Lessons Learned in an Ambulance

When we started work on converting our ambulance (named Arnold) into our tiny home on wheels, it quickly became clear to us that this process was a microcosm of the lifestyle design process we lead for people making big life transitions. In learning that, we’ll share our comparison to OUR big life transition, and we’d love to hear how you can relate in the comments below.



We walked into Arnold on Day 1 and saw all the useful cabinets, lights, and electric outlets that were already installed for us. Certain cabinets would need to be moved, but overall we could see a great structure that was prepared and ready to be molded. Unfortunately, as we began to look at the structure and attempt to remove the pieces that we didn’t want, it became clear that all the walls and cabinets on each side of the space were…connected.

Beth felt a pang of resistance when we realized that in order to put in the walls, floor, ceiling, and bed area we wanted, EVERYTHING would have to come out. No more neat red cushions lining the walls or useful seats with seatbelts we could use to legally transport people in the back. No more awesome hidden storage compartments, or blood pressure cuff on the wall.

What a scary moment. Everything we were looking at was perfectly useful, safe, tied up in a bow for us, and we knew we had to tear it all out. We remembered feeling that way about our life just one year ago. We had a house, so much furniture, and all the little gadgets we could need in our kitchen. When we decided we wanted to split our time between Pennsylvania and Arizona each year, we realized that the rest of those nice, safe, possessions needed to be stripped from our lives as well.

Some pieces came out of Arnold easily. Others had to be hacked at with power tools and sledgehammers until they finally came loose. There were some parts, like the captain’s chair and inverter box, that we hung onto until the very end of the process.

It was painful, it was labor intensive, and it was something we had to barrel into and through without thinking too much, or else it would stop our progress. We remember that feeling in our house, holding onto so much until we were just about to sell it, downsizing three times in the months before moving to Arizona, taking time and effort to physically and emotionally let go of THINGS that, in the end, didn’t mean all that much to us.

In both the ambulance and the life transition experience, one thing was very much the same: The more we cleared away from the old, the more potential we began to see in the new.



In any experience wandering into the unknown, mistakes will be made and challenges will appear.

This was a first for both of us, and we were doing all we could to learn how to move forward (YouTube and Google are wonderful inventions), but inevitably we were going to flub up at some point. The first big one happened not a week into the process, when we got the wrong floor adhesive for our engineered hardwood.

So, what can you do? We had a choice how to respond. We could freak out and get embarrassed and defeated and stop everything. We could tear out all the hardwood, likely damaging it, and replace the whole floor, OR we could find solution to work with what we’d done. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t float into option 1 for a time. We seriously considered option 2. In the end, we did more footwork and research and decided option 3 most met our needs and addressed our problems.

There were also SO many parts we either didn’t know how to remove, or didn’t know a process for when we approached them. Again, I’ll admit we initially threw a bit of a fit about those things. Eventually, we put on our big kid pants, watched a YouTube video or five, and moved forward with a new confidence.

Similarly, when selling our house and figuring out what to do in the interim, there were challenges, mistakes or missteps, and challenges to overcome. Most of the mistakes we made were with registering our business, which we’re learning about now that it’s tax time. Challenges were in finding a place to live (with a cat), working out healthcare, wondering what to do with, now, zero furniture, readjusting our budget, and deciding to maintain or let go of commitments that were meant to be year-round.

Again, we always have a choice in how we respond in these situations. The uncertainty could cause you to freeze. The size of the challenge in front of you may cause you to want to retreat. We found that taking things one day at a time, one project at a time, and doing our best not to move into the future in our heads before we’re actually there, is really the only way we could move forward with sanity.

The biggest takeaway for us was learning to appreciate and relish the delicious beauty of uncertainty and the growth that comes because of it.



Now comes the fun part. Your life, your ambulance is CLEARED of anything old that might be holding you back. You might even have a few new foundational elements in place. You’d think it would be easy to move forward with a clear design in mind, and MAYBE if you’re an architect or something you would be right. This message is for those who are NOT. And moving through life this way is much more applicable to those who are not.

We had a design in mind. But guess what? As we started building and getting a few things in place, we realized we couldn’t have it exactly how we wanted it. We haven’t made it far through the re-build of Arnold yet, but this is something we’re already finding. If we want the bathroom to be in this space, then the AC has to move. If the AC has to live in this new space, our kitchen needs to accommodate that. Around each corner we discover some new limitation that we have to utilize our agility in order to get around. The way we designed our lifestyle, fitting in the essentials and accommodating everything else as best as we could, was almost exactly the same process. You can never know what curves life is going to throw at you to force you to modify your plans, but you can be prepared to come up against and weigh them for the best outcome for your ultimate goals.

The learning here: The most important thing to this process is not the concrete details. It is the vision, the values, the essence of what you want. With each decision we make, we keep that vision in mind and use it as a measuring stick for how aligned each possible choice is to our main goal. By doing that, we’re confident that however Arnold turns out, and however our life turns out, we will have something perfectly imperfect that we really, truly, desire.


We wish you the best in your own life transition and are here for all your lifestyle design needs! Give us a follow on Youtube to keep up with all the Arnold Conversion videos:


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