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Talking van life with Brent Draper

After feeling burnt out in his trade as a boilermaker, Brent Draper decided to give up what some might feel is a “traditional life” and move to a life on the road. With the whole family in tow, they moved into a converted bus and have been travelling the country ever since.

We caught up with Brent to find out more about his journey and how van life has given him and his family a new lease on life.

Who are you?

My name is Brent Draper and I’m an ex-tradie, husband, dad to a toddler, adventure-seeker, surf frother and MasterChef Australia 2021 contestant.

Brent Draper and his family

What made you decide to live and travel in a bus?

In 2020 we had a really tough time with my Mum’s health, we nearly lost her and after she recovered we decided that, as cliche as it sounds, there was no time like now to do the things we wanted do. My wife and I have always had a dream to travel Australia, but we got caught up in building businesses and becoming parents and our dream started to take a backseat. All that changed after I came home from being on MasterChef Australia in 2021, we bought our bus within a couple of months of me getting home and then we spent 5 months (long, long months) converting it into the little beauty she is today! It’s the hardest and best thing we’ve ever done.

Why did you choose bus life over other forms of travel?

We just wanted the luxury of space, and for it to really feel like a home on wheels. The Higer Bus we purchased fell into our lap really effortlessly once we started looking around, it was at a cracking price and we could really see a vision for what we wanted it to look and feel like on the inside so we went for it and haven’t looked back. We actually bought it the day we inspected it, talk about an impulse buy that has served us well!

Brent Draper's Bus

Tell us about your bus?

We’ve got a 2013 Higer Munro. We purchased it with low kms, and it was completely gutted when we bought it which made our job of converting is so much easier when we had a blank canvas to start with. My wife designed it and I just took the orders and built it. It’s super light and bright and airy, with four big custom windows that we had made for the bus to get maximum airflow throughout. We went with peachy, earthy tones which look great against the bright white walls and VJ pine ceiling. We also wanted a bit of texture and some curves, and really wanted the bus to be one of a kind so we ended up doing a couple of rendered feature walls which gives it that Mediterranean feel. We’ve got a queen size bed in our room that you can see when you’re looking directly down our hallway through the curved archway that I built.

When building your bus, how did you decide what to include?

We nutted out our budget, necessities, and ‘must-have’s’ first. Some of our must-have’s included the rendered archway to our bedroom, a big cupboard for storing clothes, a lounge area that converts to a desk for when we need to work, and we really needed to maximise the kitchen space and storage because I love to cook, and I do it for a living on the road! The bench top and kitchen cupboards were one of the first things we purchased, and we worked the rest of the bus around that. We went with a Laminex bench top in ‘Peruvian Clay’ which compliments the rest of the bus so well and people always comment on how it looks like a ‘real kitchen’ not just a bus kitchen.

Is there anything you would change in your bus?

To be honest, not really! We’re stoked with our bus conversion and after living in the space for the past 4 months we’ve gotten really used to it and it works for our family. My wife would love hot water in the kitchen eventually but for now it’s cold water and a boiled kettle.

What are the top three things you can’t live in the bus without?

Our Breville Coffee Machine which is run by our REDARC Inverter which powers it like a piece of cake. That was another non-negotiable for us on the road, we need our caffeine hit in the morning. We have a full-size Bushman 12v fridge which we manage to cram a whole lot in, and once again our REDARC batteries keep this going for us 24/7. And lastly, we do a lot of work on the road and have a toddler who watches his fair share of Bluey so we’ve got a few devices that we always need to have charged up, so having our REDARC dual battery system means we never go flat on the road.

Brent's REDARC power system keeping their Higer bus powered

What has been your favourite trip so far?

We just spent 5 weeks in Tassie and absolutely loved it! It was such a quiet, sleepy place and I really loved how slow everyone moves down there. We caught heaps of fish and squid and just had a ball spending our time on the beaches, especially in Coles Bay and Bay of Fires. Highly recommend Tassie in summer, it’s cracking.

What would be your advice for someone wanting to get into the bus lifestyle?

Just know that you can and WILL finish your bus conversion, no matter how many spanners are thrown in the works, do not give up on it. It was a wild 5 months for us converting the bus and there was literally blood, sweat and almost-tears from me most weeks, but living in the bus and getting to experience bus life makes it all worth it. I’d also say always allow more time with your conversion, more budget, and more time on the road because once you hit the pavement you’ll find there’s so much more to see and explore than you initially thought.

What’s the best thing about bus-life?

Being able to wake up wherever we like, in the most beautiful places. I love watching the sunrise and sunset and being able to do this in some of the best spots across the country makes me feel grateful for bus life. I’d also say that the people you meet make this journey so much more enjoyable, we’ve met people from all walks of life, and it’s been really fun to get to know new people and make new friendships.

The Draper Bus parked next to a vineyard

What’s next for you?

Just continuing with bus life for now! I’ll keep working on the road, cooking outside and getting to as many destinations across the country as possible over the next 12 months. Our plan is to do a big figure 8 from Gold Coast to Western Australia, we’re currently in South Australia and absolutely loving it here. We’re on track to be in WA for Christmas time which I’m so keen for so we’ll just keep trucking along and enjoying everything bus life throws at us - even the tough stuff like expensive diesel.

To learn more about Brent and follow his adventures you can find him on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or learn more about why other van lifers choose life on the road.

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