Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

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Why you need to buy a van NOW: With international travel a long way off, one 'van lifer', 32, reveals how to live the dream life in your own backyard - all while maintaining a corporate job

  • Ashley Konig bought a 2005 Ford Transit in 2018 just before she turned 30
  • The adventurer from New Zealand converted 90 per cent of the interior herself
  • It has a fridge, permanent bed, portable shower and toilet, as well as an inverter 
  • She wasn't able to travel around in 'Morrie' when NZ locked down from COVID-19
  • But she believes domestic travel in a van might be on the rise very soon 
  • Here's how to help people impacted by Covid-19

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A dedicated 'van lifer' from New Zealand has revealed why a holiday that involves living out of a car should be your next bucket list item - and how to bring that dream to life if you're still in lockdown.

Ashley Konig, like the rest of the world, has been self isolating amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It's a far cry from the freedom she had in 2019, cruising around the country's South Island in her renovated 2005 Ford Transit called 'Van Morrison'; the beach her dinner table view and native birds her early morning alarm clock.

'Just before my 30th birthday in 2018 - when all my friends were busy getting married and having kids - I bought an empty cargo van to start the project that I'd dreamed about for quite some time, but never had the guts to make into a reality,' the now 32-year-old told FEMAIL.

Ashley Konig (pictured), like all other New Zealanders, has been self isolating in her Christchurch home under the strictest coronavirus measures the world has seen

Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

It's a far cry from the freedom she had in 2019, cruising around the South Island in her renovated 2005 Ford Transit called 'Van Morrison'

Unlike the 'van life' converters Instagram has given birth to, Ashley didn't quit her corporate job as a lean manufacturing consultant and say goodbye to a modern day shower, keeping her van 'Morrie' as a weekend and holiday adventure mobile.

It's a more realistic way of living out of a campervan that should be considered. 

'It's the extra high model Transit so you can stand up inside, with heaps of power so we very rarely hold up traffic,' she said.

'I was determined to make it a bit special and create a few of my favourite features that included my love of New Zealand hardwood - hence the native Rimu benchtop and Macrocarpa wood panelling.'

Some non-negotiables at the time were a full height ceiling, a decent fridge with an off grid setup, a sizeable permanent bed and an inverter to make smoothies and plug in laptops.  

'Converting a van is nothing like renovating a house. You can't screw into the walls, and nothing is level, straight or square,' she said.

'I would spend hours sitting on the floor of the van, staring at the walls trying to figure out the next few steps, like how to attach panelling or hang cupboards.'

Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

'It's the extra high model so you can stand up inside, with heaps of power so we very rarely hold up traffic,' she said

Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

Some non-negotiables at the time were a full height ceiling, a decent fridge with an off grid setup, a proper sized permanent bed and an inverter to make smoothies and plug in laptops

Everything is custom-built to fit the space inside. All of the kitchen drawers and cupboard fronts were made from scratch, which extended the project to five months, but it was well-worth the effort. 

'Most days I'd come home from work and plug away in my garage until bedtime where I'd set up some lights, then every second weekend I would fly down to see my boyfriend,' she said.

'That was the cycle for an entire winter but I love having projects to keep me busy and focused like that.

Seeing it finally come together at the end with the final paint and floor was so rewarding.'

Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

All of the kitchen drawers and cupboard fronts were made from scratch, which extended the project to five months, but it was well-worth the effort

Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

She finished the van conversion in Auckland and drove it down to Christchurch, which became the perfect base for further South Island travel

She finished the van conversion in Auckland and drove it down to Christchurch, which became the perfect base for further South Island travel.

Her favourite spots are the ones 'they don't take the tourists', past Bay of Islands, around the East Cape and down to the Caitlins.  

To have 'million dollar views for next to nothing' is the best part about traditional van life, as is the freedom to move around as quickly or as slowly as you like.  

'Opening the back doors to a beautiful sunrise and fresh sea air is definitely one of the better things in life,' she said.

Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

'Opening the back doors to a beautiful sunrise and fresh sea air is definitely one of the better things in life,' she said

But with everything there are downsides to being on the road, particularly if you leave the doors open of an evening and invite a swarm of mosquitoes inside. 

'It is definitely more of a challenge in rainy cold weather.

Summertime is the best, swimming and using the solar shower is easy,' she said.

Having now bought her first house Ashley isn't sure whether to keep the van to continue going on cheap, adventure-rich holidays or sell it to fund renovations on the estate. 

But she hasn't been able to use the van since New Zealand went into lockdown at the end of March regardless. 

'It's a little torturous having it sit in the driveway and not being able to go anywhere,' she said.

Van owner from New Zealand talks about what it's like to holiday at home

Having now bought her first house Ashley isn't sure whether to keep the van to go on cheap holidays or sell it to fund renovations on the estate

'It will be a tradeoff over the next few months as we start property renovations and slip away for a weekend with Morrie.'

While social media would make one think the only people who partake in van life are 21 or 65, Ashley urges those in between to take notice.  

'It's the perfect way to see our very own beautiful country - all the good spots are well out of the main touristy hotspots,' she said.

'There will be a change to the way we travel in the foreseeable future - we can't just jump on the nearest plane to Europe anymore, so what a great opportunity to see the gems in our own backyard.

'There's plenty of them and having a home-away-from-home is one of the best ways to explore in my eyes.'

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