A woman who lives in a van reveals she has been forced to give up showering after the coronavirus pandemic saw all of the public spaces where she used to wash closed down.
Freelance commercial photographer and videographer, Nikki Bigger, 29, from Kingston, Ontario, first fell in love with van life when she moved to New Zealand in November 2015 where she lived in a van for two years before moving back to Canada when her visa ran out.
During this time, Nikki fell in love with the freedom of van life and found the minimalistic lifestyle with less focus on materialistic belongings liberating – however that freedom-focused lifestyle has been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Changes: Nikki Bigger, 29, who lives in a van in Canada, has revealed that she hasn’t been able to shower for more than two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic
Difficult: Many of the public spaces that Nikki normally relies on, like gyms and parking lots, have been closed down because of the COVID-19 outbreak
Solutions: Nikki’s fan, which cost her $24,100, has an outdoor shower, but it has been too cold for her to use it
When Nikki returned to Canada in 2018, she spent a few years feeling uncertain of what the future would hold but knew she would be happier if she could live in a van full time and travel around her home country.
So in, March 2019, Nikki bought a Ford Transit 250 van for $24,100 which she was able to spread across monthly payments and after three months of planning she spent just 30 days and $11,350 converting it into a permanent home on wheels complete with a beautiful fully functioning kitchen, bed, electricity and generous workspace, with the help of her family.
Nikki lives in her van and is currently based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Nikki admits that her life has been impacted more than expected with gyms being closed so she can’t have shower, and not being able to use outside space as much as she would like to.
Nikki shares her van life adventures on Instagram where she has 23,400 followers, she explained how coronavirus has affected her and shared her advice to others who might be curious about van life.
‘Simplicity, not owning much, mostly the freedom to go anywhere anytime [appealed to me about van life],’ said Nikki.
‘I felt that I lacked freedom a lot in my life when everyone was telling me I should go to school and get married and have kids, but that’s not what I wanted. So, van life allowed me the freedom to pursue exactly what I wanted so I could feel confident in my decisions.
‘We planned the build for three months, talking to my dad and brother on the phone all the time. My dad is so good at building things and my brother is a mechanical engineer, so we all worked so well together.
Freedom: The photographer has since moved to a plot of land that she shares with two other vans – and they have managed to rig up a hot shower to share between the three of them
Home: It took Nikki 30 days and $11,300 to transform her Ford Transit 250 van and turn it into a house on wheels
Adventure: Nikki first started living in a van back in 2015 when she moved to New Zealand for two years
Cosy: Despite the difficulties that the pandemic has caused, Nikki loves her life in the van
‘The challenges were that you can only have two of these; time, quality and cost. The time needed to be short, the cost was relatively medium and the quality relatively medium. It’s difficult to have all three, so now since I’m on the road, I notice a lot of mistakes that could have been prevented with more time and cost.
‘My dad and I worked on seventy per cent of the build ourselves because my mum and brother had jobs to tend to.
‘The hardest part was that my dad knew exactly what to do and how to do it, but because I had to be taught, I found it difficult and frustrating not being able to do anything fully on my own because I had never learned many of the skills we were using.
‘I absolutely love life on the road. I love how free I am, the minimal cost of living, the feeling of being in a cosy tree fort every night, and gathering with van friends around a fire.
‘I’m a commercial photographer, so working on the road is quite easy as long as I have phone service. We either go to cafes for a change of scenery or work in the van.
‘Being a photographer for a job and traveling wherever we want in a van is an ideal situation because we can create amazing content for brands.’
However, the easy life that Nikki has enjoyed for so long took a turn for the complicated when the coronavirus pandemic hit and forced so many of the public spaces she relied on to close down.
‘COVID-19 has affected my life more than I was expecting,’ she admitted. ‘The gyms are closed so I cannot shower, I do have an outdoor shower in our van but it’s too cold outside to use it.
Wide world: ‘I absolutely love life on the road. I love how free I am, the minimal cost of living, the feeling of being in a cosy tree fort every night,’ Nikki said
Adventure: She added that she loves the ability to be able to pick up and go, and she has had a wonderful time exploring new places
The world is her oyster: Nikki has travelled from Ontario to Vancouver, to Seattle to San Diego, to Phoenix to Idaho, and finally to Vancouver Island
Inspiration: She hopes that by documenting her lifestyle online, she will inspire others who want to get out on the open road
‘Most parks are gated closed so there aren’t many locations I can park other than a Costco/Walmart parking lot, it feels very crammed because I’m usually outside or at a cafe, and being forced to stay inside the small space is definitely frustrating when the weather is cold outside.’
Nikki has travelled from Ontario to Vancouver, to Seattle to San Diego, to Phoenix to Idaho, and finally to Vancouver Island.
Whilst COVID-19 left Nikki unable to have a hot shower she has recently managed to rent a plot of land with two other vans – where they are in quarantine together and have built a heated outdoor shower after more than two weeks without one.
‘This lifestyle has given me pride knowing that I can create my reality. Converting a van into a home and creating a career from a camera; it has given me happiness in knowing I am capable of achieving whatever I want.
‘My life has improved tremendously because I was not happy in an apartment paying tons of money, and in a job where I had a boss, I am now so so happy,’ she said.
‘My use for Instagram is to inspire others to believe in themselves and create the life they have dreamt of. I’m always available to chat and help anyone out.
‘If you are interested in this lifestyle, do it! Know that you can, know that you want it, and work hard until you achieve it. And if you have any questions, I’m more than happy to help.’