Technology is changing our lives in ways we might not have anticipated twenty years ago, when the Internet was still dial-up, personal desktop computers were not that widespread, and cellphones were relatively clunky boxes. Today, we have wireless internet, compact laptops and tablets, and multi-functional smartphones that could double as an office in your pants. All this interconnected mobility has meant that many people are mobilized too, and freed up to travel and work from anywhere in the world as digital nomads.
Such is the case with Arkansas natives Zack and Annie (and dog Lola) of Natural State Nomads. The couple recently it was finally time to pursue what they loved best: travelling, and travelling slowly, not rushing on a "whirlwind tour" they were so used to, because of work schedules. But instead of taking time off work to travel, they took work with them, in addition to converting a retired school bus as their home on the road. Here's a tour from Go Downsize:
They explain their motivation behind their project:
After several years of doing the 8-5, M-F office job and seeing each year all the places we could be, we both knew that we weren’t totally happy with how we were living. Having to go into work on the nicest of days and sit in a cubicle/room for 8 hours killed us. Zack eventually moved on to another job where he worked 100% remote. This was what set the wheels in motion. “I can work from ANYWHERE!”
Zack and Annie were clued into the possibility of living the bus life when Zack was talking with a co-worker who was a full-time RVer. They started doing more research, coming across other couples who have done the same thing, and when Zack found a job as a web developer where he could work remotely, realized that they too, could work as they travelled, living comfortably in their self-renovated bus home.
But to start, they had to sell the house, and choose a bus, finally settling on a 2001 Thomas HDX school bus. They enlisted the support of Zack's parents, for construction help and for staying temporarily in their home while they sold off things off. They used lots of online resources to help with construction tips: YouTube videos, Facebook groups like Skoolie Geeks, and Skoolie.net, an online forum for school bus conversions.
They finally hit the road late last year, and have so far not only travelled to some beautiful nature spots, but have also attended a few 'skoolie' meetups, where the community around bus conversions get to know each other, swap tips, and of course, talk about their conversions.
As you can see in the video above, Zack and Annie's conversion has a clean, modern 'zen' feel to it, thanks to its lack of overhead shelving and use of light colours. One of the unique things about this bus are the numerous doors, which allow for a great view out.
Coming in, one of the first things you see is the standing work space. Underneath, is Lola's bed.
There are also a lot of clever small space ideas here, from the storage spaces under the sofa and in the armrests. Can't forget the cupholder, either.
The kitchen features an adorable place under the full-size sink to put toothbrushes, and a four-burner stove with oven. Best of all, the bulk of a conventional refrigerator is eliminated with a chest freezer that's tucked in the corner of the counters, which would have otherwise been wasted space.
At the back, there is space for a king-sized bed. The bathroom has a composting toilet, and the door holds a lot of storage. The roof hatch gives access to the bus' roof, which can double as storage space or a roof deck.
When asked why they decided to go for a bus conversion, rather than a tiny house, Zack tells us:
We looked at a lot of different vehicles before we decided to go with the bus. Cost was a big thing for us and buses can be fairly cheap to convert. We never really considered a tiny home too much. We would have had to buy a truck along with the cost of the build. We wanted something that was easy to transport and would take us to all the cool places that we wanted to go.
So far, the couple is continuing to travel in their solar-powered bus home, which they've nicknamed "Stormy". Their love of visiting remote natural locations has meant that they have gotten used to conserving water, energy and supplies. Not surprisingly, one of the bigger challenges they've encountered is not having a postal address: during the bus build, they got used to ordering things online, and now, they have to plan ahead on how they can get mail delivered. Nevertheless, after their overall positive experience, they are convinced that this fits them and what they want to do. Says Zack: "We feel like this is the best decision we have made."
To see more inspirational bus conversions, check out Kimberley's book, The Modern House Bus.