For many of us, the idea of a whole family travelling together seems like something reserved for a precious few weeks during the year, when there's no school for the kids, and mom and dad can finagle some time off from their busy jobs. It's one of those modern paradoxes where one stresses out to make time to go on vacation, and then while on vacation, one is rushed to pack all that 'relaxation' in.
But as we are learning from people opting for mortgage-free tiny houses or more minimalist lifestyles, there are other ways to live life. Wanting to travel full-time with their young daughter Charlotte and dog Baxter, Luke and Rachel Davis of Midwest Wanderers decided to swap their 1,500-square-foot home for a 240-square-foot school bus conversion that they renovated themselves. It's one of the best conversions we've seen thus far, featuring a raised roof and lots of lovely design touches. We get a tour of the Davis' brilliant off-grid home on wheels via Bryce Langston of Living Big In A Tiny House:
As Luke explains on their blog, the idea to switch over to a tiny bus home did not come as an immediate, 'a-ha!' moment, but as a gradual realization:
At first it seemed like such a crazy, far out idea, the kind you only dream of doing but 'could never really happen.' The more we talked about it the more we realized we couldn’t shake the desire for this lifestyle of freedom. What do we really have to lose? Our big TV? Our comfy couches? Our yard? Our nice big kitchen? All these things are material possessions that can easily be replaced or lived without. This brought on an epiphany. We realized how much time and money we spend on our possessions and how much THEY own US! How does it make any sense that the things that are supposed to make us “happy” are really the things that take away what is most important to us -- time?
After some contemplation, the Davises finally decided to take the leap. Though they are originally based near Chicago, Illinois, they were able to find a used school bus out-of-state, which they purchased for USD $4,000. After driving it back, they took about a year and a half to do the renovations: raising the roof 24 inches to a total of 12'-9", adding some neat porthole skylights, and redoing the entire interior to include a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and two beds. It helped immensely that Luke already had years of experience in the construction trades.
As you can see coming in, the living space really feels like a home, rather than the inside of a bus, thanks to the higher roof. The kitchen is first up, outfitted with a large counter, four-burner propane stove and a refrigerator on the other side of the bus. Rachel, who is a former baker, says that a well-equipped, larger-sized kitchen was a necessity for their family.
Coming in a bit further past the kitchen is the sitting area, which has a convertible couch that can flip down into an extra bed. There's also storage underneath. Across from the sofa is the large-ish dining table, which can be folded down and chairs stacked up, if the family needs more space.
Beyond that is the cast iron pot belly woodstove and the bathroom right across. The bathroom includes a composting toilet, which the Davises say was a great choice, since they don't have a blackwater tank to empty. There is a standard-sized RV-style tub shower, perfect for giving baths to little Charlotte.
The sleeping area is an interesting design: thanks to the elevated roof, the parents' bed is stacked on top of Charlotte's little crib-style bed on the bottom. It's a cozy space that has everyone close together.
Luke says that they tried to make the 37-foot-long bus as self-sufficient as possible, in addition to using recycled materials (all the technical details here):
We have a 900-watt solar array that supplies all of our power, a composting toilet, upcycled bamboo flooring, reclaimed barn beam countertops, reclaimed barn wood accent wall, locally reclaimed walnut for our table, and our stove and water heater run on propane which burns with essentially no emissions. Also we are able to stretch our 100-gallon fresh water tank to last 2 weeks by utilizing an extremely low flow shower head and of course treating every drop like it matters.
The Davises guesstimate that they spent about $30,000 on the renovations, making it one of the more expensive bus conversions we've seen so far, but still way less than an RV or tiny house of a comparable size. In addition, the family's monthly expenses while living on the bus are much less compared to their previous lifestyle. To top if off, they've managed to visit many states during the last year -- places that they wouldn't have been able to visit if they were stuck in one place.
It's true that this kind of life may not be for everyone, but it's also true that there is more than one way to live life to the fullest. And with time being so short, it may be best to spend it with your loved ones by your side. For more, visit Midwest Wanderers and Instagram.
To see more inspirational bus conversions, check out Kimberley's book, The Modern House Bus.