Woman quits her job and ends 5 year relationship to live in a van with her dog

If you’ve ever contemplated giving up your 9 to 5, getting rid of all your unnecessary possessions and baggage, and just getting out on the open road to freedom, you’re not alone.

In fact, Linnea Schmelzer did exactly that when, when she quit her job and ended her five year relationship to move into a home on wheels with her beloved German Shepherd, Akela.

The 26-year-old, who hails from Wisconsin in the United States, spent $7,500 (£5,300) in savings on renovating a van she and Akela could live in, which she later named Togo.

Linnea previously worked as a field instructor for a wilderness therapy company, but although she was happy, she was left wanting more, and now owns her own online health business.

“I did enjoy my life prior to the van. It was filled with building my future, spending time with friends, working on my relationship with my partner at the time and being really active in more ways than one,” she explained.

“I will say though, I was excited for something different and more fulfilling. I knew in my heart that my life wasn’t really what I wanted it to be.

“I was seeking more depth, purpose, travels and experiences, so I decided to get Togo.”

And, it wasn’t just her job she left behind, as Linnea also ended her five year relationship before embarking on the nomad lifestyle.

“We were together for five years. It was serious and for a long time I did think we would be together forever,” she said.

“Our decision was mutual and we are still very close friends.”

Linnea bought Togo for $20,000 (£14,100) back in May 2020, before spending $7,500 (£5,300) on doing it up into a home she could live in, doing much of the work herself.

“A lot of the build felt like risk-taking and being okay with imperfection, while also learning how to trust myself,” she said.

“I had an idea for the layout but never actually drew a design, which most people would advise against. I just fit things in as I went, and built what I wanted next based on what made sense to me.”

The van boasts a bed, electricity, cabinets and mirrors, just like a normal home, however Linnea chose not to install a shower, water pump or toilet as she wanted to keep it simple. Instead uses public restrooms – or goes to the toilet in the wilderness.

When it comes to showering, she heats up water and pours it into a 6-litre dromedary, using a shower tent that is stored in her van.

“I wanted Togo to feel like a tiny cabin. I knew I would spend the majority of my time alone and wanted a space that felt comforting, earthy, and cosy,” Linnea said.

“My build is very simple; no shower, no water pump, no toilet – but I knew that I would be perfectly happy without those luxuries. I truly think it’s beautiful that we all have different definitions of living a content life.”

The nature-lover keeps most of her outdoor equipment in a space under her bed, which she refers to as her ‘garage’ – including backpacking material, sleeping bags, her climbing harness, yoga mat and dumbbells, extra fuel and water and two large Tupperware containers with extra clothes.

She uses a propane stove to cook her meals and has a mini fridge inside the van where she stores all her food.

Linnea’s beloved pooch Akela sleeps alongside her in the van, with the nomad describing her as “the ultimate travel partner and companion.”

“Akela is as comfortable on my bed as she is in our two-person tent in the wilderness. She is my ultimate travel partner and companion, and I can’t imagine doing any of this without her,” she said.

“With that being said, she does take up a lot of space, and she leaves hair everywhere. I don’t mind this though, I understand it’s just all a part of it!”

Linnea added: “She is also protective of the van and myself, which makes me feel much more comfortable knowing that she will always warn me of danger.

“Akela truly has the best life. First thing every morning she gets to play outside or run with me. She loves to swim, hike, climb mountains, and explore, and she gets to do that almost every day of her life.”

And, Linnea has no plans to give up the nomad life anytime soon, as she loves spending time on her own in nature.

“I love living the way I do. I value my alone time and being in nature,” she said.

“I am often at peace, excited for what I will witness or see in each area and I mostly feel really grounded.”