Before we had even considered bus life or building any sort of tiny house for that matter, we had always had the very traditional, “normal” suburban family life. We had a 1500 sq ft house with a decent sized yard bordered by a fence and patrolled by two dogs. Luke worked 40+ hours a week, while I, Rachel, stayed at home with Charlotte and ran a baking business out of our house. We didn’t plan on this changing any time in the near future. That is just how life is supposed to go, isn’t it? We were going to sign Charlotte up for park district classes, home school, be close to our family and friends and just let life do it’s thing. Then everything changed when someone introduced Luke to the idea of a skoolie.
Converting a regular school bus into an off grid, roaming home on wheels was instantly all we could think and talk about. We found a bus on Craig’s List and bought it within two months of learning of this intriguing lifestyle. Over the next ten months, as we worked on different stages of the conversion we couldn’t help but stop ourselves and ask “are we crazy?!”, “can we really do this?”, “is this even something we SHOULD do?!”. I think everyone who has done, is doing, or is thinking about doing a bus house, tiny house, or RV has had these same questions come into their heads at one point or another. However, as many reasons as there was not to do it…. we always found even more reasons TO do it! Freedom, adventure, experience, a chance to explore, meet new people, challenge ourselves, do something different! The excitement far outweighed the occasional anxiety.
After meeting other full time families, whether they’re in an RV, tiny house, skoolie, van or the like, and hearing their stories they almost all have one element in common: the mad scramble that leads up to moving in! And boy was that the case for us. While the state of the bus was merely a plywood subfloor and bare plywood walls, we received notice (that was supposed to come much later) that Luke needed to be in Colorado, ready for work in three weeks. Let me reiterate that…three weeks! We only had plywood up!
We, with the help of amazing family and friends, worked around the clock for two and a half weeks in order to get the bus livable. Not finished, just livable. All while we were trying to downsize and empty out our house. And somehow we managed it.
No we didn’t have running water… or a sink… or toilet… or lights… or a working fridge… but who REALLY needs those things anyway, right?! Let’s just say that the first two weeks in the bus were not exactly how we had envisioned them, but that’s life! You work with what you’ve got. So that’s what we did. We continued to work while living in it. For Luke and I, the transition from house to bus-house was fairly easy. We credit that to the fact that we put so much time, effort, thought, and love into the building and laying out of the bus that it already felt like home. I’m not saying we got used to living in 220 sq ft over night, don’t get me wrong, that took a little bit more time. Some days I still feel like we’re getting used to it. It requires a lot of give and take, patience and grace.
Now a lot of people wonder how Charlotte adjusted to living tiny. I think we moved in at a really convenient age for her, being a year and a half old I’d say she adjusted to the changes fairly quickly: new bed, new room and smaller space to play. We started playing outside a lot more because we were in Colorado during the summer, so why be inside. Plus everyone gets a little stir crazy or bored if you play inside all day every day. Toys were not exempt from the downsizing before we moved in, so we had to pick which were the ones that kept her the most entertained. Having fewer toys however has helped Charlotte’s imagination to flourish, and I mean really flourish, she can find anything from the kitchen, bathroom or outdoors and be enthralled with it. It’s fascinating to watch. We absolutely adore that she can do this for herself. She is about to turn three and basically all of her memories are from after we moved into the bus, all she knows is bus life.
Some families make the transition with older kids or more kids and every one’s transition will be different, but the fact that we had a child never, even for a second, held us back from pursuing our desire to build an off grid bus house. We don’t believe that the size of your family should hold you back from going tiny or living a nomadic life if that is your dream. Although our launch into living tiny and life on the road wasn’t exactly perfect, it was without regret. Some may think “I wish it had been smoother” but looking back at our humble beginnings, we laugh and remember that those early tests of perseverance are what has made our life and our home feel so rewarding. Others in our situation would certainly consider this a right of passage for the lifestyle but don’t let that scare you, looking back now from the other side of things, it’s worth it!