After inheriting a worse-for-wear Volkswagen Transporter from her brother in 2014, Erin Short never thought that it would one day lead her to start a business with her partner. When the van arrived on the driveway of her then-home in Melbourne with a dead battery after carrying her brother and his mates across the coast of Australia for six months, Erin and her partner James decided to try and bring the van back to life.
It wasn’t long before the couple had replaced the battery, stripped the interior, removed the bench seat and cleaned it up to make way for fresh new flooring and ceiling, wooden cupboards and a functional L-shaped seat that folds out into a bed.
“At the time we were living in Melbourne, then James was offered a role in Queensland and we thought it was the perfect excuse to try something new and make a road trip out of the relocation!” says Erin.
The couple drove over 3000km through other-worldly locations like the Mungo National Park and the Blue Mountains in New South Wales while on their journey.
“We got quite a few compliments on our van along the way and people asked if it was rented or if we paid someone to convert it.” says Erin.
During their travels to Queensland, Erin explains that most of their campsite neighbours were either in cheap old vans covered in garish graphics or plastic fantastic RVs that looked hard to park.
“It got us thinking maybe there was a market for more hand-crafted camper vans and the idea for Drifters grew from there.” she says.
Now based on the Sunshine Coast, Erin and James launched Drifters Campervans to provide adventurers who appreciate the finer things an option that combines a comfortable place to sleep with the freedom of the open road.
We take five with Erin to find out her top tips for exploring and why Drifters is set to become the new glamping!
What would you classify as ‘necessities’ for camping?
A comfortable bed is top for me. I need my beauty sleep! An outdoor table and chairs were also some of the first things we bought for our own trip, being able to sit outside and eat is one of the delights of camping. We spent ages testing out camping chairs as comfort is high on our list. You can’t enjoy being outdoors and away from home if you can’t relax.
What are your top destinations to discover in a camper van?
South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales are both amazing for road tripping and camping. We’re blessed with so many beautiful beaches and there are some great beachside campsites so you can wake to the sound of waves. Noosa North Shore Campground is a favourite, with a view to the horizon that compares to a 5* hotel! On top of the beaches, driving inland through the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast hinterlands gives you winding roads and mountaintop views that feel a million miles away. Australia has so much space in general and you can really feel it when you’re surrounded by forests and driving through tiny country towns; in our hectic digital lives, I think open space brings peace and calm that can be hard to find day-to-day.
You have two different types of campervans, the Hendrix and the Pashwag. What was the inspiration behind each design?
They both feature a lot of wood to keep it really natural and light furnishings so they don’t feel cramped. The Pashwag was designed to be beachy and colourful whereas the Hendrix is a bit more mature and refined. When we built the Pashwag it was very much a learning curve for Hendrix and we improved on the original design by changing the way the bed folds out and adding a kitchen at the back. James is definitely the practical builder and I’m more of the creative dreamer but we’re both really visual people and designing how they look is the best bit! The different designs keep each van unique and give them a bit of personality – we like the idea that if we had more vans they would all be different inside and be the opposite of the cookie-cutter campervans currently available to rent.
Is there a story behind the names Hendrix and Pashwag?
The name Pashwag was inherited with the van itself after my brother and his mates called it the Passion Wagon or Pashwag for short (boys!). Hendrix just seemed to suit the second van, a friend suggested it and it stuck.
What’s your best advice for people looking at exploring in a Drifter?
Give it a go! Even if you don’t like camping we promise it will be nothing like sleeping in a damp tent! Pick a destination that’s a couple of hours away so you can enjoy the journey and look for a campsite that suits you – if you want peace go inland and try a national park campsite or if you’re a beach person but can’t do a weekend without decent coffee and brunch, try Byron Bay. There’s so much choice, you can definitely find something to suit your taste.
What do you want people to get out of a Drifters campervan adventure?
Mostly, a sense of freedom and fun. Many people dream of travelling full time and exploring new places but think you need to take months off work and jump on a plane. You can go somewhere new at the weekend by driving only a couple of hours and it can feel like you’re so far from home. I love the idea of constant exploration in your own backyard plus it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly than travelling overseas.
What’s next for Drifters?
Ideally, we’ll expand and have a fleet of Drifters vans, all unique in design and size to suit a wider range of people.