|Melissa Connell aka "Life in the Slow Lane" with her Sunliner.|
The name of Melissa Connell’s blog (known by her friends as “Liss”), “Life in the Slow Lane” really says it all about the young vagabond’s philosophy. We asked her about the favorite places that she’s traveled and her answer will make you think twice about how you experience your next outing.
“I don’t travel to ‘tick places off a list’. I prefer 'experiential travel,' cruising at my own pace and immersing myself within different societies and landscapes,” says Liss.
What’s great about Liss’ point of view is that recognizing beautiful experiences doesn’t have to be in some far-fetched land — living in the slow lane is everyday state of mind. Born in Sydney with a mum who worked in a travel agency, Liss traveled early and often that taught her to open her eyes to the wonders all around her. “I was very aware of other cultures and lifestyles and I’ve carried that fascination and respect for other cultures into my adult life,” she says.
|Beach day. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
|Driving from the Byron Bay Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
|Life in the Slow Lane wears the Seea Hermosa in Tea Leaf. Photo by Grace Picot.|
Liss’ current home is wherever she parks her Sunliner — most recently in the Kimberley region of North Western Australia and now in Byron Bay. We caught up with Liss in between her travels for her insights on living in the slow lane.
|Mitchell Falls in the Kimberley, Australia. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
Where did you get the idea for "Life in the Slow Lane" and what does it mean to you?
I came across the term 'slow travel' when I read Carl Honare's book 'Slow - how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed' a few years ago. I loved the idea of 'slow travel' - traveling not to 'get somewhere' and 'tick places off a list', but rather to make the journey itself the traveling experience. I read about and connected with the ‘slow’ movement - people who are shunning the current popular Western mentality of mass consumerism and moral indifference in favor of the idea that everything has its own time (or ‘tempo giusto’). Some things require patience, time and commitment. ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed’ - wise words by Gandhi.
The ‘fast lane’ to me is mass production; one week luxury holidays with little or no opportunities to interact with and appreciate local culture; going overboard with scheduling people and activities in an attempt to squeeze as much as possible into a day; tailgating the car in front in the hope that your aggressive approach will get you 30 seconds closer to your destination; eating most of your meals on the go, rather than sitting down to enjoy the flavor of the food and the privilege of eating food when others are going without. Of course, many things can be added and this is just my perspective on it all.
|Kalbarri in Australia. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
|Now this is a camping set-up! Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
Where and how did you find your Sunliner?
I researched into vintage caravans and when I came across the Sunliner I knew that was the one for me. It’s predominantly constructed from fibreglass, so it’s lightweight to tow. I looked for many months and I always seemed to just miss out. I eventually placed a ‘wanted’ ad on a vintage caravan forum online and I received a fast response from someone who was considering putting it on the market. After searching for so many months for this van and not compromising, it was such an amazing feeling when I finally owned it.
|Liss in the Seea Hermosa! Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
What inspired you to travel around and live in it?
When our family moved from the Sunshine Coast to Broome (during high school years), we traveled and lived in a caravan. I fell in love with the freedom of the van - pulling into carparks by the sea and falling asleep to the sound of the lapping waves. Then the next day, we’re off! A new adventure every day, or the ease of sticking around if we loved a spot.
I'd yearned for many years to drive right around Australia, and through the center. I dreamed of opening my van's window at night, in the middle of nowhere, and looking through the clear night sky up into the universe. When the time came to hit the road I found it very easy to give away and sell almost everything I owned. It was an extremely liberating feeling, having everything that I owned packed into one small space and available anytime I needed it. I feel a bit like a turtle - traveling with my home on my back!
|Liss' old friend, Pepper. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
What do you think people can learn from living out of a van?
We learn to let go of things and to simplify. In a society where we are constantly advertised to and many of us earn enough money to buy almost anything we like, sometimes it’s good just to learn to say ‘no’ to ourselves. Just because we CAN have it, doesn’t mean we NEED to have it. I’ve also learnt a lot about quality … should I buy 10 cheap things of poor quality, or shall I invest in one well-made thing that will last for years?
I think that van life encourages us to delve a little deeper into our being. To discover. Participate. Appreciate. To give more. To listen more.
|Liss' home made an appearance in our Seea photoshoot! Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
|Liss and Chrystal Fitzgerald, wearing the Hermosa. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
There seems to be a movement of people who are embracing "#vanlife." Why do you think that is right now?
I really feel that people are becoming disenchanted with their current debt-based lifestyles. People are searching for alternative ways to live: for more meaning, for more time with loved ones, for genuine and enduring happiness. I don’t think that the current popular Western lifestyle promotes a happy and healthy mind.
Van life is freedom. It is being resourceful. It is cutting back to the essentials. It is driving into a situation and parking yourself in the middle of it, to extract as much as you can from the experience. It is meeting new people, experiencing new landscape, discovering who you are without the confines and comfort of a house and a daily routine. I am yet to meet anyone who is unhappy that they have chosen van life.
|No bathroom means you gotta be resourceful when showering.. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
What advice do you have for people living in a van?
If, like me, you don’t have a bathroom in your van, invest in a portable hot water shower that you can buy from a camping store. It’s always such a mission to find a shower, and hot showers can be few and far between!
|Nice view, inside and out! Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
What are some of the favorite decorations in your van? What is the story behind them?
I don't own much, but I do have a few little bits and pieces that I love - feathers, shells, flags and some colorful cushions and rugs.
Probably my favorite decoration is a really old photo of my Sunliner, which is in a frame and came with the purchase of the van. I have this picture on my Instagram. I love the history of my little van, and I love that it has brought so much joy and adventure to the previous owners for the past 55 years.
|Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
Could you offer a travel guide of some cool places in Australia that you visited in your van?
The coolest places that I’ve visited so far have been really isolated places. It was amazing to pull up to an empty beach car park in South Australia and watch a solitary seal diving through the waves at sunset. Also, traveling through the Kimberley (North Western Australia) is mind blowing. I've traveled this remote region extensively over the years, and it always captivates me. It's like Australia's Africa. My folks live there, so it has a special place in my heart.
|Melissa on a trip away from her van for a moment in Papau New Guinea, wearing the Seea Hermosa. Photo by Grace Picot.|
|Swimming with creatures of the sea in Papau New Guinea. Melissa wears the Seea Hermosa. Photo by Grace Picot.|
Where do you see yourself in five years? Still living the same way?
Five years time ... I'm hoping to own a little place in or near Byron Bay and use it as a base for my Australian and overseas exploration. I'd love to become a travel writer for off the beaten track destinations.
We have no doubt that you will! Thanks Liss for sharing your story with us!
Follow along with Liss' slow movement on her Instagram: @lifeintheslowlane
|Liss in Papau New Guinea. Photo courtesy of Life in the Slow Lane.|
|Double Hermosas! Life in the Slow Lane with friend. Photo by Grace Picot.|