Entrepreneur Couple's Van Conversion Offers Freedom to Work and Travel

They are passionate about the lifestyle and hope to inspire others to do the same.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Fernindad kitchen

Tiny Home Tours

More and more people are becoming increasingly drawn to van life for a variety of reasons. Some, for instance, are seeking greater freedom from the financial burdens that conventional lifestyles might entail. Others are searching for adventure and travel, while some might be trying out van life as an alternative form of self-care.

Whatever it may be, a growing number of Americans are thinking about van life, and it's all part of a broader shifting of paradigms about what it means to be successful and happy. For entrepreneurs and passionate van lifers Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand, pursuing success and happiness meant letting go of preconceived notions about what "work" meant, and forging ahead on a completely unfamiliar path.

Their unconventional journey has led them into living comfortably in a gorgeous van conversion, all while they operate their passive income-generating businesses. Their van, cheekily nicknamed "Carmen Van Diego," reflects their positive personalities, and we get an in-depth tour of it via Tiny Home Tours:

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand exterior

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As the couple explains, prior to living in their beautiful van home, they were working a typical 9-to-5 job. But after years of running in an unfulfilling rat race, they finally decided to transition out by finding various streams of passive income, such as branching out into e-commerce, running short-term rentals, writing a book, and lifestyle coaching, which helps them earn a six-figure income. Because of these successes, they are now able to travel widely, while still managing their businesses on the road. As Emmaus says:

"We did the nine-to-five, and to us, we knew that we just wanted to change, we wanted to be able to live more freely. That's where entrepreneurship came in, and after doing it for a couple of years, and we are now able [to travel and] live in a van."
Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand exterior

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The couple decided to hire a professional van conversion company, Off Grid Adventure Vans, to create their customized van, which features a number of clever space-saving ideas, as well as some lovely bits of decorating inspiration.

For instance, the first thing we see when we approach the van's sliding side-door entry is the kitchen counter, which has an integrated "foyer wall" consisting of empty photo frames that can be filled up with the latest mementos and artworks.

Above that, we have a series of small green glass vases that can hold freshly picked wildflowers—and most importantly, are velcroed to the counter to prevent them from sliding off.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand entry

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Besides having a compact propane stove top and sink with a pull-down faucet, the counter also has an extension that can flip up for extra food prep space, and when used in conjunction with the van's swivel seat, functions as a perfect space to work on a laptop.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand kitchen flip up table

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The small refrigerator has a number of magnetized spice jars on its surface. Above and below, there are cabinets to store food and the couple's 40-gallon freshwater tank.

Adjacent to the refrigerator is the couple's bathroom, which has a composting toilet and shower. The tiled wall at the back has purposefully been done in with an eye-catching geometry and a vibrant shade of green to give that extra pop of color.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand bathroom

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At the rear of the van is the area for sitting and sleeping. The two cushioned benches on either side of the van offer both seating and integrated storage, and when paired with a removable table top, function as a dining area. Plus, those oversized cushions are actually hidden storage spaces for winter gear.

To add that extra bit of coziness, the couple installed a compact LED projector and projection screen for movie nights.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand sleeping and sitting area

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When the table is removed, four removable wooden support beams added, and the back cushions moved into place, the seating area transforms either into a U-shaped couch or a full-sized bed.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand couch

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The back of the van's exterior also packs a lot in: There is an extra flip-up table for eating and working, and above that there is a convenient pull-up bar for workouts.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand rear exterior

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The couple's bike rack also saves space; it hooks into the ladder and orients their bikes in a way that allows them to open the rear doors without having to unload the bikes first, while also eliminating the need for a hitch. In addition, the magnetic window covers serve as a place for the two to display their growing collection of souvenir patches.

Carmen Van Diego van conversion by Emmaus and Nikki Ferdinand bike rack

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Not only do we find the couple's optimistic attitude and zest for life inspiring, but also their desire to share that joy with others who might not be initially convinced about alternative lifestyles, due to the lack of diversity in those circles:

"Another thing that we are passionate about is just showing people what's possible -- not only just in financial life, not only just in freedom, but also just in representation, because my husband and I were both from inner city areas [of Brooklyn and Baltimore], and I'm going to tell you, there wasn't any van lifers that looked like us. Van life wasn't a thing, [neither was] also just travelling the world; you take your two weeks of vacation and that was the norm. That was what we thought we had to do, until we 'retired' [from our nine-to-five jobs]. So I feel like being able to now just see what's possible and seeing more people that look like us out in van life, it makes it feel more safe and easy to do."

Ultimately, both Emmaus and Nikki are living their version of the best life, and they are aiming to inspire others to seek theirs too.

To see more, visit their website, YouTube, and Instagram (nikki_ferd and emmausferdinand).