Our van’s transformation

Aloha mai kākou!!

I thought I could take some time today to tell you all about the history of our van, and give a timeline of all of her transformations to become the amazing home she is today!

We bought her at the Ford Dealership here in Hilo who was selling it third party on behalf of a tour company business here on Island who took visitors up to Mauna Kea (our tallest volcano). So what does this mean? It was already well equipped with all these bad a** things like 4X4, a huge lift, and a sportsmobile added topper that had two sliding top windows,  two lights (two white and two red-for night time vision), and two fans on the roof. Needless to say, we fell completely in love at the dealership. Luckily, we qualified for the loan and were able to trade my Toyota Yaris (my car since I was 16!) in for a fair amount of money towards the loan. We bought her in late September and we gave our landlord 31 days notice on October 1st.

That left us with 1 month to make it livable! As you can see, there were a lot of seats to be removed…


Our families kept asking us, how will you live in there with all those seats?! Haha! No offense guys, but that was kind of a silly question! We’d take them out of course! 😉

But before we laugh too much, this was no easy task. We weren’t able to take them off from the bottom bases (which attached them with bolts to the floor) as easily as we hoped. I guess they were impact drilled in there, so we’d need an impact drill or a metal cutter to get them out. So we did what we could and took the actual seats off of the bases themselves. IMG_1748.jpeg

That left these annoying guys for us to work around, and we left the front seat there for the time being. Next, we had to figure out how to get a bed in there, cause by golly, we were going to live in it!


Fortunately for us, our queen sized bed frame and box frame fit (we sleep on a futon with a 3 inch mattress topper on top) perfectly inside the van and sat on top of those brackets easily. We actually used large zip ties to secure it!!! We knew this was temporary, but it worked for what we needed. I just really couldn’t wait to build a lifted bed so I could actually store more of a variety things under the bed.

On Halloween of 2015, we moved out of our 3 bedroom house in Puna and were officially van dwellers! We had slowly moved everything out of our house into a 10X10 storage unit, or to charity and separated what would be kept in the van. So yes, secrets out, we do own more than what can fit in the van, or at least that can fit comfortably… A lot of what had to be kept in the storage unit were childhood things our parents have so lovingly given us the responsibly of possessing from now on, and also the furniture my mom gave us before moving back to the mainland. We decided to get a storage unit to keep it all in which hasn’t been that bad, I mean a $130 bill is a whole lot less than what we were paying for rent, electricity, water, etc. etc. etc.

So anyway, in November, we were graciously invited to stay at a friends property which we did for awhile. We made our home base under some tents and a little kitchen in a large camping tent to keep away from bugs (especially mosquitos out in the jungle) and rain. IMG_5064.jpeg

As blessed as we feel to have spent time there, when thanksgiving break came, we house-sat closer to town, and then finals week came, we were becoming more found of being closer to town and not having the hassle of driving 30-45 min “home”. We fell into this house sitting job who let us use their power tools and their driveway/garage to make our lofted bed we had been dreaming of! So over thanksgiving break, we not only held a feast with some friends, but we built our entire bed frame! IMG_5391.jpegIMG_8220.jpegIMG_2820.jpegIMG_3480.jpeg

We were so excited when we finally completed this!!! After that, because we took out the seat towards the front, we realized we could make a small and functioning kitchen and we wouldn’t be tied to driving to our home base any more. We just used our pop up table and slid the cooler under it. This worked well for awhile until I think it was after Christmas break that we came across a small kitchen “island” at Ace Hardware. I believe it was either $150-200 which we used our Christmas money for. Here’s a picture of the top when we were cooking our kalo burgers (vegetarian). As you can see, we had our original cooler next to it but it stuck out quite a lot and it got old fast. The island has two stools, two drawers, and a fold open table all of which we really love having. IMG_8769.jpeg

At some point, we had moved one of our drawers to the back so we could make a cubby for Kawelo, who was just taking up too much space on our floor! I can’t tell you enough how much she LOVES having this spot all to herself. She is just the cutest.  IMG_7729.JPG

After some saving, we bought our most desired cooler, the Yeti. It took place of the other drawer set, which we moved next to the kitchen island-creating more space and better ‘feng shui’.


So! I think that about sums up our vans’ story of creation and transformation! I hope you all enjoyed reading it and maybe it cleared up somethings about how we live in this small of a space! Again, if there are any questions I could answer in a blog post, or in a comment, feel free to ask!!

Naʻi me ke aloha nui,

Na Leilani


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