Most students live with their parents, on campus, or in a share house with friends or partners. Some, like James*, live in caravans.
James and his yard-mate Raymond* live in two caravans (James’ is called “Sweet Dreams”, Raymond’s “Cheap Thrills”) in the backyard of a veritable inner-west mansion. When I first heard about James’ abode, my first thoughts were about the power balance between him and the house who’s yard housed his home. I wondered how the bills worked, if he could use the kitchen and bathroom as he pleased, or whether his caravan was entirely self-sufficient, and he just paid for the utilities he used.
As it turns out, his caravan is just “a room that happens to be in a backyard”. With another friend living in the renovated shed, and six in the house itself, making use of the abnormal sized yard was the only way the friends could afford such a prime location. With that practicality aside, I could only see good things about James’ situation.
“It’s like I’m camping all the time,” James said of his home. “I live heaps of my life outside, so it’s really good… I like being outdoors.” Living in the caravan is perfectly suited to James’ DIY attitude. He got the caravan from a cheap second hand dealer, and it was an “intense process” to make it liveable. He had to fix the leaky roof, the broken windows, get a tarp and door mat to make it more homey, and trim back the tree the van lives under.
Where there once was a fridge, there are now a chest of drawers, the former sink is the laundry basket, the table and chairs James sits at to study have storage space underneath, and where there was once two small single beds, James constructed a queen base, and created a bed “cave” in that end of the van. James has built and decorated the van to suit his lifestyle. Living there has given him the freedom to renovate, with none of the responsibilities that come with owning a house. It’s his own space, but he can pick it up and move it if he wants to ever vacate the inner-west.
The best thing? “Probably privacy. Like, I have never heard any of my housemates having sex, ever, and everyone else has.” Fair enough.
And the worst? “The spiders. I am pathologically afraid of spiders.” Pretty shit phobia for someone living in a backyard. But hey, you can’t pick and choose your neighbours.
*names changed because the landlord doesn’t know they’re living there.