A SAVVY woman has revealed how she converted an old van to travel across Europe in – all while on a tight budget.
Despite having no prior experience, Alaena Wallace and her partner transformed a 1998 Mercedes Vito, now affectionately named Joey, into an impressive campervan in less than two months.
Speaking to Fabulous, Alaena says: “The van had no backseats as it was a utility vehicle to start off with, and the person who sold it to us had added a very simple bed and ‘kitchen’ space.”
She went on to explain that the first step was to remove the previous furniture, and once the van was empty, she started measuring to start the design plan.
“We used SketchUp to design the interior,” Alaena says. “We had some very specific needs as the idea was to go on a surf trip and live in it for six months.”
“So there had to be enough storage space for our clothes and four surfboards.”
The keen explorer then set about removing all the trimmings so she could insulate the van to be protected from harsh temperature changes.
“We then decided to do the paneling of the walls and roof, followed by our PVC floor, which went in at the same time as our electric system, consisting of an auxiliary battery that allows us to work remotely,” Alaena continues.
“We can charge two phones and one laptop at a time, and have lovely lights on too.”
Then, it was time for the fun part – decorating it to make it look like a real home on wheels.
And according to Alaena, who shares her travels on Instagram @vantashjoey, there’s one thing that makes Joey so special – and that’s the storage space.
“We have four big draws, and you can carry four surfboards without it affecting your living situation,” she says.
FABULOUS BINGO: Get a £20 bonus & 30 free spins when you spend £10 today
“The space used to store the surfboards is also the home to our pull out table, which is one of the most useful features we have.”
The couple have since traveled over 45,000 miles in two years in their campervan – pretty impressive considering there was a lockdown in the mix!
“The furthest we’ve traveled would be starting from Sagres, the southernmost point of Portugal, then following the Atlantic coast line of Portugal, Spain, France, crossing the channel, all the way up to the Peak District, then driving back down to Barcelona, Spain,” she says.
And Alaena, who works for Yescapa – a company which connects holidaymakers with local campervan and motorhome owners across the UK and Europe – has offered her expert advice on how you can transform a van on a budget, too.
“Researching took me almost as long as the actual conversion,” Alaena explains.
I can’t stress this enough. It is so important to do your research beforehand, you save precious time, effort and money.”
Think very carefully about what is important to you. Is it space? Is it storage? Is it a place to work, or maybe to cook?”
Alaena also advises not cutting corners if you’d like to save pennies.
“I could’ve spent a fortune on buying made to measure elements, instead, I learned how to use a sewing machine, painted my own pictures to decorate, and made shelves out of scrap wood,” she says.
“The mattress cover and curtains were sewn by me, using old sheets and fabric.”
“Upcycling wood is not only good for your pocket, but good for the environment, so reuse anything and everything you find lying around, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can save.”
And Alaena notes that by not cutting corners, she also means not going for the cheapest materials out there.
“They will for sure be expensive in the long run,” she says. “For example, our van is really well insulated, which we couldn’t be happier about, and all because we chose the, although most expensive, best in the long run material.”