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