This digital nomad's van home is full of little luxe touches—and a shower.ByKimberley Mok Kimberley MokWriter
Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007.Learn about our editorial processUpdated June 24, 2021 06:48PM EDTFact checked byHaley Mast Fact checked byHaley MastHaley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science.Learn about our fact checking processNews
Some may see travel as something non-essential and even extravagant to do. But some may contend that travel is a necessity, something vital to help expand our understanding of other cultures, other places, and perhaps our own selves. Traveling outside of our familiar places and comfort zones presents important learning opportunities that everyone should experience at least once in their lives.
These are the truisms that American van dweller Antoinette Yvonne—an entrepreneur, blogger, and happily self-professed "luxury nomad" who has been living abroad in Spain since 2013. Yvonne is the founder of Globally Abroad, a company that offers study and travel abroad programs, focusing on minority teens and young adults.
Having founded her company in early 2019, things soon went topsy-turvy when 2020 hit, and Yvonne found herself having to move back temporarily to the United States. She had already been considering the idea of van life, but much later in life.
With the initial restrictions on international travel being put in place last year, Yvonne decided then that it was the time to go ahead and travel a bit more locally, in a bit of luxury, in her own converted van. We get a tour of her lovely van home, Zion, via Tiny Home Tours:
Yvonne's solar-powered van is a Dodge Promaster Van 1500 conversion, which has been meticulously transformed by Ohio-based company Vandemic. There are plenty of luxe touches all over the van, mostly in gold and marble-like epoxy finishes, plus the gorgeous stitched padding over the door jambs. Put together, they create a space that feels airy and light, yet refined.
Behind the van's main sliding side door, we see part of the kitchen counter, which features an easy pop-up table that can be flipped up for extra space for preparing food, working, or eating breakfast.
This part of the counter is also where Yvonne's deep farmhouse sink is located. There is a lovely gold-colored spray faucet here, and a reversible sink insert that functions as a wooden cutting board on one side, and an extra bit of counter when it's propped onto the sink's edge.
There is an electric induction cooktop here; Yvonne opted for electric-powered appliances instead of propane, as her intention is to potentially bring the van abroad someday, so these types of appliances would be a better fit when traveling in far-flung places like Europe.
The van is heated by a 400-watt EasyHome plug-in ceramic mini-heater, which she says does eat up a lot of electricity. As an alternative, she recommends perhaps using a built-in diesel heater instead.
There's plenty of drawers below and cabinets overhead here for storing utensils, and other personal items like clothing, toiletries, and more.
Behind the kitchen, Yvonne has a small but still sizeable 12-volt refrigerator. She opted for an air fryer instead of a microwave or oven, as it's the appliance she prefers. As she mentions, it's important for one to identify certain personal "non-negotiables" when designing one's van conversion.
Probably the most luxurious part of the van is the shower, with its imitation marble walls, and the golden detachable shower head. There's also a Thetford portable toilet here.
At the very rear of the van, we have a multifunctional space for both sleeping and dining that wouldn't be too different from a regular RV. During the day, the central table is in use, while the U-shaped memory foam-upholstered benches act as seating. During the night, the table goes down, and the foam cushions are rearranged to create a super comfortable bed.
On the exterior, under the elevated bed platform, we have the hidden fresh water tank.
So far, Yvonne says that her time spent within the wider van life community has been positive and encouraging. Like her life-changing experiences in Spain, Yvonne's vision and well-designed van home have allowed her to experience a new way of traveling and living, while challenging some assumptions:"My love for travel started when I moved to Spain. A few years ago, it wasn't as well-known [as a place to move to] in the black community. So [van life] is just another venture for me to break down those barriers, and those stereotypes that 'black folks don't do [that]'."
Yvonne's uplifting story is one important piece to the puzzle of building more diverse and inclusive alternative-lifestyle communities, whether that might be with international travel, studying abroad, worldschooling, van or bus conversions (such as the #DiversifyVanlife movement), or even with tiny homes. People of color do travel and enjoy the great outdoors, but we don't get to hear these stories often—not because they don't exist, but because they aren't highlighted often enough. Ultimately, it's inspiring to see that's slowly but surely changing.
To see more, visit Antoinette Yvonne and her Instagram.