At 19 years old I bought a 1992 Chevy van that I converted myself for road tripping the East Coast. I'm blessed that I was born in a time where I could do that without too much backlash.
My grandmother Barbara had a similar dream at my age, but her plan was even more daring. She wanted to bicycle across the US. Unfortunately, her family wouldn't allow her to do it, as it wasn't socially acceptable at the time. These days, people of all ages are trying out van-life to explore the country and test out their self-reliance.
My heart and soul were restless and I felt like I hadn't challenged myself enough or experienced different aspects of life yet at that age. My internet searches somehow brought me to some blog posts and Youtube videos about van-living and I was hooked instantly.
The first step was to get a van of course. It just so happens that when I opened up Craigslist in my area at the time, my soon to be van was the very first ad on the vehicle for-sale page. The photos to the left show what the van looked like when I first bought it and as you can see, it was a mess. I had to put in a lot of work to get it ready to travel in. My offer of $2000 cash for it was accepted by the seller the very first day I reached out and I paid for about $700 of mechanical work to make sure it would be safe and reliable to travel in. I'm grateful that I invested that money because I never had an incident on the road and I always felt safe since it had been serviced by a trusted mechanic. After the mechanical work was finished, I had the job of cleaning the inside and converting it to live out of. I ended up taking out the third seat in the back and the table between the two seats that fold down into a bed. I also removed the microwave, mini fridge, and counter top unit with the help of my brother Nolan. I chose to do this because the wiring didn't work and it took up a lot more space than it was worth.
In the photos above, you can see what it looked like after the interior remodeling. I ripped up the floor which was deteriorated old carpet and rotting foam. I replaced it with black rubber mats that I cut out the fit the area from Home Depot and later I added some bamboo mats in the front. As you can see the cooler takes up a lot less space than the counter unit. I stored clothing in the cabinets above the windows that were larger and deeper than the photos can show. I was able to store items like water jugs and tools for the road under the seats in the back.
The van was small and humble, but perfect for me and I happily explored the states of the east coast and New England in it. My trip brought me down to Florida by the fall where I ended up living for a year. I rented an apartment there after meeting my partner at the time because the van didn't have enough space for two and no air conditioning for the hot and humid climate of south Florida. Funny enough, I sold my van because we thought we were going to stay in Florida for a long time, but we changed our minds and were called to explore California and the west. This led to us eventually doing a cross country road trip with an even smaller vehicle, my partner's Prius! (That's another story).
Ultimately, I had such an amazing and exciting experience living van-life for a while. I proved to myself that I could not only buy a van and fix it up, but also travel part of the US as a solo female. That was the first daring step of many, that have helped me to live a more fulfilling life.