A bored office worker from Minnesota packed in her nine to five job and sold all of her belongings to pursue ‘the van life’ – transforming grey van into the ultimate hi-tech home on the road.
Margaret Miller, 26, was sick of ‘typical desk jobs’ doing financial consulting for two years so quit to live her dream of ‘chasing summer’ across Europe, financed by working online as she goes.
Along with partner Ladi Jecminek, 32, the duo converted a 2007 Citroen Jumper bought for $4,000 into a Tardis-like tech paradise – or ‘ergonomic living capsule’.
On the road: Margaret Miller (left), 26, and her boyfriend Ladi Jecminek (right), 32, converted an old van into a high-tech home that they now travel around the world in
Happy: Margaret, from Minnesota, previously worked as a financial consultant which saw her working nine to five Monday through Friday
Change-up: The 26-year-old said that she knew the regular office job wasn’t making her happy because she would ‘live’ for Fridays, and was always looking forward to going on trips
Lovers: She was first introduced to van life in 2016 when she met Ladi while she was hitchhiking in New Zealand, and saw how he spent his life on the road
While still looking like a regular grey van from the outside, inside the couple fitted a kitchen, shower, double-bed, ‘garage’ and huge flat-screen projector for watching Netflix.
They even kitted it out with solar panels and extra battery power for their laptops, phone chargers and appliances with USB ports around the van.
In total, the project cost just $6,000.
So far they have traveled from Czech Republic to Croatia and have just crossed into Montenegro. The pair plan to reach Greece by March.
Free-spirit: One year later, Margaret quit her job to become a tour guide, leading travelers around Africa
Margaret, from Minnesota, said: ‘This is the dream. We’ve been on quite the adventure.
‘Sometimes it’s weird to tell people you dream of living in a car, but we feel so free and can spend our time with each other, exploring endlessly – not sitting in a desk chair.
‘This morning we travelled from Croatia into Montenegro. It’s just incredible.’
In 2016, Margaret met her boyfriend Ladi, 32, while hitchhiking in Queenstown, New Zealand, and fell in love.
Inspired by his own life on the road, Margaret quit her job a year later to become a tour guide, leading travelers around Africa.
But after two years in a long-distance relationship, Margaret and Ladi sold all their belongings to buy a second-hand van, which they stripped and converted from scratch – doing everything themselves.
Now they spend day after day travelling and working part-time hours online – joined on the road by a pet cat called Millie.
Margaret said: ‘I first met Ladi when he picked me up in his van in New Zealand while I was hitchhiking in 2016.
Makeover: Ladi and Margaret dedicated 12 hours a day to revamping the van, as they attended workshops to learn how to make different tools and appliances for their new home
Update: The couple painted the entire van grey, installed 100 liters of water underneath it, and installed a gas stove, shower, and a flat-screen projector
Finished result: The pair decided to choose a bland grey color to paint the van in order to make it blend in and not be obvious that they were living in the vehicle
Van life: Margaret said that when people on the road do find out they live in the van, they’re always ‘pretty shocked’, especially when they learn it was a DIY job
‘My first experience of van life was when I was climbing into his home for a quick ride. I didn’t crawl back out for two weeks.
‘I’d already graduated from university and done the nine-to-five corporate job but I found I was always waiting for Friday and saving for the next trip.
‘It took me a while to figure out that’s not how I’m happy.
Compact: Margaret said that converting the van was like a ‘full-time job’
‘Ladi and I did long distance for a while, then I sold everything I owned, threw a goodbye party and moved to Africa where I was leading tourists around 10 different countries.
‘We did long distance for a couple of years but after many flights to and fro, then my partner and I decided to take on van life again.’
Ladi and Margaret had dedicated 12 hours a day to the project, which saw them in workshops making their own fittings and furniture for the van.
As a trained carpenter, Ladi knew how to make fittings and furniture himself and with previous experience working for a motor-home company, he knew about the inner workings of the vehicle.
Margaret said: ‘We painted the entire van grey, have 100 liters of water underneath, a gas cooking stove and shower.
‘We’ve put in a flat-screen projector for movie nights and we can watch Game of Thrones as often as we like.
‘A huge reason why the van looks so simple outside is because we don’t want people to know we live in the camper van.
‘A lot of campers make the mistake of bright colors and lots of windows, but we’ve made ours in a way that attracts no extra attention.
‘It allows for more freedom camping and people just presume someone’s having their plumbing done because it just looks like a work van.
Cozy: Margaret and Ladi installed a projector so they could watch movies and their favorite TV show – Game of Thrones
Comfortable: The couple said that their goal with the van was to make it into a very ‘ergonomic living capsule’
Home sweet home: The couple make their money to sustain their low-maintenance lifestyle by working part-time online
Storage: Underneath their bed, the couple have a mini garage where they store their bikes and other tools they might need during their travels
Clever! The van has two massive solar panels that are 300 watts each and two batteries that can power their cell phones. It also has electric battery so it can charge at electric car stations
Experiences: Margaret and Ladi are planning to chase summer as it crosses Europe as they have finally become quite settled in their new home
‘When people on the road do find out we live in the van, they’re always pretty shocked, especially when they learn it was a DIY job.
‘We’ve got two massive solar panels that are 300 watts each, two batteries that can power our cell phones and laptops. We’ve got USB ports everywhere and an electric battery so the car can charge at electric car stations,’ she added.
The couple, who say their van has plenty of space for the two of them and their adopted kitten, also have a garage under their bed where they store their bikes.
Best buddies: The couple travel in the van with their adopted cat – Millie
Speaking about their cat, Margaret said: ‘She’s very smart. She returns to the van whenever I ring a bell – no matter where we are.’
As they are now finally settled in their home on wheels, Margaret and Ladi are planning to chase summer as it crosses Europe.
They have to be ‘strategic’ as Margaret is American and has visa restrictions, but so far don’t feel they have missed out on anything.
Margaret said: ‘We’ve lived in the van for three months now. It took us about 10 weeks to construct it completely.
‘We found a van in the Czech Republic for about $4,000 and spent around $2,000 on the renovation.
‘It was like a full-time job. For around two and a half months we worked 12 hour days trying to make this place our home.
‘We tried to make a very ergonomic living capsule.
‘So far we’ve spent six weeks in Croatia and we were in the Czech Republic for a month before that and now we’re in Montenegro effectively chasing summer.
‘We’ll probably head to Greece in March, then we’ll probably start looping up from there.
‘We need to be more strategic at the moment with where we can go because I’m American.’