How bus life actually pushed me back into a home with a mortgage.
When I had all of my large intestine and colon removed after a lengthy battle with ulcerative colitis, I thought that was going to be the beginning of a new healthy life for me. Unfortunately, the first botched surgery led me down the road of many ER visits and other surgeries to fix the initial hack job. There were a few silver lining moments, most occuring just before rolling into the operating room on the verge of kicking the bucket. This made me realize I had been living a life where I was merely getting by so someday when I was older, I could live the life I wanted to live. My dance with death slapped some sense into me and I began to live the life I wanted.
A few years went by and I accomplished becoming a professional athlete chasing snow all winter while also providing remote IT consulting for a handful of clients as an income. I knew I had to cut my living expenses during winters because I was never home. Sleeping in my cold truck on the road was getting old too. Enter Bus Life Adventure. In 2014, with a relationship with sponsors in place, I pitched an idea to film a documentary and six webisodes about the process of turning a short 4x4 school bus into an RV and cramming myself and five friends for a winter chasing snow all the way into Alaska. A Kickstarter helped us raise the budget for filming, editing and producing the footage and I saved enough to foot the bill on the conversion. I pushed the limits of my magic plastic cards as I knew once I was living in the bus, my expensive rent in Park City, UT, would be gone and I could put those funds towards living.
Meet Bruce. The 4x4 School Bus with a snowmobile deck extension welded onto the frame.
The filming of Life In The Bus Lane was a challenge to say the least. After four months of cramped winter quarters, the rest of the guys moved out and I had the bus to myself. It was a freedom I had never experienced. No filming schedule or winter storm to chase. Making coffee was the only routine I had every day no matter where I was parked. With no rent, I was beginning to squirrel away money for the future. I met Heidi from @valeriebus and we began traveling together to visit the National and State Parks that she designed pins or patches for as a graphic designer. During our travels, we heard about a little town in the Willamette National Forest that was becoming known for its mountain biking. We noticed while at Crater Lake National Park that we were close to the little town of Oakridge, OR so we made a detour for a few days to explore. A few days turned into a few weeks and we realized that we had stumbled upon a small town surrounded by National Forest, a struggling economy after the sawmills closed, but with a little ellbow grease, homes that were within our range for purchase. The lack of jobs in town kept many from wanting to move there but with both Heidi and I being able to work remotely, we started looking "just for fun" with a realtor one day and that's when our lives changed drastically.
Summer setup exploring National Parks Heidi had done design work for.
76 square foot interior of Bruce, home to five guys during one winter.
It's been almost five years to the date since we've been residing in Oakridge and it was the last thing I thought I'd be doing when I hit the road for a rent-free life. We now have a very affordable mortgage thanks to the money I had been squirreling away and the low cost of buying a place. Our current home was originally the pharmacy in uptown back in the 1950's and was zoned commercial but has since been converted into an apartment with a small soon-to-be coffee shop in the front and is now zoned commercial / residential. We're next to city hall, the post office, the library, 3 Legged Crane Pub and Deep Woods Distillery.
The end of summer event at Deep Woods Distillery usually features Kelly Thibodeaux and Etouffee band. Kelly resides in Oakridge.
Our "bus life" now continues in our second bus conversion that has become more of an extended weekend warrior style. We definitely get stir crazy if we stay too long in Oakridge and find ourselves out on the road like before but with a "basecamp" to return to. If there is anything I have learned in my bus life journey so far, it's that bus life isn't the end goal. It's the stepping stone and beginning to so much more. My initial time on the road allowed me to set aside money for a down payment on a home, something I never was able to do before -- especially with the mentality that I would be buying a home in a place like Park City, UT. It taught me how to deal with hard situations such as vehicle breakdowns with nobody around to help. I learned I wanted to be judged by how kind I was to others and not by how many nice things I owned. Bus life allowed me to explore towns and places I never knew about and to learn that if you don't mind putting in a little elbow grease and a town without the amenities of a big city, you can actually afford a calm life in the outskirts (we're just 45 minutes from Eugene).
This old map can be found in a little museum in Oakridge that is a hidden gem for the history nerds. If you're lucky, ol' timer Wes will be there to give you a tour.
Our discovery of Oakridge on our journey also led to the birth of The Bus Fair. Our small rural community needed an event that would boost the local economy for a weekend. By growing Bus Life Adventure into the community and resource that it is now, it made sense to start The Bus Fair in Oakridge with a local community behind it.
My point, for any of you thinking of living a nomadic life, is to be open to opportunities that present themselves. When I set out on the road of freedom in 2014, I never saw myself going back to paying rent or a mortgage. Perhaps you too will learn that bus life isn't the end goal but it can become the beginning of many doors that open as you set out on the road in search of a fulfilling life. Safe travels my friends. Rubber side down.
Kids play cornhole while listing to live music.
A local off duty police officer and friend dress for the occasion at The Bus Fair.
Attendees traveled from 26 different states and three different Canadian Provinces to attend the first year of The Bus Fair.
Families and individuals toured the 30+ Skoolies that showed their home on wheels at The Bus Fair.