In August of 2021 I decided I wanted to completely change up my life, so I sold almost everything I owned, left my studio apartment in Miami and headed to Washington state to visit with, and stay with, family as I converted a Ford Transit Cargo van. My cat Mikee and I traveled across the country in the unfinished van, and then spent the next 6 months getting her ready for our new adventures!
This was probably one of the most challenging and difficult things I have ever done. I have a background in construction, as I used to build custom homes as a licensed residential contractor in Florida for over 15 years. But, to actually do all the work myself was a totally different story. I was used to overseeing the projects, not actually putting on the tool belt myself, haha! I cut 6 holes in the van for windows and a fan, which was actually terrifying, and incredibly difficult, but I love all my windows and the light and ventilation they provide. I mounted solar panels on the roof, prewired everything and then had my nephew Sterling (a commercial electrician) help me connect it all together, the only help I had on the build, other than my uncle Rory helping me hold up a window and my ceiling while I screwed them in, haha!
I installed plumbing, framed out the bed/dinette, installed cabinets and so much more! This was very much a solo project that I am incredibly proud of having achieved basically on my own, shows me that I can really do anything I put my mind too. It ended up taking longer than expected, due to a winter weather storm in Washington that created snowy/icy conditions for weeks while my van was stuck somewhere other than the working space I was using. Then my mom had a stroke and was medivaced from Alaska to Seattle, where I camped out for several days, also the first test drive of the van, before it was fully completed. Then she stayed with our family while she recovered before heading home to Alaska. Shortly thereafter I was ready to hit the road, when my poor little traveling companion, my Snowshoe kitty Mikee, was horribly attacked by another cat. Took her to a vet where they shaved the bite wound areas, gave her some antibiotics and pain meds, and the cone of shame, which she did not take to very well, haha. Waited an extra day to make sure she was going to be okay, and at the same time my cousin LeAnn (daughter of my Uncle and Aunt Rory and Marion, who let me stay with them while converting the van) had to have an emergency appendectomy. She thankfully ended up going through the surgery without a hitch.
I finally said I have to go; I felt like the universe was conspiring against me and my goal of getting on the road! But, we did it! Mikee and I hit the road about a week ago and traveled immediately south to the sun and warmth of California. Six months of cold/freezing temps, with rain and snow, was almost more than this Florida girl could take. It was all worth it though and I am absolutely loving my new life as a nomadic artist, traveling the country in her self converted campervan.
Follow me on Instgram: @madartstudios and YouTube: @madwonderland for updates on new art and adventures as I live the van life in “The MAD Warrior” – reference to Road Warrior, one of my favorite movie series as a kid.
Video Tour of my tiny home: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/SHTSKPACZQI
#HappyNewYear, and to New MAD Adventures in 2022! Lots of Traveling, Alaska and #VanLife Adventure! 2021 was a pivotal year for me. I decided it was time for a major change! For the previous three years I had become obsessed with mountain biking, racing, a team, my MAD Shredders kit line and my regular art. All of this gave me something to be constantly working towards, with lots of traveling and goals to be met.
But, I had been struggling with some really severe fatigue issues, that I would address off and on, but never really dealt with the problem, until it became almost debilitating. I had to finally stop racing, as I was unable to even train for more than a couple of hours a week, and even at that, it was still causing me issues. It was a very frustrating beginning of the year of 2021 because the fatigue had basically taken over my life.
I've never really spoken about this publicly, but sometimes I couldn't even muster the energy to get out of bed. It was very depressing and I was determined not to spiral down a dark hole of nothingness. So, I would make it a point to go for walks, or an easy road ride; mountain biking just took too much out of me so I rarely got out in the trails.
All of this was really hard to bear, but I knew my health was most important and I focused on doing what I needed to get better. I was dealing with almost non-existent testosterone, and out of control cortisol levels. All of which was exacerbated, and brought on to some extent, by intense endurance cycling, which I LOVE to do! But, alas, was not to be for most of 2021. So, I just focused on my art and came up with exciting new work and ideas, that I will be back to as soon as I hit the road in my van, The MAD Warrior!
Which leads me to the major life change I made in August. I was feeling kinda lost and searching for something, and one day it just hit me...I needed to #travel more, just get outside on long walks, #cycling and #hiking, to experience more of the outdoors I'd yet to see. And what better way to do it then in a converted, tiny home studio, van! I was instantly invigorated, inspired and felt full of life and excitement again...THIS was what I needed, a change, with new goals, dreams and adventures. And, I was ready to explore a new part of the country, and have always been fascinated by the #PNW and Southwest parts of the U.S., parts of the country that are meant to be spent outside exploring. I knew
I wanted to take on the challenge of converting the van myself and decided to drive it across the country last September to Washington state where I have lots of family. It just worked out so well to get to stay and visit with my family while having a place to work on the van. I've also started to recover from my fatigue issues and can finally go for longer, more intense rides without being incapacitated for days afterwards. I just needed to give my body time to fully recover, and to adjust the way I exercise and live my life. Also having something new to motivate and inspire has helped me to start feeling like my normal self again.
2022 looks to be an amazing, full of adventure year! Hoping all goes as planned, but prepared for any changes that may pop up. Planning to get on the road in the van by February 1st, even if it's not completely finished...as I REALLY need to get to some sunnier, warmer weather asap, haha!! Then, in the spring my daughter Aroon and I are going on a trip to Europe that she gifted to me for Christmas! Beyond excited for this adventure, as I've never been, and looking forward to enjoying the time spent with my favorite adventure partner 💖
Then I will be going to #Alaska in the summer to work on my MAD Island! Finally hoping to get even a small cabin completed so I can visit and stay more often. Have some really cool plans for the island that I cannot wait to implement!
Then spend time in Washington with my cousin traveling all over the state and even into Canada on Vancouver Island. And then head south again for the fall/winter months traveling in The MAD Warrior.
And all this time will also be spent focusing on getting back to work, creating new, exciting art! There will be a lot of new originals inspired by my travels, can't wait to get started on them! I hope all of you have some exciting new plans for 2022, and embrace any changes that may come your way with positivity and hope for a bright, shining future 💙🤍💚
It’s been a couple of months since I updated the blog, so I figured it was time! I’m now in Washington, and have been since the end of September. Started working on my van conversion, amidst all the rain and short days, but it’s coming along! Check out my YouTube channel to follow along as I post step by step details of the building process.
This is out of my comfort zone for sure, but at the same time…kinda not? Reason being is that I’ve always had wanderlust, and love to travel, and explore new places. And also, the building part itself, although technically some of it is out of my wheelhouse, the process isn’t so much. Growing up in the bush of Alaska, my siblings and I were always building forts out of whatever we could find. And along with that we helped out dad build cabins, mostly grunt labor of course, haha, but still was exposed to building at a very young age. Then as an adult, I became a licensed residential contractor in Florida and built custom homes for many years. I mostly ran the business side of things, but would often get out and help with some of the actual construction here and there. The more I delve into the van build, the simple little tricks of the trade of construction are starting to come back to me, and I’m more at ease, and confident with what I’m doing.
Before I made it to Washington, I sold almost everything I owned, and I truly mean that! You can see in the picture above that only about half of the van was full, and that was it, that’s all I took. And it felt so liberating to let go of so much stuff. Really looking forward to living a more minimalistic lifestyle, for a little while anyway. It took 10 days of driving, following a mostly southern route, and putting in anywhere from 5-8 hours a day on the road. With my trusty little travel companion, Mikee, to keep me company…although she mostly just hung out in the back sleeping, haha! She quickly adjusted to the van, which is a relief, because she’s going to be living in it, so she better be chill about it! And we are currently working on harness training as well, so that she can go on walks and be leashed to the van when we are camping out.
This trip takes me back to when I first left Alaska, and moved to Hawaii for college. I didn’t know anyone there, had never really done any traveling on my own, but I so wanted to explore and see new things…and of course, chase the sun…which I’m still doing, haha. Then a couple years of Hawaii life and I wanted to venture out more, and so packed my belongings into a single suitcase, hopped on a Greyhound bus and travelled cross country to Orlando, FL. Where again, I didn’t know anybody, I had no job, no place to stay, and only $150 to my name. But, I was fearless and hungry for new adventures. I knew I would make it work, and did, just as I know I will make this new adventure work for me, and thrive with the opportunity to get to travel so freely.
I’m at a point in my life where I have no real responsibilities, no one to look after, no one who needs me to be there every day. I have a job that I love, and that allows me to travel and be mobile. And the wanderlust has been eating away at me, and finally one day I said, why not?? There is absolutely no reason for me not to just go out and do it, to travel and be free to roam around the country and visit all the beautiful places I’ve dreamed of visiting. So, I’m doing it! And beyond excited to get out there and just BE in nature, to revel in it’s beauty and be inspired by it. You will definitely see lots of art created from the inspiration I will have on the road. I already have some ideas from just being here in Washington, and the hikes and bike rides I’ve gone on, so much inspiration all around.
But, for now, I have to buckle down and focus on getting the van built out. It’s quite the challenge with all the rain the PNW has been having, incessantly, droning on, day in and day out. But, I’m making it work, and feel very fortunate to have family here that I can stay with while I do the conversion. I’m hoping to be on the road within the next couple of months, the earlier the better, as I reallllly don’t like cold or snow, and want to be in warmer weather again.
If you’d like to follow along with my van build, and subsequent traveling adventures, be sure to subscribe to this blog, and my YouTube channel!
I have some exciting, and slightly crazy news, haha! I'm going to be leaving the state of Florida, after almost 30 years of living here, and heading out west, to Washington state. I just feel it's time for a change, to do something different. I also have a lot of family where I'm headed and it's a much closer trip to Alaska. Which, I had planned to be going up to AK next week, but cancelled my plans so I could focus on this new move. But, here's the crazy part...I'm not just moving, I'm also going to be getting a van, converting it into a little home/studio and going to travel all through the western states! I've always wanted to explore the country more, especially the national parks, and mountainous, desert regions. But, it's so hard to properly do all of that while living in Florida. So, about a month ago it hit me that this is what I wanted do, and I'm manifesting it, and it's happening! I haven't been so excited about something in a very long time! I've always had a bit of wanderlust and this is going to be the perfect opportunity for me to just give into it and go with it. The mountains are calling my name and I'm going to answer that call and paint my way through as many amazingly, magnificent mountains as I can, haha!
The plan is to eventually buy some land in WA, near my family, and build something for home base, But for an undetermined amount of time, I'm just going to travel in my converted van. No pressure. no timelines, no deadlines, just pure, absolute freedom to travel the open road and explore all that nature has to offer.
But, here's my dilemma...I'm going to purchase the van here in Florida and take a leisurely drive across the country, just me and my little studio cat Mikee. Once I get to WA I will convert the van and then hit the road. So, obviously I'm not taking a whole lot of anything with me. I've been selling off everything I own, haha, and now it's time for me to send all my current art to new homes! The sale prices are ABSOLUTLEY.INSANE!! Check out all the art in my massive moving sale HERE.
Since I will be living in a van with very limited space, I won't be doing any paintings over 19"x24". My focus will be on my animal/nature collections, especially my, A NeverEnding Story of puzzle pieces. So, my abstracts and landscapes will be put on hold indefinitely, even commissions, so if you have been on the fence about getting one, and/or adding to your collection this is the best the prices have been in forever, and may be the last time I paint these styles. I'm planning on leaving within the next couple of months, so the sale will only be available until I leave, which is coming up soon!!
In addition to original paintings, my MAD Doodles and purses are also included in the sale!