Seven years in corporate marketing had left Hilary Bird, 30, run-down and experiencing anxiety attacks (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
After seven years working in a high-stress job in corporate marketing, Hilary Bird realised she needed to make a major change.
Her career had left her experiencing regular anxiety attacks, and she craved the freedom of being able to travel whenever and wherever she wanted.
So Hilary, 30, quit her job, bought a 1999 Ford E250 van for $6,200 (£4,479), and set about transforming the vehicle into her dream home on wheels.
It was a huge leap of faith that took months of hard work and thousands of dollars – but Hilary hasn’t looked back once.
‘After almost seven years in a corporate marketing career, I started developing anxiety attacks at work and I knew it was because I was craving serious change,” said Hilary.
‘I had always wanted to travel where I wanted, when I wanted, be my own boss and work remotely.
Wanting a change, she decided to buy an old Holiday Inn shuttle bus (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
The bus needed major repair work (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Hilary did the bulk of the design work herself, roping in her dad to help (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
‘After knowing some friends that had done short stints of van life, I started looking into it.
‘I realised van life would facilitate all of my goals – so I quit my job without another lined up, flew to Canada to pick up my van without even seeing it in person yet, then set off on building it out for the next five months with my dad.
‘I knew quitting my job would give me the “kick in the pants” to make myself find remote work.’
She quit her job and spent five months gutting the van’s interiors and turning it into her dream home on wheels (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Once the van was ready, Hilary hit the road (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
Hilary was right. After spending five months transforming the former Holiday Inn shuttle bus, she hit the road and began working as a marketing freelancer.
She has since racked up 15,000 miles, travelling through Idaho, the Pacific Northwest, and Arizona.
What’s more, she says her new lifestyle has entirely alleviated her anxiety.
‘After I quit, I started reaching out to old connections on LinkedIn asking if they had freelance marketing needs,’ Hilary explained. ‘I now have three part-time freelance jobs – all with old connections, which is great because I can be very transparent about my situation.
So far the freelancer has travelled 15,000 miles in the van (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
She says she hardly has any anxiety and is happier than ever (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
‘Some days, it is exhausting because everything you take for granted while living in a house now becomes a micro-decision that is mentally draining.
‘You end up lying around in your van all day stuck in analysis paralysis. But, mostly, the freedom to choose your own schedule is inspiring.
‘Since starting van life, I’ve basically been anxiety-free. Sure, everyone has some anxiety to a degree but I’ve had nothing like I used to have.
‘Uninterrupted solo time in the van is great for helping me look at life’s bigger picture.
Van life isn’t easy, but Hilary has no regrets (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
‘You run into a lot of problems you can’t predict. Maybe a mechanical issue pops up or you get to a great camp spot, only to see the spot is already taken. Or you’re cooking dinner and run out of propane for the stove mid-cook.
‘I overcome issues like these by reminding myself that I chose this lifestyle because I wanted to experience something new and unknown and problems will inevitably pop up with the new and unknown, so it’s just part of the journey.
‘I don’t feel rushed or stressed when issues pop up because I’m not tied to a set schedule or someone else’s schedule, so that helps me approach issues more calmly.’
She loves the freedom of being her own boss and being able to travel whenever and wherever she likes (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
She also says this lifestyle has encouraged her to slow down (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Hilary shares her journey online through Instagram and a website (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
Turning the van into a home on wheels took some hard work.
Hilary roped in her dad, Jim, to help her out, as well as spending $3,600 (£2,600) on essential repairs, such as installing a new brake system and windshield.
She then spent a further $1,700 (£1,228) on decking out the bus’s interiors.
‘We used a lot of old parts and materials from my parents’ garage to save money on the van build,’ Hilary said.
She encourages other people to give van life a go (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
You don’t need to spend a load of money to hit the road (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
‘My must-have items were a sink, stove that could stay attached in the van and bench-to-bed conversion bed.
‘I wanted a setup that gave me the flexibility to not have to leave my van for any daily necessities if need be. I could use my bench-to-bed as a workspace during the day, cook and clean up all from within the van.’
Hilary now hopes to inspire others to chase down a more joyful lifestyle by sharing her travels on Instagram under the handle @green.van.go.
There’s no set timeframe for her adventure to end (Picture: MDWfeaturesfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Next up, she’d love to visit Nevada and New Mexico (Picture: MDWfeaturesemail@example.com)
She plans to visit Nevada and New Mexico next.
‘Van life is definitely what you make of it,’ she added.
‘Most days I love that sense of not knowing where the day will take me – will I stay at the same camp spot or find a new one? Will I do a cool hike or work from the van all day? Do I need to stock up on supplies or meet up with friends in the area?
‘The solo time and freedom to be where I want, when I want, is really empowering.
‘I feel like I get to slow down and be more present when I’m in the van.’
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