Aussie couple live rent free after transforming old Coca-Cola truck into ‘dream’ home

Aussie couple live rent free after transforming old Coca-Cola truck into ‘dream’ home
  • PublishedOctober 7, 2023

‘It feels amazing not having to deal with overpriced rentals… It’s a great sense of freedom.’

A couple travelling around Australia have detailed how they transformed an old Coca-Cola truck into their “dream” home on wheels – complete with a queen-size bed, kitchen and bathroom.

Pauli, a 32-year-old carpenter, and his girlfriend Clara, a 27-year-old registered nurse, purchased the 2005 Isuzu truck for $17,500 in early 2021 after making plans to embark on a never-ending road trip.

The pair, who met in Japan during the snow season in November 2018, converted the truck after work and on weekends while renting a share house with mates.

After spending 11 months converting and building the ultimate space, the duo moved all their personal belongings into the humble truck, aptly named Cola, by the end of 2021.

The couple are now enjoying a rent-free, off-the-grid lap around Australia amid the rising cost of living.

The couple are now enjoying a rent-free, off-the-grid lap around Australia amid the rising cost of living.
The couple are now enjoying a rent-free, off-the-grid lap around Australia amid the rising cost of living. Credit: Supplied

“It feels amazing being rent-free and not having to deal with the difficult task of trying to find and apply for overpriced rentals,” Pauli tells 7Life.

“We feel very blessed. We absolutely love our tiny home on wheels.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to wake up in something you’ve worked so hard towards.

“It makes it even better that we get to wake up every day and explore this beautiful country.”

‘Great sense of freedom’

Pauli and Clara were living in the NSW coastal city of Wollongong and juggling full time jobs when they began talking about their plans to explore what the country had to offer.

“It has always been on our bucket list to travel around Australia,” Clara says.

“We love travelling and going on adventures and have both travelled a lot overseas but never in our own backyard.

“We were really drawn to the idea of being on the open road with nowhere to be and no one to answer to – rent free and work free.

“It’s a great sense of freedom.”

The truck came as an empty shell, and the couple spent $44,519 converting it into a fully-functioning home on wheels.
The truck came as an empty shell, and the couple spent $44,519 converting it into a fully-functioning home on wheels. Credit: Supplied
The truck has a full kitchen with a gas oven and stove.
The truck has a full kitchen with a gas oven and stove. Credit: Supplied
It has a bathroom with a shower and toilet.
It has a bathroom with a shower and toilet. Credit: Supplied

Keen to embrace “van life”, the couple started looking at caravans and buses.

But they struggled to find a “good fit” that suited their budget and lifestyle.

“The vans and buses were a lot more expensive with higher kilometres,” Clara says.

“Buses and vans are harder to build as they have curved walls and short ceiling heights, instead of being a square box like a Pantech truck.

“And Pauli is also too tall for a lot of the buses and vans which only offer a 6ft (182cm) height, max.”

‘Ticked all boxes’

During their search, they stumbled across a second-hand Coca-Cola truck that was on sale in Sydney.

“It just ticked all the boxes,” Clara says.

“There’s lots of room, heaps of storage inside and outside, higher weight capacity.

“It’s a light, rigid truck so you need that licence which allows us to drive with total weight of up to 7.5 tonnes, which means you can fit loads more in our home on wheels.

“It feels like a home more then a camper.”

As Pauli works as a carpenter, they were able to turn the space into a place they can now call home.
As Pauli works as a carpenter, they were able to turn the space into a place they can now call home. Credit: Supplied
Above the kitchen is a skylight.
Above the kitchen is a skylight. Credit: Supplied

The truck was well in their budget, featured the right dimensions for their layout, had low kilometres and was located just a one-and-a-half hour drive from Wollongong – so it was perfect for them to arrange a test drive.

The pair has not looked back since.

Building costs

The truck came as an empty shell, and the couple spent $44,519 converting it into a fully-functioning home on wheels.

As Pauli works as a carpenter, they were able to turn the space into a place they can now call home.

During their search for a vehicle, they stumbled across a second-hand Coca-Cola truck on sale in Sydney.
During their search for a vehicle, they stumbled across a second-hand Coca-Cola truck on sale in Sydney. Credit: Supplied

“It took us 11 months to complete the build,” Pauli says.

“We were renting in a share house with our mates the whole time while converting our truck. We were working a regular Monday to Friday grind.

“We were only working on converting the truck on weekends and afternoons.

“We started the build in February 2021 and we were living in the truck by December 2021.”

‘Everything we need’

The breakdown cost of the extensive work included $675 to raise the roof, $8189 building materials, $2550 on windows and doors, $6285 wiring up the space, $8220 appliances and $1110 plumbing.

The pair converted the truck after work and on weekends while renting a share house with mates.
The pair converted the truck after work and on weekends while renting a share house with mates. Credit: Supplied
A work in progress.
A work in progress. Credit: Supplied

“The truck has just about everything inside,” Pauli says.

“Everything you would need in your normal day-to-day life in a domestic home we have in the truck. Everything we own is in here.

“The truck has air conditioning, a full kitchen with a gas oven and stove, a queen-sized bed, two seats, a foldable table, a bathroom with a shower and toilet and plenty of storage.”

Coke ‘curtains’

During the renovations, Pauli and Clara began warming up to the truck’s exterior side curtain featuring Coke’s iconic logo.

“We were going to get rid of the Coke curtains altogether but once we started building, we fell in love with the idea of keeping them,” Clara says.

“It protects our exterior walls, windows and so many other things, including dust, insects, theft, sun, rain and rangers.

“It’s more stealth for when we are camping. They act as actual curtains as well.”

It took the couple 11 months to convert the truck into the home of their dreams.
It took the couple 11 months to convert the truck into the home of their dreams. Credit: Supplied
A look at the truck conversion.
A look at the truck conversion. Credit: Supplied
During the transformation, the pair installed two seats and a foldable table.
During the transformation, the pair installed two seats and a foldable table. Credit: Supplied

On the outside of the truck, they store all the “fun stuff”, which includes push bikes, a motorbike, surfboards, camping chairs and table and skateboards.

One of their favourite features of the truck is the kitchen.

“It’s very functional with loads of bench space, three burner gas cooktop with a gas oven underneath, large sink, rangehood and a 110L fridge,” Pauli says.

“The layout and appliances allows us to cook as we would in a domestic kitchen.”

Six adults can fit comfortably in the truck.

“We can have groups of our friends in the truck to play board games or chill out,” Clara says.

They added doors and windows.
They added doors and windows. Credit: Supplied
The pair officially started the big lap of Australia in January
The pair officially started the big lap of Australia in January Credit: Supplied

The couple lived for a year in the truck – while jugging full time jobs – to save money for the road trip around Australia.

After taking “short little holidays” and enjoying a life on the road at Thredbo, the pair quit the rat race.

They officially started the big lap of Australia in January.

“We are roughly 2000km in at the moment,” Pauli says.

“We started down at the Victoria border and have been working our way up north.”

The couple has been inseparable since meeting in Japan in November 2018.
The couple has been inseparable since meeting in Japan in November 2018. Credit: Supplied

After putting her nursing career on hold, Clara started a business with her sisters selling hand painted indigenous artworks.

Expenses on the road

To save money on the road, Pauli and Clara opt for “free camping” 95 per cent of the time so they park their truck only at designated spots for campers – without having to pay a cent.

“There are so many good spots in every town you can park for free, you just need to have an eye for it,” Clara says.

“You have to be ok with just pulling up wherever for the night.

“We spend the day at nice beach spots with ‘no camping’ signs (then) have dinner and, after dark, we just shift to a nice flat spot without any signs.”

To save money, Pauli and Clara opt for ‘free camping’ 95 per cent of the time.
To save money, Pauli and Clara opt for ‘free camping’ 95 per cent of the time. Credit: Supplied
During the renovations, Pauli and Clara fell in love with truck’s exterior featuring Coke’s iconic logo.
During the renovations, Pauli and Clara fell in love with truck’s exterior featuring Coke’s iconic logo. Credit: Supplied

The couple spends about $250 each on living expenses every week, which includes food, essentials and petrol.

“We cook most nights, do free activities like surfing, riding, swimming, hiking, paddle boarding and just chill out,” Clara says.

“We have only been on the Australia lap for a month or so, so we haven’t really got an accurate projection of the weekly spendings yet, but we are trying to aim for $500 a week for both of us.”

Some challenges they face are expensive diesel prices and the truck’s “slow” engine.

The couple lived for a year in the truck, while jugging full time jobs, to save money.
The couple lived for a year in the truck, while jugging full time jobs, to save money. Credit: Supplied

“The truck isn’t very good on fuel,” Pauli says.

“It’s also very slow but that’s okay because we aren’t in any rush.”

Typical day

The couple always starts the morning with a cup of coffee before exploring the surrounds near where the truck is parked.

“We usually go to the beach, go for a bush walk or see a waterfall,” Clara says.

“Then we drive 30 minutes to one hour every couple of days to find a new spot to camp.

“Once we are parked up, we go for a bike ride around the town to explore.

“Pauli might go for an arvo fish or I would work on my business for a few hours. Then we both relax after dinner.”

As they enjoy their adventurous trip, they have not made any plans to come home yet.
As they enjoy their adventurous trip, they have not made any plans to come home yet. Credit: Supplied

As they enjoy their adventurous road trip, they have not made any plans to come home just yet.

Taking it day by day

“We are just taking it day by day,” Pauli says.

“We don’t have a plan, and that’s what’s so great and free about living on the road – we e don’t really have anything we are rushing back for.

“But if I had to put a timeframe on our trip, the minimum we want to be on the road for is one year.”

For those keen to go travelling, Clara says: “Make a realistic goal, set a date, stick with it and don’t look back.

“Before you know it, you’ll be on the road.”

SOURCE: 7NEWS

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