I left my husband and learned to drive at 43. Now I live in a van and have no regrets

A newly separated woman overcame her fear of driving to get her P-plates at the age of 43 – then embarked on a van-life journey across Australia.

Mina Waterhouse was bored of life in South Australia, stressed financially from the cost of living and was in the process of separating from her husband when she bought a secondhand Ford Transit for $19,000. 

When she was a teenager, Mina had amaxophobia – better known as a fear of driving – and never got her licence, despite always wanting to own a kombi van. 

Later in life, she became a deckhand and ended up learning how to drive a boat before getting behind the wheel of a car.

But since gaining the independence that comes with driving, she has ventured to countless picturesque destinations – and even swam with turtles

She loves the freedom and flexibility life on the road provides

Mina Waterhouse overcame a fear of driving to get her P-plates at 43 – then embarked on a van-life journey across Australia. She loves the freedom and flexibility life on the road provides

After learning to drive and purchasing a Ford Transit for $19,000, she went to the Whitsundays to work as a deckhand. Now she's back in South Australia during the off-peak boating season

After learning to drive and purchasing a Ford Transit for $19,000, she went to the Whitsundays to work as a deckhand. Now she’s back in South Australia during the off-peak boating season

‘I feel like I’m picking my life back up from when I was younger, rediscovering the things I enjoyed back then,’ Mina, who goes by ‘Aussie Van Girl’ on TikTok, told FEMAIL. 

‘Alone, the world is sometimes scary and daunting, but also full of promise. I love setting out in my van and not knowing where the day will lead. And I get to follow whichever path I choose.’

Her van life began 12 months ago with a working contract on Whitehaven Beach in Queensland.

‘When the time came to leave for Airlie Beach, I still could not drive a manual. My dad luckily had some time off work and drove up with me,’ she said.

The van itself still doesn’t have a kitchen, a shower or running water – but she’s looking to expand and insulate the interior.

Currently she has a bed, storage, small fridge, fan, and sunroof. It’s not much, but it’s all she needs.

She uses necessary amenities either at work, where she’s also provided food, or at campsites. But she doesn’t have internet and hotspots from her phone, which can be a challenge at times. 

'I feel like I'm picking my life back up from when I was younger, rediscovering the things I enjoyed back then,' Mina told FEMAIL

‘I feel like I’m picking my life back up from when I was younger, rediscovering the things I enjoyed back then,’ Mina told FEMAIL

The van still doesn't have a kitchen, a shower or running water - but she's looking to expand and insulate the interior. Currently she has a bed, storage, small fridge, fan, and sunroof

The van still doesn’t have a kitchen, a shower or running water – but she’s looking to expand and insulate the interior. Currently she has a bed, storage, small fridge, fan, and sunroof

Mina doesn’t have children but instead has an appetite for spontaneous adventures.

‘I don’t follow plans – never have. I like to pick up and go to new places as I please, which is exactly the freedom van life provides,’ she said. 

‘You have so many options and opportunities to explore. I hope to visit all the national parks I can.’ 

Although it can get lonely on the road, Mina is content in her own company and never stays in one place for too long.

The freedom has also given her a stress-free lifestyle free of rent – and her only worry is where she’ll be parking at night.  

Mina doesn't have children but instead has an appetite for spontaneous adventures. 'I don't follow plans - never have. I like to pick up and go to new places as I please, which is exactly the freedom van life provides,' she said

Mina doesn’t have children but instead has an appetite for spontaneous adventures. ‘I don’t follow plans – never have. I like to pick up and go to new places as I please, which is exactly the freedom van life provides,’ she said

‘I loved my life in Queensland. I worked 11-hour days on a boat, taking tourists to Whitehaven and for walks up to Hill Inlet lookout. I had some amazing dinners, walked everywhere and got so fit,’ she said. 

‘I swam with turtles, met all sorts of people, made additions to my van, put in a fan, and an awning on the side.’ 

But she has met with some challenges along the way, including driving in a ‘dead zone’ without reception. 

Mina has also travelled to and worked in the mines, and along the coast, taking deckhand work seasonally, and living in her van. 

At the moment she is exploring South Australia followed by the Fleurieu, the Murraylands, then west to Yorke Peninsula, Innes National Park and Eyre Peninsula. 

And she plans to continue living in a van until the next adventure calls – wherever that may be. 



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