ellen green
Home sweet van (Picture: PA Real Life)

Flipping the image of a ‘big white van’ on its head, a woman is living and travelling in one, making it her haven.

Ellen Green, 29, a freelance graphic designer from Northern Ireland, spends just £200 a month living this way.

She began travelling around Ireland in a van with her dog, Max, a Staffordshire bull terrier, in 2019.

After being in her van ‘all the time’, she decided to move into her new £5,000 Citroen Relay permanently.

Ellen’s loved ones thought her living choices were a ‘bit weird’ to begin with, but now she thinks ‘people can just see that it works for her’.

The 29-year-old has travelled to Snowdonia and Donegal, and has hiked all around the UK and Ireland. Last year, she ‘climbed 52 peaks in 52 weeks’ as the van has made it easier to explore the nation.

Ellen has also saved a lot on monthly bills – now her outgoings are around £200 a month. She can also see herself staying in the van long-term, given how flexible her life can now be.

The graphic designer said: ‘I often just find the nearest beach and park there. It’s so relaxing – I wake up, swim in the sea, do some work, and just chill out.

‘I’d never be able to do that if I was renting. It’s made me make the most out of life, and become a more adventurous person.

‘I can’t believe that showering in leisure centres is normal to me now – I love this lifestyle.’

Ellen’s family thought her living situation was a bit odd at first (Picture: PA Real Life)
Ellen's van
Ellen moved into her van full-time in 2023 (Picture: PA Real Life)

She continued: ‘I love how flexible it is and being able to park up anywhere, in such beautiful places.

‘There’s no point in me renting a flat because I’m always in the van, and everything’s in here.

‘It’s a lot cheaper than having to spend money on rent on top of this.’

But not all of her loved ones were on board with the idea at first – like her now ex-boyfriend, who said she needed to be more ‘realistic’.

‘Nobody understood it – everyone was a bit embarrassed to be in it because it’s just a big white van and everyone just thought it was a bit weird,’ she said.

‘But I guess, during Covid, it all became a lot more normalised and popular.

‘Now, I think people can just see that it works for me.’

Ellen climbed 52 peaks in 52 weeks in 2022 (Picture: PA Real Life)
Ellen thinks living in a van is the best decision she’s ever made (Picture: PA Real Life)

After moving in permanently, Ellen started renovating her van, spending around £1,000, by adding in a leisure battery and a window.

She explained: ‘It was already panelled and had everything, like a kitchen and a workspace in it.

‘But I gradually ripped everything out of it, and then rebuilt it.

‘I did it all myself so it’s quite rustic, I guess – I’ve done a lot of it with reclaimed wood and my friend gave me a pallet so I made shelves out of that.

‘Now, I’ve got a bed, a workspace and a kitchen – I did things like use old book shelves to make kitchen cupboards.’

Her favourite places to explore are Cornwall and Donegal, as lots of other ‘van people’ are there.

Ellen can see herself staying in the van long-term (Picture: PA Real Life)
Ellen spends just £200 on bills per month (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I pay a maximum of £200 for things like phone bills, apps, showers at leisure centres and washing at launderettes,’ she says.

‘With fuel, it really just depends on how much I want to spend.

‘If I want to spend less this month, I just don’t move around as much.

‘You get to have so much freedom, save money and explore – it’s amazing, I’d suggest it to most people.

‘I can’t see myself settling down somewhere for the foreseeable – at the moment, I wouldn’t change it for the world.’

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