People move into smaller spaces for a variety of reasons. Some do it to save money and gain a debt-free home, others do it for the satisfaction of shedding the burden of all that 'stuff' that clogs our lives and gaining a simpler, fuller and freer life in the process.
But sometimes, major life changes like this are brought on by cataclysmic events that are completely out of our control. For New Zealanders Andrew and Amber of Bus Life NZ, the choice to move from a conventional home into a self-renovated RV bus conversion full-time was brought on by one such life-changing ordeal.
You would not guess from that carefree video tour above, but that ordeal happened to be the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck Christchurch in February 2011. At the time, Andrew and Amber were 25 floors above ground in a building that was only a few miles from the epicentre. That structure ended up being severely damaged, leaning to one side and with its fire escape collapsed, resulting in the couple spending several "nerve-wracking" hours trying to escape. Unsure of whether they were going to live or die, they were finally rescued off the roof of the adjacent building.
Both were traumatized by the experience, and Andrew ended up with post-traumatic stress disorder that eventually became severe depression and anxiety. In the intervening years, the couple recovered and had two kids, Jake and Daisy, and in the aftermath of that brush with death, they have since came to a profound revelation:
We were wasting our lives going to work everyday, putting our kids in daycare all just to have a nicer car, comfier couch, bigger TV and flashier house. So, we have decided we want out. We want out of the prescribed life, we want to be free. Free to spend as many of the hours we have left together. Watching our kids grow up, having amazing experiences and truly living.
It was then that Andrew and Amber decided to renovate a 1987 Volvo B6FA 6-Litre Turbo Diesel bus (formerly a city transit and school bus) into a motorhome that they could live in and use to travel around the country. It took them approximately a year to complete the renovations, working almost every night and weekends, juggling the project along with full-time jobs.
To save space, storage is hidden everywhere: there's hidden storage in the seating benches, and storage underneath the bunk beds for the kids. So far, the kids have adjusted beautifully, as they are used to sharing a bedroom and sharing their belongings with each other.
Andrew tells us that the bus is fully solar-powered, with 750W of solar panels and a 630Ah 12V battery bank. The bus has a 250-litre (66-gallon) fresh water capacity and an additional toilet flushing tank of 80 litres so that the family can use non-potable water or greywater to flush. Rainwater can be harvested from the roof if needed. The bus engine can also run on recycled veggie oil. In total, the couple says that they spent USD $7,000 on buying the bus, and around $15,000 for the interior renovations, which they mostly did themselves except for installing the gas fittings.
Having only moved into their new home about a month ago, the couple says that they are still working full-time for the next couple of months, but are already developing alternative ways to earn income on the road so that they can work and be location-independent at the same time. Since their expenses will be much lower, they will not need as much income, explains Andrew: "The beauty of reducing your outgoings so much is you can reduce your income a lot."
In the aftermath of the recent earthquakes there, we are seeing a good number of New Zealanders opting to rebuild by moving into affordable tiny homes of all stripes. True, a life change like this takes a huge leap of faith. Yet, many like Andrew and Amber are taking the plunge and finding that there's freedom to be found. You can follow the family's inspiring journeys as they settle into the bus via their YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Patreon websites.