Our plan was to live on our savings and make the most of the long summer days before returning to the suburban nine-to-five living in September.
Originally, we planned to camp out of the back of my car for a few months and spend our time climbing, surfing, and fishing while the sun warmed our tanned and weather-beaten faces.
Then we remembered we live in Scotland. And in Scotland, it rains a lot.
Despite our extensive prior experience of year-round camping, the thought of spending weeks — as opposed to just weekends — in a slightly damp tent did not spark joy.
The obvious upgrade was to buy van, which we'd then sell when we moved back into a flat.
First, we set a budget of around 10,000 pounds all-in, which is about $11,900. Then, we trawled Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, and Gumtree for around a month to find the right van.
We wanted to be able to take it on single-track roads without being worried about maneuvering or parking, so something on the smaller end of the spectrum was essential.
We settled on an old VW Transporter T5 model, as these vans tend to have a high resale value for their age. We also opted to spring for a pricier van that had already been somewhat converted since I have precisely zero practical skills.
Alas, when the purchasing of the van actually happened, I was staying in a mountain hut in Italy with a friend. This meant that my boyfriend bought a spartan VW T5 for £8,500, about $10,000.
Fortunately, the van we bought had been used by the previous owners as a weekend camper, so it came with insulation and windows, which would have been difficult jobs to do ourselves.
It also sort of had a bed system in the back, but we wanted a U-shaped configuration with lots of seating and a collapsible table at which I could do some writing.
The van didn't come with a stove or a sink, but since our budget was limited we decided these built-ins would not be worth it.
The van also lacked electrical wiring in the back and didn't come with cushions, curtains, or a mattress. After sussing out what needed to be done over several gallons of tea, we drew up a floor plan on the back of an envelope and set to work.
The first thing we did was take out the single passenger seat and fit a double-passenger bench so we could take an extra person if needed.
The new passenger seating also has essential storage underneath, which is very useful if you're outdoorsy and can't stop buying things to play with.
My boyfriend was to fit a leisure battery and do all the fiddling with the heating and lighting — he's an engineer by trade so actually understands systems like this.
I was to do everything else.
He was a walking encyclopedia of information, and he let us borrow his tools.
I'd highly recommend finding one of these friends yourself if you're renovating a van. They're far more useful than Google for troubleshooting.
We also saved money on raw materials by using up old furniture from our apartment.
Most thriftily, the kitchen unit is our old TV stand raised up on wooden battens to give it some extra height, plus storage for our tinned food underneath.
The multiuse storage box, which forms both spare seating and the end of the bed, was made out of our old bed slats.
The table and part of the bed platform is made up of shelves from our old bookcase — we nicked our table legs and their fittings straight off our old Ikea tabletop.
In total, we spent around $35 on new wood and a lot of emotional currency on having to redo nearly everything when I measured it wrong.
One of our biggest expenses were custom-sized blocks of foam that'd form the mattress. They cost just under $120.
These pieces had to fit the shape of the van at the back and came apart to form backrests when the table was up.
Although we'd have loved to have a standard-sized mattress or futon that folded up, it wasn't feasible considering the space, especially when it came to headroom. We had to get the thinnest piece of foam that would still be comfortable enough to sleep on.
To upholster the foam, we bought two sets of navy-blue cotton curtains from a bargain bin, then borrowed a friend's mum's sewing machine.
I broke a lot of needles along the way, but I ended up with removable cushion covers that we could clean if something spilled on them.
We cheated a bit by buying custom ones for the windows from a specialist website. This made life a lot easier for us in terms of getting the correct fit and tautness.
Since we had a budget to stick to, I had to DIY the cab-divider curtain that splits the front and back of the van.
I bought a section of curtain rail to screw into the top of the van, then was gifted a single curtain from my boyfriend's parent's attic.
I cut it in half and then hemmed each side to make a pair. They fit perfectly as a cab divider, keeping the heat in and the light out.
By this time, my boyfriend had successfully wired the lighting to a new leisure battery and added in an inverter so that I could run my laptop and phone.
The leisure battery gains its charge from the engine rather than from solar panels, but since we're only running lights and a laptop — not a fridge or a TV— it's fine for us to park up for a few days.
The finishing touches were adding some more storage nets, popping in the obligatory fairy lights, and finding a double-ring gas hob — a sort of portable stovetop — to sit atop the kitchen unit.
One big advantage of having both a non-fixed hob and a removable table is that, if it's nice out, we can easily cook outside.
Once we'd found some big water storage cans and filled the van with our stuff, we were ready to go.
We christened our completed renovation Vandalf the Grey and are looking forward to driving it down the European Alps later this season.