We have a treat for you! This amazing Polish couple renovated a Volkswagen T4 and is traveling the continent full-time in their boho home on wheels. They share their story below:
We are Martyna and Maciek and we are a couple from Poland who wanted to follow their dreams. We had good jobs, we lived in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, but we were not satisfied with the life we were living. We still lacked true happiness….
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Couple’s Self-Converted VW T4 Turned Boho House on Wheels
We were tired of hearing complaints about people being stressed out and racing through life and not being able to enjoy it. We did not want to live weekend to weekend and wake up saying “it is Monday again”. We wanted a break from corporate life. We did not see ourselves enjoying the “big city life” anymore. We noticed that we often got irritated by our way of life, and we realized that we have one life to live. So why not live the way we really wanted to?
We were coming home tired, we were living from weekend to weekend. We knew this life was not for us, and if we wanted to try something different, this was the time! So we decided to change something, put money aside and drop everything. We were so excited about the decision we made. We bought backpacks and planned a trip to South-West Asia on a one-way-ticket. This plan was made in 2020.
Unfortunately, we were all surprised by the pandemic and we had to put our plans aside. However, the plan to drop everything still remained, and we came up with an alternative – to buy a van and turn it into a home on wheels. From the very beginning, the choice was simple – we did not want a delivery vehicle, we wanted the car to be small, compact and so that we could drive it everywhere. We also knew that we wanted to paint and decorate the vehicle, because we wanted to be associated with holidays and raise a smile on the faces of passing cars and people. Covering up with the fact that there is a mini house inside was not for us.
Our car is Volkswagen T4 in a long version, 2.5 TDI engine, year 2000. We were looking for a “perfect match” for a long time, about half a year. The car in this configuration was a marketable commodity at that time, because during the pandemic the fashion to convert the T4 into a camper became popular. The condition we bought the car in was satisfactory, but that’s because we drove with a mechanic each time to find it. Of course, we had a few unsuccessful visits during which the sellers tried to hide the defects with an additional layer of varnish. We found only one hole on the threshold of the front door, but it happened while cleaning the car from rust. Fortunately, the rest of the car-body sheet was intact.
We saved money for about a year to make our dream come true. We were so excited for February 2022 to come, so that we both could submit our requests for termination. On March 1st we moved from big city life to the countryside in Martyna’s hometown. To a place where there is not even a grocery store. How much freedom has this given us! It was a wonderful time and we recommend it to everyone. As well as taking such a break in your CV, because not everything is about career and work.
We believe that everyone should answer honestly to themselves what satisfies them the most in life, then turn these dreams into plans and implement them and not try to meet the expectations of society. It sounds obvious, but sometimes we go through life doing something we do not like to do on a daily basis. Many people tell us that they are jealous of us or that they would like to live like that too. They say it from the perspective of something that is inaccessible to them, mainly due to the fear of leaving their comfort zone. Seriously, the first step is the hardest, then it is all downhill.
They say that there is nothing to do in the countryside, but we were not bored at all. Then we also started building the bus without any idea or previous experience in such matters. We faced challenges going from office work to suddenly having to learn how to distinguish a wood screw from metal screw. Martyna did not even know how to handle the screwdriver. But now she does and not only that!
The construction took us 5 months. It was 2 months more than we had expected, but we were probably not fully aware of how much work it involved. Besides, it was very cold for the first months and we were working outside. Once we heated up with wood on the grill but then everything smelled of smoke! Also we did not have a suitable place to work, but nothing is impossible for us, so we coped with it. What’s funny, we built the whole bus on a plastic (!), covered with mold, disintegrating table. It was very unprofessional and we thought it was even a bit dangerous, but somehow we survived it and now we can laugh at it.
Before we started we followed a lot of social media accounts of people who also converted their cars. It looked so much easier on their accounts. We thought it would be so idyllic, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was a piece of hard work but only those who have gone through it will understand that. On our instagram stories, it must have looked like that also.
Despite this, we often showed what it really looked like. That we were disappointed once again, that something did not work out, that we were sitting in the garage until midnight, that we had so many plans, and nothing came out of it, because we spent the whole day doing one thing or some other kind of failures. But we never posted what was bad and hard for us too often, because nobody would want to watch it.
When we started to convert the bus, we had to disassemble it to a clean sheet. We bought a fully equipped 5-seater bus and we thought that dismantling the seats and plastics would take 2 hours, and once again – nothing could be further from the truth. It took us 2 days. Later, there were many more similar situations. We had imagined many times that something would take much less time and, as a result, it would get longer and longer. We had a hard time with our character, because we hate failures and when things do not go our way we get frustrated. We had to learn to live with setbacks and get used to them.
After taking the car to a clean sheet, we found a lot of rust spots. They had to be removed, which was quite burdensome, because the floor of our bus was undulating and the filings from the grinder were flying in all directions. Later it was necessary to cover these places with an anti-corrosive preparation to protect them against such things in the future. Especially because later, together with so many layers on the floor, we will not have access to them.
How our house on wheels looks now is just the icing on the cake, and only we know how many layers are hidden under the floor, walls and ceiling. Cables, pipes, square timber frames, thermal and water insulation. Which is not easy in this small area.
We did not deal with the electrician alone. And that’s basically the only thing we have not done. We had no idea about it, and with the cables hidden under all layers, in case something went wrong, we would have to disassemble everything, and we wanted to avoid it. In addition, it is easy to short circuit with electricity, and a short circuit means fire, which is the worst that could have happened. The equipment we have chosen together with our electrician are second battery AGM, electric converter for 230V, water pump, solar panel with controller, fridge, led lighting, parking heating and many others. So here is almost everything like in a house but on a micro scale.
As for connecting the plumbing – we have a sink and an outdoor shower. This is what Maciek did because he is a sanitary engineer. We have a 74 l clean water tank, it is flat and we placed it under the bed. Above it, we can perfectly fit bedding. Due to outdoor bathing, we do not need a large gray water tank, we have one for 30 liters located under the sink. Now after a couple weeks on the road, we wish we had invested in a water heater, but we may change it the next time we leave for another longer trip. We also have a tourist toilet, one that we have to empty ourselves every few days, depending on how much we use it.
From the beginning we knew that we wanted wood to reign in the interior, so we screwed paneling to all walls. We wanted to maintain the atmosphere of a wooden house. We only impregnated the boards with a colorless impregnation for wood, so that it was as natural and cozy as possible. However, when it comes to furniture, due to such a small space, we decided to have a fold-out bed, which serves as a sofa during the day, and folds out at night. The final size of the bed is 120 x 185 cm. In addition, we have a wardrobe, the front of which we painted ourselves with various stain colors in a geometric pattern, and kitchen cabinets, which are a combination of jute fabric and white, distressed square timber.
All the furniture and their structures are made of the remains of Martyna’s uncle’s wooden house – zero waste and much less money spent. We decided on a solid wood table top, which we bought at a sawmill and prepared it ourselves – we cut, sanded and oiled it so that it would not absorb water. In our opinion, accessories play the most important role in our project. We decided on mini Mexican tiles 5 x 5 cm, a pink neon in the shape of a cactus reminding us of holidays and bringing a nice atmosphere to our house in the evenings, colorful handles for cabinets and a copper old bowl as a sink. In addition, it is full of macrame, lamps, flowers. Unfortunately, most of them are artificial, because it would be difficult to keep them alive. We also attached photos of our friends and family to the bulkhead so that we always have them close to us.
We bought our car in white color. However, we knew that it would not remain so. After finding out about the prices for painting the car, we knew that we either had to do it ourselves or not at all. Of course, the decision was clear – we took up the gauntlet. Later we understood why it costs so much. Just sanding the car, mainly by hand over uneven edges, took us a couple of days. We had to go to the store a few times because we ran out of sandpaper. It was similar with the varnish. Apparently we bought the right amount, but later it turned out that it was not. Generally, we did not count visits to construction stores, often several times a day.
Everyone knew us and our story, but they also cheered, supported, and advised us. It was uplifting during the building phase. We also painted the dashboard, because we did not like the factory one in depressive shades of gray. We also took a whole day to remove all the parts, although we thought it would be a while. We padded the headliner with jute material and put blankets on the armchairs. In our opinion, it got very cozy in the cab.
We had a lot of doubts, but we did not give up because we knew we were doing it for ourselves and for our dreams. We knew what adventure awaited us. Each stage of construction was new, difficult and even more complicated, because there are no straight angles on the bus. Everything is crooked here and takes much more work than building the same in the house. For this, everything must be practical, not to open while driving or not to break, so there was no question of glass vessels, for example. Everything had to be considered also because of the space in which we will live. 4.5 m2, for this car, in which you cannot move in a standing position and accommodate all the things of daily need, but it was successful. We have completely minimized the amount of things we need and changed our priorities because it is better to walk in the same sweatshirt several times a week than not to see all these views and not experience the adventures that we are experiencing now.
Currently, we are traveling without a return date. We will only be coming back to Poland at the end of October, because we got an invitation as exhibitors to the caravaning fair, which is a great honor for us and we would not want to miss such an opportunity. We do not have a permanent job because we did not want one. We wanted to feel freedom, to earn part-time jobs for further travels in the places we visit. We just finished work in the south of France where we were picking grapes. We feel much better in such work than sitting in front of computer screens, filling in tables and writing reports like before. There, months passed like days, here days pass like months and life becomes more interesting and full of twists.
We love being in contact with nature, spending time outside, checking what is around the corner and getting to know how people live in other places. Now we travel around Europe and then during winter we want to take a ferry from Gibraltar to Morocco for the winter, and then what? Time will show. Maybe one day we will change the continent with our camper.
In future plans, we want to definitely visit Scandinavia, which is an ideal destination for vanlife due to the possibility of staying wherever you want, just to leave the space as you found it. There are many adventures, challenges and daily duties related to the lifestyle we have chosen ahead of us. For now, we are getting used to functioning in a small space of the bus and the fact that often, in order to take out one thing, we have to take out all the others and in order for the other person to do something on the bus, the other person has to get out of it.
As for the cost of the entire construction, it cost us much more than we expected. The car itself, together with visits to mechanics, cost almost PLN 30,000, and the conversion of a bus into a house on wheels is twice as much. So together we spent about PLN 60,000, which is around 12,600 Euro (About $12,300 USD). We could have made it cheaper but we do not regret anything, because we feel at home in it, even if it is sometimes difficult. Also thanks to that we got an invitation to write this article, which we consider as an honor, as well as for the fair.
If you want to follow our adventures, please visit our Instagram or Facebook. We are called Tripiarze and we post stories of our journey there everyday. Thank you for sharing our story!
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Our big thanks to Martyna for sharing!
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