Jayla Hardimon, 24, is a single mother who craves adventure. With the help of her mother and sister, she was juggling college classes, a job as a cashier at McDonald’s, and life as a mother to a toddler two years ago. “I can’t keep waking up, going to work and school, and doing it all over again,” she thought. “I wanted to show the world to my son.”
So she made a new life for herself and her son, living outside in a van on the open road. The idea of driving across the country in a van was more than just a vacation; it was a dream. Hardimon described his new way of life as “financial freedom and the ability to be gone for more than a few weeks.” Driving across the country in a van with her young son seemed like a fun way to explore while also getting a hands-on education in the Great Outdoors.
Hardimon had saved enough money from her jobs as a waitress and nanny to make it financially viable. However, there were a few difficulties. First and foremost, she was an inexperienced traveler. More importantly, she had never driven a van or a motorhome before, let alone with a toddler in tow. “I am not a handy person and have no carpentry skills,” she explained. I was just determined to solve this.”
She then spent the next six months and $5,000 gutting the van, a project she documented on her TikTok account This Travel Mom. She removed the seating, applied peel-and-stick vinyl coating to the floorboards, and built in wall insulation and shelving with childproof locks. They now have a portable car fridge and freezer, a two-burner propane stove, a full-size mattress with a wooden bed frame, a kitchen pantry, and a dining table that doubles as a work space in their mobile home.
There is a small portable toilet and running water in the bathroom. Kareem’s numerous toys have a home, and Hardimon made the van extra cozy with a colorful steering wheel cover, wall frames, and adorable rugs. Hardimon and Kareem hit the road in the fall of 2021 and haven’t looked back since. They have been saving for trips home to see family, but have spent the majority of their time traveling in the van.