News Home & Design Air Force Veteran Builds Her Own Bohemian Bus Conversion This 96-square-foot home-on-wheels is allowing one veteran to rediscover herself. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published April 4, 2022 03:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Tiny House Giant Journey Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Van life has become increasingly popular during the last several years, with more and more Americans considering switching over for a myriad of reasons. Some may live in a converted van or bus in order to travel more, while others do it because it means being able to combine travel with full-time work. Many people would live in a converted vehicle also if it means shedding debt, avoiding costly rents and mortgages, or retiring more comfortably. On a more personal level, some consider striking out on a home-on-wheels as a form of self-care. That was the case with former Air Force veteran Brittany, who recently began living in a self-renovated short bus she has named "Domino" after an 11-year career in the military. We get a detailed tour of Brittany's bohemian abode via Tiny House Giant Journey: Tiny House Giant Journey As Brittany explains, living in a bus that she built herself has allowed her a more introspective view into her own life—where she has been, where she is going, what her abilities are, and who she really is: "I felt like I lost my first name when I was in the military. And Domino really allowed me to rediscover who 'Brittany' really is. When I separated from the Air Force, it was a huge change. I was already resilient, but bus life really tests [you]. You're put in all of these different situations and it really forces you to think outside of the box and see how you can basically fix your problem with the little bit of resources that you have." Domino is built out of a 19-foot-long 1998 Chevy 3500 short bus, which Brittany purchased from an online auction for $3,200. Brittany estimates that the remodel cost about $15,000 (including the solar power system, and the refrigerator), meaning that the whole project cost her about $18,200. Brittany says she chose a bus with a shorter length because it can fit into a regular parking space, yet is wide enough to give that extra bit of comfort inside. Though the old signage has been removed (as is typically required by regulations), Brittany chose to keep the exterior in its original bright yellow color, as it adds some nostalgic charm to the bus—in addition to prompting others to drive more carefully when it's around. Tiny House Giant Journey The bus roof is the place where Brittany has installed a 320-watt flexible solar panel. Tiny House Giant Journey Domino's 95-square-foot (8.8 square meters) interior is compact, but Brittany has managed to make it feel more spacious by using furnishings and accessories in a multifunctional way. As Brittany explains, this iteration of Domino is in its second version which was refined when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit; the first and simpler version was built back in 2019, and she has since made some improvements, in addition to repurposing some of the items from the first build. For instance, in the kitchen, Brittany has reused an iridescent bowl sink from the initial build. The butcher block countertop has glitter sealed into its shiny surface, while the tiled backsplash is actually a cost-effective solution that reuses white tile bought from Habitat for Humanity, and combines it with colorful, geometric stickers purchased online. Tiny House Giant Journey Beside the counter, the 12-volt, 50-liter RV refrigerator sits in its own nook, while a string of LED lights and artificial ivy plants hang from an open wall shelf. The cabinet pulls underneath are gold-edged geode slices. The overall look here is vibrant and unique, reflecting Brittany's bubbly personality. Tiny House Giant Journey Across from the kitchen, we have the dual-purpose couch. Underneath, Brittany stores her tools, while above, it can function as a sofa, or as a guest bed for a smaller person. Brittany admits that she can't sew, so for her curtains, she used reflective material that is covered with stapled fabric. To dress up the unsightly solar cable conduits, she spray painted them in a gold color and covered them with artificial plants. Tiny House Giant Journey At the rear, Brittany's full-sized bed is placed on top of a platform that still allows her to sit up in bed. To bring some color and life into this cozy space, she uses textured fabrics, in addition to hanging up some lovely art, a mirror, and some artificial plants. Tiny House Giant Journey Below the bed, we have Brittany's "crawl-in closet," which came about because she is not a fan of regularly folding clothes, especially in a small space. Instead, this alternative permits her to easily crawl under the bed and hang up her clothes, shoes and store her solar power equipment here. Besides that, she also has her shower tent and propane shower tucked away here, ready to use. For toilet business, Brittany uses a Luggable Loo, a simple, bucket-style portable toilet that she wraps with a crocheted cover. Tiny House Giant Journey Ultimately, Brittany's one-of-a-kind bus not only has her rediscovering herself, it's also given her a chance to connect with other buslifers and vanlifers, as well as to represent and advocate for more diversity in the wider alternative lifestyle movement: "One thing that drew me into van life was the community. I have to say [though], whenever I pulled up YouTube or #vanlife, I was always wondering, where do I fit in? People of color -- we do van life. We are out there. We just don't have that much visibility. It is great that this community [#DiversifyVanLife and #BlackVanLife] has helped amplify our voices and let people know that we do belong in these outdoor spaces." To follow Brittany in her travels, visit her Instagram.