A woman who lives in “a big white van” and spends just €250 a month on bills has said the cost-effective lifestyle is the “best decision (she) ever made” and she “wouldn’t change it for the world”.
Ellen Green (29), a freelance graphic designer from Co Down, 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 €6,000 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)”.
Ellen has been able to see “such beautiful places”, like Snowdonia and Donegal, and has hiked all around Ireland and Britain – last year, she “climbed 52 peaks in 52 weeks” and said the van made the challenge “so much easier.”
Ellen has also saved a lot on monthly bills – now her outgoings are around €250 a month.
Looking to the future, Ellen can see herself staying in the van long-term, especially because of how “flexible it is” and because she can work remotely.
Ellen 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.”
In 2019, Ellen began travelling around Ireland in her Ford Transit Connect van while renting an apartment.
But in March 2023, after being in her vehicle “all the time”, she decided to move into a new van full-time – she upgraded to a Citroen Relay, costing her around €5,800.
She said: “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.”
On what her loved ones thought at the time, she said: “My boyfriend at the time, now ex, said I needed to get a more realistic dream.
“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.
“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.”
After moving in permanently, Ellen soon began making renovations to her van, spending around £1,000, 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.”
Since then, she has travelled all over Britain and Ireland.
She said: “I love going to Cornwall just because there’s always stuff happening there – there’s a lot of other van people there which is great.
“But, Ireland’s so lovely because it’s so remote – on the west coast, in Donegal, is just my favourite because you get to park up right by the sea and you don’t get disturbed and you don’t see people for like a day or two.
“It’s just so lovely and I always feel safe.”
In between travelling and working as a freelance graphic designer, Ellen loves to go hiking and has even started selling decorative maps.
She said: “I’ve hiked in Wales, like Snowdonia, and I just love it. Last year, I climbed 52 peaks in 52 weeks and it was amazing and the van just made it so much easier.
“I’m creative and I wanted to combine my two interests, hiking and graphic design, and people have loved them.”
Ellen has also noticed how much her spending has gone down since living in her van.
She said: “When working, I obviously prefer spending money on doing things, rather than bills, and living in my van has let me do that.
“It’s so much cheaper now – fuel has gone up, everything has, but it’s still a lot cheaper than it is to rent.
“I pay a maximum of £200 (€230) for things like phone bills, apps, showers at leisure centres and washing at launderettes.
“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.”
On whether she would recommend living in a van to others, she said: “You get to have so much freedom, save money and explore – it’s amazing, I’d suggest it to most people.”
Looking to the future, Ellen can see herself staying in the van long-term.
She explained: “I would consider maybe living somewhere during the winter when it’s a bit colder and a bit wetter.
“I’d still like to be in my van though, not renting, if there’s somewhere nice that could stay for a month or two, just to settle down and hibernate for the winter.
“I think in terms of settling down somewhere permanently, I think it’s so hard to not want to be in the van.
“I love the freedom, especially with working remotely, so I can’t see myself settling down somewhere for the foreseeable – at the moment, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”