News Home & Design Woman Works Office Job, While Enjoying Van Life With Pet Fish This is one woman's refreshingly frank take on van life. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated January 5, 2022 07:12PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Tiny Home Tours News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Living in a converted camper van (a.k.a. #vanlife) might seem like a dream come true to many people: lots of opportunities to travel to interesting places and meet interesting people, freedom from having to pay rent or maintain a large home, and freedom from the tyranny of "stuff." But sometimes van life isn't what it's painted to be in those dreamy social media feeds that serve up only the upsides of living this alternative lifestyle. In reality, it can be a difficult transition, with lots of headaches when it comes to figuring out the basic needs of water or electrical power, where to park, or how to handle a mechanical breakdown. Thankfully, some "vanlifers" are quite honest about their daily struggles—and joys—about living in a home on wheels. Based out of British Columbia, Canada, Emily is one such candid van dweller. Having lived in a tiny apartment and backpacked abroad, Emily recently moved into a self-designed van home in the hopes of traveling across Canada, but those hopes were dashed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Emily is frank about her initial struggles in transitioning to van life, which she did in the middle of a Canadian winter, without the guidance or company of other experienced vanlifers. Nevertheless, Emily is continuing to go with the flow with van life, while holding down a full-time office job (where she can shower), and taking care of a pet fish. Here's a detailed tour of her thoughtful van conversion via Tiny Home Tours: Emily's van, which she has deliberately decided not to name to buck the trend of naming one's van, is built out of a 2014 RAM ProMaster high-top van. It's powered by a bank of solar panels on the roof, which can be accessed with the help of a sturdy ladder that is permanently attached to the back doors. The van also has a huge side awning that extends the living area to the outdoors. Tiny Home Tours Stepping inside past the sliding doors, we come in the center of the van, which holds the van's kitchen and multifunctional seating area. Tiny Home Tours The kitchen itself is concentrated on the side entry area, with one long counter extending along half of the van's length. The counter can be extended with a flip-up counter, which Emily says that she flips up at night in case an intruder attempts to barge in. As Emily jokes: "I put it up at night so it acts as a guard [rail] so that murderers can't come in -- they would hurt themselves on my countertop. Solo female van life safety tips!" Tiny Home Tours There's a small refrigerator under the counter, as well as a two-burner propane stove, and a small sink for washing things. There are also lots of storage drawers underneath and overhead for food and utensils, though Emily notes that she doesn't cook often. Tiny Home Tours The drawers here were so big that Emily says she had to install another drawer within the drawer to make it function better—and we agree it's a great design idea. Tiny Home Tours But the star of this show is Emily's excellent layout for the sofa. It's a comfortable sofa, dinette, spare bed, storage, and hidden toilet—all in one. Tiny Home Tours In its dinette form, the middle wooden plank is lifted up with a swiveling Lagun table arm, and the cushions are rearranged to form a table with two bench seats. Tiny Home Tours Underneath one of the benches, we have the hidden Nature's Head composting toilet. With the use of bamboo fiber toilet paper, there is much less solid waste to empty regularly. Because this multifunctional bench had to be built to accommodate the relatively high height of the composting toilet, Emily had to add a footrest that doubles as a drawer under the dinette, in order to prevent what she calls "dangly foot syndrome." Tiny Home Tours Beside the bench, we have a big closet for hanging longer dresses and winter coats. This is also the area where a lot of monitoring gauges for the solar panels, batteries, and thermostats for the propane and hot water heater. Tiny Home Tours The rear of the van is reserved for a full-sized foam bed, which Emily can sit up in. Beneath that is what Emily calls the "wine cellar" or more generally, a place to store miscellaneous things and equipment, and which can be accessed from a hatch inside the van, or from the back doors. Tiny Home Tours The van is also home to an as-yet-unnamed pet "van fish," which a friend's daughter gifted to Emily. When driving, the fish will travel in its bowl, covered with a punctured cream cheese lid, and strapped into the passenger seat. Otherwise, the van fish has its bowl parked on the kitchen counter. Despite having her travel plans put on hold by the pandemic, Emily is nevertheless enjoying van life and even managed to find a full-time tourism job in an office, where she can park her van for free. It's the best of both worlds, and it's certainly refreshing to hear Emily's honest take on the challenges and benefits of van life. To see more, visit Instagram.