Hello everyone!

Unfortunately, The Bus Fair 2020 had to be postponed until June 2021.

Fortunately, we are still able come together as a community, digitally!

30 unique Skoolies were chosen to be Featured Exhibitors at The Bus Fair. Since you are unable to meet and view the buses in person - we're bringing a handful of them right to you!

Contributing Writers Elizabeth with LittleHouseOnTheHwy and Patrick with SkoolieLove have been working on these interviews the past few weeks. Get ready!

We are here to bring you personal interviews about these bus homes and the folks behind the buses.

Let us introduce to you the first interview from our 'TheBusFair Features' Series

The Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio.

art supplies bunk bed travel studio

          "Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio is A 501(c)(3) nonprofit Veteran Artist founded and operated art studio. We seek to build bridges of cultural understanding through artistic expressions for Veteran Artists.We dedicated to building a bridge between each participants capabilities and his or her imagination to provide a place where veterans can non-verbally can speak through their art.

          The Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio's mission is to enhance the quality of life for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their community by providing alternative tools in art and art making.

          With the use of community based art practices and Art Therapy methods Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio is dedicated to getting veterans outside, art supplies in hand telling their stories."

Bus specs:

Make: Blue Bird
Model: TC-2000
Motor: Cummins
Year: 1997
Interior Square Footage: 240
Current Location: Atlanta GA
Purchased From/Location: Toms River High School Marching Band, Toms River NJ
Cost in materials for the conversion: $20,000
From bus purchase to on the road: 13 months

Bus owner and Interviewee: Jessica Rambo


paint can project marine veteran combat bus conversion

The Painted Buffalo is built into the belly of a retired marching band school bus. With the help of local Greensboro, North Carolina community members, Veterans across the country and other supporters, the retired school bus was converted into a Skoolie. 

Jessica Rambo and her family are dedicated to the mission to art and currently reside in the Traveling Studio full time.

The Painted Buffalo is equipped with an 8 foot by 8 foot living room/ art studio space, a fully functioning kitchen with a stove/oven combo, 7.6 cubic inch fridge and loads of art material space. The Skoolie has a functioning composting toilet restroom, shower and bath capabilities. It has room to snuggle 6 people in and sleep comfortably.

With the layout of the traveling studio, art classes are hosted aboard the bus in our "living room," which can accommodate up to 8 adults at a time.

Why a bus?

I looked into trailers, RVs and stationary tiny homes but I thought 1. It was cheaper to go with a bus, and would have the most personality out of all the options. I didn’t want to tow the tiny house around, and wanted one able to get rid of a vehicle if need be.

artwork flag cat interior bus conversion


How long have you been living in your bus?

We have been full-time bus living since August 1, 2019


Where did you convert your bus?

Most of the bus conversion happened in Greensboro NC in between Art school classes, raising my kids, and working part-time. After moving into the bus we went to Splendor Oaks in Georgia to finish the rest of the build.

skoolie van bus conversion meet up painted buffalo

What have been people’s reaction to you buying a bus to live in?

My friends were so excited that I bought a bus and have been living vicariously through us. I think it gives other people hope that if I can do it so can they. We have met so many great Skoolie friends along the way, and can’t wait meet more!


Tell us about your layout.

Our bus is laid out with the driver’s seat, living room area, kitchen, toilet, bunks, shower/tub, and the Momma bed. We have one straight hallway where from my bed, I can see the front door, that was important to me.

clean interior painted buffalo studio paint can project

son bedroom bunk marvel star wars interior

Did you do the conversion yourself?

I had my hands in every nook and cranny of this bus! I’m proud to say that. But I do have to give a lot of props to Dan and Rachel from The Messi Journey and Kurtis from Splendor Oaks. Both of them helped tremendously in the success of the electrical and plumbing.


Who are you living/traveling with?

The Painted Buffalo currently carries Liam, 9 years old full time, and Skyler, 12 years old part-time and me! We also have Bella, black Lab, Atlas, Blue healer, and Sushi the cat on board.

painted buffalo studio cats dogs veteran mom bus life

Were you all on the same page about living bus life or did one person (or more) have to be convinced?

I was all on board for bus life, it took a lot of convincing the kids that they would have an awesome time too. Now when I talk about moving into a regular house they get really upset! They love it now!


What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself so far?

I grew up with a crafty and handy mechanic mother and I was also in the Marine Corps. There were a lot of new tools to build the bus, but that was the best part! Learning new things.


Tips/tricks/advice to help others have who want/are converting a vehicle? Something you wish you had known going into this?

No matter if you’re building it yourself or having someone build it, make sure you know how each piece works, and be able to fix it when it breaks. Because something is going to break!

fixing underneath bus chassis female veteran life adventure

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

Most people comment on our bathtub. We have a 4 foot horse trough. And also all the art supplies. We have so many! We host Veteran art classes on the bus and travel to veterans to tell their stories through art.

cat son big tub skoolie interior bathroom

What do you do for income? How often do you work on the bus?

I’m medically separated from the Marine Corps, so I get disability. We live well within our means to make bus life work, it’s hard but worth it. I also sell artwork to make it work and to do fun adventures.


The hardest thing about this whole lifestyle change/ living/traveling in a bus? Easiest thing?

For me, it was stripping away all of the extra stuff. Parting with junk/stuff is the hardest part. Once you start getting rid of stuff it becomes easier. The easiest thing is spending time with my kids and going on adventures.



Is there anything you wish you did differently in your build?

Like most builders, we all have our next bus build planned. I would put my bed differently so I can walk around and left the bed for storage.


What about the bus will help you be successful in reaching your lifestyle goals?

Raising kids in bus life is really setting them up for success. And bring us all back together. I spent so much time away from them while in the military. This bring us all back together.

children kids painting art learning unschool home school outdoors


What is the most memorable place you’ve traveled in your bus conversion?

For the kids, it’s when I pick them up from school in the bus. We’ve been to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida on the bus so far. The most meme table has been swimming with manatees in Crystal River.

What might you be doing three months from now?

I hope to put a roof deck and solar to become more off grid.


How can people learn more about you?

Visit Painted Buffalo traveling studio on Facebook or Instagram or PaintedBuffalostudio.com

exciting life bus conversion adventure laptop interior design

More Articles By Little House On The Hwy

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Hi there!

We’re Shelby and David from Aimless Travels. Instagram, Website

We have the opportunity of going anywhere in North America that we choose.

The flexibility that it gives us is really one of our favorite parts!

Our least favorite thing about living in the bus is how many things are constantly going wrong.

There is always something new to fix or repair.

shelby david aimless travels interior cooking kitchen

clothing closet storage bus conversion home on wheels aimless travels

About our bus and us:

Back in November 2018, we purchased our bus “Charlotte” from North Carolina and brought her all the way back home to New Jersey where we
converted her for about 10 months.

Charlotte is a 2002 Thomas Built, retired US Air Force bus. At only 28 feet, we felt that this medium bus was the perfect amount of room for us and our adopted dog, Django.

Some cool things to note about our build: Our bus is equipped with 1400 Watts of solar, radiant floors, a diesel & propane heater, a recirculating shower (personally built and engineered by David), and 130 gallons of freshwater for optimal off-grid living even during cold, winter months.

aimless travels dog outside beautiful bus conversion
2018 was a difficult time for both of us.

I (Shelby) was battling depression and anxiety, as I had absolutely no idea what direction I wanted my life to go.

While in school to obtain my Master of Science in Global Sports Business from Rutgers University, I didn’t know what career path I wanted to pursue. 

I wanted something more than a 9-5 job, especially at this age. David, on the other hand, had a full-time Application Developer job for the past 3 years.

While it was a great paying job, he wanted to develop and pursue his own business instead of working for someone else. To put it lightly, David and I both felt stuck where we currently were.

He quit his job in May 2019 and worked full-time on the bus until September 15 . I, on the other hand, had a remote job and worked as a Coach for an incredible gymnastics program called Scarlettes. We worked out our savings and my jobs to get this conversion done!

aimless travels driving picture go pro bus life adventure

Why a bus?

A few years back, David was originally considering a van conversion but wasn’t sure if he wanted to live by himself, in such a small space, so suddenly. I remember watching Expedition Happiness and a few YouTube bus conversions before thinking, “This is a lifestyle I can get down with”.

Buses are well-made, reliable, and have more space.

The coolest thing about living in a bus is that it’s your space that you had the creative freedom to make completely into your own.

home on wheels tiny house bus interior bedroom

 Everyone’s build is different which is what makes each one so special and unique.

Additionally, we have the opportunity of going anywhere in North America that we choose. The flexibility that it gives us is really one of our favorite parts!

beautiful gorgeous interior aimless travels bus conversion

What makes you happy?

Our least favorite thing about living in the bus is how many things are constantly going wrong. There is always something new to fix or repair. Since we’re always on the road and moving, things just go wrong, whether it’s with the physical bus or its systems. It’s important to remember to be patient and flexible for when the unexpected happens.

We have met people that are super supportive of what we’re doing and others that are confused as to why we would ever consider doing this.

I think a lot of the world (especially post-graduates) think that you need to work that 9-5 job because that’s what society tells you to do.

One thing that I love so much about this community is that we are proving all of those “nay-sayers” wrong. Your happiness is completely dependent on how you chose to live. We may not have all of the money in the world, but being able to have the freedom to travel, chase snow storms during snowboarding season, and chill in the most remote locations is what makes us happy.

What more could we possibly need?!

bathroom compost toilet bus conversion motor home aimless travels

shower plumbing bus conversion aimless travels adventure

Sharing what we know

We created the Aimless Travels blog and social media accounts in January 2018.

Originally, it was just a fun way to document our travels, which we were passionate about long before we decided to purchase a bus.

Now, our goal for the site and our social media channels is to showcase the beauty of North America, demonstrate the importance of sustainable, off-grid living, and educate others that you can live your dream no matter how young or old you are.

bus life adventure skydiving skoolie conversion

Our website has recently been undergoing several re-designs as we are offering more Skoolie Build, Lifestyle, and Travel content, information that we noticed wasn’t out there during our build.

We want to see this amazing community continue to grow and what better way to do so than supply useful resources to help people get there?

To read more about us, you can visit our Website.

Check out other Guest Writer articles:

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"It gave us the freedom to shop around without the pressures of a mortgage, rent, or needing [to find] a place for our family to live."

Interview by: Brock Butterfield

School Bus Conversion: Spencer Family

Make: 2001 Blue Bird
Model: All American RE
Miles: 170,000
Engine: Cummins
Transmission: Allison 
Cost of bus conversion: More than we wanted to spend, but super happy with how it turned out!

Spencer Family 1

Ethiopia!? What moved you guys there and how has living there translated to living bus life?

My husband co-founded a clean energy business that operates in East Africa, selling fuel-efficient stoves and solar products to customers at the bottom of the pyramid. We lived in Ethiopia for three years setting up the business there. A little over a year ago my husband had the idea to convert a bus into our US home base, since we spend a few months in the US every year. I honestly thought it was the world’s worst idea, but the words that came out of my mouth were: “Cool babe!” That was all the encouragement my husband needed to start researching to find us the right bus. I figured that this bus idea would die a hard death at some point, but it never did, and eventually not only did I get on board, but I actually got really excited about this bus adventure. We found a bus after a few months of research. Then we had to find a tiny home builder that was willing to take on converting our bus, since we aren’t handy people and also lived in Ethiopia at the time. Thank you to Wind River Tiny Homes for taking on our project.

Spencer Family 2

 

Spencer Family 3

At the end of 2018, we moved back from Ethiopia and into the bus! I was thinking that transitioning to the bus would be way easier than moving to Africa, but I was wrong! The transition to the bus was very stressful because we were trying to learn all the systems and understand the engine, while gearing up for a cross country road trip in the winter (we aren’t very smart, but very ambitious). Don’t get me wrong, we loved the bus from day one but I think we had some unrealistic expectations about how easy it would be to take our home on the road right after picking it up.

Spencer Family 4

The first day, we blew out our fridge hooking it into 220 (it’s a long story) and we ran the side of the bus into a rock while pulling it into the driveway. The first day of our cross-country road trip we busted a fuel line and spent two nights on the side of the road waiting for parts in 25-degree weather, and we hadn’t figured out our off-grid heating (true story). Our engine froze twice in subzero temperatures in Utah, since we didn’t have an engine block heater. Believe-it-or-not, this is just a small sample of all the challenges we faced in those first few weeks. Looking back on it now, I feel so stupid, but it was all part of the adventure and a steep learning curve.

 

I spy a little bus dweller. What has been the most challenging part of raising a kid on the bus?

Having a baby on the bus is awesome. I can’t speak for older kids, but toddlers and infants are perfect for bus life because they don’t require much space and they just want to be with you all the time. I love that we can see our toddler at all times inside the bus, and I think she actually likes being close to us, even if she is in another room of the bus playing while I am cooking. The only real challenge is when she is sleeping. My husband has a standing desk in the back of the bus and her bed is in an enclosed space in the middle, across from the bathroom, and you have to pass through her room to get to the front of the bus. When the baby is sleeping, Greg is trapped in the back of the bus, speaking in hushed tones—unless he wants to risk waking her and the wrath of his wife (that would be me!). Don’t worry, if he needs food or sustenance I pass him snacks from the outside through the bedroom window. At night when she is asleep we have to sneak through her room to get to our bedroom, but it’s really not that big of a deal. We really tried to come up with a way for her room to be closed off from the hallway, but we just couldn’t make it work with some of the other features we were wanting.

Spencer Family 5 

 

Spencer Family 8

 

Spencer Family 11

TBF 2019 square

Are you constantly on the move or are you settled somewhere in the bus?

We travelled cross country three weeks after getting our bus. We started in North Carolina and somehow made it all the way to San Diego and back in two months. It was so fun to see friends and family along the way, but we had our fuel lines bust twice, which I am still traumatized over. The first bust we took it to the Cummins dealer in Nashville and had them rebuild the fuel lines, since some of the brackets were missing. We got all the way to Nevada, in the desert, and it busted again. Fortunately, it was still under warranty. The Cummins dealer in Nashville had apparently put one of the fuel lines in backwards. It cost us five days in Barstow, California, and I am not bitter at all. I was very happy to get the bus safely back to North Carolina and park it for a little while. I joked with my husband that I was going to drive the bus into wet concrete when we pulled it back onto the land! I am excited about another road-trip, but I need some time to just enjoy living in the bus without all the hassle and expense of traveling. This May, we are going to Uganda to launch our business there but will be back in the bus for a few months over the holidays.

 Spencer Family 6

 

Spencer Family 7

What was the most challenging part of living in a school bus conversion?

The cold is interesting to manage in the winter. Here are a few mistakes we made in making our bus winter ready; not insulating our floors better and not putting in a propane heater!! We did use spray foam insulation on the rest of the bus and replaced the bus windows but the cold still really comes through those floors. We put a lot of heavy rugs down which really helped with the floor situation and this winter we just used electric heaters when plugged into electricity. It isn’t cheap to run two heaters to heat a 40 ft bus in 25 degrees. We will have to regroup for next winter and hopefully put in a propane heater.

 Spencer Family 13

What advice would you give someone who is interested in converting a school bus?

We did a lot of things wrong along the way (as you have read), but that is also our personalities to figure it out as we go, and that means that mistakes and missteps are part of the adventure for us. That being said, I wouldn’t go on a road trip through Wyoming in the winter again; if you do, make sure you have an engine block heater and there aren’t any snow storms. My husband and I have made a blood pact to not take the bus to Denver, Wyoming, or Utah in the winter again, because of the scary winter storms we found ourselves in and all the engine trouble for subzero temperatures.

It was also very shocking to me how hard it is to insure bus conversions. I am probably naïve, but it never crossed my mind that we might only be able to get liability insurance on our bus. It is stressful when you are traveling with your home down the road. If any of y’all have any tips or tricks to getting more comprehensive coverage let me know. I would definitely warn others before building their bus about only being able to get liability insurance.

Aw man! I wish we would have know each other earlier! I wrote a whole blog on how to get your school bus conversion insured. Doh!

 Spencer Family 9

 

Spencer Family 10

What are the benefits you have found with living in a school bus conversion?

When we were moving back from Ethiopia, we weren’t sure what was next for us except for living in the bus. But because of the bus, we weren’t worried about finding jobs, or picking a place to live, or signing a lease. It gave us the freedom to shop around without the pressures of a mortgage, rent, or needing [to find] a place for our family to live. We thought about living in a lot of different places, and ultimately, we were able to wait for the right opportunity to come our way. If we hadn’t been living in the bus, we probably wouldn’t have been able to wait for the right thing to come our way—we would have had to jump at something to pay the bills and give us some stability.

 Spencer Family 12

 

Spencer Family 14

LINKS

Contributing Writer: https://www.buslifeadventure.com
Blog: http://www.makingmebrave.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.walt
Instagram: @elizabeth.j.w.spencer

tippy trips logo bus conversion

And her name is... Purple Majesty! Inspired by the lyrics of “America the Beautiful”

purple majesty skoolie bus conversion

"Not only do the lyrics of the song reflect the majestic beauty of America, but it also includes a prayer of thanks and a prayer for guidance from God.

If this isn’t the perfect name, I don’t know what is! Our mission is to trust God in every aspect of our journey and go where He leads. We are also looking forward to seeing the beauty of God in nature. This is just another way that we love to worship God- in His presence, surrounded in the glory of His creation."

"Oh beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain

America, America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea"

Interview by: Patrick Schmidt

School Bus Conversion by: David and Dani

Bus Specs:
Make: Blue Bird
Model: All American
Motor: Cummins 8.3
Year: 1990
Interior Size: 240 Square Feet
Current Location: Virginia Beach, VA

Purchased From/Location: We found it on Facebook Marketplace from a local guy in Virginia Beach, VA. It was actually the bus for the Alabama Space Center. We bought it with only 65,000 miles on it. The seats were already removed as the person we bought it from was planning to convert it, but only ever ripped the seats out.

david dani tippy trips conversion

Cost in materials for the conversion: We are not completely finished with the conversion yet, but our budget is $20,000 total. It could end up being more like $22,000, but we are hoping to stay right around there. We are buying a lot of materials used to help us stay within our budget.

Total time from purchase date to on the road: We purchased the bus in June of 2018 and are hoping to have it completed in January of 2019! We will be hitting the road shortly after! So about 7 months start to finish!

tippy trips bus conversion david dani

Why a bus?

We wanted to design and create a home on our own, rather than purchasing a vehicle that was already laid out. My husband, David, always dreamed of building a tiny house on his own. He started his degree studying architecture, but later switched to computer science. He has a passion for building and we agreed that this would be the perfect way to fulfill that dream. Converting a bus is much cheaper for us than buying an RV as well. 

Will you be full-timing?

YES! We will be living in our bus full time and also travel full time. We are excited to explore the United States as well as meet people along the way. Our mission is to serve others share the love of God with everyone we meet.

We are building our bus to run off of solar power so that we do not have to stay in RV parks every night and hook up. We are so excited to explore the US, boondocking as much as possible.

skoolie bus solar panel trips

Where are you converting it?

During our first month of the conversion, we worked on the Bus at the 757 Makerspace in Norfolk. This is a space where people can come to work on any project they may have. There were so many tools available for us and our friends were helping us how to use them. 

The best part about being at the Makerspace is that we were able to keep the bus inside. That allowed us to paint the bus inside so we didn't get caught in bad weather. It's also where we installed the solar panels. 

skoolie ditch accident bus life adventure

"YouTube Link on how this Skoolie only had 3 Wheels on the Ground"

We are currently staying at a local man’s family farm who has so graciously offered to rent space for us to store and work on our bus. We moved to the local farm because we no longer needed the tools provided by the Makerspace and we didn’t need to be indoors anymore. Plus we were paying $500 a month at Makerspace (which was so worth it for all of the tools we had access to) but now we are paying $65 a month at the farm!

We are so thankful for this because it is hard to find a place to keep a 40 foot bus! Especially because we live in an apartment right now. 

What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself so far?

David studied architecture for about a year and has experience working on cars. He knows how to use tools and has building experience.

Dani has had NO experience with anything concerning the build. It has been quite the learning curve, but also such a fun thing to learn together.

wiring insulating skoolie tippy conversion
The thing we have learned the most about with the build so far is electrical work. Wiring up all of the electrical work to run off of our solar panels has been a huge learning process for us. But at this point, you could call us electricians!

Tips/tricks/advice to help others have who want/are converting a vehicle? Something you wish you had known going into this? 

The best word of advice that we can give to anyone who are thinking of converting a vehicle is go with the flow. Very few projects will go as planned and it is very important to just be flexible and have a plan B, C, D, etc.

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

Our bus is purple! We have a few reasons for painting it purple. First of all, we wanted to be different! Many Skoolies that we have seen are either white or blue. We wanted to stand out with a different color that BOTH of us love!

purple paint brush exterior skoolie

Our Skoolie’s name is “Purple Majesty”. Of course this name was inspired by her color, but it fit perfectly because of the lyrics in the song “America the Beautiful” which is where the phrase “Purple Mountains Majesties” is from. The song talks about the beauty of our country that we are going to have the opportunity to explore.

What do you do for income? How often do you work on the bus?

Both of us work full time right now. David is also in school finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. Because of this, we have limited time to work on the bus. We are working on it any spare minute we get which is normally about one weeknight and the entire weekend.

spray insulation skoolie conversion trippy

We are both in the process of looking for new jobs to transition over to when we are living on the bus full time. I (Dani) am looking into remote work with customer service or education as my degree is in Professional Studies with a Concentration in Interdisciplinary Studies. David is looking into Software Development Jobs.

We are both excited for Part Time, Remote positions that will give us the flexibility to travel full time and enjoy this time of our lives.

What do you think will be the hardest thing about this whole lifestyle change/ living/traveling in a bus? Easiest thing?

We think the hardest thing will be finding places to park for free or where we can be off grid all over the country. This will be especially difficult in areas that we are not familiar with.

The easiest thing will probably be the simplicity of life. We will be living a minimalist lifestyle, so we will only have the things that we need. We will also be able to plan our own schedules with our part time remote jobs.

What is it about the bus that will help you be successful in reaching your lifestyle goals?

We are looking forward to practicing minimalism and living simply while living on our bus. We are proving there is more to life than making money and buying things by focusing on what is truly important to us: trusting God and serving others. We are confident that God will provide for us and protect us throughout this new adventure.
We believe that God has called us to embark on this journey and we are so excited to see how He uses us to minister to others. We will be seeking God first in our travels and trusting Him to guide us where He wants to use us.

beautiful bus tippy trips conversion

What have been people’s reaction to you buying a bus to live in? Have you met other Skoolies?

Most of our family and friends were shocked when we told them about our Skoolie Conversion. This is mainly because I (Dani) am not a fan of small spaces, spontaneity, or traveling. I am very much a planner and do not like change! Our friends and family were even more shocked to find out that this was my (Dani) idea!!! I believe that God has called us to do this, even if it is completely out of my comfort zone. I have felt complete peace throughout our conversion journey so far and I am confident that the Lord will continue providing for us as we are following His will and trusting Him.

David was very excited when I told him about this idea because he loves traveling and adventure, and has always dreamed of building a tiny house.

We have talked with several other Skoolie Converters through social media and we hope to meet some of them along our journey!

david shower home depot bus conversion

Tell us about your layout. Kitchen? Bathroom? Bedroom?

At the front of our bus we will have our living room/ dining area/ office area/ guest bedroom. We will have two long couches (one on each side of the bus). These couches will fold out into a bed and they will also have a foldable table that can be placed in the middle.

laying floor subfloor skoolie

Right past the couches we will have our kitchen. It will be laid out like a galley kitchen, but it will have a fold out bar where we can sit at bar stools and eat.

building interior skoolie tippy conversion

In the back of the bus we will have two closets, our bathroom (with a composting toilet), shower, and bedroom).
Because our bus was a transit bus, it has two doors. We have built what we are calling the “garage” inside of the second door. It will only be accessible from the outside and it will hold our tools, bikes, and maybe some cleaning supplies.

Where will you be 3 months from now?

Hopefully finishing up the last few finishing touches and preparing to hit the road!

How can people learn more about you?

We have social media pages, a Vlog on YouTube, as well as a blog. All of them are in this link!


https://linktr.ee/tippytrips

Best of luck and continued success to you both!