A woman has revealed how she abandoned her steady job and ended a five-year relationship to live in a van with her dog – after spending $7,500 transforming her home-on-wheels.
Before embarking on her nomadic lifestyle, Linnea worked as a field instructor for a wilderness therapy company but now runs her own online health business.
As the urge to travel and get out of her comfort zone grew, she uprooted her entire life, swapping it all for wild adventures on the road in her van, which has no running water or a toilet because she is ‘perfectly happy’ without these ‘luxuries’.
Instead, Linnea relies on public toilets or uses the wilderness as her bathroom, and she heats up water to use in a showering tent to wash.
A woman has abandoned her steady job and ended her five-year relationship to live in a van with her dog – after spending $7,500 transforming her home-on-wheels
Linnea Schmelzer, 26, from Wisconsin, currently lives in a van dubbed Togo in the remote wilderness of Idaho with her five-year-old German Shepherd, Akela
She bought Togo in May 2020 for $20,000 and has spent just $7,500 renovating the vehicle into a livable space.
Linnea was with her ex for five years, and says she did think they’d be ‘together forever’ but the decision to part was mutual and they remain friends.
‘I did enjoy my life prior to the van,’ she explained. ‘It was filled with building my future, spending time with friends, working on my relationship with my partner at the time and being really active in more ways than one.
‘[But] I will say though, I was excited for something different and more fulfilling. I knew in my heart that my life wasn’t really what I wanted it to be.
Before embarking on her nomad lifestyle, she worked as a field instructor for a wilderness therapy company but her urge to travel and go out of her comfort zone grew
She bought Togo in May 2020 for $20,000 and has spent just $7,500 renovating the vehicle into a liveable space
‘I was seeking more depth, purpose, travels and experiences, so I decided to get Togo.’
Linnea has done all of the work on Togo herself, including installing cabinet faces, mirrors, a bed frame and electricity.
However, she hasn’t added a shower, water pump or toilet because she wants to keep the build simple, and uses public toilets or the wilderness to go to the bathroom.
When it comes to showering, she heats up water and pours it into a 6L dromedary bag, using a shower tent that is stored in her van.
Linnea was with her ex for five years, and says she did think they’d be ‘together forever’ but the decision to part was mutual and they remain friends
She hasn’t added a shower, water pump or toilet as she wants to keep the build simple, and stores outdoor equipment under her bed – which she calls her ‘garage’
She keeps most of her outdoor equipment in a space under her bed, which she refers to as her ‘garage’.
The stores her backpacking material, sleeping bags, her climbing harness, yoga mat and dumbbells, extra fuel and water and two large containers with extra clothes.
Additionally, this space holds Akela’s gear, which includes a life jacket, a pack and a cooling vest.
Linnea said: ‘I wanted Togo to feel like a tiny cabin. I knew I would spend the majority of my time alone and wanted a space that felt comforting, earthy, and cozy.
‘My build is very simple; no shower, no water pump, no toilet – but I knew that I would be perfectly happy without those luxuries.
‘I truly think it’s beautiful that we all have different definitions of living a content life.’
Linnea has done all of the work on Togo herself, including installing cabinet faces, mirrors, a bed frame and electricity
Linnea enjoys spending time in nature and says she has found inner peace in a way she never had before
Akela sleeps next to her owner in the van and although the dog takes up a lot of space, Linnea says she couldn’t have picked a better travel companion.
Linnea said: ‘Akela is as comfortable on my bed as she is in our two-person tent in the wilderness.
‘She is my ultimate travel partner and companion, and I can’t imagine doing any of this without her.
‘She is also protective of the van and myself, which makes me feel much more comfortable knowing that she will always warn me of danger.’
Akela sleeps next to her owner in the van and although her pet takes up a lot of space, Linnea says she couldn’t have picked a better travel companion
While building her van, Linnea said a lot of it ‘felt like risk-taking’ and she learned a lot about ‘how to trust’ herself while doing the renovations
Linnea said when she was building her van she just ‘fit things’ as she went along based on ‘what ade sense’ to her
Linnea uses a hotspot on her mobile phone for internet and has a mini fridge in her van where she keeps all her food.
She also uses a propane stove to cook and lives a healthy, nutritious and active lifestyle while on the road.
How much the van cost to renovate
Diesel heater $120
Swivel seat $240
Building materials like plywood, framing materials, flooring, screws, drawer slides, latches, and a tools $4,340
While building her van, Linnea said a lot of it ‘felt like risk-taking’ and she learned a lot about ‘how to trust’ herself.
She added: ‘I had an idea for the layout but never actually drew a design, which most people would advise against.
‘I just fit things in as I went, and built what I wanted next based on what made sense to me.’
The total van conversion cost $7,500 and Linnea couldn’t be happier with the results.
She enjoys spending time in nature and says she has found inner peace in a way she never had before.
Linnea said: ‘I love living the way I do. I value my alone time and being in nature.
‘I am often at peace, excited for what I will witness or see in each area and I mostly feel really grounded.’
In a few words of advice for others who wish to renovate a van, Linnea added: ‘Do your research, watch multiple people [‘s projects] and read about different methods until you find something that either resonates with you or makes you feel confident.
‘Be gentle with yourself. You will mess up. It’s okay, it just adds some character to your home! Lastly, laugh at yourself. A lot.’
Linnea has released a ‘Get Fit Anywhere’ guide with detailed workouts she does while on the move, along with 10 of her favourite go-to recipes.