Originally based out of Adelaide in South Australia, Kallie and Dylan Bergamaschi are currently taking one giant lap around the continent with their boys in tow. Kallie, a home designer, and Dylan, a concreter, converted a 1984 Nissan Civilian bus into a 120-square-foot living space, and then hit the road with 4-year-old Lincoln and 10-month-old Zephyr.
While recreational vehicles and vans are usually saved for vacations and the weekend, this family of four has made their bus, named Nellie, a year-round home. "We currently live full-time on the road with no end date in sight," the couple writes—and they document their adventures on their Instagram account @Civilian.Life.
Kallie and Dylan’s mobile lifestyle was inspired by their honeymoon in 2017, when they road-tripped through the Canadian Rockies. "We started to really believe that there was more to life than what we get sold by the majority of the population," they write. "Up until this point we had spent our whole adult lives saving for and renovating our house so we could ‘properly’ support our new family."
When the couple returned home from their big adventure, they decided to buy a van for traveling on the weekends and holidays. "After that, it quickly escalated to ‘let’s buy a bus and travel Australia,’" they say.
On their hunt for a mobile home, the duo came across a 1984 Nissan Civilian. The old church bus was in good condition and had low kilometers on the odometer.
The Bergamaschis took on the bus project themselves, with friends and family chipping in here and there. The DIY conversion took the couple 5 months of work on weekends and evenings.
Tapping into her home design background, Kallie drew up a detailed floor plan and elevations. To gain a better understanding of the space, the couple used cardboard boxes, scrap materials, and masking tape to mock-up where the cooking, sleeping, and living areas would be within the bus.
"This gave us a great perspective of our design—we gained an understanding of what worked, and what things we had to go back to the drawing board to redesign," they say.
Dylan was able to handle the hands-on work with his background as a concreter. And the conversion project gave him some new skills along the way. The couple’s biggest challenges included working with the curves of the roof and walls, and trying to create level surfaces on the bus’s sloping floor.
To maximize space and make living easy, Kallie and Dylan had to get creative with the layout and storage. They added hidden compartments to stow all their belongings—tucked under the couple’s bed are built-in drawers and a dining table that slides out.
Additional drawers under the banquette store the boys’ clothing. The sleeping berth includes a shelf for books, and overhead storage in the front of the bus holds bedding and larger miscellaneous items.
"There really is no wasted space for us, but we also wanted to make sure it was as easy as getting to a destination and hopping straight into bed with as little setup as possible," they say.
The Bergamaschis took form and function into mind when designing the interior of the bus with clean lines and minimal froufrou. "We tried to keep the design as fresh and simple as possible with as many storage solutions as we could fit into the small space," they write. "We used vivid white to make the space feel open, and warm timber to give the home an earthy feel."
The family kicked off full-time van living in August 2018 for four months before returning home to Adelaide for their second son Zephyr’s birth. After staying at home for the first few months of his life, they returned to the open road as a family of four to continue their travels around Australia.
"On the road, we travel until we need to top up our funds and then stop for a few months at a time where Dylan will pick up some work," says Kallie.
Living in close quarters as a family of four isn’t for the faint of heart, and it can be challenging at times, but this family loves the benefits of spending time together.
"Although most people believe it to be stressful and intense, we’ve have found it wonderful as we finally had time to reconnect and get to know each other now that we don’t both live the usual nine-to-five, and it’s made our relationship so much stronger," they write. "We still have our bad days or moments, but we all have a calm area within the bus where we will take some time to sit in our zone uninterrupted."
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