Daniel on an Expedition Truck, a Yacht and Two Apprenticeships

Kurnai Land (Maffra, Victoria)
Dual Tradesman, Fitter and Turner, Carpenter
Travel, engineering, building, DIY

Daniel Campion is a ‘dual tradesman’ from Maffra, Victoria. He left high school in year 11, did two apprenticeships, travelled all over the country working as a carpenter, and now, is custom building an expedition truck so he can continue travelling Australia for life. As if that’s not enough, he’s also restoring an old yacht with the hope of sailing it to the Pacific Islands. You might know him as @thedancampion on instagram. 

Daniel’s Story

Leaving school for two trades

I left school in year 11 to do a fitting and turning trade. I had to have a trade lined up, because, honestly, my mum wouldn’t let me finish unless I had something to go to.

Going into it, I didn’t really know much about fitting and turning, but I knew that I liked working with machinery and engines. (Not sure what fitting and turning is? Everyone asks – it’s industrial maintenance on machinery like hydraulics and pneumatics in power plants, gas plants and mining. For example, a mechanic will fix an engine, an engineer will design an engine, but a fitter and turner will build the engine.) It seemed interesting to me. 

So I got an apprenticeship with an apprenticeships group in Gippsland. I started off working in a local fabrication company, building tools for the local industry and I hated it. My god, I hated it. So I did that for a year and I went back to my apprenticeship group and said this place isn’t for me. On a side note: that’s why it’s good to do apprenticeships with apprenticeship groups, because you can change employers pretty easily. Eventually, I moved to Melbourne and finished the apprenticeship off there where I was working in hydraulics. A Lot of the time, I hated that as well.

Apprenticeships are hard things to do. For any one that’s considering doing one, or has started one, as much as they are challenging, you’ve just got to see them through. 

I finished working as a hydraulic fitter when a family friend asked if I wanted to move to Torquay and do a carpentry apprenticeship with him. So I did. And that was even harder than the first apprenticeship!

People around me questioned my decision to do another apprenticeship, and said things like ‘you’ll be in your mid 20s by the time you finish’. The idea that you’re too old to start an apprenticeship is rubbish. You can start one at any age. 

My boss and I travelled all around Australia building McDonald’s restaurants, most of the time sleeping in swags, on the job. There was no shower or facilities. This really toughened me up in a lot of ways and made living on the move pretty easy for me. 

In between then and now,  I travelled around Australia working as a carpenter. 

Growing up on a farm really set me up to get into the trades, I was working with tools from a really young age and that’s what got me started on this journey. 

Daniel has been working on his expedition truck for three years. Eventually he will travel around Australia in it.

Custom building the expedition truck

I travelled around Australia in a troop carrier for two years with my partner Louise. Living on the road traveling Australia is a really good way to live life. We wanted to keep doing it and living like that, but we wanted something more permanent that we could be more comfortable in. While we were travelling I’d seen all these other camping trucks driving around. Because of the trades I had learned, I thought I’d really like to buy a truck and build a camper on the back of it. 

So I sold the troopy and bought a truck. It’s an ex fire truck from rural Queensland. It’s a 4WD and it weighs close to 6 tonnes which is fairly big. Going into it, I’d never driven a truck before. So I went and got my truck license and we flew up to Toowoomba, then drove it all the way home to Victoria.

I’ve been working on it for three years now. I’m trying to make it a really clever build that uses a lot of engineering in the design so it’s all extendable and expandable. I’ve used electric actuators, and I’m eventually going to be able to hook it up to a computer that you can run it off, which then connects it to your phone as a controller. 

Restoring a yacht

When I first moved to Barwon Heads I needed a place to keep the truck after the first shed was no longer available. I was really stressed, I didn’t have a lot of money, and thought I was going to have to rent somewhere really expensive. I started driving around to properties near where I lived to see if people had any sheds they might want to rent. I was going door-to-door talking to people. 

I drove up to a guy’s house, Gary. He said ‘yeah maybe he might have a shed’. He called me back a few days later and said ‘we’ve got one in town you can use, but you’ll have to clean it out’. It was full of rubbish, and in a pretty bad way. 

I started to help Gary do stuff around his place, and we sort of became friends. It wasn’t long after we first moved the truck that he said don’t worry about paying rent for the shed, just give us a hand doing some odd jobs. He was telling me he had a boat, so I started helping him work on that. 

I had always fantasised about owning a yacht and learning how to sail, especially when I was younger. I told Gary and he said ‘why don’t you buy one of these boats?’. I started looking around at the boats there on the moor. I found one that was a really good boat back in its day. It was a $100, 000 boat. But it had been completely neglected. 

I started contacting the owner, and after a few phone calls he decided to sell the boat for $1000. I worked on the boat for five months straight, almost everyday. I was sleeping in my car at the boatyard so I could leave it tied up to work on it for days in a row. Since then, I’ve learned to sail, my partner has learned to sail. We’ve sailed the boat to Melbourne and now we’re talking about sailing it to the South Pacific. 

The yacht was in need of resotring, a project that took Daniel five months to complete.
The boat had been neglected by its owner, but Daniel was excited to bring it back to life.
Cars, travel and sponsorship 

An advertising company who was working on behalf of Nissan, reached out to me via email offering to give me a car for up to two years, provided I take a certain amount of photos and videos that they could use. 

At first I thought it was a hoax, or someone trying to rip me off, but it turns out it was legitimate. We had the car for about 18 months. We also did a trip up to Queensland and they gave us another car up there to travel around Fraser Island. 

Turns out they just found me through instagram. It’s a good thing, not being afraid to put yourself out there on social media. I know people can get self conscious about it – but no one really cares what other people post. I’ve found there are some really good opportunities that can come for it if you’re interested in photography and videography! I’ve been making videos on instagram for the last two years, and I guess that’s what prompted them. 

Daniel was given the chance to use a car for up to two years, so long as he took videos and photographs the brand could use

“The biggest thing I would say is you’ve got to be open to other people and open to changes. Don’t label the things happening in your life as good or bad, it’s all leading you to the next thing.”
Working to support my passions

Now I’m just trying to work for myself. My attitude to work has completely changed. Success can focus too much around money, assets or success in a career. I really try to work as little as possible, except for the work I do for myself. Doing handyman jobs and using the skills I learned from my trades, while I work on these projects. 

The biggest thing I would say is you’ve got to be open to other people and open to changes. Don’t label the things happening in your life as good or bad, it’s all leading you to the next thing. The only reason I’ve been able to do all this is because I’ve been open to things happening and changing. 

Don’t worry about what success is for other people. It comes in many different forms, so don’t let the pressure of society or your parents, or those around you, don’t let that affect your decisions in life. Life isn’t about that. A Lot of people let that idea of success take the shine off their life because they feel like they aren’t successful. 

After five months restoring the yacht, Daniel and his partner Louise have both learned to sail, and hope to travel all the way to the Pacific Islands.

More Inspiring Rural Stories