Young Aussies are fed up with traditional work and living expectations placed upon them by older generations.
Many in Generation Z aren’t interested in the “hustle culture” that drove Millennials when they first entered the workforce, or the “work-hard-play-hard” ethos often sprouted by older generations.
Having spent their late teens and early 20s in and out of Covid-19 lockdowns and being barred from international travel, it is no wonder that so many young people are looking for alternatives to paying an exorbitant amount of rent to so they can commute to their office job every day.
Blaze Lopes is one of the young Aussies who has abandoned these traditional societal expectations in favour of something wildly different.
The 24-year-old, originally from Bondi Beach, has adopted the “van life” and spends her days travelling around Australia and experiencing everything our country has to offer.
Her day could not be more different from sitting at a desk in a stuffy office staring at a computer screen.
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Instead she will likely be swimming at a beautiful secluded beach, exploring an outback town or hiking to a secret waterfall, documenting all her adventures on her Instagram @hurleyandagirly.
And, while she does do a bit of computer screen staring while freelancing in the digital marketing space, she gets to do it while parked in front of some beautiful Australian landscape many people only get to see on a tourism campaign.
Ms Lopes told news.com.au she bought her van, affectionately referred to as Hurley, in 2020 as Covid was really taking off in Australia.
“My dream was to go backpacking overseas. I was very lost at the age of 21 and wasn’t really stoked with where I was with uni,” she explained
“So I saved up, worked full time and then when Covid hit I thought ‘OK, well I am not going overseas anytime soon’, so I bought the van.”
After finishing university Ms Lopes got a full time job in digital marketing in Sydney, which she described as “absolutely amazing”.
But her ultimate dream was still to travel, so she set off on her first solo trip in 2021.
The 24-year-old has now been travelling full time for over two years, already completing one full lap around the country.
“I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon,” she said.
“After coming from the hustle and bustle of working full time in Surry Hills and living in Bondi Beach, which is just the pinnacle of a fast-paced society, it has been really nice to slow down.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still work remotely as a freelancer, but it has just opened my eyes to a new way of living.”
And Ms Lopes is far from the only young Aussie who has had this revelation, with the 24-year-old traveller saying she has seen a significant increase in younger people living in vans and travelling the country.
At the start of her travels the majority of people Ms Lopes encountered on the road were either grey nomads or backpackers who couldn’t get back home overseas.
Now she has noticed a big shift to younger people taking up the van life.
She said for many of the people she meets, the cost of living crisis and rising rent prices is a major factor for shifting to a more nomadic way of living.
“You can see some of the young people who have taken it up recently are in two minds because the societal expectation within them is to go home, rent a house and work full time, but they are moving towards this nomadic lifestyle because they are really struggling with that financial situation,” she said.
Ms Lopes noted that it was still a “big challenge” to afford living nomadically, noting many caravan parks charge upwards of $50 a night, on top the extra fuel, repair and living costs.
However, it is clear many young people are seeing it as a better alternative to a more traditional lifestyle.
“The majority of the people that I meet are from coastal areas and they hit the road because they’re like we still want to live along the coast, but we can’t afford to rent in our home towns along the coastline anymore,” Ms Lopes explained.
“And, of course, like when I go home and I’m with friends and we get chatting about ‘Oh we should go travelling’ and the majority of the reason they can’t and the biggest stress in life is the rents they are having to pay.
“So I’m seeing it definitely around me. For me, personally, the biggest reason to keep going is just because I love the lifestyle but that being said, I’m sure if I do want to go home, I will be struggling to pay that.”
Apart from being a way of skirting around Australia’s housing crisis disaster, Ms Lopes thinks people in her generation are a bit traumatised from having to deal with going through a pandemic and multiple lockdowns.
“I think there’s this huge movement towards living life to the fullest,” she said.
“There’s also obviously social media that is so instantly consumable and constantly changing and there is a bit of a comparison. Like people are comparing their lives to others.
“And so there’s this chase for a bigger, better life. And I think a huge aspect of that would have been Covid.”
And, for anyone thinking of taking up the van life, Ms Lopes had some very simple advice: “If people want to do it, they should just do it”.