Summer is a time for growth. When activities were canceled due to circumstances that nobody could have predicted, entertainment was scarce, and education was limited. For 11-year-old Lauren Nelson, this period of enforced down time would lead to an exciting endeavor that would take America by storm.

Meet The Young Prodigy

Lauren was always bright and innovative, but above all, determined. Where most people saw this time as a setback, Lauren saw it as a time of opportunity.

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Ever the positive young woman, when an unconventional idea occurred to her, she rose to the occasion.

Reading As The Gateway to Imagination

As a resident of Upstate New York, Lauren was inspired not only by her family’s vast property, but also by the outdoor-themed adventure novels that she enjoyed reading. One particular novel, “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George, sparked a desire for innovation.

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Lauren looked outside her home and saw endless possibilities. She wanted to build forts and explore her own self-sufficiency just like the characters she read in her books. What she didn’t expect was for self-sufficiency to spark from the most unlikely place.

Following Her Joy

Being suddenly restricted in her activities with homeschooling and lockdown, Lauren was forced to think outside the box. She was inspired by her books, and wanted more ways to be outside and enjoy her time alone. Her family encouraged her enthusiasm and Lauren set off to brainstorm.

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The idea of building a treehouse and having her own space was an exciting one. Unfortunately, when Lauren looked into it, she realized that it would be too costly an endeavor, one she wasn’t prepared for. The idea of adding to her American Girl doll collection also appealed, so she researched buying a VW bus for her doll collection.

Her Parents Were Enthusiastic, But Realistic

When Lauren went to her parents with the idea of buying the toy bus, her father was shocked by the price. “You could buy your own camper for that price,” he said. Little did he know, his throw-away comment would take Lauren on an entirely different journey.

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Lauren had spent many months up to this point saving money from various sources. Money from yard sales and the Tooth Fairy had all gone into envelopes that she had intended to go towards 4-H camp that summer. Once it was canceled, though, the funds became available for something else.

Dream Fulfillment From An Unlikely Place

Her father’s comment about buying a real camper made a lightbulb go off in her head. She started to keep an eye out for one she could purchase, with her hopes high. She knew that it wasn’t going to be as easy as she wanted, but she was determined.

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When one of their neighbors listed his twenty-foot, run-down camper for sale, Lauren was thrilled. Her mother, Aimee, was a little more cautious, though, diverting Lauren’s attention whenever they drove by it. “I wasn’t against her having it, I didn’t want her to be disappointed if she didn’t get it.”

Using Adult Skills To Achieve Her Goals

Lauren was thrilled about the idea of owning the camper, though she knew that it would need a lot of work. The 1988 Sunline Sunray camper inspired her, and she told her mother, “I’m going to live in this forever!”

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“She squealed the whole way home,” Aimee said. When Lauren approached the neighbor to inquire about buying it, he stated that the price was $500. Lauren had $400 saved, and when she haggled the price, he was impressed by her determination and said, “Sold.”

Nothing Is Ever Simple, Though

Of course, the journey to self-sufficiency couldn’t be quite that easy. The camper was a fixer upper, and when Lauren and her family looked a little more closely, they realized it would require even more work than they had initially thought.

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The first step to renovating the camper was, of course, cleaning it, and there Lauren and her family ran into their first surprise. The camper was filled with camping equipment, but more than that, they discovered four nests of mice!

An Unexpected Adoption

Lauren thought that the mice were adorable, but, of course, they couldn’t keep them around. “We brought home a family of mice!” Aimee laughed. The process of deep cleaning from that point was intensive, but the entire family was determined to see it through until the end.

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The family all worked together, along with the help of a neighbor, to make the camper livable. Once the mice were removed, Lauren and her family gave all the rugs and cushions a thorough cleaning to get rid of any potential problems from their furry friends.

A Blank Slate for Lauren

The final step after cleaning was to repair any damage that the old camper had. Lauren noticed the windows were leaking water one day when it rained, and her father came to the rescue with a tube of caulk. Once the windows were sealed off and dry, the camper was clean and ready to be transformed.

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Decorating is the fun part, of course, and this was far from the first time that Lauren had exercised her creative muscles. “I get to design it, and I get to pick whatever I want for it!” Lauren said.

Pinterest To The Rescue

Lauren took to the internet to get ideas for thrifty ways to decorate her camper on budget. With dozens of ideas all over Pinterest, Lauren finally settled on a bohemian, beachy vibe for the camper and went to her mother to discuss how to fund it.

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Aimee was continually impressed by her daughter’s innovative and determined ideas, and agreed to invest the $400 that she had saved for Lauren’s camp that summer. Lockdown had caused it to be canceled, so Aimee was happy to reinvest the money in Lauren’s passion project.

Lauren’s Hard Work Paid Off

Lauren’s creativity and frugality allowed her to purchase paint, flooring, cushion covers, and peel-and-stick backsplash that resembled tile. Inspiration from HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters” and help from her family and friends allowed her to transform the dated space into her very own “Camp Hygge,” referring to the Scandinavian concept of coziness.

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Lauren’s mother watched the transformation and her daughter’s determination with pride. “She was very clever and didn’t spend much money,” she said. At the end of two months of hard work, Lauren had created a cozy and inviting spot, perfect for a personal staycation.

A Massive Accomplishment for Lauren

Lauren was highly motivated to create a space that was just for her, and she was now the proud owner of the camper that was parked just outside her home. She explained how it gave her a space to express herself, no matter how small. It was like her own little world!

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Lauren was inspired by a beachy, bohemian vibe – though that didn’t mean sand and seashells, like Aimee initially thought. The cabinets were painted a light teal, while the rest of the camper features an all-white aesthetic with pops of color from decor accessories such as pillows and curtains. To complete the look, a tiny pink and blue sign reads “Lauren’s Lil’ Camper.”

An Unexpected Bonus

Aimee’s mother acknowledged that some of the items that decorated the trailer – pillows, sheets, rugs, etc. – were birthday gifts or already in their shed, contributing to the frugality of the project. Still, she good-naturedly added, “I just don’t understand why my house doesn’t look like this!” in a nod to her daughter’s skills and unconventional approach.

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Decorating wasn’t the end of the journey with her camper, though. The kitchen needed to be hooked up for electricity so that all the appliances would run, and Lauren came up with an innovative idea that would fit the “Camp Hygge” aesthetic: solar panels to make the kitchen functional.

Love And Passion Combined

Lauren’s love of the kitchen is apparent in the way that she talks about it. “It’s very light and airy. I can just sit in it and feel very relaxed,” she said. Cooking, particularly lasagna, is a passion of hers, and she can’t wait to be able to use the kitchen for its intended use.

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In the meantime, though, the question of whether the camper can be taken on the road is, of course, one to be considered. “For this year, it’s only a playhouse, but it is road-ready, so we’ll see!” Not that the camper’s driveability would be any deterrent to such a determined young girl.

Looking to the Future

Lauren has bigger ideas for her camper than just personal use. According to Aimee, Lauren has an entrepreneurial spirit, with plans to use the camper for more than one business venture. “I will be renting out the camper! Text my mom if you want to! It’ll be twenty dollars a night!” she stated in a Facebook post.

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She plans on giving a nod to the original idea that she had from her American Doll magazine, by hosting tea parties with her friends and their dolls for $25 each. She also is Red Cross certified and provides babysitting services so that parents can have a break while she cares for their kids.

A Forward-Thinking Mindset

All the money that Lauren earns from her camper goes into her savings envelope, directly following the Dave Ramsey savings plan that her entire family follows, and that allowed her to buy Camp Hygge in the first place. And she already has plans for new projects in the future.

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Beyond saving for solar panels and thinking of new ways to renovate her Camp, Lauren has plans to sell the camper to someone who really loves it, and buy a bigger RV to renovate next. However, she also has considered keeping the van and using it to sleep in when she goes off to college as her very own home-away-from-home.

An Unexpected Blessing

The camper project came about at just the right time for Lauren and her family. The camper allowed for a distraction for other familial hardships as well.

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“I was diagnosed with cancer last summer, so I was going through radiation and to appointments. We were really thinking that this was going to be our summer, since we didn’t get one last year”.

Warming the Hearts of Everyone

Beyond the distraction and joy that the project was able to provide for her family in a time of need, Lauren also recognizes how her project has inspired people. Messages of love and support have poured in from all corners of the internet, from multiple countries and the most unlikely sources.

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Tracie Baker Coley commented on Aimee’s Facebook, “From the moment I met you and your family, I knew how exceptional you all are! You are truly blessed!” Hundreds of comments just like this one prove how much people truly love a heartwarming story.

A True Inspiration

Beyond inspiring adults with joy on the internet, Lauren hopes that her story inspires kids just like her. She hopes to have a career in home renovation one day, and says, “I really hope that kids want to do this and follow their dreams. They should start saving their money and have fun doing it.”

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In the time since her story first aired, Lauren has experienced unprecedented success for her age. She’s signed with a modeling agency, and created an Instagram account to connect more with the people who look up to her. She’s truly a remarkable yo