The quintessential family road trip takes on all kinds of forms: it can be done with a simple tent, or with a camper or perhaps a larger RV. For Shelby and Tyler Kregel and their young daughter, their year-long road trip is being done with a converted short school bus, which is their home on the road as the family tours the country, going from one art show to the next, exhibiting and selling Shelby's art. Watch this wonderful tour of their small but cozy dwelling on wheels via Tiny Home Tours:
The couple's green bus home is a 1994 Ford with an Econoline front end, which they chose because its size means it's easy to drive and park, and what's under the hood is also easier for regular mechanics to fix if there's any issues, compared to a larger bus.Despite the small size, the renovated interior feels airy and well-designed. There's a large bed at the back, which sits on a platform that full of places to store things, such as a child safety gate, plus a refurbished metal filing cabinet that acts as clothing storage. The bookshelf above the bed is just a 2x10 piece of lumber that has been attached to the existing overhead ledges in the bus. Out of view is a mirror cabinet where the family stores their toiletries.
The kitchen is off to one side, and includes a sink with a simple pumped water system and a flexible hose; a camping stove that's stored away when not in use, and a mini-fridge with freezer. Food is stored in the custom-built overhead cabinets, and all the cabinetry has self-locking latches to ensure they're secure while the bus is in motion. The family's curtains are hung up using magnets. As Shelby emphasizes, the bus' metal walls makes it perfect for putting all kinds of things up using magnets (spice containers, LED lights, etc.).
On the other side is a convertible couch that can be reconfigured into a crib for the couple's daughter, when the safety gate is set up. Otherwise, it can also be transformed into a dinette, by removing a cushion and lifting up the detachable table surface underneath, which is a smart, space-saving idea. There's storage under the couch too, as well as an ottoman with hidden storage built in.
At the back, one can access various art, camping and exhibition supplies either on the rear rack, through the back door and on the roof rack on top of the bus. The bus is powered by two 100-watt solar panels, connected to a Goal Zero Yeti all-in-one inverter, solar panel control and battery bank. It's all been wired into the bus' existing systems, so that when it's driven, it actually recharges the battery as it rolls. This was the most expensive feature of the build, but the couple says that it was a worthy investment for getting some off-grid power.
There's no bathroom in here, but as the couple explains, they are able to make it work by using bathrooms in public places, campgrounds, and also when they trade work for accommodation on farms, via WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
Of course, finding a place to park overnight requires some research and planning, which is easier with today's online resources. As Shelby tells us, they use FreeCampsites, iOverlander and Campendium to find spots for the night as they travel. There are other options too, including regular campsites, rest areas or even a local Walmart parking lot if all else fails.
In total, the cost of the build was between USD $8,000 to $10,000 (for materials, labor, mechanics) and it took the family about 6 months to complete. While they are on the road, the Kregels are renting out their house back in Michigan, however, this doesn't bring in a lot of income so they are supporting their journey primarily through the proceeds from Shelby's art -- either selling at art shows, doing commissions, or doing consignments in shops. Shelby says:
It's been a really cool experience to jump head into our business and being able to do what I love has been awesome. Some tips: We love to ask locals where their favorite places are and try to check those out because they are usually the best. Having a flexible and positive attitude is a must! Never stop exploring, its a beautiful world out there and we have loved exploring it.
To see more inspirational bus conversions, check out Kimberley's book, The Modern House Bus.