Woman, 27, transforms van into home-on-wheels just using YouTube videos for help

A woman has transformed her van into an incredible home-on-wheels by watching YouTube videos for tips.

Mackenzie Klimek, 27, from Minnesota, US, was living in a shared apartment with friends but when the lease ended she moved in with her sister and brother-in-law.

Although the actuarial analyst enjoyed spending time with her family, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was living in someone else's home.

Desperate to get out on her own, she stumbled on the van life community and instantly became hooked on the idea.

In July 2020, she bought a 2017 Ford Transit van for $21,900 (£15,900) and set herself the task of renovating the vehicle from scratch.

While living with family, she made a list of things she loved, which included holidays in the woods, making things with her hands, travelling, and drinking.

She wanted to find ways of incorporating those things into her daily life and "found van life".

“I can't describe my pull toward van life as anything less than an obsession," she said.

“For weeks, I stayed up late watching hours of videos, listening to podcasts, and scrolling through Instagram.”

Mackenzie spent $16,000 (£11,700) on her new home, with the aim of being on the road full time.

She watched tutorial videos online to get inspiration for the layout of the van and then roped in her uncle, Gary, to assist with some of the trickier parts.

But, the 27-year-old had no professional help in building her new home.

First, the pair stripped the van bare to install new electrics, insulation and plumping.

Opting for a nautical colour scheme, Mackenzie painted the walls white and the ceiling navy blue, as well as installed new flooring.

She also purchased a new fridge and installed a brand-new kitchenette, and a roof rack at the top of the van for secure storage.

Finally, adding some homely touches, Mackenzie invested in a mattress, new bedding and cushions.

Woman, 27, transforms van into home-on-wheels just using YouTube videos for help

The 27-year-old also forked out $390 for added security measures, including a motion-activated video doorbell that senses any movement, so she can see what’s going on outside her door at all times.

It took around five months to complete the work, with Mackenzie and Gary working up to eight hours a day – but she couldn’t be happier with the final results.

She said: “I'm so incredibly proud of what we built.

“Every single time I open the door, I can't help but smile a little bit."

Mackenzie has so far travelled to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California while living and working in the van full time.

She uses a hotspot to access the internet for work and cooks food using a small burner camping stove that runs on butane.

As Mackenzie doesn’t have a built-in bath and toilet in her van, she showers at the gym and uses public restrooms whenever she can, but she does have a portable camping toilet for emergencies.

She said: “My favourite thing about van life is spending so much more time outside."

The challenges of the roaming lifestyle include using the bathroom, showering, and doing the washing up.

The "magical" side to it is that "ordinarily difficult things like doing chores, paying bills, managing time, making friends that are now much easier than before.”

She says there are also risks of travelling alone as a woman, and she feels "on edge" when popping out of her van at night.

But, the 27-year-old says she's "not living in a constant state of fear" and that the vehicle is her "safe space".

“It is the cosy little home that I never knew I needed,” she added.

For other van life hopefuls, Mackenzie advises people to imagine yourself living in your planned space.

Walking through daily routine can be a useful tool to see if your usual tasks are easier or more difficult once living in the can.

This can help prepare you for expected changes to that routine.

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