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From Cargo Van to Stealth Tiny House in 47 Days


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Sonja and Jonatan were frustrated with apartment life after needing to hire lawyers when their landlords tried to illegally end their lease. It was time for a change, and just a few weeks later they bought a van and in just 47 days (with no prior experience) created a beautiful home on wheels!

The most remarkable feature of their van is definitely their starry night sky, created by putting lights behind the ceiling beadboard. It looks great in the daytime, but absolutely enchanting come nighttime! Be sure to read our Q&A with them after the photo tour below.

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Traveling Europe in Their Starry Night Van

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 7

Images © @salamamcvan

You can see their constellations up on the ceiling.

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 12

Images © @salamamcvan

But they look so much more magical at night!

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 11

Images © @salamamcvan

They have a mirror in their van, which we don’t see too often.

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 4

Images © @salamamcvan

This looks like an enchanting place to sleep.

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 5

Images © @salamamcvan

I love the pull-out table in the garage.

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 10

Images © @salamamcvan

I am in love with their rose gold sink!

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 6

Images © @salamamcvan

They have a nice little cooktop here.

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 2

Images © @salamamcvan

Everything inside has such clean lines!

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 3

Images © @salamamcvan

There’s even a little matching drying rack in the sink!

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van

Images © @salamamcvan

They love their van life!

Travelling Europe in Their Starry Night Van 9

Images © @salamamcvan

Interview:

What got you into tiny living?

We have both been looking at similar projects of others on social media for a long time and talked about whether at some point we will implement this kind of project. We’ve been traveling back and forth between Spain and Finland by car, and we’ve been thinking that it would be so much easier if we would have our home with us everywhere. At the beginning of 2022, the landlord of our apartment tried to illegally terminate the lease agreement, and we had to hire a lawyer to help us get our rights heard. In that mess, both of them got a strong feeling that they can’t stand any more of this kind of mistreatment while living in a rented house, and they decided that if it’s time to buy a van and get down to business, now is the time! It didn’t even take a couple of weeks when a van was found for us from a Belgian couple in Malaga, and we were able to start the project!

Did you build your home or buy it? How long did the process take?

We build our camper van by ourselves in 47 days. We didn’t have any experience of building, and we learned everything step by step by doing! The beginning of the project was quite challenging as we had to learn a lot of new things, for example: what are the differences between insulators, what kind of wood is suitable for what, how some tools work, and how to take into account condensation, etc. Sonja has also read about Spanish motorhome requirements and regulations, and during the project, she repeated several times how to must be done within the framework of the law. A lot of time has gone into learning how to do things, and if we were to do the same process again, everything would definitely be done much faster.

What’s the hardest part of tiny living?

In the van build, the hardest part was searching for materials and reliable information and bidding for prices! Things that sound so easy but took a lot of time and frustrated us. To be honest, it has been very annoying when there is no possibility to do business in only one or two stores, where you can get everything you need. Also we couldn’t do all the electrical work ourselves, and just planning the electricity was difficult, so we got help with the installation of electricity.

In tiny living, we can’t say that anything is really hard. Of course, we got frustrated sometimes when we don’t find parking for the night easily, and we need to change places many times before finding a nice and safe spot to stay. For now, we haven’t got any other things what we could say to be a hard part of living in the van.

What’s the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part of our van project has been that when we saw the final result and got to the road for the first time! We’ve been positively surprised by how nice it feels when you get to realize your own visions and succeed in them! People’s interest in the project has also been great and many have stopped to ask questions and look at the van, and it’s lovely to see that others think also that our van is lovely!

We’ve been traveling since June 2022 and have seen so many wonderful places that we never even thought to visit, and we have loved every day on the road.

How has tiny living changed your life (for better or worse)?

Definitely for the better since we’ve been able to travel to so many different countries within the past year. We’ve been able to see different cultures from a closer perspective, and it’s been always our dream to travel the world. Traveling has also given us the freedom to choose where we want to be and when we want to be.

Any advice for people looking to go tiny?

If you ever dreamed about it, you should try it definitely! You can’t lose anything if you try it, but you can miss your best part of life if you just keep dreaming. We can tell that tiny living is not for everyone, but everyone can try it to know if it’s your thing or not. Don’t think to try it later if you can try it now.

Best regards, Sonja and Jonatan,

@salamamcvan (Instagram and TikTok)

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

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