Converting a Car to a Home in Four Steps

With everyone saying that living out of your van is absolutely bonkers, I figured I’d put the worriers at ease by saying screw the Van Life. It was time to show that the tiniest can be the mightiest by converting my two-door VW Golf into a cozy apartment for one. Considering my ineptitude at carpentry, I’m not too sure why I thought this would be an elegant process. A nearly severed thumb and a few reconstructions later, the car is now a home. So, here’s a peek into how this all managed to happen in about a week. (Please disregard all of the awkward photos of me working on the car. And yes, I’m wearing basically the same outfit in every picture because I wore those clothes for a straight week. Judge me.)

Step One: Marie Kondo like it’s your job

Throw everything out. Take out the seats, the four year old receipts in your side pockets, the trunk foam and the memories. Bring the car down to square one. It’s a new leaf, and this new leaf has a zero tolerance policy for baggage.

Removing the seats was actually easier than I thought it’d be. I didn’t need a single tool until I had to unscrew a bolt that I could’ve sworn was welded onto the floor of the car.

Step Two: don’t slice off your thumb

Not even two minutes into making a cardboard cutout of my car, my blade got stuck. I ripped it out of the cardboard without realizing it would snap back and lodge into my fatty thumb tissue. What a classic start to any sort of Cat project if I’m being honest (please don’t ask me about the time I accidentally cut myself on a mayonnaise jar). I rallied, mummified my finger and trudged on. Creating the cardboard cutout was wildly helpful. Having a way to visualize the space is key in deciding how to work with what you have.

Step Three: measure, measure, cut and cry

The next step was to cut all of the plywood and 2x4s to size, which I didn’t assume would be as treacherous as it was. My car floor is as flat as an ocean wave, and my unenthusiastic attitude toward measuring things in general led to a lot of nervous procrastination. After finally cutting everything, I had to cut the plywood down to size again because I was five inches off. How was I five inches off? I’m going to blame my bum thumb for sabotaging my ability to properly process numbers. I may or may not have laid on the floor for a half an hour when I realized the mistake.

With things finally cut and ready, I made the wood 2×4 frame and slapped some piano hinges on the plywood. BOOM. We have some boxes with working cabinets.

Testing out how much/little headspace I could live with.

Step Four: finesse, pack and primp

Here’s where you slap on the final touches: straps to open cabinets, tiny Target boxes I should’ve thrown away long ago to help organize and basic girl twinkle lights to make the whole thing a little more home-y. I honestly thought my backpacking gear wouldn’t fit considering I have two packs for work (a 36 L and a 70L) and a pack for personal backpacking (Waymark Gear Co. MILE 30 pack). I now have a set of heavy duty work gear and then attempting-to-be-UL gear. So, I did a happy dance that no one should ever see when everything fit like a glove.

If you think I should be sponsored by VW for showing the versatility of their tiny vehicles, please send them letters. You can also help by comforting my worried parents, letting me ship my Amazon orders to your house or telling me great places to park my car. Hit me up at @SeeBagsGo on Instagram to see all the excitement.

Remnants of a Thru Hike

Coming back from the AT, it seems as though I’ve been plopped in the middle of a bustling street as I wander slowly, a bit lost, through the throngs of people who have a destination. There’s an odd disconnection I feel that can’t really be explained. A trail friend was complaining how it’s been hard to participate in small talk. You can no longer ask people how many miles they did, talk about how gorgeous the view you all passed that day was or what they’re cooking for dinner. Even talking with some friends, I feel slightly off and removed. There’s this fog I’m trying to see through that appears to have no end. I’m stuck in the thick of it. I can hear others, but I can’t quite reach them properly.

As life does, it moves on while you’re gone. People have grown, moved away, gotten married or had children. I think this is all part of some culture shock that should pass as I spend more time away from trail life. Nonetheless, being done with a thru-hike has me feeling these type-a ways:


Shoot, it’s time to find a job.

I’ve spent nearly 6 months in the woods occasionally talking to the animals lurking within the forest. There was a stretch of 10 minutes where I did a call and response sequence with some crow on a branch. A crow. Luckily, no one saw me. Unfortunately, it’s clear that some signs point to slight delusion. How am I supposed to dress up, talk properly and impress someone in an interview?


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Thru Hiking to Happiness

Self-confidence/self-esteem/happiness with yourself, whatever you want to call it, I’ve struggled with it since those lovely tween years. I could point fingers and say it started with the stereotypical pressures of being a dancer, but some people handle that pressure with the utmost grace. I guess I wasn’t prepped to deal with the constant scrutinization of my weight, body or how much I ate. Teachers would tell me to lose a few pounds and “tone up” despite having a normal figure, and I’d see dancers around me starting to starve themselves and be rewarded for that. We stared at ourselves in mirrors as we danced and saw every tiny flaw that we could possibly perfect whether it be the body or the dance technique. Seeing my imperfections so much, I started dreading being seen or heard by others. I felt insignificant and unworthy.

My insecurity manifests in my daily life as awkwardness, but that’s why you love me, right? I used to weigh myself 5 times a day. I would avoid looking at people so I wouldn’t have to talk. I’d let someone else give their opinion first so that I could pretend to agree with it in hopes that agreeing would save me from putting my own ideas out there. I can thankfully say I’ve improved on these things in the past few years, but my AT thru really has been chicken soup for my insecure soul.

How does taking a simple walk in the woods work such wonders on your mental state? It does sound a bit extreme, I know. Do the trees whisper “you’re amazing, you got this!” as you traipse through the forest? Some might say yes. I know a hiker who thought all the birds tweeting at her were giving her sounds of encouragement. Another hiker I was with laughed and said that he thought their calls were just mocking his ineptitude. Everyone has their own interpretation, clearly, but here’s what has gotten me out of my shell a bit:

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Halfway Thoughts

A hiker asked me how it feels to know that I have to do all this over again now that I’ve hit the (historical) halfway point. He sounded defeated as he told me, “for me, it seems crazy that there’s so much more ahead of us.” All I could think about was how exciting it was to understand that there are about 3 months of new views, new struggles and new people ahead of me. So, here are some halfway thoughts about what’s happened so far:

1) I smile more when the weather is bad

There was a day and a half of a wild storm, so a few of us hikers decided to take a zero day in a shelter. Luckily, it was Partnership Shelter, one where the top half was fully enclosed and pizza just happened to deliver to us. We spent the whole day laughing and hanging out as the storm raged on outside. The roof started leaking and we all had to strap together our tarps to create a roof #2. We were in good company with full bellies.

Of course, there were also the Smoky Mountains where there was a foot of snow with thigh-high drifts. I thought about how nice it would’ve been to have my skis with me. We walked 13 miles over the tallest part of the AT and then down to the gap where we planned to hitch into Gatlinburg to resupply for food. The road out of the park at that gap was closed due to the snow storm, and it was coated in snow and black ice. The crew we were with convened in the only shelter at the deserted gap, a heated bathroom. Wallace, Hot Tang, Kyle (Calves) and I decided we would walk down the road into Gatlinburg, an extra 13 miles. The whole time on the hike down, we were slipping and falling. All of a sudden, you’d see poles fly up in the air and a hiker sliding around. Despite the snow pummeling my face at 50 mph, all the falls and my body pain, I couldn’t help but smile or laugh.

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