Abbie Gatherum
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Young Traveler’s Network series showcases candid guest interviews of young people worldwide and the inspiring stories of how they navigate their lives and travels. They share their stories to educate, inspire, and empower others to see the world!

This week Young Traveler Abbie, 23, tells us how and why she chose to commit to the van lifestyle as a result of the pandemic.


To say it started as a dream would be a lie. It hadn’t been my dream to join the van life movement and work online.

My dream had always involved traveling the world and visiting every country before reaching 30. That was until COVID-19 hit and changed my life for the better.

Here’s how COVID-19 changed my dream from traveling the world to working for myself and joining the van life movement.

My last adventure in Canada before I had to come home because of COVID-19.

From University to Canada to Van Life

At 22, I’d just graduated university and was itching for an adventure. Not sure what I would do with my Arts degree, I decided to move to Canada soon after graduating and hoped that seeing more of the world would help me figure out what was next.

I snagged a hospitality job at a ski resort that was beyond awful and I saved every cent in the hopes that I would be able to spend a few years traveling the world before having to settle into a “real” job. 

Although I was living in what I thought was my dream location- a location of snow-capped mountains, lush forests, and the smell of pinecone, sandalwood, and chimney smoke- I wasn’t exactly fulfilled. Especially when it came to working. 

One of my favorite adventures in Canada.

So when the doors of COVID-19 began to close around me, my dreams began to crumble too. I’d saved every penny in Canada with the idea that the rest of my 20s would be spent adventuring the world, but like so many others, I was faced with the reality of being sent back home to wait out the pandemic. 

I was jobless, broke, and living back with my family. I had no idea when I would be able to travel again.

Then one day I was scrolling through Instagram, aimlessly procrastinating from job searching, when I stumbled upon a traveler that was living in a van.

Sunset views from inside the van in my very first outback trip. 

Falling into Van Life

To my surprise, I loved the idea of moving into a van. I could still travel, I wouldn’t be held back all that much by COVID-19, and I could do it all from the comfort of a home on wheels. 

Purchasing a van came easily for me. I jumped on my local Facebook marketplace and instantly found one I loved. It would need a bit of work, but envisioning days of sunshine, rainforests, and endless beaches allowed me to push through.

Too often, we are chasing the ‘next adventure’ at a rapid pace. Although this van life adventure is a big one, it’s also going to be slow. Click To Tweet

Preparing for Van Life 

After 6 months of gathering together camping equipment, solar panels, storage areas, bug spray, and then explaining to my relatives my lifestyle change, it was time to start thinking about going.

I’d learned everything there was to know about free camping, toilets, and blackout curtains. I began trial runs, testing two or three days at a time in my local area to see if I was ready to go.

Adventuring through North Queensland on my first big trip in the van.

The Working Hurdle

As everything began to tie up and things started to come together, I was ignoring one vital thing – work. 

A large chunk of my savings was used to purchase items for the van, renovate it, and fix any mechanical issues. I didn’t want to have to stop every couple of months to earn an income from jobs I wouldn’t enjoy.

One of my first trips in the van trialing the gear.

This encouraged me to really step into an online career. I reached out to friends on the road earning an online income to ask how they did it. I would stay up late researching ‘how to work online’ and ‘different jobs to do while traveling.’

For the next few months, I had my head buried in my laptop, taking odd jobs on Fiverr. Securing my first gig as an online English Teacher. I did freelance writing, mystery shopping, landed work as an online customer service worker, and then finally worked as a Freelance Social Media Manager.

Gaining Experience to Being Paid 

My first three months were unpaid work. I knew if I did well, it would lead to a paid job. I couldn’t wait to get on the road and go. 

My list of places to visit started to grow by the day. I’d start with the waterfalls near my hometown, followed by endless days at the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling with turtles. Then I’d wander through glow worm caves, head to the mountains to ski, and end the year looking out over penguin-filled waters. 

My goal was to see it all.

I knew I would need to find a way to earn more. So I hustled. I took one social media management gig and turned it into two, and then three, and then four… spending hours each day reaching out to different businesses and eventually, it paid off. 

Now I regularly earn money from my blog, have secured well-paying freelance writing partnerships, and earn a better than average salary from the Social Media Management work I do. 

And the best thing is, I get to do it all while on the road.

Settling Into Life on the Road 

I fell in love with van life and working for myself by allowing myself to pivot my dreams. Everybody should be able to experience this kind of freedom!

Adventuring in the Van through North Queensland

So you’ve read this and you want to join the Van Life/ work for yourself movement, too? Here’s how you can:

It took a pandemic and months of hustling before I truly found something that I love doing. Most Vanlifers give the same advice, and that advice is to just do it. It’s a way of life that is almost impossible to imagine until you are actually living it. Buying a van, preparing, and going is the way you’ll know if this is for you. 

Van life and working for yourself- whether they are combined or separate, can be done by anyone. 

When it comes to working online, find what you’re passionate about, be patient, and don't be afraid to do it outside of your home office. Click To Tweet

It sounds cheesy, but I’m grateful to COVID-19 for allowing me the opportunity to find a new way of life. My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner!


Looking to change your lifestyle and join the van life movement? Drop a comment below & don’t forget to add yourself to the Young Travelers Network Facebook Group

Are you interested in writing for Packs Light? Apply to become a contributor.

The pandemic led young traveler Abbie, 23, to join the van life movement and work while on the road. Here's how you can do it, too!

The pandemic led young traveler Abbie, 23, to join the van life movement and work while on the road. Here's how you can do it, too!

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