A WOMAN left her boyfriend of five years and her job to live in a van with her German Shepherd, Akela.
Linnea Schmelzer, 26, has no running water, shower, or toilet in her van, but she says she’s "perfectly happy" living this way.
She spent $7,500 (£5,303) renovating her van, which she calls Togo – she now lives in the vehicle in the wilderness of Idaho.
Linnea, who’s originally from Wisconsin, worked as a field instructor for a wilderness therapy company before she embarked on her van life journey.
After uprooting her whole life, she now runs her own online health business.
Though her van has no running water or a toilet, she's happy without these “luxuries”, and her urge to get out of her comfort zone was enough to push her to commit to this new lifestyle.
Linnea heats up water to use in a showering tent for personal hygiene, and she uses public toilets or simply goes to the bathroom in the wilderness.
In May 2020, Linnea bought Togo for $20,000 (£14,142) and spent $7,500 (£5,303) renovating the vehicle to make it a more comfortable space.
Although the free spirit thought she and her ex-boyfriend would be together forever, she said the two are still friends.
She said: “I did enjoy my life prior to the van. It was filled with building my future, spending time with friends, working on my relationship with my partner at the time and being really active in more ways than one.
“I will say though, I was excited for something different and more fulfilling. I knew in my heart that my life wasn't really what I wanted it to be.”
Linnea said she was “seeking more depth, purpose, travels and experiences”, and that’s why she decided to buy Togo and change her life.
Linnea renovated the entire van by herself, adding a bed frame, electricity, cabinet spaces and mirrors.
She decided, however, that she didn’t want to have a water pump or toilet in the van because she wanted it to be a simple build.
By using a 6 litre dromedary bag and a shower tent, Linnea manages to keep herself feeling fresh – she just heats up some water beforehand and she’s good to go.
She said: “I wanted Togo to feel like a tiny cabin. I knew I would spend the majority of my time alone and wanted a space that felt comforting, earthy, and cosy.
“My build is very simple; no shower, no water pump, no toilet – but I knew that I would be perfectly happy without those luxuries.”
She added: “I truly think it's beautiful that we all have different definitions of living a content life.”
Linnea keeps her equipment under her bed, a space that she refers to as her “garage”.
This is where she keeps all her outdoor materials – including a climbing harness, yoga mat, and sleeping bags – as well as Akela's gear, which includes a life jacket, pack and cooling vest.
She said her dog is the best possible companion she could have for this experience.
She explained: “Akela is as comfortable on my bed as she is in our two-person tent in the wilderness.
“She is my ultimate travel partner and companion, and I can't imagine doing any of this without her.
“She is also protective of the van and myself, which makes me feel much more comfortable knowing that she will always warn me of danger.”
Linnea uses her mobile phone hotspot for internet to stay in touch with the outside world.
When it comes to food, she uses a propane cooker and a minifridge.
Designing the van, Linnea said she learned “how to trust” herself.
She said: “I had an idea for the layout but never actually drew a design, which most people would advise against.
“I just fit things in as I went, and built what I wanted next based on what made sense to me.”
In summary, Linnea said she loves living this way.
“I am often at peace, excited for what I will witness or see in each area and I mostly feel really grounded.”
Linnea has released a Get Fit Anywhere guide, which contains detailed workouts you can do on the move, and 10 of her go-to recipes.
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