Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by Jessica Lauren Vine
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a converted school bus?
Or maybe you’re curious about the way life is when you’re a minimalist who lives tiny?
I can tell you from personal experience that this is the best life has to offer if you just take the leap.
Hi, I’m Brooke and I live and travel full time with my husband and our two children in our off-grid Skoolie! I’d love to give my entirely honest, yet somewhat admittedly eccentric take on this unconventional lifestyle we’ve chosen for our family.
When we decided to buy a school bus to convert into our tiny home on wheels, most people thought we were crazy or just flat out couldn’t understand why we’d sell our beautiful home, our vehicles, and about 95% of our belongings we had worked so hard to acquire over the years for this.
We don’t owe anyone an explanation but when we do give one, the reaction is usually something along the lines of “I wish I had done that when I could’ve” or “you’re living my dream”. We try to encourage others to chase whatever they long for in life. Whether or not that’s a school bus conversion is entirely up to the individual.
Living This Tiny Lifestyle on the Road Isn’t Easy
Living this tiny lifestyle on the road isn’t for the faint of heart. If you want this, then you’ll do anything to make it work. Being in a skoolie that you build yourself can be wonderful in so many ways.
Let’s start off strong with the fact that we no longer have a mortgage or bills, to live debt free and be able to take your home with you wherever you go is a win in my book! I had a few things I always worried about when we would consider traveling full time before actually taking the plunge.
The price of RV’s, trucks to pull said RV, and affording to stay at campgrounds is more than a daunting thought.
Those three things alone would cost just about the price of a home, or you’d be paying what a mortgage and bills could cost.
That didn’t make the aspect of traveling full time worth it to us because the entire point is to leave the “rat race” behind and spend more time together as a family while experiencing all we can.
We have spent somewhere around $25,000 out of pocket with cash to build our bus, and we’re fully off-grid, meaning this rig is self-contained with a solar system, water system, and composting toilet so we can comfortably boondock anywhere, anytime we want.
No paying for campgrounds nightly! We also chose to not bring along a second vehicle. The goal has always been to live with less, cut down on bills/costs, be debt free, and be able to live on one small income as opposed to working our lives away forever just as we were in a typical house.
The Skoolie Life
Our Skoolie is 40ft long.
We have plenty of space inside with the way we chose to build our layout.
There are many storage compartments for everything we need including a few things we kept near and dear to us that fit right under our bed next to our freshwater tank. We truly feel like we have more than we could ever need while living tiny.
The building materials we chose for our Skoolie are the same as you’d use in a stationary home so we know our rig could last a lifetime, withstanding just about any type of disaster as opposed to the flimsy materials used for a regular RV and that’s very comforting to us.
Not to mention, this is a school bus that is for safely transporting children to and from school all without seatbelts. The crash tests on these make it seem as if it’s built like a tank. We feel very safe in our home.
We thought this lifestyle might be a difficult adjustment for our children.
Luckily, they’re both in the toddler years still and never went to any type of school or daycare so the transition was very easy for us. The only subject we gave up was dance class that the kids have been in most of their lives. This is something we are grateful for because other families would have a much more difficult time making those adjustments to this lifestyle and I understand that.
Although that shouldn’t discourage anyone from going tiny and traveling if it’s what you want to do. Our two kids thrive when we’re outdoors but love the comforts of home, of course, as many children do. We still have internet access, their favorite movies, iPads, toys, and everything in between!
Not All Goes According to Plan
We had every intention of giving up most comforts of our old lifestyle and really wanted to go without a television and conform to a more unconventional way of life with more of a focus on nature and everyday life together, and for the most part, we’ve done just that but when it’s late at night we do enjoy a good film or two as a family.
If you like to have privacy, that’s entirely doable as well, with or without kids just as you have in a sticks and bricks home. We have always spent a lot of time together with our children and love to be around them 24/7 so that wasn’t a problem for us. The best part of living and traveling in a skoolie is our home goes where we go.
The work/life balancing act in society is enough to make you miserable. Especially in the States.
It’s no secret that America asks too much from people and gives too little in order to keep capitalism alive and well. I’m certain most of us can agree on that. One of the puzzle pieces we couldn’t get right at first was finding remote work that gave us the freedom and flexibility we need.
My husband and I really didn’t want remote jobs at first because we didn’t think it would make any sense with our children, so the initial plan was to work camp for the season, jumping around that way. We so desperately wanted to hit the road that we applied for a few different work camping positions and decided to take one in New Hampshire for the summer.
Both of us worked for this campground and switched schedules so our kids could enjoy time with us as well. But like most jobs, this wasn’t what we wanted or really expected. It was nice to have a seasonal spot for a few months entirely for free and to make money while we were there, but we ultimately decided that wasn’t for us anymore.
I turned to magazines and blogs to write on the side for a while to build up a decent portfolio so I can now work from my computer entirely for myself. I’m a freelance writer full time and my husband writes for some blogs as well; this gives us the income with the freedom and flexibility we needed. This was the hardest obstacle to overcome so far.
There are some give-and-take situations that could be a deal breaker for others. For example, if you have an issue with composting toilets and having to handle your own waste every so often there are other options for installing an RV commode.
We have a self-contained Natureshead compositing toilet that we empty every 3 to 4 weeks. The internet access can be iffy sometimes but again, there’s a pricey solution to that as well.
I bought a weboost cell phone signal booster that gives us internet and service anywhere we go, including the mountain tops of West Virginia or in the middle of the deserts of Arizona. You can even live stationary in your bus on your property if it’s stability you crave! Being able to come and go as you so please. We have a home base in Kentucky we travel back to every so often when we need a break from the road. We love having the option to live either way.
I personally believe the best type of traveling rig is a Skoolie, I honestly didn’t even know that a converted school bus existed outside of what I’d seen in the history books about people in the 60s and 70s at Woodstock in vans and buses.
I didn’t know you could make it a full home with every aspect functioning as a house. My husband had shown me pictures/videos online of some converted buses.
I told him originally that I didn’t think it would work for us, but he eventually convinced me to give it a shot and I’m so thankful he made that push for us.
This is a much longer process as opposed to buying an RV and moving in right away, but it is well worth the time and effort. Traveling full-time in a skoolie will teach you lessons about life and yourself you couldn’t possibly imagine. The personal growth is an experience in itself but every bump in the road can be for the better.
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