Marina Piro is a determined young woman. Originally from Italy, she found work in England but not contentment. “I had a well-paid job in an office and a regular nine-to-five lifestyle.
But I was not happy and I decided it was time for a change. So my dog and I moved into my Renault Kangoo and set out on a journey to freedom,” says Marina.
Before she could hit the road, Marina had to convert the van – which she affectionately calls Pam – into reasonably comfortable accommodations for her and Odie, her beloved labradoodle. But there was just one caveat – she wanted to do it herself. “Anything a man can do, a woman can do too. Why should meeting this kind of challenge be the exclusive domain of men? So I decided I would do it myself. I started researching and found that most of the information out there was produced by men. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying. It was so complicated,” she recalls with a wry smile.
But Marina persisted. First, she gutted the van and then little by little she installed the necessities of a life on the move. “It’s why I started writing a blog with very easy to understand guides on how to convert your van. I try to put out the kind of information I would have loved to have access to when I first started. And to all you women reading this, I want to say this: If I can do it, so can you. There are no excuses,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.
Marina completed the conversion – and it only cost her £500 (approx. $700) to create a comfortable interior for herself and Odie. They’ve already enjoyed some memorable trips. “I had been me wanting to visit the south coast of England for years, so we drove down to Cornwall. I was not disappointed,” she recalls. “The best memory I have of that trip was going to Lantic Bay on a cold and cloudy day. Odie and I spent the afternoon playing in the waves, climbing rocks and foraging wild kale. We didn't see another soul the entire time we spent there. If felt like we were the last two living beings on earth.
Another place that really stuck with me is Lac de Sainte Croix in southern France. We visited in June and despite the touristy Verdon Gorges nearby, we were able to find an incredibly quiet spot right on the shore of the lake. It really did feel like paradise to me and I cannot forget the breathtaking sunsets we enjoyed while sitting on the rocks.”
Though Marina would like to see much more of the world, she doesn’t really have a bucket list or a schedule. In fact, she doesn’t believe in them. “No, I don’t. I have no end date. I’ll keep living my vanlife for as long as I enjoy it and I’m still learning. I have no home or job to go back to. Everything I own is in my van.”
Marina is currently upgrading Pam with a few Dometic products. “I’ve just installed a Fan-Tastic fan. I decided a while back, following a nightmarish experience in Nice, that we needed a fan. One night, the van was so hot we couldn’t sleep, and having the windows open didn’t help. It was awful, it felt like were slowly being cooked. And I’m just about to finish up my kitchen with a Smev 2 hob and sink combination. My first build didn’t have a sink, so having one is going to make a big difference,” says Marina.