A woman who used to work 70 hours a week while juggling her college classes has opened up about her decision to quit her job and spend the past four years traveling solo in a van with just her two dogs for company.
Sydney Ferbrache, 26, from Indianapolis, Indiana, worked grueling hours to afford her rent and tuition while studying for a fashion business degree in Chicago, Illinois, back in 2017.
She worked in events management for a hotel and restaurant, which meant she had to be at every event — sometimes starting as early as 7 a.m. — and her shifts could often last until midnight.
‘While I loved some of the staff, I was just so tired all the time,’ she told Jam Press. ‘I was still trying to get my degree and having to switch to online classes to accommodate my work schedule. I didn’t feel like that’s what life was supposed to be like.’
Life on the road: Sydney Ferbrache, 26, from Indianapolis, Indiana, has spent the past four year traveling around the country in a van with her two dogs
Best friends! She lives in the renovated van with her two dogs: Ella, a three-year-old golden retriever, and Pearl, a nine-year-old Chihuahua
Living it up: The former fashion student has traveled all over the US, eastern Canada, and Mexico in her home-on-wheels
Sydney quickly grew tired of the stressful route her future was taking and decided to use her entire life savings to buy a van to drive around the country.
‘I was exhausted and very unhappy,’ she recalled. ‘When I graduated, I knew it was a moment where I could choose my next move.
‘I could continue working where I was and be miserable, or I could spend basically my entire savings account on a van and try my best to make it work.
‘I knew I wanted to travel so the van made sense and I just went for it!’
Sydney purchased a Ford Transit van in June 2018 for $24,000 and then began transforming the vehicle into her dream home.
With the help of her father and his friends, she was able to revamp the van with working electricity, heating, and water.
New home: Sydney purchased a Ford Transit van in June 2018 for $24,000 to start her life on the road
Big plans: She spent $9,000 more transforming the vehicle into her dream home
Early stages: With the help of her father and his friends, she was able to revamp the van with working electricity, heating, and water
Transformation: Sydney said they started with insulation before they installed the vent fan and parts of the electrical system. They also added solar panels
Aww! Ella was just a puppy when the van’s renovations were under way. They designed the van to have a bed frame, kitchenette, and upper cabinets
Then and wow! The van’s renovations were completed after two months of hard labor
Added touch: The van even boasts a portable toilet, though Sydney tries not to use it
‘We started with insulation, then installed things like the vent fan and parts of the electrical system and attached the solar panels,’ she explained. ‘Then we began building the carpentry pieces like bed frame, kitchenette, and upper cabinets.
‘Then other things came together like the rest of the electrics, the water system, and tiling the kitchen.’
After two months of hard labor, the van was complete — and it even boasts a portable toilet, although Sydney tries not to use it too often.
‘I tend to go outside where I dig a hole with what we call a “poop shovel,”‘ she said. ‘Other times, I use a coffee shop, grocery store, gas station, or brewery.’
Sydney initially spent $9,000 on building materials and has since added $5,000 of upgrades over the years, bringing the total cost of her van conversion to around $14,000.
‘I think the best part of the actual build itself was watching it all come together towards the end,’ she said. ‘This van has been the coziest home, one that I have raised one dog in while adding an older dog later on.
All the amenities: Sydney’s kitchenette is small, but perfect for a single traveler
All the necessities: Sydney installed a small sink and a burner on top of the kitchen cabinets
Smart! The van boasts a pull-out table that allows Sydney to extend her space outside
Hiding places: There is plenty of storage in the van, including cabinets for her to store her clothes
She though of everything! On the side of the van, there is table she can pull down and use as a desk when she is working
Life savings: Sydney initially spent $9,000 on building materials and has since added $5,000 of upgrades over the years, bringing the total cost of her van conversion to around $14,000
Wide open spaces: When she’s in the mood for a workout, she just heads outside
‘My whole life has changed because of this van, and I owe it the best adventures it can reach!’
Sydney now lives and travels with her two dogs: Ella, a three-year-old golden retriever, and Pearl, a nine-year-old Chihuahua.
She has no fixed abode but instead has spent the last four years on the open road and has no regrets. The former fashion student has traveled all over the US, eastern Canada, and Mexico in her home on wheels.
However, she admitted that living in a van with two pets can be tricking because there’s not always enough room.
‘The Chihuahua takes up no space at all but my golden retriever takes up a ton of space. I don’t know how because she’s not actually that big but she sure spreads out,’ she explained.
‘We make the space by having the mindset that we live outside, not in the van. We sleep in the van but that’s basically it. Pearl, Ella, and I play, work and eat outside most days. This adventure would be nothing without my dogs.
Hard life: Sydney used to work 70 hours a week in events management to pay for her rent and tuition while attending college in Chicago, Illinois
Looking to the future: Sydney quickly grew tired of the stressful route her future was taking and wanted something more
Decision: ‘I was exhausted and very unhappy,’ Sydney recalled. ‘When I graduated, I knew it was a moment where I could choose my next move’
Gamble: Sydney bought her van and hasn’t looked back. She has no fixed abode but instead has spent the last four years on the open road
Keeping it real: Sydney admitted that living in a van isn’t always easy, explaining she has a ‘poop shovel’ that she uses to dig holes to go the bathroom in outside
Pit stop: Whenever she can, Sydney uses the bathroom at coffee shops, grocery stores, gas stations, and breweries she passes during her travels
Cramped: Sydney admitted that living in a van with two pets can be tricking because there’s not always enough room
More to love: The pet owner pointed out that her golden retriever takes up the most space in the van
Who me? ‘She’s not actually that big but she sure spreads out,’ Sydney said of her dog Ella
‘Others are totally fine without pets, but my girls keep me sane and comforted on the road,’ she added. ‘I wouldn’t want to do it without them.’
Sydney works remotely from her van in social media and has her own podcast, coffee brand, and website where she shares her van life experiences.
She’ll often park up somewhere in the wilderness, but she makes sure to stock up on groceries on the road.
‘I’ve loved living in my van as a single woman — van life has taught me so much about myself and what I would look for in a partner,’ she said.
But being a single woman living alone on the road comes with challenges, and Sydney admitted that she encountered one particularly scary situation.
‘I have felt unsafe on one occasion, though, when a man approached me at a campsite and made me very uncomfortable,’ she recalled.
Perfect mindset: Sydney said she and her dogs really live outside the van where they have space
Taking a snooze: ‘Pearl, Ella, and I play, work and eat outside most days,’ she noted, saying they only sleep in the van
Happy: Sydney doesn’t have any regrets about ditching her nine-to-five for life on the road with her beloved pets
Who needs a nine-to-five? Sydney works remotely from her van in social media and has her own podcast, coffee brand, and website where she shares her van life experiences
Satisfied: Sydney loves van life so much that she has no plans to return to her old work schedule anytime soon
Open to anything: The traveler hopes to work remotely for as long as she can, though she admitted she has no idea what the future will bring
Just do it: ‘Create a home that you would be comfortable in and then go for it!’ Sydney advised those who want to follow in her footsteps
‘I packed up and left even though I was planning on staying several more days. He gave me a terrible feeling and I chose to act on that and leave.’
Sydney loves van life so much that she has no plans to return to her old work schedule anytime soon — although she hasn’t ruled it out completely in the future.
‘I never know where life will take me so if I need to work a nine-to-five in the future to pay the bills, so be it,’ she said. ‘But as of now, I would like to try and stay remote for as long as possible.
‘I feel confident that I can avoid the nine-to-five forever but who knows!’
Sharing a few words of advice for others who crave a similar lifestyle, Sydney added: ‘My best advice is to do what you can, when you can.
‘It’s not a race to get on the road but you also don’t need the fanciest van anyone has ever seen. Create a home that you would be comfortable in and then go for it!
‘The leap will never not be scary so you might as well just get it over with,’ she insisted. ‘Everything becomes much less intimidating when you’re on the other side of it.
‘The best part has yet to come.’