As anyone who's been around long enough will tell you, vans and buses converted into homes on wheels are nothing new. But there's a new twist to this old story. No longer is it just the stereotypical crunchy, granola types who are doing it, but also young professionals -- this generation's digital nomads -- who are drawn to minimalism and the tiny house ethos, and who are able to both travel and work thanks to the Internet: architects, filmmakers and photographers.
Then, there are also successful tech entrepreneurs, like Brandon Trebitowski, who are also ditching the conventional lifestyle for something different. Along with his wife Ashley and three children, the Trebitowskis chose to sell their conventional suburban home in order to move into a converted bus full-time, working and homeschooling their kids on the road. Brandon, who is a software developer and CEO of Pixegon (a company with a distributed 10-person team that creates smartphone apps) and Parallax Code Academy, runs his businesses from the family's self-renovated, modern 288-square-foot home on wheels.
Funnily enough, the Trebitowskis got into the bus life in a roundabout way. Wanting to take camping trips more often, but knowing Ashley would never "tent camp", Brandon bought a tow-behind trailer that they renovated together. The family began to go on camping trips, with other friends and their families joining in on the fun.But it was when one of Brandon's good friends and his wife bought a bus to convert that something clicked. As Brandon tells Bus Life Adventure:
I will never forget the day [my friend Denver] sent me a photo of himself sipping a Big Gulp and sitting behind the wheel of a 40’ school bus. I thought he was absolutely insane. He and his family began their conversion shortly after with the intention of selling their house, moving into their bus and parking in our backyard.
After spending a few Saturdays helping the Millers work on their bus, my wife and I got the itch to do our own. At the time, we really intended on just using it as an RV and still living in our 2100-square-foot home. Within a few months of the Millers completing their bus, they found renters for their house and moved on to our property.
Once my wife found the bus of our dreams, Denver and I boarded a flight to Texas and the rest is history.
With the help of friends and familiy, the Trebitowskis revamped a 1999 Blue Bird school bus into a real modern gem that the family could live and travel in full-time after selling their home. The interior features an upholstered sitting area that can convert into a queen bed.
The heart of the home is the kitchen, which is pared-down and minimalist (but as the Ashley humorously details on the family's blog, it was a challenge to keep everything organized at first until they consciously changed some habits). There is a full-sized refrigerator tucked in an alcove, and the stove is an Atwood DV 30S three-burner propane range, and the extra cutting board placed on top of the sink extends the usable counter area.
Beyond that is the sleeping area. Here the kids each get their own bunk, with storage drawers underneath.
The parents get a king-sized bed, probably one of the first we've seen in a skoolie (short for "school bus conversion"). Says Brandon: "We don’t compromise when it comes to sleep."
The bathroom has a composting toilet and shower. The is bus solar-powered with its 400-watt roof solar panels, and is designed to use as little power as possible, though it can be plugged into shore power when staying at RV parks. Inside, the bus has a Go Power 3000W Sin Wav inverter, Go Power Battery Charger, and a Go Power Power transfer to help switch between shore and battery power. For heating, the family uses space heaters or an indoor propane heater when boondocking. For water, the bus has a 100-gallon tank with water pump for fresh water, and a 60-gallon greywater tank below.
Brandon tells us that the family chose a bus over an RV and a tiny house because it suited their needs best. After owning a poorly-made towable camper that was awkward to fix since the pipes and other innards were hidden, a bus build-out seemed like the next logical solution, as the family wanted to fix things themselves. They also wanted to travel around a lot -- something that's not easy to do with a tiny house in tow. Conventional, new RVs are also incredibly expensive: "Six figures at least," says Brandon. "And we were able to get a 'new' RV for roughly $24,000 that fit our family perfectly and was designed by us."
Homeschooling helpsThe Trebitowskis made this new adventure work for them because they also chose to homeschool (or worldschool -- learning while travelling -- as some may say). For the families with kids who are curious about the bus life but might hesitate due to questions about schooling, Brandon has this to say:
Don't put too much pressure on yourself and miss out on the adventure. Children thrive in learning through experience and we feel the lessons gained on the road through our travels will be some of the most valuable ones our children will ever learn.
Though the family is now stationed temporarily in a city apartment for the next five months while Brandon kicks off another company, they still continue to homeschool. Their plan is to purchase land after the launch is done, and to move back into the bus later this year. It's yet another inspiring example of how 'success' and the 'happy' life can and is largely self-defined, rather than limited by society's expectations, and how adventure can ultimately broaden a family's horizons. To follow the Trebitowskis, check out Trebventure and Instagram.
To see more inspirational bus conversions, check out Kimberley's book, The Modern House Bus.