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Full-Time Students Renovate Van for under $600!

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Think you need thousands of dollars to renovate van? Full-time students Conor and Mattie spent just 500 Euros (about $556 USD) to transform their van into a home! They used pallet wood and other recycled lumber from friends and family to outfit their travelling home (@our_venturing_van), and the results are incredible.

Right now they live and travel in Ireland, but they have some big plans for September (which are still a secret). What I love about this story is that the couple discussed the idea of vanlife on a Saturday night, and on Tuesday they purchased a van! It’s so easy to overthink things, but these two jumped right in. They had the whole thing largely finished in just two weekends of crazy-fast building!

We got the chance to interview Conor, so don’t miss the Q&A at the end of the post!

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#Vanlife in Ireland: Full-Time Students

Now that’s a fancy BLT in a fancy van!

Pour-over coffee and twinkle lights!

Love that the wood in here is reclaimed!

I want a van just for these awesome views!

Talk about tiny, but so special, homey, and cozy!

Vans are perfect for drive-in theaters!

They even decorated the cab. Love the map ceiling.

Plenty of storage under the bed.

Little stove for cooking up meals.

That slide-out counter is so clever.

Some indoor-outdoor living right here.

Conor and Mattie: Jumping into Vanlife in Ireland

What are your name(s)?

Conor and Mattie

How many people (and animals) are living in your van?

Just the two of us, but we have Mattie’s dog, Kia, and her 4 yo brother as guests occasionally.

Where do you live? How long have you lived tiny?

We are based in Ireland, but we have a big move coming up in September that we are very excited about but can’t reveal yet haha.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

We are both full time students, but will soon be free to travel once we graduate.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

We had the idea late on a Saturday night and bought a van the following Tuesday. It all happened really quickly and without too much thought, but we are delighted we did it.

How did you first learn about van life?

I had never heard of it until Mattie who was, at the time, living in Australia mentioned that people were doing it over there. It was a little while before we realised it could work for us too here in Ireland.

How long did it take to finish your van?

We did almost all of the building over the space of 2 weekends. Working day and night out of excitement. But since then we have been continually adding and altering things in the van.

How did you build your van? Did you have any help? Did you do it yourselves?

We did all the work ourselves. although neither of us had any real experience with wood work. We learned most of it from trial and error and basically winging it. Being students and on a tight budget, we build most of our interior from upcycled pallet wood and other unwanted wood and materials we scavenged from friends and families sheds. As well as being easier on our pockets it also made the van build a lot more sustainable which was important for us.

Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost? What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

We did the entire structural conversion on about €200. We then spent another 300 on the initial fit out of things like the pillows, cooker, blankets and mattress. However since then we have continuously spent little bits on small upgrades.

How did you find a place to park and live in your van?

Parking in the rural parts of Ireland is easy, most people are fine with you being there so long as you are respectful and leave no trace. in the cities, we normally park up in the drive ways of friends and family.

Before going tiny, what was life like?

We had both done a lot of overseas travel and upon returning home to the more ‘normal’ student life, we both missed the adventure of travel. I think that is why we decided to buy the van.

Is there anything from your old life that you miss?

No, luckily we can always crash at our family’s houses when we are missing the comforts of a house.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

For us, being so mobile is the main pro. Since getting our van we have had so many opportunities to experience places that we just would not have been able to do without our van.

What about some challenges?

Staying clean, doing dishes, cooking, laundry. These are all challenges, but there are easily worked around and totally worth putting up with.

What makes your van special?

For us, it’s the memories of all the fun times we spent building it, “Shergar’ as she’s weirdly became christened, has a lot of character because of all the old wood and materials in her, that all tell stories of their previous life.

What is your favorite part of your van?

Because, were answering this in the summertime, we would have to say the roof deck. It’s a great spot to have your morning coffee or watch the sunset with a beer.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

Just do it, don’t be afraid or over think it. I’m convinced if we had waited another few weeks or even days, after having the idea, we would not have our van now. We promise you, if going tiny is something that excites you, jump into it and it will all work itself out.

Do you have a website, blog, or social media page where we can follow along?

If you guys want to follow along as we explore Ireland this summer and then Europe this Autumn check out @our_venturing_van 😉


  • Full-time students
  • Spent under $600 renovating the van
  • Travelling in Ireland (and Europe this fall!)
  • Took just two weekends to do bulk of build-out
  • Reclaimed wood interior
  • Pull-out shelf for propane stove top
  • Roof-top deck!

Learn more:

Our big thanks to Conor and Mattie for sharing their life with us!🙏

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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.
{ 11 comments… add one }
  • jerry dycus
    June 23, 2020, 10:52 am

    Very nice in many ways though using recycled pallet wood is both heavier and far more labor to save $60.
    This is a great way to survive the recession at very low cost and can do this including an older van for under $3k including solar system can be paid with the $600/wk unemployment checks totallyb $6k with enough money left over for 6 months of travel, $500/mo.
    And one could bank the state unemployment for after the $6k runs out. Or you can pay for rent, be broke and evicted.
    I’d have a fabric room off the rear or side for day living, shower to make it more livable especially with 2 people.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 25, 2020, 1:45 pm

      Good ideas, Jerry!

  • Maria Kentala
    July 25, 2020, 7:16 am

    Nice! But where do they shower or go to the restroom?

    • Natalie C. McKee
      July 25, 2020, 11:46 am

      Usually they get gym memberships and shower at the gym. Use the bathroom at public restrooms.

  • Suzanne Hooper
    July 25, 2020, 9:05 pm

    What an absolutely beautiful van conversion!!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      July 27, 2020, 9:38 am

      And for so little money!

  • JJZack
    October 30, 2020, 2:04 pm

    I really like the way you have the drawer with the stove/cutting board that extends outside the van for cooking and the way you have the gas bottle attached to the cabinet door so that it comes out when you open it. GREAT IDEAS!!!! This is such a nice cozy build! With college dorm fees being so exorbitant, this is the perfect idea for cheap living while in school. When I was in school, the only time I was in my room was to sleep for 3-5 hours, otherwise, I was out and about with classes, library and friends. This would have been all I needed! Great job!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      October 30, 2020, 2:22 pm

      So true! I spent so little time in my room in college!

  • Marsha Cowan
    October 30, 2020, 10:11 pm

    It’s absolutely beautiful! The slide out shelf is a wonderful idea, but all of it is so well planned and comfortable looking. Thanks for sharing your great ideas with us.

    • Marsha Cowan
      July 7, 2021, 11:36 am

      I think this is my very favorite van build of all! I love it!

  • April 24, 2021, 6:25 pm

    Love and respect for van life from pakistan… awesome van specially interior classic vintage look and re-use of wood … very friendly tiny group of lads you are here…… I’m on a project vw t4 .. Will share pics soon inshallah

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