Single Mom Transforms Step Van into Gorgeous RV

A few years ago, Meg O’Neill was struggling. She was unhappy working a 9-5 office job and felt like she didn’t have enough time with…

A few years ago, Meg O’Neill was struggling. She was unhappy working a 9-5 office job and felt like she didn’t have enough time with her daughter, Mollie.

So, Meg decided to do something to drastically change her life. She wanted to travel and adventure. She wanted to hit the road.

For three years, Meg saved money so she and her daughter could start their new life, which would end up being in a step van RV. She worked 9-5 as an admin and ran a natural soaps business on the side.

Those two jobs helped her save $5,000 per year.

“I knew I wanted to live a lifestyle where I traveled every day with my daughter Mollie,” she said. “You can fly to foreign countries, but that gets expensive. I decided I wanted to see North America and live rent-free in an off-grid home.”

Once Meg saved enough cash, she started looking for her mobile home.

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Searching For the Perfect StepVan to Convert

Photo Credit: Meg O’Neill

Meg didn’t always plan on living in a step van RV. She looked at Mercedes Sprinter vans and decided they were too expensive. And school buses were hard to find with low enough mileage.

She decided that was the way to go when she learned about step van RV conversions.

“Step vans are spacious and don’t have curved walls to deal with when doing a DIY van build,” she said. “They are square and boxy. I’m also super into the 50s and pinup-soda-shop-style, so when I saw Major (my van) online, I fell hard.”

The step van for sale, which she found on Canada’s Kijiji classified ads site, was bright red with only 16,000 kilometers. It was a fire truck from the Montreal Fire Department.

“It had been online for less than 24-hours. When I saw it, I messaged the poster and told him not to sell it,” said Meg. “I drove two hours with my dad that same day to look at it, and offered the guy $2,000.”

The 1985 GMC fire truck was hers.

Converting Her New Stepvan Into an RV

Photo Credit: Meg O’Neill

Meg quit her 9-5, and spent all of one summer working hard to transform the old stepvan into a shabby chic RV. She wanted to make it down to the United States before the cold, harsh Canadian winter settled in.

Meg’s dad is a contractor and her mom an interior designer, so she had a little help, but did most of the work on her own.

“I gutted the inside of the stepvan to ashes and started from scratch,” said Meg. “I wanted to make the stepvan camper as home-like for me and Mollie so she felt comfortable and had a safe space to be on the road.”

She watched online videos, winged some of it, and asked her dad for help. A friend of hers named Ray helped with the wiring and solar.

Slowly but surely, the step van turned into a comfortable, cozy, off-grid camper.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Meg.

She was ready to kick off her adventurous life with Mollie, but still, it took a leap of faith.

“As a single mom to take this leap, decide to do something different, you have no idea if it’s going to work out,” she said. “Saving $15,000 and spending it immediately with no idea if you’re even going to like the lifestyle is a big deal.”

To boot, she was out of money. She’d spent all her savings on converting the step van into an RV and wasn’t quite sure what to do.

Then, a friend offered her a remote admin job. Meg was in business, and hit the road.

How Living in a Stepvan Changed Meg and Her Daughter’s Life

Photo Credit: Meg O’Neill

Meg and Mollie have been traveling for months in Major, and are loving their new life in a step van RV. Mostly, they camp for free on BLM land, known as boondocking, or stay in WalMart parking lots.

They’ve met new friends via Instagram or RTR, aka the Rubber Tramp Rendevous. Now, they have “road family.”

“Mollie really loves it,” said Meg. “I don’t know what a kid couldn’t love! She’s going to different places, meeting new people, enjoying campfires and sleeping under the stars with other little girls.”

Plus, Meg and Mollie get to spend all day, every day, together.

“I’m not going to work every day and coming home every evening so exhausted I can’t even parent,” said Meg. “I know other parents feel this way. Moms are out there running themselves ragged and they can’t give their kids the time and energy they deserve. I’m now able to put care and time into my parenting, which has been the biggest gift to me.”

Currently, Meg is homeschooling Mollie while on the road. She said her daughter is learning so much that isn’t taught in schools. Things like mindfulness, dealing with anxiety, and creating time for oneself.

She couldn’t imagine a better life for her child.

Inspiring Others to Live Life on the Road

Photo Credit: Meg O’Neill

There’s been one surprising gift about living in a step van camper- Meg is inspiring others.

“I wasn’t expecting to hear from other women but it’s happening,” she said. “Someone messaged me recently that they just bought a bus because of me, and will be hitting the road next summer! My hope is to share that this lifestyle is possible.”

It can be hard jumping into a lifestyle far outside social norms. As Meg said before, it does require a leap of faith, a sense of confidence, a trust that things will go well.

“When I say I’m a single mom who lives in a van there’s a stigma,” said Meg. “But when people see the inside of my home, they change their minds.”

She said it took her a long time to realize that she doesn’t need a man to fulfill her happiness. That she, and she alone, is in charge of her own well-being.

“That was a huge awakening for me,” Meg said. “It fed the fire of my getting to where I am now. If I had any advice it would be this: If you want something, you can have it. You have to want it so bad, and it will happen. You can be your own hero. So many women spend their lives looking for a hero, but if you realize you are your own hero, you can do anything. The only person who can save you is yourself.”

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