‘I feel like I’m on holidays every day’
CHRISSY Junge was sick of paying sky-high rents. And there was no way she could afford her home - even working full time. So she packed up her belongings and moved into a van.
The Brisbane local is one of a growing number of Australians who have abandoned the traditional housing market for an alternate way to put a roof over their heads.
She purchased a 1977 Nissan Urvan E20 for $4500, which became affectionately known as the "Tortoise" - more so for its penchant to putt along slowly than its avocado hue.
When Chrissy swapped renting an inner-city apartment for life in a van she was immediately hooked. "It was my home," she said. "Not a rental, my own place, totally owned by me."
Chrissy relished carrying her home wherever she went, "just like a real tortoise".
And the Tortoise itself behaved "very reasonably" about where it decided to break down - although break down it did, often.
Mechanical maladies mounted to $12,000 and the troubled green carcass was laid to rest for a payment of $1500 in parts. Still, Chrissy was not deterred.
Last May she flew to Adelaide to pick up her current abode - a $13,000 2000 Mazda T4600 "Harry House truck".
The pair got to know each other during the 2000km trek back to Queensland, with Junge getting the feel for a truly nomadic lifestyle and her first ever truck-driving experience.
Harry House truck was a blank canvass and Chrissy had to take on the role of quasi builder, electrician, plumber and interior designer to make the space a home.
She admits, living in a "bare metal box" at the beginning of this adventure was "tough".
"I had no electricity and metal shavings all over my bedding," she said. "I put in some windows so that I could breathe and insulated the walls so it was cooler.
"Then one of my friends helped to build a bed for me one day and I was set."
Chrissy has running water thanks to a 300L water tank under her bed and has decorated the space with homely touches like plank flooring, curtains and wallpaper.
On the wish list is installing a deck, "either by raising the floor a few inches to have a deck that slides out or by getting a hydraulic tail gate that comes from under the truck," she said.
Another project is for decent solar panelling - Chrissy survives with a leisure battery that doesn't do enough to keep the food from rotting in the fridge when the truck is stationary.
So how does she shower and go to the toilet? Chrissy has a list of camper-friendly spots with good public amenities to spend her nights, and maintains a gym membership for those long hot showers - a stroke of brilliance really, given she forks out just $700 a year for the privilege and can use the gym equipment too.
The savvy 28-year-old is also renting out the advertising space on the truck's exterior to interested businesses. "I have good social media presence and I drive around to family-friendly locations across Brisbane - I am a movable billboard," she said.
And the pay-off for what some would consider to be discomforts? "I feel like I'm on holidays every day," says Chrissy.
She's not the only person abandoning traditional housing.
With more first-home buyers shut-out of the market, many people are realising a 30-year mortgage isn't the only path to owning your own place.
'IT COST ONE TENTH OF A REGULAR HOUSE'
Young trio Marcus Jolly, Emily Weatherburn and their beagle Bonnie had previously achieved the "Great Australian Dream" of home ownership with a three-bedroom house in the suburbs. But the mortgage was "suffocating".
That's when the "wild idea" of building a tiny home hatched. "Our Bonnie Wee House" started out in the driveway of Marcus's brother's place and landed atop a trailer on a block in the Sunshine Coast owned by an "incredibly kind" landholder.
The trade-off has been huge, both have scaled down to part-time work and are pursuing new goals.
And there's no looming mortgage either. "We didn't need to take out a loan," Emily said. "The tiny house has cost one tenth of the regular, three-bedroom house."
The lifestyle change has been healthy too. "When the house only contains the necessities to live (kitchen, bathroom and bedroom), we tend to spend a lot of time outside," she added.
"We are noticing so much more about the flora and fauna in the area, it's such a great way to unwind."
Emily's advice for those who are thinking of going small? "Composting toilets aren't as scary as some might think."