A free-spirited man has transformed an old ambulance into an incredible home on wheels with just $14,000 and is now embracing life on the road, after quitting his successful marketing career to become a nomad.
Former marketing manager Benjamin Harris, 33, from Bozeman, Montana, took on the open road in April 2019, after converting a 23ft. long ambulance into a home – complete with a fully-equipped kitchen, indoor and outdoor shower, double bed and ample storage space.
Benjamin bought his set of wheels from a small volunteer fire department in January that same year and spent three months working on it, starting by ripping out the original interior before adding the new touches.
In total, the nomad’s ambulance-turned-home has cost just under $14,000.
Wild and free: A 33-year-old man from Montana has revealed how he quit his marketing career, sold his house, and moved into an old ambulance after turning the emergency vehicle into a stunning home on wheels
Crafty! Benjamin Harris spent $9,000 on the old ambulance, and a further $5,000 on renovations – however he says he has more than made up for those costs thanks to his new budget lifestyle
Before: When Benjamin purchased the ambulance, it was still completely clinical inside, and looked nothing like a home
After: He put his DIY skills to the test and managed to create a beautiful living space, complete with a host of amenities
Cozy: Although the space is small, it comes complete with a fully-functioning kitchen, living space, solar panels – and even a garbage chute
But he’s made it back in spades; with the vehicle solar-powered, Benjamin now doesn’t have any outgoings barring fuel and food costs.
The thrifty man has also been using the profit he made from his house sale to fund his new lifestyle.
‘I’ve always enjoyed travelling so there really wasn’t that much of a lifestyle change when I got the ambulance,’ Benjamin told Jam Press.
‘I went to university for two years and wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in, so instead of paying tons of money to continue and trying to figure it out through school, I decided to take “a year off” to see if I could find out what I really wanted to focus on.
‘During that time off and after some networking, I ended up as a regional marketing manager for a nationally-branded beverage company.
‘That’s when I realized that a “normal” job wasn’t for me – so I left and soon after began my travels.
‘Also, during that time, I realized that a degree was not really necessary for the life I wanted to live and I could find a better use for the money I would have spent chasing a degree.
Vista: Benjamin says he realized early on that a ‘normal’ job might not be for him – but he tried his hand at a corporate career when he landed a role at a beverage company
Check it out! Benjamin confessed that he did not have any building experience, but he was fortunate enough to have learned a few skills from his family
Heads up: ‘I’m not a mechanic or anything but I have been very fortunate to grow up learning different trades from my dad and brothers, who are some of the most talented people that I know,’ he said
Roomie! Benjamin turned the medical storage cabinets into closets and shelving units that he stores his belongings in
‘Since then, I’ve been bouncing around the world from one adventure to the next.’
The ambulance cost Benjamin $9,000 as he began the renovation but he kept the budget low with just $5,000 to transform it.
The ambulance still has fully-functioning sirens and lights and the thrifty DIYer has made use of existing compartments, turning a small door that once allowed medics easy access to oxygen tanks into a garbage chute.
He also added solar panels, transformed the existing cabinets by adding a lick of white paint and built in new furniture.
‘The ambulance is different from most builds because of the insane amount of storage,’ said Benjamin, who had some assistance building it from his brothers Andrew and Peter.
‘I’m not a mechanic or anything but I have been very fortunate to grow up learning different trades from my dad and brothers, who are some of the most talented people that I know.
‘I saved a lot of money by doing all the work myself and repurposing materials left over from jobs that my brother, Peter, had as a contractor.
Handy! The ambulance still has fully-functioning sirens and lights and the thrifty DIYer has made use of existing compartments, turning a small door that once allowed medics easy access to oxygen tanks into a garbage chute
Options: Benjamin decided to stay true to the ambulance’s origins by maintaining the original paintwork on the outside – instead focusing his DIY efforts on the interior
Blank canvas: ‘The inside is where I spent most of the time so it’s a lot more of a comfortable and functional vibe than most would think an old ambulance could be,’ Benjamin explained
‘Most of the interior cabinets besides the ones under the bed were kept from the ambulance.
‘They were built better than I probably would have been able to do so I refaced them so they matched everything and resized a few to work better in the space.
‘I kept the original paint on the outside so the vibe on the outside is still very much that of an ambulance.
‘The inside is where I spent most of the time so it’s a lot more of a comfortable and functional vibe than most would think an old ambulance could be.’
As for special gadgets; the entryway of the ambulance doubles as an indoor shower – although it is rarely used – and a refrigerator that slides from underneath his bed doubles as a place to sit when Benjamin eats at his slide-out wooden table.
He said: ‘There are six locking compartments on the outside that I’m able to store gear such as my skateboard, paddle board, and tools in.
‘One of the bigger compartments also converts into an outdoor kitchen where I do most of the cooking, especially on hotter days.
Something missing? The only amenity that Benjamin does not have in the ambulance is a toilet – although he insists that wasn’t because he couldn’t have one, but rather because he didn’t want one
Reasoning: ‘It’s a small space so no matter what kind of set-up you have you’re going to have to deal with unpleasant smells and I’d rather not mess with it,’ he explained
Work in progress: Benjamin was able to use materials given to him by his brother, who is a contractor, which kept costs down
Ready to go! His first trip saw him travel to Alaska, and he has been bouncing around to different stunning locations ever since, having hit the road in April 2019
‘I don’t have a toilet but that’s by choice.
‘A lot of people say they could never live in a rig without a toilet but I don’t think those people realize that if you have/use a toilet in your rig it doesn’t go anywhere and you’re going to have to deal with it again.
‘It’s a small space so no matter what kind of set-up you have you’re going to have to deal with unpleasant smells and I’d rather not mess with it.
‘I rely on public facilities or when I’m in nature I use a shovel and dig a hole.’
Benjamin’s first trip in his tiny home on wheels was to Alaska and since then he has travelled extensively throughout north and south America, leaving his ambulance in big parking lots and on public lands that are free to use.
He said: ‘Finding places to sleep is usually pretty easy.
‘Most of the areas that I travel are fairly remote and are surrounded by public lands which are open to free camping for anyone.
‘Even in busier places, it’s not too difficult to find a quiet place for the night.
‘Street parking is not my favorite but as long as you’re respectful of people and businesses in the area they’re usually cool with you for a night or two.
‘Walmart and other big parking lots are definitely not my first choice but in a pinch I will use one for a night if I have to.
Parking up: Benjamin said it hasn’t been difficult for him to find places to park his ambulance, and if he has to, he can rely on parking lots at large stores like Walmart
Stunning: ‘If I’m in a place where I know it’s going to be a dry and warm night, I have a mattress that fits perfectly on the roof to sleep out under the stars,’ he said
Beautiful: Benjamin says he has no regrets about moving into the ambulance, and he loves the fact that his life is filled with different ‘adventures’ every day
Funding: He sold a house, and has been able to live off the profits of that for a year or so, but says that when he needs to, he will pick up work along the way
Plan: ‘When I do need money, I’ll stop for a season in an area where I can pick up work on a boat or behind a bar or anything that I think will be fun and interesting,’ he said
‘If I’m in a place where I know it’s going to be a dry and warm night, I have a mattress that fits perfectly on the roof to sleep out under the stars.
‘Otherwise, I’m snuggled up inside on the full-size bed across the back.
‘I always shower outside and have a sprayer hooked up with an on-demand water heater off of one of the outside compartments.’
Benjamin is currently enjoying life in sunny Baja, Mexico.
At the moment, he isn’t generating any income and lives from his savings.
He said: ‘About a year ago, I sold a house and was able to pocket a pretty comfortable profit so I’ve been living off of that as well as a few other investments.
‘When I do need money, I’ll stop for a season in an area where I can pick up work on a boat or behind a bar or anything that I think will be fun and interesting.
‘When I do that, I work really hard to make as much as I can to finance any future adventures.
‘I’m just enjoying everything that I have at the moment and trying to take full advantage of any and all opportunities to continue living a happy life.
Moving on: Benjamin is currently staying in Mexico, but he has traveled around many different US states since hitting the road
Up in the air: ‘There are no “typical days” and that’s what makes this lifestyle so fun and exciting,’ he said
Handy! Because ambulances are made to store plenty of medical supplies, they come complete with plenty of built-in storage
To each their own: Benjamin advised others who want to try a life on the road to test different vehicles to find their perfect fit
‘There are no “typical days” and that’s what makes this lifestyle so fun and exciting.
‘Depending on where you are, you really have no idea what the day is going to throw your way.’
Benjamin offered advice to those who are also interested in building their own tiny dream home.
He said: ‘If it’s something that you’re serious about doing then do whatever you need to to make it happen.
‘I talk to a lot of people who say they’d love to make a change but it’s almost always followed by excuses why it can’t be done.
‘The unknown can be scary but one step beyond that fear is usually excitement.
‘Do your research. Find what type of vehicle would best suit your needs then find the best way to utilize that space.
‘Do some test runs in it and find out what you really want and need before jumping into a build.
‘Above all else, just have fun with it.’