Family's Fabulous Bus Conversion Has Play Loft and Roof Deck

This traveling family of five converted a bus into a beautiful home-on-wheels.

bus conversion living room The Lost Bells

Colby Bell / The Lost Bells

Most people will believe that it's near impossible to travel full-time once one gets settled down with a family, jobs, and a house. But with technology allowing many people to work wherever there's a WiFi signal, and the emergence of phenomena like digital nomadism, van life and bus life, and worldschooling, it's now more possible than ever to take that plunge, even if you might have a family with three young kids.

That's the story behind the journey of the Bell family: Colby, Emily, and their three children. Originally based in Utah, Colby had started working remotely as a software engineer when the family decided to start traveling full-time back in 2018. After selling most of their possessions and renting out their house, they made their way through Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Fiji during the next several months. After returning to the United States, they planned their next move: renovating a bus into a modern home-on-wheels and selling their 3,000-square-foot home, which would allow them to continue traveling. Says Emily, a former teacher:

"We loved our house and we loved our neighborhood, but our travel changed the way we saw the world and our goals and priorities."

The couple found a partially renovated, 36-foot-long International bus with a raised roof of 21 inches, and finished off the project in August 2020. Their incredible bus conversion is packed with a slew of great design ideas, which we can see in this detailed tour:

bus conversion Colby Bell / The Lost Bells
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells

The Bells' 250-square-foot bus is laid out with a long central aisle that's flanked by two comfortable sofas, which came from their old house. This layout allows the family to sit together in one space, and it's also the spot where they eat, using small tables that can fold away.

bus conversion living room
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells

One of the cleverest design ideas in the bus sits right over the driver's seat at the front: a kid-friendly mini-loft that serves as a play area for the children. Once the kids have climbed up, they can read a book or play with a small collection of toys.

bus conversion The Lost Bells play loft
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells

The middle of the bus is configured as an L-shape, and that's where we find the kitchen, which Emily calls the "heart of the home." It's well-equipped with a compact propane stove and oven, sink, butcher-block countertops and lots of cabinets above and below (even in the kickplates) for storage. The cabinetry has magnetic closures to ensure that nothing flies out during travel.

bus conversion kitchen The Lost Bells
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells

Behind the kitchen is the pantry area, which houses an apartment-sized refrigerator, and an ingenious vertical slide-out pantry.

bus conversion kitchen pantry The Lost Bells
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells

Past that, we come to an area with a slightly raised floor, due to the position of the bus' wheel well. Instead of leaving it as-is, Colby had the great idea to raise all of this area to incorporate under-floor storage.

Next up is the bathroom and its sliding pocket door, which has a composting toilet and a shower stall that has a tiny sink installed in the corner. Incidentally, the emergency door is here too, providing light, fresh air and all-important fire egress, but all one has to do is pull the curtain over the door for privacy.

bus conversion bathroom The Lost Bells
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells 

The kids have their own bedroom, outfitted with cozy bunks, and even more shelving for books and drawers for the family's clothes. To make sure clothes fit inside the drawers and make them more individually visible, they have been rolled up and organized – a smart decluttering trick. There's also space for more storage underneath the bunks, and even space for a washing machine.

bus conversion kids bedroom The Lost Bells
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells

Beyond that, we come to an intriguing split door: the bottom half of the door opens up into the "trunk" of the bus home, where the power tools, sports equipment and solar battery are stored. The bus has 1340-watt solar panel system that can be monitored via smartphone, using an app from Victron. The top half of the door opens into the parents' bedroom, which sometimes doubles as a workspace for Colby. There's more storage cabinets here, and a hatch door up to the roof deck.

bus conversion master bedroom The Lost Bells
Colby Bell / The Lost Bells 

The spacious roof deck is done with wood, and serves as Emily's space to practice yoga, and is another workspace for Colby too, with a camping chair.

bus conversion rood deck The Lost Bells
The Lost Bells 

All told, the family spent $14,000 on the bus, and $26,000 on the renovations. Emily says that they hope their story will inspire other families to see the transformative value of travel and living tiny:

"If this is what you want, you could absolutely have it. It's just a matter of making it a priority and focus. I just want to empower people to know that they can have what they want. And if you have a vision and dream, then definitely go for it because you deserve to have what you want."

For more information into the bus' specifications, visit the Bells' blog post, and visit their website and Instagram.