Living in a tiny house isn't for everyone, but the ideas behind the tiny house movement are at least getting many people to question whether it's worth it to work long hours to pay off a decades-long mortgage for all that space in a bigger house, much of it used to store stuff that we don't necessarily need.
Interestingly, we're also seeing a cross-pollination of sorts between the tiny house world and vehicle conversions, with tiny house principles of 'living with less' and using smart small-space design ideas helping to evolve these other forms of portable housing. Some of the modern bus conversions we're seeing are a great example of this, and here is yet another: Idaho photographer, musician and carpenter Kyle Volkman renovated this 30-foot Blue Bird school bus into a full-time home on wheels that also runs on vegetable oil. Here's a quick tour of Volkman's home, nicknamed the "Yetibus," via Bus Life Adventure:
As you can see, Volkman's bus has most of the basic amenities to live comfortably in a small space: there's a convertible sofa-bed with storage underneath and behind; and there's a dinette with storage in the seats. Volkman, who also makes a living doing custom vehicle conversions and tiny houses, did most of the custom work on his bus, with the help of some friends who are mechanics and welders. You can see his beautiful craftsmanship all over the bus.
Beyond that is the kitchen area, which has a pretty large counter for prepping food. There's a propane stove, and a under-the-counter 3-way refrigerator that can run on propane as well as electricity. The Isotemp water heater under the foot-pump-operated sink is actually one that is used for sailboats; it is a kind of heat exchanger where water is used to cool the engine while driving, but at the same time, makes hot water for later use. The bus itself is heated with an ultra-efficient woodstove.
The bathroom has a dry composting toilet, as Volkman didn't want the fuss of having to dump black water. There is no shower indoors; Volkman says he's planning to install an outdoor shower soon, and is already in the process of installing a system for solar power.
At the very back is the sleeping area, which also has closet space to hang up clothes and under-bed storage space to put away other gear. There's a lovely mural here as well.
Volkman explains that he chose to convert a bus into a full-time residence because he became interested in diesel-vegetable oil conversions, and it was cheaper to convert a bus to run on veggie oil versus a van. In all, it took him three months of hard work, spending USD $15,000 on the renovation materials, raising the roof and vegetable oil conversion, in addition to $3,000 to purchase the bus and $15,000 to upgrade it mechanically (a very good idea on any old vehicle).
Living this way has given Volkman a precious opportunity to do the things he loves to do -- such as snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking and carpentry -- without having to be tied to one spot. With all his woodworking tools stored on the bus, Volkman is also able to make a living creating conversions for others, setting up shop wherever he's hired by clients. He says:
Living life outside the lines of society's box has it's challenges but it's worth it to me. Small space living requires minimalism as a lifestyle. I own nothing I don't need and everything I do own has it's place in my bus. Practicing minimalism means removing the excess, physically and emotionally, to have clarity in your space and your mind. It helps me reduce life down to the things that matter. It's also more environmentally friendly. Less space = more efficiency and less consumption which creates a smaller ecological footprint. This philosophy of awareness and responsibility, although nothing new, has become more mainstream in the recently popularized tiny house movement. In light of earth's man made climate crisis, which is at its base a cultural crisis, people are seeing the value in living small.
Yet, Volkman also points out that living the tiny lifestyle and having a 'normal' job don't have to be mutually exclusive -- you just have to know what your personal life balance needs to be. For Volkman, he says that: "Having a house and a 9-5 job can provide you with financial security, but that has never been the life for me. I need something more. I feel that life is too short to spend it preparing to live. For me, bus life is a way to be more connected with what's important to me and what gives me inspiration."
Seeing a thoughtfully designed tiny home-on-wheels like Volkman's is an inspiring moment: even if such a lifestyle doesn't necessarily resonate with everyone, it shows that an alternative is possible -- and can also be very comfortable and well-crafted indeed. To see more or to inquire about Kyle Volkman's services, visit his website, Instagram and Tumblr.