This couple met in pre-school and later converted a local school bus in their hometown in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Next up, we are proud to introduce you to the next build in The Bus Fair Feature Series, Mini Squad Skoolie:
Hi! We are Alex & Sarah and we live in our Mini Squad Skoolie! We’re originally from Pennsylvania and have been stationed in San Diego, California. Building this bus and traveling the country makes us feel like we’re truly living our dream. For anyone who is considering a conversion, we highly recommend it! There definitely have been some bumps along the way, but we are so grateful to be living this lifestyle.
Model: 3500 Bluebird Shorty
Motor: 6.5L Diesel
Interior Square Footage: 100 sqft.
Current Location: Northeast Pennsylvania
Purchased From/Location: Jim Thorpe, PA
Cost in materials for the conversion: 15,000 - 20,000?
Total time from purchase date to on the road: 4 months
Why a bus?
We were living in Center City Philadelphia, and eager to start traveling and exploring the country. We fell in love with the west coast, and Sarah found a job in San Diego which allows her to work remotely part-time. The bus was initially going to be used as a moving truck and it evolved into more than we could’ve imagined. It started with some engine work, then we said “let's paint it a cool color!” and that is where our tiny home quickly escalated from there. The bus took about four months to complete with all hands on deck and continues to be a project we keep modifying to fit our lifestyle!
Where did you purchase your bus?
We actually found our bus locally to where we grew up. Alex’s mom is a special education teacher at Jim Thorpe Highschool where the bus was used! Our bus really came full circle after realizing his mom’s students rode on it throughout the years, making it that much more special to us.
Where are you converting/ did you convert your bus?
We converted the bus in the Poconos in Northeast Pennsylvania, where we grew up! The conversion took place in Sarah’s dad’s garage during the Winter months which made the build a bit more difficult. We purchased the bus in November 2018 and completed the build in March 2019 before leaving for California.
Who are you living/traveling with?
Just us, Sarah and Alex. We have known each other since pre-school days. Alex’s mom was our preschool teacher. We grew up together but did not start dating until college when we both went to Philadelphia for school. We’re also looking forward to getting a dog soon to join our adventures!
What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself so far?
Alex grew up working with his Dad on their home, vehicles, motorcycles, and other toys throughout the years. Sarah on the other hand never picked up a power tool prior to this project. We have learned so much from building this bus. From carpentry to plumbing, to electrical, to mechanical skills, etc. This bus conversion has given us confidence in ourselves that we never realized we had. Prior to the conversion, we couldn’t have dreamed of building a tiny home on wheels. It was a project that allowed us to work closely with our friends and families and create lifelong memories and skills.
Tips/tricks/advice to help others have who want/are converting a vehicle? Something you wish you had known going into this? Any current troubles?
Something we learned is that each project takes twice if not three times as long as you think it will. So try not to get upset or discouraged during different aspects of your build!
As we mentioned, we didn’t buy the bus with the intention to turn it into a skoolie. If we were to do another bus, we would probably get a bigger chassis and a different motor. We didn’t consider the amount of weight we were adding onto the bus, and realized that a 3500 chassis is a little small for everything we added. We ended up installing airbags in the rear to help support the weight.
What is the most unique feature of your conversion? We would probably say our new office/dining/living room setup is one of the most unique features. We had to completely re-customize our workspace in the bus. As much as we loved the dinettes, we were unable to both work from our small table. So we removed the dinette and found seats that had armrests and seatbelts off of Craigslist and got swivel mounts for the seats. Our desk area tables can fold up into a table and lay flat against the wall as well. We bought computer monitor mounts that we attached to the side of our window frames, which are removable and allow us to move it to the bed area as well. Also, we have kept our table from the dinette, so when we have dinner, we can still sit across from each other. The seats we installed can recline, so the area is also our living room space if we want to relax or watch a movie/show. This set up so far is much more efficient and comfortable for us (so happy we did it!). Being in a space this small, you have to think out of the box and create spaces that are multifunctional!
Many people ask “what is the chain noise I hear under your bus” and the bus actually came equipped with Onspot’s which are automatic tire chains. They require an air compressor and air tank to operate. The arms with chains near the rear inner tire fold down and ride along the inner tire throwing the chains attached under the tire as it moves forward or reverses. It’s a great feature to have when traveling in the snow.
What do you do for income? How often do you work on the bus?
Alex is an insurance agent and Sarah works for a telemedicine company. We are traveling across the country this summer and our goal is to hit all four corners of the country while working along the way!
What has been people’s reaction to you buying a bus to live in?
When we first started the build in our hometown, people were kind of shocked, especially some family members. However, once the build really started to come together, everyone got on board and was really excited for us!
Have you met other Skoolies?
We went to our first Skooliepalooza this past year and it was truly amazing! We also attended Tinyfest in Del Mar which was such a fun experience! We’ve met so many great people and you really appreciate everyone's build and all the creativity/hard work they’ve put into their homes to make it their own. We definitely feel there is a sense of community with everyone who has a conversion and we are looking forward to future events and meeting new people!
Tell us about your layout. Kitchen? Bathroom? Bedroom?
The layout was one of the hardest parts of the bus to plan because we have such a small space. One of our requirements was to have a bathroom, but also enough countertop space in the kitchen and a place to sit/eat. We spent so much time researching how other small buses did their layouts and creating our own multiple times to fit our needs. However, after living in our bus, we realized that our dinette was not the most ideal for both of us working remotely and replaced it with side by side captain's seats and fold-down tables. For our bathroom, we have a small wet bath (shower/toilet combo) with an RV style toilet and black water tank beneath.
In our kitchen, we have a sink, faucet, drinking water spout, two-burner propane stove, and a Whynter fridge/freezer combo. We initially had a microwave and a toaster oven but realized we barely used them and they drew so much power. We ended up removing them and adding more storage drawers in their place, as, with a bus our size, storage has been a priority! We recently built a hydraulic lift under the bed for our clothing storage - this has been a huge space saver and allows us to use our upper cabinets for additional storage that we previously did not have. We have had our bus for a little over a year, and have learned that even after you’ve completed your build it’s okay to continue to make modifications that better fit your lifestyle!