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Our Van Susan: Family’s Van Conversion Update


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The last time we checked in with Holly and Matt, they were about 3 months into an amazing van conversion for their family of 4. While the interior was coming together, they’d still be working for another 6 months before they moved in and hit the road. Incredibly, they completed the entire build for just £15.5K (~$19.6K USD) — and it’s so beautiful.

Now they’ve been on the road for nearly a year, and they’re loving vanlife! Be sure to read our interview with them below and find out how they all sleep, what their plans are for the future, and about their epic solar set-up.

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Clever Sleeping Arrangements for 4 in This £15.5K Van!

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 12

Images via @our_van_susan

After the pandemic, the housing crisis hit. There was a huge lack of housing and the houses that were available were shooting up in price. We began our search for our forever home and although it was really hard to find a property, we quickly found a lovely little house in a quiet village within the Lake District. Us and two other families were in the running for it and as luck had it, we didn’t get it.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 11

Images via @our_van_susan

Our minds started to wander on different ways to live. The idea of travelling has always been there, but we thought it was far too daunting to follow through. Despite those feelings, we started to investigate travelling with the boys. We spent weeks reading blogs and watching YouTube videos about families who had hit the road in motorhomes or campervans. It was then we found a community of like-minded people who had built their own mobile homes and were living a fantastic quality of life.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 2

Images via @our_van_susan

The build in total took us a year. We set off in April 2023 and have been living in the van full-time ever since! In terms of cost, the van was £5500, and we spent about £10k in total on the conversion. However, we splashed out a little on things like our boiler and battery/solar set up to make sure it was tip top for full-time living. We have a 200Ah Renogy lithium-ion battery with 430W of Victron solar panels to keep the battery topped up. We also installed a Renogy 2000W inverter and the Truma 4e combi boiler for water and space heating. This is alongside extra seats in the back for the boys, a complete wet-room and an oven (for the pizza of course).

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 3

Images via @our_van_susan

We love sharing our sleeping arrangement in this van and think it could help show a lot of other people how it is completely possible to fit 4 people in a van with a little ingenuity. For our bed, we have two 6ft benches running down the length of the van with back rests. On one bench, in three separate parts the frame pulls out and rests on a small ledge on the other bench, with the backrests filling the gap and forming a full bed (which is actually bigger than a king-size bed!). This allows us to customise the sofa however we want! We like to pull just one of the parts across and turn it into a big ‘U’ shaped sofa.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 4

Images via @our_van_susan

Then for the boys’ beds, we have removable bunks made from strong upholstery fabric and scaffolding poles above our bed/seating area. On an evening, they roll out, so the boys can go to bed whilst we can still move around normally underneath with enough head height to still sit upright. When not in use, they can be rolled up, so you still have the full height in the van and make the space feel much bigger. They are definitely our favourite features of the van.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update

Images via @our_van_susan

Getting into vanlife, we didn’t really know what to expect. It was really daunting to think we were going to live in a small space and have to adapt to a completely new lifestyle, but we’re absolutely loving it and wouldn’t change it one bit!

We are lucky enough that Matt still works full-time, just remotely. So, we still have the same income as when we lived in a standard house as we do now.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 5

Images via @our_van_susan

The hardest part is probably also one of the best, the space. For most of the time, having such a small space is actually rather freeing. You find that you don’t get overwhelmed by having to keep a huge space clean and tidy as it takes minutes to clean the entire van. You also simply cannot have loads of belongings living in such a small space, so it makes you really appreciate the things you do have. That said, however, it can get difficult at times, especially with 4 people in the same space. We have to learn to share the space and be patient with each other, which isn’t always possible.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 7

Images via @our_van_susan

The most rewarding part is without question seeing our boys develop and grow. They’re thriving! Albie has learned to walk, talk and use the toilet all since living in the van. Ethan’s confidence has grown so much since we started our adventure. He has also begun reading alone and now has a keen interest in nature, castles and wildlife. Both boys have grown to share our love of hiking. Although Albie is still yet to grasp a long hike, Ethan has completed his first 10-mile hike whilst we’ve been living in the van and will often tell everyone to admire the views when we hit a peak.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 10

Images via @our_van_susan

We absolutely love Vanlife! We often say how much we have never missed traditional ‘house’ life, but when we’re visiting family back in West Yorkshire, we miss the van so much. It can get difficult at times living in such a small space with four people, but we spend most of our days outside exploring come rain or shine. We also have two separate workspaces in the van for anyone who needs a little alone time to work, read or play. Living in a van has made the relationship between ourselves and the boys even stronger as each day we get to be with them and watch them grow, watching them develop in their own ways is truly amazing. We’ve also found a whole new community of like-minded people and made lifelong friends with families who are living the same lifestyle as us.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 9

Images via @our_van_susan

We love Vanlife and don’t want it to end anytime soon, but our end goal is to own a few acres of land where we can create our own homestead, grow our own food and be able to sustain ourselves fully off-grid.

If you’re thinking about van life — Do it! What have you got to lose? Tiny living is really daunting at first, of course. But you really quickly realise that living a simple life with few possessions is so much more rewarding than owning loads of ‘stuff’. It really makes you appreciate the natural world just outside your door and spending time doing something worthwhile.

Our Van Susan Family’s Van Conversion Update 8

Images via @our_van_susan

Highlights:

  • Holly and Matt were trying to find a home in the UK, when the one they could afford was snapped up by another family looking to buy.
  • With the rising prices, they decided to look into alternative living arrangements, and vanlife was popping up everywhere!
  • They purchased a van and started the conversion, which took them about 9 months.
  • As of April 2024, they’ll have spent a full year living out of the van.
  • They have a unique bed set-up, with canvas cots for the boys that act as a “second floor” over the dinette that becomes a bed for mom and dad. So neat!

Learn More:

Related Stories:

Our big thanks to Holly & Matt for sharing! 🙏

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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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