If you don’t dream of handing in your resignation, leaving your life behind, and becoming a hermit in the forest at least once in your life, you’re obviously doing this whole human thing wrong. And for many people, the idea of leaving the modern world in search of a greener, wilder life is just too strong for them to ignore. They go in search of new pastures, and they show off their DIY skills in the process. After all, you can’t travel the world without somewhere to sleep or a way of getting from A to B.
So, what better way of feeding two birds with one seed than building your very own home on wheels? This couple, along with their young daughter, decided to do just that. They sold their home and all of their possessions to turn an old van into their dream home on wheels, and the end result is just extraordinary – and super stylish! After seeing their incredible van renovation, you’ll be writing up your resignation in no time. Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
Let’s Meet the Couple Who Risked It All
Although many people dream of living the nomadic lifestyle, only a small portion of these dreamers actually make the move. And Jake and Gianna Bachowski now form part of that minority. This couple used to live in Sarasota, Florida, and seemingly led the perfect life.
They owned a four-bedroom house, they both had high-flying jobs in real estate and hospitality, and they even had a young daughter, Luna, who had become the center of their universe. But they soon embarked on a mission that would change their lives dramatically. And make us insanely jealous in the process – because their new home is absolutely stunning.
They Wanted a Break From Their Hectic Lifestyles
Gianna and Jake met in 2013 and tied the knot in 2016 before welcoming Luna a year later, and they loved each other just as much as they did on the day they married. But while on the outside the couple had it all with their house and happy family, they wanted more from their existence. And most of all, they wanted a break from their hectic lives.
Jake had spoken about their life before their van renovation, noting that: “When we had steady jobs, to look at us, you’d think we were living the American dream, quote-unquote. We had a nice four-bedroom house right next to the park, we had cars – we had all those things. But life was hectic. I was working two jobs, Gianna had her career and we had Luna too. There were times when we barely saw one another.”
After Discovering an Online Community of Van Lovers, They Decided To Follow Suit
Unsure of how to change the hectic cycle of their lives, keen travelers Gianna and Jake stumbled upon an online community of families who had ditched the rat race in favor of a nomadic lifestyle. And after a huge amount of research and back-and-forth discussions, they eventually decided to make the move.
They put their four-bedroom house on the market, they started selling their possessions gradually – with an aim to get rid of 90% of their belongings by the time they moved out of their house – and they went in search of their new home. They knew they wanted a van, and they knew that they wanted to transform it into something truly special.
In July 2018, They Bought the Van That Would Change Their Lives
Eventually, in July 2018, Gianna posted an update on her own personal Instagram page, as well as a new profile they set up to follow their van build called Our Van Quest. In this update, the couple noted that they had finally bought themselves a second-hand Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. And they were super excited. But of course, they were also nervous.
In this post, Jake and Gianna noted that going from a four-bedroom house to a 90-square-foot van would be “a HUGE change and a challenge at times I’m sure, but our mottos always been “there’s no better time than NOW”, so we are doing this! Dreams DO come true and setting goals DOES work! We don’t know exactly where we’re going or for how long but that’s the beauty of this. Freedom!”
They Had a Huge Task on Their Hand To Transform This Run-Down Van Into a Home
But if you have ever seen a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, you’ll know that this vehicle is not designed to be lived in. Normally used as a van for builders and construction workers, the inside was basic and uninhabitable when they first bought it. They knew they had a lot of work to put in to make the van their dream home, but they could see the potential.
While the van wasn’t huge – and certainly a step down from their four-bedroom house – it was large enough to house everything they wanted from a home. After all, their main goal was to spend their days traveling around the US with their daughter, making memories at each new destination. While the inside of the van was important, their quality of life was even more so.
Jake and Gianna Needed To Make the Van Safe for Little Luna
Although Jake and Gianna had always dreamed of traveling from state to state as a couple, they knew that building this new life for themselves would be even more difficult with a young child in tow. Luna was just over a year old when the couple began their project, and they needed to know that the van would be safe for her to live, learn, and grow in.
Because of this, one of the first things that the Bachowski couple bought for their van was a seat for their daughter. When looking for a specialist child’s seat online, they thought that they would have to pay over $1,000 to buy one new. But ever the thrifty couple, they decided to head to their local junkyard instead. Jake found this chair in an old Transit van and paid just $46 for it before having it reupholstered for $220! After that, it was as good as new.
When the Van Was Ready To Go, They Left Their Home To Begin the Transformation Elsewhere
Before Jake and Gianna touched the inside of the van, they wanted to make sure that it was running correctly and mechanically sound for them to travel across the country. Tweaks and changes were made over the course of a few months, and by the time November 2018 came around, they were ready to start the real renovation process. But they didn’t want to start this process in Florida.
Instead, the couple decided to move out of their home completely, say goodbye to the memories they had made over the years, and head up to New York. They planned to stay there for as long as it took to completely renovate the van and turn it into their dream home. And thankfully, they had some help up there in the form of Jake’s uncle, a professional carpenter.
But It Wasn’t Easy To Build a Whole Home on the Side of the Road
After leaving their home in Florida behind, Jake and Gianna were relying on their family in New York to help them out with their van build. But this was easier said than done. Although the couple was staying with these family members while the renovations were underway, this was proving to be difficult with limited space.
They had to do all of the major work on the side of the road, and trying to fit a whole home into a small space was forcing them to make some difficult decisions when it came to their home comforts. But they did use this opportunity to try out the new drone that they bought for their adventures, and the picture on the right was just a glimpse of what their new life was going to be like.
Their Custom-Made Van Was Built With Practicality in Mind
Despite the fact that the couple and their daughter had an expert craftsman on hand to help them with their van build, they still ran into difficulties. Although the couple moved away from their house and their old life to live a new, simpler existence, they still wanted to create a home that was both comfortable and practical.
And when you only have 90-square-feet to play with, this proved to be pretty difficult. But Jake and Gianna decided to first prioritize the things that they really needed and then work around that. With a young child in the van, they knew that they wanted Luna to be able to experience a real bath rather than a small shower. So, they made sure to design a bathroom big enough to fit a full bath.
The Couple Knew That They Would Have To Scrimp on the Finer Things in Life
Although Jake and Gianna made sure that the amenities in the van would help them maintain a relatively normal pace of life – like the full bath in their bathroom – they also knew that they would have to scrimp on other aspects of their new home. With limited space to contend with, they had to decide which home comforts they would have to sacrifice.
While they made sure that they had a kitchen big enough to cook for the family, this meant that valuable floor space for Luna was lost. But this didn’t worry Jake and Giana too much. They noted that: “We didn’t think our daughter needed a whole room full of toys – it was more important to us that she should see the world and learn about other cultures.”
Soon Enough, the Empty Shell Began To Transform Before Their Very Eyes
With a clear idea of what they wanted from their van, Jake and Gianna were able to start transforming the empty shell of their van bit by bit. And while their friends and family helped them along the way, the couple also learned a huge amount from the online community that inspired them in the first place.
They looked to other families and travelers who had undertaken similar projects, and they utilized space-saving tips and tricks to ensure that they didn’t have to give up too much. Sure, Luna wouldn’t have too much space to play with her toys or run around their home, but they still had everything they needed to make memories as a family.
And They Made Some Big Changes in Just a Small Amount of Time
Jake and Gianna chose to document this process every step of the way, and some of the side-by-side images of the transformation prove that they made some big changes. But thankfully, they didn’t have to spend a fortune or make a huge impact on the environment to do so. When filling their van, the couple tried to be as conscious as possible.
So, not only did they use recycled wood to develop the main shell of the cabinets, storage areas, and general living spaces, but they also bought many second-hand items to fill their van. And even with just a few pieces of wood inside this side panel, you can see that the once-empty van was beginning to take shape.
Gianna Didn’t Want To Leave Her Style Behind, So They Didn’t
While Gianna and Jake sacrificed a “normal” life when they sold their home and bought themselves the van – which they hilariously nicknamed “Vanessa” – Gianna knew that she still didn’t want to sacrifice her style. She wanted their new living accommodation to be as homely as possible, so at every opportunity, she tried to add in her own little flair.
By mid-December 2018, the couple and Jake’s carpenter uncle had put the shell of the kitchen in place. This was “interesting to watch because of all of the Sprinters funky angles,” but once the wood cabinets were finally in place, Gianna and her husband used the opportunity to see their stylish faucet and sink in place. And they looked pretty awesome.
Although It Wasn’t Quite Finished, Gianna, Jake, and Luna Often Tested Out Their New Wheels
Despite the fact that the kitchen was finally coming together with a stove, refrigerator, and all of the cabinets in place, there was still work to be done on the van. And the couple had already spent five months in New York building and decorating their new home. So, they often utilized a free few hours to test out their new wheels.
When Gianna and Jake took the picture on the left, they had decided to go for a little adventure in their van. And this was enough for the nomadic lifestyle to win them over. In a heartwarming Instagram post, the couple gushed that they have “gotta say, one of the benefits to this lifestyle is being able to bring our home along with us wherever we go. If we need a drink, snack, sweater or a NAP, we just go back to the van.”
And They Continued To Battle Through the Harsh Winter Temperatures
Gianna and Jake were getting closer and closer to the finish line during the winter months in New York, and while they were enjoying the little outings in their new home, this experience also woke them up to the realities of van life. Especially in the cold temperatures and the snow. However, the couple had already thought about how they would keep warm inside Vanessa.
In fact, the couple noted that they were “winterizing” the van so that it would stay warm and comfortable in the harshest of conditions. They drilled holes in the van for propane heaters and vents, their diesel fuel was mixed with anti-gel to stop it freezing, and they wrapped all of their internal and external pipes in foam seal insulation to ensure that they – and the pipes – didn’t freeze.
Jake and Gianna’s Excitement Never Faltered During the Renovation
Although Gianna and Jake’s renovation was taking longer than anticipated, and they were spending their first Christmas away from their old lives in a cold van, they were still excited about the prospect of their new life on the road. More than anything, they were excited to have brand new opportunities and to make new memories as a family.
When they posted this photo on their van’s Instagram page, they noted that: “Our van will be done soon and we have no plan and no definite route in mind. We’re gonna just see where the wind blows us (kinda literally). We don’t really like being cold so I can’t imagine us being in the winter much but honestly, who knows. I do see warm sunshine, sunsets, and the ocean in our near future though.”
They Were All About the Space-Saving Techniques
Aside from being excited about new adventures and where they would get to explore once their van was finished, the couple was also excited about the space-saving techniques that were used in the van. Like this, for example. Traditional storage just wasn’t an option for Jake and Gianna in Vanessa, which is why they had to think outside of the box for their pantry.
Instead of having a standalone pantry, the couple decided to create a hidden pantry instead. When this is closed, it doesn’t make a dent on the floor space or the overall living space within the van. But it can still slide out from the wall and contain everything they need to cook up a storm in the van.
And Every Inch of the Van Has Its Very Own Purpose
But the space-saving techniques didn’t end there. When Gianna and Jake chose the van they were going to live in, they had to make big decisions when it came to their sleeping arrangements. After all, they didn’t just need one bed in their van… they needed two.
But thankfully, they had a solution. While they didn’t have much space to work with in terms of floor space, they quickly realized that the van was quite tall. So, they decided to work with this extra height and build a smaller bed for Luna just above their own bed. It’s a small addition – quite literally – but it makes so much sense.
Luna Loved Seeing Her New Home Come Together
In fact, you can see just how Luna’s bed works in these two photos. While her mom and dad have lots of room in their own double bed, she has just as much space as she needs – and she’s not too far away from her parents if she needs a cuddle in the middle of the night. As you can see, she loved seeing her new home come together as each new aspect slotted into place.
And that’s really what happened. The wooden additions slotted into any space left in the van, and these two photos give you a great idea of how much storage there really is. From the closed cupboard under the bed to the huge amount of open space at the back of the van, it was almost the perfect home for the family. But there was still work to do.
With Most of the Building Work Complete, Gianna Could Put Her Own Personal Touch on the Van
By the time January 2019 came around, much of the building work within Vanessa was complete. This meant that Gianna and Jake could really start to think about the end result and what their van would look like. For Gianna, this meant that she finally had the chance to transform their van into a home, rather than just a form of accommodation on wheels.
When picking out the paint colors for the van, Gianna knew that she wanted something light, airy, and stylish. With very few windows in the van, choosing a dark color would have made the space look even smaller and dingier – so whites and black accents were chosen to really make the space feel like a home.
Gianna Made Sure That the Painting Work Was up To Her High Standards
Amazingly, Gianna and Jake worked extremely well as a team while they were creating their dream home. But there were some things that caused a rift or two. Especially when it came to the painting. Although they decided on the same color scheme, Gianna confessed that she had to fire her husband on the first day of painting…
In an Instagram post written alongside the picture on the left, Gianna wrote on her own profile that, “I have a confession: I fired Jake from painting after the first day because my OCD just couldn’t handle it. I felt bad at first but I think he’s enjoying being off the hook and watching me make a hot mess of myself half-naked listening to gangsta rap while I work so it’s a win-win.”
The Finished Result Is One That Makes Us Incredibly Jealous
Thankfully, it seems as though Gianna’s decision to go solo on the painting job worked in their favor, as the van now looks drastically different. It’s amazing what some recycled pieces of wood, a lick of paint, a sense of style, and some serious patience can do – because we are insanely jealous of this transformation.
Seeing these two photos together shows just how much work the Bachowski’s put into their van over the course of their journey. Their finished van was completed in April 2019, and they have since wowed their Instagram followers over with this transformation. Just look at the difference!
They Have Now Created a Dream Home on Wheels
Although there are probably many people out there who don’t understand why two high-flying workers would ditch their lives, sell their house, and live in a small 90-square-foot van, it’s easy to see the appeal when you look at this photo. The transformation from a dull, lifeless old van into a stylish abode is pretty obvious.
And Gianna and Jake have proved to everyone that living in a van doesn’t have to be compost toilets, rickety beds, and camping stoves. They ditched the minimalist lifestyle in favor of a stylish home that has its own fully-stocked kitchen with electrical appliances, comfortable beds, and a view to end all views.
Their Kitchen-on-Wheels Is Extremely Well-Equipped
When you see other people living in a van, you could assume that they would have to simplify their lifestyle. After all, without separate rooms to differentiate between the bedroom, the kitchen, and the general living area, you would have thought that those who live in vans would have to make sacrifices. But Jake and Gianna didn’t want to make any of these sacrifices.
While they knew they wanted to leave their home behind in search of greener pastures and exciting adventures, they also wanted to have a lovely, warm home for them to enjoy. So they made sure that they didn’t scrimp when it came to their kitchen. Not only is it just as equipped as a full-scale kitchen in a house, but it’s also super stylish.
Now the Family Can Cook up a Storm, While Driving the Open Road
In fact, it seems as though Jake and Gianna love cooking up a storm in their new home. With more than enough space to store their groceries, wash their fruits and vegetables, and prepare their meals, it’s amazing what they have been able to fit into their small 90-square-foot van. It just goes to show that size really doesn’t matter.
When the couple posted this photo on their van’s Instagram page, they spoke about the kitchen and the many questions they get about the size and practicality of the space. They wrote that, “Cooking meals in the van realllly isn’t too bad. When we designed the van we wanted to make sure the kitchen was as big as we could make it since Jake and I really love to cook. Pretty pumped with how much counter space we ended up with especially with the little extra we were able to get in above our fridge.”
Although They Love Their Van, They Are Constantly Making Improvements
While there’s no doubt about the fact that Gianna and Jake created a hugely impressive home on wheels for their little family, they soon learned that even the most specific designs and layouts were different in real life. Although they spent months designing their van on paper, they are constantly making improvements the more they live in the van.
That’s because the only way to test the efficiency or the practicality of a space is to spend more time in it, and while the couple has noted that they still have things to learn. The changes they make are, “nothing crazy but definitely necessary to make this space more efficient for us. Since being on the road we’ve learned a lot about what we need and don’t need and what we could improve.”
Despite the Small Space, They Still Celebrate the Big Events in Their Lives
Although Jake, Gianna, and Luna moved out of a large house to a much smaller home on wheels, they have made the effort to keep their lives as normal as possible. Sure, they get to travel across the U.S and visit whichever states they choose, but they also love to celebrate the big events in their lives.
When Christmas 2019 came around, Jake and Gianna wanted to make the holiday as special as possible for their daughter. While they noted that going from a 6ft tree to a small 1ft replacement was strange, they were still doing everything they could to make the holiday as magical as possible for Luna. They even decorated their van for the occasion!
More Than Anything, Their Home Is a Place for Adventure
First and foremost, “Vanessa” is a new home for the Bachowski family. It’s provided them with a warm and homely space for them over the past few years, and it has everything the family could possibly need. But alongside that, their home is a place for adventure. And they have made sure that everything they could possibly need to explore can fit in their van.
The picture on the left shows everything the family takes with them on the road, and, amazingly, it all fits under their bed! In an Instagram post about their belongings, they wrote that “When it came to our van design, we decided against a designated dining space because we really wanted the under bed storage and for it to act as our garage to store all of the things we didn’t want to look at.” It certainly makes life easier for them.
They Now Have Countless Destinations Ticked off Their Bucket List
What’s so amazing about Gianna and Jake’s journey is that they haven’t just completed an incredible van transformation. While it’s fair to say that their design and DIY skills should be commended, they didn’t put in all of that hard work for the likes or the praise on Instagram. Instead, they did it to change their lives.
And they have definitely done that. Since leaving their four-bedroom home and their high-flying jobs behind, the couple and their daughter haven’t looked back. They have traveled from destination to destination and ticked countless places off their bucket list. Most of all, they have made some amazing memories together.
And They Also Spend Their Days Advising Other Nomads Who Want To Follow in Their Footsteps
But that’s not all. It turns out that their move has also landed them a whole new business. Although the couple bagged themselves a chunk of money to live off when they sold their house, they also now have another source of income. Thanks to their popularity online, they have become van influencers within the traveling community.
Because of this, Gianna and Jake can often be found sat outside their van with their laptops in tow. They create amazing YouTube videos, they have tens of thousands of followers on social media, and they hire out their services to help other nomads design their own van transformations. How amazing is that?