Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Retirement is a time for rest, independence, and enjoying one’s hard work rewards. Many people can’t wait to reach this stage of life because it means finally having time to focus on themselves and their passions. The prospect of retiring after a lifetime of toil is tantalizing.

The freedom to do as you like is a significant perk of retirement. There will be no more hurried efforts to meet impossible deadlines. It’s a chance to sleep in, take your time with breakfast, and fill your day with whatever brings you the most happiness.

When you retire, you can do whatever you want: reconnect with old interests, see the world, or spend more time with the people who matter most to you.

When Clayton Balabanov reached retirement age, he planned to finally fulfill his lifelong dream of exploring the world. Together with his wife Teresa, they intended to spend their retirement years traveling across the picturesque roads of the US and Canada, according to Insider.

Regrettably, their search for a suitable mobile home to purchase turned out to be fruitless.

Clayton expressed his disappointment, sharing his struggle to find a mobile home that met their needs. He said he wasn’t satisfied with the mobile homes made by manufacturers as they needed to appear more sturdy for year-round use instead of occasional vacations.

Consequently, the couple embarked on a DIY mobile home renovation project.

They aimed to convert an old semi-truck into a spacious, sustainable mobile home.

Clayton's semi-truck.

Clayton envisioned transforming a semitrailer into a living space that could match the comfort and quality of his family’s existing home on Vancouver Island. However, they want it to be sustainable.

He explained they wanted to incorporate solar power, water recycling, and other eco-friendly features that would reduce our carbon footprint and compensate for the truck’s fuel consumption.

Clayton started restoring a truck he described as a “real mess” five years ago.

Clayton's trailer before DIY mobile home renovation project.

Financial constraints prevented Clayton from acquiring a new truck, prompting him to take on the challenge of rebuilding a used model.

He spent a year refurbishing the vehicle’s brakes, engine, and various mechanical components.

In addition to the truck, he also bought a used trailer on eBay. This blank canvas allowed him to use his creativity and bring his vision to life.

Explaining his motivation, Clayton highlighted the desolate nature of the location where he worked.

He relied on a trusty whiteboard to outline his ideas and continuously made adjustments.

Nomad Monster's bedroom with drapes that Clayton personally made for their DIY mobile home renovation.

Converting the semitrailer into a livable space was a challenging task, and Clayton and his wife took on the challenge themselves, investing their time and energy into the project.

Clayton dedicated countless hours to the conversion, working diligently for five years almost daily.

“Most of it I did myself,” Clayton shared, proud of his hands-on approach. He even personally crafted the drapes.

Given the unique nature of their custom build, he believed it would have been challenging to find a contractor who would understand what he needs, explaining “It would take longer to explain it than to do it.” 

Nomad Monster's fully furnished kitchen

Material procurement was another hurdle, especially with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Clayton mentioned that his wife, Teresa,l was responsible for the task.

The DIY mobile home renovation also had a significant price tag of roughly $180,000. 

To transform the semitrailer into a comfortable living space, Clayton and his wife added essential features to make it feel like a home.

They incorporated cozy seating underneath a lounge area where they cleverly installed a loft bed to maximize the use of space.

Spiral staircase in Nomad Monster.

The kitchen has a refrigerator and microwave for their culinary needs. It also has solar-powered induction burners are just one of the many convenient features of their modern full kitchen.

However, what makes their mobile home unique is its spacious and fully equipped kitchen, exceeding the typical size found in most apartments.

Clayton emphasized the importance of creating a comfortable living space for their future years.

“At 75, I don’t want to struggle in a small, cramped kitchen just to make a simple meal,” Clayton explained.

Nomad Monster's movie theater.

But their creativity didn’t stop there. The couple also carved out spaces for an office, garage, living room, bedroom, library, and bathroom. One striking feature is the impressive spiral staircase, which adds aesthetic appeal and saves valuable space.

He expressed his satisfaction with the staircase: “It looks awesome and takes up less space than regular stairs.”

Clayton also built a “movie theater” within the trailer, allowing the couple to enjoy their favorite shows and movies together.

Equipped with a 75-inch 4K TV and a surround sound system, the cozy room provides a cinematic experience on the road.

Teresa's library.

Thanks to Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service, they can stream video content from popular platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, even in remote locations.

Clayton said that it is a way for them to unwind in the evenings and enjoy an excellent movie for entertainment.

Meanwhile, Teresa has found solace in the library area of the trailer. The reading chair and bookshelves have become her sanctuary near the top of the spiral staircase. Since settling into their semitrailer in September, Teresa has devoured 42 books.

Hot tub in Nomad Monster's bathroom.


“Teresa likes books. She decided that that would be her main entertainment,” Clayton said.

Adding to the amenities of their semitrailer, Clayton and Teresa have incorporated a hot tub into their bathroom.

The lower half of the bathroom features a jetted tub, providing a luxurious bathing experience. Considering the minimal price difference, Clayton explained that a tub with jets was a logical choice.

While the dining area may be moderately sized, Clayton emphasized its functionality. He shared an experience of hosting guests for tea with three people comfortably seated at the dining table.

Nomad Monster dining area that can accomodate up to four people.

Clayton often sits on the nearby stairs, which are conveniently located next to the dining area, allowing him to participate in the conversation actively.

Hosting people for dinner is enjoyable and fosters a sense of community, providing opportunities to connect with fellow nomads and create meaningful connections, according to Clayton.

Despite encountering challenges, the Balabanovs’ maiden voyage in their “Nomad Monster” RV has been eventful.

Nomad Monster's broken radiator hose fixed mg duct tape.


Issues such as roof leaks, solar battery problems, and melted cables have presented obstacles. An incident involving the bursting of the upper radiator hose in Nebraska was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube in October. Clayton referred to it as their voyage where “everything breaks.”

Nevertheless, they remain determined to address the setbacks, learning from what didn’t work and refining what works in their DIY mobile home renovation as they journey across Canada.

Nomad Monster's solar panel.

Reflecting on the extensive time spent on the truck’s construction, Clayton admitted that he might have approached it differently.

He acknowledged that five years devoted to the project could have been spent on the road if he had chosen a smaller, less complex option. However, he said that he enjoyed doing it.

Clayton's Honda motorcycle.

Clayton advises those considering a similar endeavor to start small and gradually expand. He believes constructing a mobile home from a semi-truck requires exceptional skills and significant resources, which may consume considerable time.

Despite their DIY mobile home renovation challenges, the couple is thrilled to explore North America in their “Nomad Monster” RV.

Having sold their house and taxi company, they have committed to making the mobile home their permanent residence for the foreseeable future.

Clayton and Teresa waving from their mobile home's balcony.


Their retirement plans include embracing the nomadic lifestyle, living in the RV, traveling across the United States and Canada, and exploring scenic spots via motorcycle.

“You only live so long,” Clayton said. “It’s guaranteed you’re going to die, so make the most of living between now and then. That’s what we’re doing.”

Watch Clayton and Teresa’s DIY mobile home renovation below: