Sydney Skalski ’19 (BS Sports and Fitness Management)

I didn’t plan on transforming an ambulance into a tiny home, but I love living in it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’m proud of it. The idea began when I made friends with a few “van-lifers,” who had gone to Tech and I became intrigued by the lifestyle. I liked the sustainability, minimalism, and frugality of it and especially the freedom that accompanied having a home on wheels.

I originally wanted a van for the project and looked at a variety in online market places. I came across an ambulance for sale and immediately thought, “Wow! This is luxurious. I could stand up in that, and it’s in my budget.” I looked at it the next day, took it for a test drive and soon made the decision that it was going to be my home. My goal was to be as self-sufficient as I could. That included building it pretty much by myself.

It took me all summer to complete, finishing the Sunday before the start of the fall semester. I had never built anything in my life before and I wanted everything to be just the way I wanted. My aim was to prove to myself and to those who thought I was crazy that I could make a beautiful home for myself and that I could live well in a non-traditional setting.

Google became my best friend throughout the process. I did almost everything myself, except for the foam insulation. My boyfriend taught me how to do the electrical wiring.  I learned so many useful skills like plumbing, setting up a solar system and how to use power tools.

I’ll admit that living in a portable home may not be as simple or as glamorous as people portray it to be. I heat with a woodstove so when I’m not home everything freezes, including my food. Not having a bathroom can be a little tricky at times but I have a sink and a travel toilet so I’m not fully without. I shower at the SDC and it works perfectly. Michigan Tech has been amazing and so supportive of my lifestyle. I could not have picked a better place to start my adventure.

Soon I’ll be moving to Rhinelander, Wisconsin (where I built my tiny home) and work at my summer job providing in-home care for the elderly and people with disabilities, before pursuing a graduate degree in Dietetics. I love the freedom of going wherever I get a job without question. I can be my own boss and won’t have to deal with landlords.

Without question, the coolest thing about living in an ambulance is the people I meet and their reactions to learning that I built it. To be honest, I really enjoy the shock factor. I only wish I had done it sooner.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.