing van life has taught me is to simplify. Simplify everything. I’ve completely simplified my photography, going from a gear-obsessed lens freak to someone who would be happy with one solid camera. Simplify your belongings — do you need 3 pairs of shoes, 10 different hats? Perhaps the main thing though would be to simplify your expectations.

At the beginning of the trip, I’d had enough when a location didn’t live up to my expectations or the sunset wasn’t amazing. Over a couple of months though, I began to realise that it wasn’t the end of the world if something wasn’t perfect, we could still have an awesome time and we managed to get some of our favourite photos in places others wouldn’t even look twice at. Just relax and enjoy the ride!Small-104 copy Small-127 copy MITCH-12 copy

You’ve recently had a major set-back to your trip. Can you tell us more about what happened?

Basically, we came back to my parents’ place after a couple of nights on the coast and I decided to leave everything in the car as I was leaving again the next day (they live in a good area so I wasn’t worried). The next morning I awoke to my window missing, as well as pretty much everything else inside. My camera, all my lenses, my new drone, my new Macbook Pro, all my tools, my fridge (yes, full of beer) and a whole heap of other stuff. The worst though was my 2 hard drives which contained the backups to all my full-size photos.

We were planning to continue van life in the NT and SA and TAS, but this might have to be delayed for now. The van was finally finished, I had literally put the finishing touches on the curtains the night before. What I am really surprised about though is the outpouring of love from the entire Instagram community and all my friends and family, all thanks to my amazing girlfriend Cleo.
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If people want to help to bring your livelihood back, how can they do this?

If people want to help me the best thing they can do is look after their gear! I would hate for this to happen to anyone else, and I hope everyone learns something from this. Apart from that, replacing my gear is going to cost me my right arm and left leg, so if anyone wanted to donate to help out, they can visit the GofundMe page started by Cleo. Every single donation means so much, and many a tear has been shed reading peoples’ kind words.

What does the future hold for Mitch and Cleo on the road?

A couple of lowlifes aren’t going to stop us! We are going to be travelling around Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and then back up the East Coast, hopefully leaving sometime in June/July. We aim to be making a small living purely from our social media and photo sales by then, so who knows, the trip might be endless!

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Find out how Mitch and Cleo are doing a couple of years down the line… Still loving van life in 2018: What We Learnt From 4 Years On The Road // Van Life Revisited

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