Enabled by new technologies and new notions of work-life balance and helped along by a changing job market, many young people are ditching the office cubicle by downsizing their lives (and therefore their expenses), as well as engaging in digital nomadism (ie. travelling while working full-time, using the Internet).
Expressions of this newfound freedom can look pretty different. Inspired by the tiny house movement to have a debt-free home on wheels of their own, but wanting something that was more suited to life on the road, Atlanta filmmakers and graphic designers James Martin and Jen West converted this "full shorty" school bus into a comfortable home for them and their dog, Cilantro and cat, Frenzy. Watch James (who's also a bartender-mixologist and writes about cocktails) give Derek Diedricksen of Relax Shacks a tour:
Nicknamed Eldon, the bus is a 1988 Chevy 8.2L Detroit Diesel school bus that the couple had purchased on Craigslist. Since meeting five years ago, the couple had always wanted a secondary home and office for their frequent trips to festivals around the country, and had always thought it would be a bus. As Jen told us:
Since dreaming of the concept several years before we ever purchased anything, we always knew we wanted a school bus. We love the aesthetic and contrast of the hardy external frame coupled with the comforts of a home. Regular RVs never have the design that we desired, so we knew we'd have to take matters into our own hands. There's also the fun challenge of exploring the unknown. We certainly had no idea what we were doing when we started out, and that was exhilarating. We didn't really have a preference on the size of the bus, but in hindsight picking a shorter version was the right choice for us.
Eldon's total footprint of livable space is 123 square feet, encompassing a dining booth with storage under the seats, a kitchen with an all-purpose counter that doubles as another workspace, private toilet, multifunctional sofa that transforms into a full-size bed, classic mini-bar, and plenty of storage.
James and Jen tried to keep as much of the "bus vibe" as much as possible by retaining the original driver's seat, dashboard and windows. Salvaged wood materials were incorporated as much as possible. The walls and floors were completely re-insulated to keep the bus cozy, and the windows have insulation film as well. The plan is to install some kind of outdoor shower system for the times they don't have access to one. Perhaps the most striking feature is Eldon's 8-foot by 8-foot roof deck -- perfect for hanging out above the ground, possibly with a freshly mixed cocktail in hand.
In total, the couple spent $15,000 on top of sponsorships, and did a lot of the work themselves over the course of 15 months, except for the welding and electrical work. Many of their friends in the 'skoolie' bus conversion community (such as Zack and Annie of Natural State Nomads, among others) helped out with hammering out design and technical details.
It's a cozy little home on wheels that fits the couple's patterns of work and travel, something that they lovingly renovated with their own two hands. The bus recently made its debut trip, and even won an award for best bus conversion at the Georgia Tiny House Festival. With plans to head up to more festivals on the East Coast this summer, Jen has this to say about the bus life:
The advantages of having a home on wheels is the ability to take off at a moment's notice. We don't need to spend crazy amounts of money on a hotel when we want to take a trip. Plus, our bus is customized to make us happy. If you are considering taking on a project such as this, be sure to take the necessary time to plan and give yourself plenty of room to make mistakes. It will probably take longer than you originally anticipate, too. Consider approaching your build out in phases to make it easier to digest mentally. Know that it will be hard, but will also be rewarding beyond measure.