- Bert the Bus Conversion -

Make today a Blue Marble Day!

(noun): A day embraced with a love and appreciation for life, no matter the circumstances.

"Our lifestyle has been fairly mobile (minus the bus) for the past two years, so the change hasn’t been too drastic, but it’s certainly been different. We’ve had to cut down on the amount of “things” we own, and ask ourselves: What do I really need and what is just extra?"

Bus Specs:
- Make: Crown
- Motor: Detroit 671
- Year: 1988
- Interior Square Footage: roughly 34 x 8 ft, so 272
- Current Location: New Orleans
- Purchased From/Location: Los Angeles
- Cost in materials for the conversion: estimated $20,000

What is the “Blue Marble Day” philosophy?

blue marble day jar opportunities

A Blue Marble day is a day embraced with a love and appreciation for life, no matter the circumstances. This originates from a story about a man who received a diagnosis that threw his life upside down: pancreatic cancer with 180 days to live. In this moment, the man realized he had been going through the motions of life, without fully appreciating each day along the way.

And so he went to the store and purchased a jar and a bag of blue marbles. He set out to be consciously grateful for each moment, and strived to do things in life that he knew would bring him joy. When he lived this mentality for the entirety of a day, he would return home and drop a blue marble into his jar - calling these days "Blue Marble Days."

When he passed away, his wife realized this diagnosis was in fact a gift, which allowed her husband to approach life the way we all should, regardless of our circumstances.

After hearing this story, the question became, "How can we most effectively spread this man's spirit of life and help people develop a love and appreciation for today?"

So we talked to hundreds of people and started digging deeper into what makes up our Blue Marble Days. Originally, this led us to work on an app, intended to help document these special days using video. However, we have since decided we first want to build a community, and find out what that community needs in order to have a Blue Marble Day.

best bus conversion blue salmons

 

Why choose a Bus to live and work out of?

Blue Marble is built around community, which we call the stream. It’s made up of a school of Blue Salmons who strive to live a life full of Blue Marble Days.

Bert the Bus will not only serve as our living quarters and the vehicle which will drive this movement upstream. She is also the mobile headquarters for the company and the center piece for all Blue Salmon Spawning events around the nation. The most unique feature will be the engine, as we plan to convert it to burn vegetable oil! Better for the environment and easier on our wallets!

When we realized that a social community needed to drive this movement, we figured, what better way to find Blue Salmons all over the nation, than by meeting them and sharing experiences with them on the open road.

So we bought a bus and plan to convert it into the full mobile Headquarters for Blue Marble.

bare interior seats removed

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

The Blue Marble Upstream lifestyle is best spread through face to face, impactful conversation. We know that we have so much to learn from other Blue Salmons all over the country, and Bert the Upstream Express will allow us and this community, to learn so much about what it means to live a Blue Marble Day.

Could you explain a little more how you guys ended up choosing a Bus to convert? I saw in one your YouTube videos you test drove an RV to buy, what happened with that?

We originally checked out a couple of RVs and realized we would end up needing to strip down the inside anyways due to our need for ultimate customization. After we saw an old Crown school bus, the smile that the exterior brings out in people, we decided that had to be the model we went with.

600 cover bert skoolie

How did you find Bert? 
After we decided Crown was the model, it was simply a waiting game. We lost a bid on eBay at the last second on a bus we fell in love with, but I told the guys if we were meant to have her, then we will get her. Two weeks later the seller called me and said the buyer had not come through, and she was ours.

Where are you in the conversion process? Will you be full-timing?

We just drove Bert the bus from her previous home in Monrovia, CA to New Orleans – where we encountered many unforeseen challenges.

First, we attempted to drive her down to the water at the Salton Sea, where she got stuck in quicksand for two days. After a tow job, that included a flat tire and 6 automobile jacks, we were on the road again. Next we met an awesome couple who told us we needed to change her oil – which ended up spilling – and needing a human thumb-plug from underneath the Bus for an hour.

*Upstream Update! Through our less than smooth journey in Bert, the Upstream Express - we’ve been stuck with the flies on a deserted beach for 26 hours, attempted an oil change turned to oil spill, and suffered a full engine failure in the middle of nowhere - we have learned a lot about what makes up a Blue Marble Day.
 
Hardships provide an excellent opportunity to learn, to grow, and to meet new people. We have truly enjoyed our struggles returning Bert home to New Orleans, helping us realize that even the most difficult days can be filled with joy when approached with the Blue Marble spirit.

skoolie stranded desert

The next day we suffered a 3 day engine failure in the painted desert. Finally she made it to New Orleans in one piece, where we will be finishing our final year at Tulane University while we convert Bert to become the full Mobile HeadQuarters for Blue Marble.

Where will you be doing the conversion? At a garage, friends/family property?

We are subletting an apartment during the fall semester with a large driveway behind the house. Many students and friends in the area plan to help out with the conversion - all of which have more experience with tools/woodworking/metalworking, than we do.

During the summer we have already insisted a friend with incredible artistic skills to turn Bert’s paint job into a full blown Blue Salmon!

What type of skills for the bus conversion do you have?

We’re still early on in the process, so we know we still have so much to learn. We have no prior experience with bus conversions, we've already learned a lot through this process.

Especially as it relates to bus mechanics and what it takes to make her fully sustainable! The great thing about our bus, is we purchased her for this community, so there’s a huge group of Blue Salmons who are a part of this conversion process.

seats removed skoolie interior

So as you have time/money you will be working on the conversion? Do you guys have experience with tools/woodworking/metalworking?
Yes, we plan to sell merchandise and cold brew coffee around campus to pay for the conversion as we move along. We have relatively no experience with tools/woodworking/metalworking. But we have awesome friends who do, and we’re excited to learn. We hope to move into Bert full time for our final semester of college in the spring.

What do you do for income?

We sold our cars, and as of now we are only losing money.

We intend to start an apparel line, including Blue Marble bracelets in the near future.

bert skoolie field running

Could you explain how you've been mobile the last two years? Was it harder/easier for any of you guys to downsize into the bus?

We love to travel and learn from people we meet along the way. We have lived in tents, in a 1 bathroom apartment with two amazing friends at USC, at a hippie commune, and in our cars as we explored the US and searched for our calling.

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

The 38 foot length of Bert, makes her less than ideal for the city roads, but we’re quickly learning the power of the wide turns! (She is not designed for the McDonalds Drivethrough window) Our lifestyle has been fairly mobile (minus the bus) for the past two years, so the change hasn’t been too drastic, but it’s certainly been different. We’ve had to cut down on the amount of “things” we own, and ask ourselves: What do I really need and what is just extra?

What have been people’s reaction to you driving a bus around? Have you met other Skoolies?

We haven’t met any other Skoolie’s in person yet, but we are looking forward to it. People love the bus – even policeman have been honking and shouting encouragement at Bert.

skoolie side mirror bert

 "It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about what’s on the horizon. But what good does that do? When we shift our focus to embracing what’s right in front of us, we’re reminded just how much we have to be grateful for."

Where will you be 3 months from now? Advice for others?

We plan to be converting Bert in our back yard in New Orleans. But we know we’re not in full control, so plans are subject to change!*
 

We do have a few words of wisdom to share. First, things never happen as quickly as you’d like! Stay patient, and make sure you’re doing things the right way. Expect things to come up…there’s always obstacles on the journey upstream! Stay optimistic and enjoy the journey, there’s a lot to be learned from a struggle.

If you're reading this and want to help, please reach out!

 
driving bert skoolie

How can people learn more about you?

Check out our website BlueMarble.Today Follow us on Instagram @bluemarbleday

"Like the sky, not everyday will be Blue.
But even on those grey days, when nothing seems to go your way...
A Blue Marble moment will help you find the light in your day.
"

 

 

Make Today a Blue Marble Day!

blue marble seize adventure

"Meeting other like minded travelers or tiny dwellers with a passion to explore has opened our eyes to door number two that we never knew existed."

Interview by: Brock Butterfield

School Bus Conversion by: Tyler and Lexi

 

Alright, alright! Let’s start this interview off with a little intro from you two. Whom I talkin’ to?

Our names are Tyler and Lexi and we are both from Redondo Beach, California. We have lived and worked together bartending for the last five years until we ventured off into the buslife!

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 1

Whats under that hood? Make, model, transmission?

Our bus is a 2001 International with a 3800 DT466e. It has an automatic Allison 2000 transmission and had 128k miles on it when we bought her. She has adopted the name Winona!

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 10

 

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 11

On your Instagram you hinted to a sketchy hotel stay when you went to pick up the bus for the first time. We gotta hear the story. What happened?

So, we had our eye on the bus on Craigslist for awhile and kept in contact with the seller. We watched the price go down and eventually made the five hour trip to Fresno, Ca to see it. We packed an overnight bag just incase, thinking there was no way we would make it back before dark or if the lights even worked. We drove around the corner and saw a bus that was 9 feet longer than we thought. But we checked everything out, did some test drives and bought it. We picked the cheapest and closest motel we could find and the room was pretty disgusting. It was right off the highway in a part of town I swear I've seen on Cops before. There were a bunch of semi trucks in the parking lot and then our newly purchased bus. We thought we were gonna get robbed or murdered, probably both, but we made it out ok.

 

How much did you guys know about converting a bus?

We knew nothing. Tyler had done construction in the past and built his fair share of skate ramps but never something like this. We have a lot of skilled friends that we knew would be willing to lend a hand. We always say that it was a group effort.

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 3

What were some resources (Instagram accounts or websites) that you pulled information and inspiration from?

Once we discovered there was a whole world of Skoolies out there and started searching through Instagram we couldn't believe how much motivation we found! Then you go to YouTube and find a tutorial on literally any part of the build you need help with. We obviously can't talk about inspiration and not mention buses like navigationnowhere and theskoolie, who were some of the first accounts we followed. Now we follow hundreds of conversions each one different than the last. As far as the decor goes, Lexi gets full credit with the help of Pinterest!  

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 4

What was the hardest part of your school bus conversion?

Honestly, the two things that come to mind are probably not your typical answers but one would be just buying the bus! Searching and deciding if we were really ready to move our whole lives into an old bus and leave everything we know behind. I could say ripping out old heaters and AC or figuring out how to do all the electrical but we knew we would have help and it was what we signed up for. Number two was finding a place in L.A to park and work on the bus!


One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 5

 

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 5

 

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 5

 

 

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 5

 

 

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 5

 

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 5

How in the f*ck do you guys sustain this lifestyle? It looks like all fun and no work…

I’m sure most that have converted a bus and travel fulltime will agree that it is absolutely nowhere near as glamorous as social media makes it out to be! We saved and sold basically everything we own to give ourselves a one year budget IF done correctly. Lexi also works remotely in direct sales which has been a huge help when we get to a city and blow half of our money for the month in one weekend!


One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 12

In your skoolie, I spy with my little eye something fury and ferocious… How’s bus life been for Ruca?

Ruca is killing buslife. We were extremely worried before we left that she wasn't going to adapt and we would have to leave her behind with family or friends. On day one she wasn't doing so hot. She was drooling all over, very car sick and having trouble walking around. Day two and she walked down to the couch, jumped up and went straight to sleep. She loves the bus and will go to the bottom step but never runs away. She sleeps in between us every night. She is like our child. Haha

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 14One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 14

 

Looks like you guys spent some time in Oklahoma City. Have you ever had beer in the beer bus there?

We have not! We wish we would of heard of that while we were there! We would however, recommend going to Stroud, OK to the Rock Cafe on Route 66 and getting a patty melt and some sweet tea! Lexi has some family in OKC so we took some time there and caught our breath a little. Luckily we got to stay with a family friend and enjoy some air conditioning in the 100 degree heat! Our little RV unit on the bus only works when we are plugged in to shore power.

 

What is the biggest thing you two have gained from converting a school bus into a tiny home on wheels?

I think just being able to cut ties from what we thought we needed. We have learned so much already in the last four months about what is important to us. How the idea of normal that is drilled into everyone's heads about going to school, getting a job and buying an overpriced house to start a family and grow old in does not need to be our fate. Granted there is nothing wrong with that, but meeting other like minded travelers or tiny dwellers with a passion to explore has opened our eyes to door number two that we never knew existed. I don't think spontaneity lasts forever and building a traveling tiny home and doing this while we still have the drive is something we are stoked we followed through on.


One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 16

Number one, must have item for a bus conversion?

Well after making sure the bus runs, solar! We only have 400 watts and it has been a life saver! Why would you not want free power? We decided last minute to order solar off amazon about four days before we were leaving. And unless you have a ton of batteries, we don't know how we could have boondocked as much as we do without pulling out our generator. That, and of course our Planetary Designs french press. We need our coffee!


One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 13

 

How do people follow along with your adventures? Hit me with your social medias!

We are on Facebook and Instagram @onewildridebus and YouTube as One Wild Ride. We usually try to have a new episode out once a week! If people are not on social media you can visit www.onewildridebus.com which has all the same photos and videos as well as blogs about our travels, buying the bus and our crazy trip to India!

One Wild Ride Bus Conversion 2

~School Bus Conversion Is Home For Software Developer and Traveling Physical Therapist~

Nick, Heather and their dog Miles have nothing but smiles on the road full time. They've cut ties with the traditional form of paying rent and instead put that money saved into their gas tank to fuel their appetite for exploring places they've never been to. But how do you live in such a small space full time without wanting to kill the other person? Nick replied:

"Headphones"

Interview By: Brock Butterfield~

School Bus Conversion By: Nick Underwood and Heather Yandziak~

Bus Specs: 1998 Thomas Vista 3600 with International T444E and Allison 4 Speed transmission ~

 

Ok, break it down for us. How did this whole idea to live in a converted school bus come about?

Heather and I had been living in Denver for a couple years after moving from the east coast just to try somewhere new. We enjoyed Colorado, but were already thinking about where to try next. I don't remember what exactly started the idea, but I had previously lived in a van and also on a sailboat and I'm sure that came up one day and we just went from there. I think we first seriously considered the boat idea, but Tiny Homes were just starting to get big around then and I bet we ran across our first skoolie while digging into those. I always love a good project and ultimately the skoolie seemed like the best idea of all.

So with living in a sailboat for a while, what tiny living or sailboat ideas did you possibly implement into your school bus conversion?

The only thing we can really think of are the fruit hammock, which we had similar hanging things on the boat, and the upper cabinet doors having the hinges on the top so that gravity keeps them closed.

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 1

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 2

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 2

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 2

It took you guys a year to convert your school bus. Did you work full time on it or did you juggle working your day job as well? 

It was a nights and weekends kind of thing. Heather worked full-time as a Physical Therapist and I was doing about 30 hours a week of Software Development from home. I bet we averaged about 40 hours a week on the bus during that year.

How's it travelling with a dog? Have you found out anything you hadn't planned for in having a dog live full time in your skoolie?

When we got Miles the skoolie plan was already in effect, so we purposely went for a "travel-size" dog. Actually living in the bus with him has been no issue, and he was already super comfortable with it since he spent a lot of me with me while converting. Eating out can be challenging, but we can usually find a dog friendly patio, and if nothing else it helps us from eat out too much. He does most of the hikes and water stuff with us and is an actually an excellent hiker. Most areas have lots of dog friendly hikes, except for the National parks, so there have been a few occasions where we have to find dog sitters so that we can explore the National Parks without him. So far it's been pretty easy to find someone to watch him for a day or two, usually on rover.com

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 12

Boy howdy that's quite the deck on the roof of your skoolie! Tell us a bit about the idea, materials used and how you fastened it.

To be honest I'm not sure where the idea came from. It just seems like the obvious thing to do at this point! It was actually one of the first things we did since we thought it might involve putting holes in the roof (it didn't though). I had a local welder/fabricator help with the design, which is essentially a rectangular steel frame with some arms that rest on the rain gutters above the windows. There are some turnbuckles welded to the arms that then clamp the whole frame down to the gutters. There are a few screws through the top of the frame going into some support rails that were already on top of the bus, but the turnbuckles do most of the work holding it in place. We debated a bunch of different materials and styles for the actually decking, including using putting green turf, but ultimately said to hell with the budget and got some long lasting Trex boards.

Ha. Ya, I think a few of us end up saying to hell with the budget and just splurge to make it feel more like home. What was your original budget and what was your total budget all said and done?

Original $15k. We more than doubled our budget by the time we were done.

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 6

What's it been like going from a full size kitchen to a small two top burner for cooking?

Heather chimes in: The thing I miss the most is actually a dishwasher, but otherwise it hasn't been that challenging, it just requires more thought and planning ahead of time. I don't really miss the oven or microwave, but I do miss the freezer for ice cream. The two burner stove isn't bad, but I wish the burners were a bit bigger or more spaced out so two bigger pots or pans could be used at the same time. Overall though, it hasn't stopped us from making and enjoying lots of delicious foods. (We have also just added an Instapot and Air Fryer to the arsenal)

Whoa! An Instapot? Are you able to run that off the solar battery bank or do you need to be plugged into shore power to use it?

I always assumed we would have to be plugged in for the Instapot until we tried it a couple days ago and it works no problem on our system. Once it gets pressurized, the power draw is actually quite low. The air fryer works too, but drains a little more than I would like for regular use.

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 9

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 9

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 9

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 9

What is the hardest thing you've learned with building or living in a school bus conversion?

The hardest thing with building was designing it in a way to maximize the use of every square inch of space. There were more than one "heated discussions" over some of the layout, but eventually I think we nailed it, though we have never used our shower which was not an insignificant money, time and space consumer during the build. If we did it again we wouldn't add the shower.

Really? If you haven't used the shower yet does that mean you're going on months without a shower?

Nah, we usually find a way to get a shower every few days or so. The problem is that we have a fairly small fresh water tank (24 gallons) and a shower would eat that up pretty quick, plus the wet bath is not exactly cozy. And typically anywhere we are that we can fill our water, there is also a shower available, which is usually a campground. We have also showered at a mechanic's shop while we were broken down, a recreation center, a friend's place and sometimes river baths.

Oddly, I think the hardest part about living in it has been the unexpected amount of work involved with sharing everything on the web site and social medias. Otherwise, it hasn't been that bad at all.

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 14

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 14

 

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 14

Let's talk parking. How do you find a place to park every night?

We mostly use the Campendium app to point us in the right direction, and have only done boondocking and paid campgrounds so far and we usually plan out a couple days or more in advanced where we would like to be. We've only booked two spots more than a week in advance, which are to coastal spots in California in the fall. So far we've always been able to find a decent place to stay without too much trouble. Some boondocking spots are amazing and some just good enough, with some being found right as we pull into the area and some taking a couple hours of driving around to find just the right place. I think we are probably able to boondock at least 50 or 60 percent of time.

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 15

How are you providing an income for yourselves while on the road?

We saved up a decent chunk of money to help us out as we travel and I'm still working part-time doing Software Development. Heather is on a sabbatical, but is quickly becoming a social media ninja.

Does Heather foresee a way to make some sort of profit from her social media ninja skills?

The idea right now is to just see where it goes with no real expectations. We already have some affiliate links, but other than that, we're just seeing what kind of traction we can get right now.

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 11

 

What's the most unique part of your bus conversion?

Hmm, all of it! I'd say the deck design is pretty unique, and the kitchen counter top made from a door and the modular living room, dining room, office couch design. Ooh, and also the sensor box that collects all kinds of live data and sends it straight to the website.

Wait, a what? Sensor box? Ok, you've gotta tell me more about that. I'm a geek for data collection especially for weather.

Take a look at the video and you'll see it briefly. I think there are almost 30 data points I'm collecting, but only a few are visible on the site right now. I have temps, humidity, a wind gauge that isn't working, various air quality/gas sensors, light levels, sound levels, motion levels, GPS data and probably a couple more. You can see a few of the sensors' data on the live data page on our website (with patience, it takes a bit to load up). I would like to do even more with the data I'm collecting, but just haven't had time. I'm a huge data geek.

I also noticed you have quite the geeky WiFi setup which makes sense as a software developer but how does it all work?

Here I went a bit overboard. We have both Verizon and AT&T hotspots. There is a mini router/repeater I have with custom firmware that connects to these hotspots or whatever other wifi we find. There is then a second wireless router that has a wired connection to that first router. All of our devices connect to the second router so they don't have to switch between hotspots all of the time, I just change the connection on the first router and then all the of the other devices use whatever it is connected to. I can also set up a vpn on the 2nd router so that all devices get routed through that when we are on sketchy wifis.

What's the plan now that you're full timing? Bucket list of spots to visit? Will you live in the bus forever?

We started at the beginning of April and plan to go into at least early 2019 and reevaluate then. Our general plan is to do the western U.S. in this order, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, traveling with the weather since we don't have heat or A/C. We're definitely into all of the National Parks and pumped about doing the Pacific Coast highway. As we travel we generally research the areas a week or two up the road to find all the interesting things to see and do. In November we are heading back to the east coast for the holidays with our families, including two weeks in the Keys at the beginning of December. We'll probably do the rest of the winter somewhere in Florida and then start doing longer stays (like 3 months) at different locations so that Heather can start work as a Travel PT. Or maybe we'll just get a sailboat and move to the Virgin Islands!

Vicaribus School Bus Conversion 16

Some seaside time sounds like a good idea. Best of luck and thanks for taking the time to share your school bus conversion with us!

To follow more of Nick, Heather and Mile's adventures be sure to follow along on their different social media channels and website:

Website: https://vicarib.us/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/vicaribus

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vicaribus/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/vicaribus

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzT9iv9nxED5pQoKAf25PmQ

Wild and Free: Nine Family Members. One School Bus. Unlimited Possibilities.


"We would definitely recommend this lifestyle to any family because of the freedom. Living a more simple life allows for the things that really do matter to take preference. Cultivating the things that matter most."


~School Bus Conversion By: Steve and Michelle Lawson and Family ~
~Interview By: Patrick Schmidt ~


Bus Specs:
- Make: International
- Model: IC300 Handicap Body, 12 rows, Double AC units, Allison Automatic 2000 series
- Motor: HUGE Diesel engine LOL :) DT466E
- Year: 2005
- Interior Square Footage: 265
- Current Location: Fort Lauderdale
- Purchased From/Location: http://miamibusdeals.com Guy was great, and easy to deal with!!
- Cost in materials for the conversion, including bus: $18,357. Bus was $14,500.

captain fantastic real life wild free lawsons bus life adventure

How many Lawsons are there?

We are a family of 9. Michelle and Steve (Mom and Dad) married for 17 years. We have 7 kids - Caleb 16, Jacob 13, Joshua 10, Matthew 6, Liam 5, Charlotte 2 and Owen 9 months.... yes 6 boys and 1 girl ;-)

What was the initial spark that lead to living in a Bus?

Jack Johnson has a song where he sings:

“One day is only two words we say
I don't want to let them get in the way
Of all the plans that we should be making right now.”

We didn’t always want to do this sort of traveling in an RV thing. We thought it was “sooo not us”! Then, the idea of converting a school bus popped up on our radar.

Enter the idea of a Skoolie.


skoolie wild free lawsons bus adventure

The idea seemed so original. Fun. Different. Out of the box. Against the grain. A little hippie. And it suited us just right.

We love to travel with our kids, and since we homeschool and own our own photography business, it was usually very doable for us. On our trips, we would dream of traveling in something bigger, something we could even sleep in.

lawsons wild free skoolie woods

We had been toying around with the idea of getting one - then unexpectedly, Steve’s mom passed away in February of 2017. Her only regret was not buying an RV and traveling more with us around the U.S.

She would often say "I'll get it one day." That one day never came for her.

We didn’t want to make buying our skoolie one of those “one day we’ll do it” things.

So that was it. With the Lord’s help, and Him leading the way, we were able to not only buy our bus, but also had friends with building skills come along and help us with all the renovations.

We are ever so thankful. We’ve been able to take Michelle’s mom on a trip with us, and she loved it! Often, when we are on the road, we talk about how grandma Susie would have loved going around on the bus with us also!

How long did the conversion take?

6 months - We drove off the lot with the bus March 6, 2017 and our 1st trip on the completed skoolie was September 4, 2017.

lawsons skoolie before after

Climate control in the bus? Stock ceiling?

Right now we have an AC that runs only when the bus is running. We have plans to get an AC that works when we are plugged in or while running a generator. We have not really had the “need” for it since we’ve been traveling in colder climates but it’s coming soon!! For heating, we use room heaters while plugged in and they work great!!

seven children skoolie ac

Where does everyone sleep?

We have more than enough bed space right now. We have 2 triple bunk beds and a king size bed. We have a little side spot next to our bed that doubles as an extra space for our little one to sleep. It’s perfect! When we have guests, our 2 couches double as extra beds!

lawsons children bunkbeds

Is there such a thing as personal space in the bus?

Yep! Our bathroom is the only spot LOL. Just kidding. Our kids snuggle up in their beds and it’s their own personal space. The bunks are sort of little caves, if you will, and they can be pretty private. The kids have quiet reading time, draw, study or hop on their phones to watch shows or play learning games. Every person in our family is a key player- of course, a major reason for this journey - having the kids close by. We all love spending time together.

When we get to an RV park for extended stays, we set up a cute little living space outside with chairs. Functional and pretty too!

bus schooling lawsons skoolie

Are you Bus-Schooling the children? Unschooling? Deschooling? What kind of journey has that been?

There is a wealth of knowledge out there- and we are always learning, discovering and growing.

We like to say that life is learning and yes, 100% unschooling is our style. But we didn’t start our homeschooling journey there. Over the years, we have definitely become more out of the box thinkers and want to give our kids the freedom and the time to love deeply, forgive quickly, explore, create, learn, play and just be kids. Children learn wherever they are and we love that we get to be with them and do life together.

never stop exploring skoolie


What do the parents do for work? What will/does work look like for the children?

We own Michelle Lawson Photography. The majority of our weddings have traditionally been in South Florida but as of late, we have been shooting more and more weddings and families nationally and internationally.

We do not live in our bus full time. We have spent about 4 months of this year traveling around in it. As wedding and family lifestyle photographers, we can work from the road! So, as we have traveled around the country, we have done photo sessions in every state we've passed through.

In the future, we have plans to spend even longer on the bus.

caleb lawson skoolie interior

Our kids all love the idea of taking over our family business. Our two oldest, Caleb and Jacob, both edit and Caleb shoots weddings and family sessions now as well. He is also my main assistant at all my weddings. We do have a full team back home in Fort Lauderdale of 6 other editors and 1 other photographer and 2 videographers too!! We work hard and enjoy life together. We have always prayed that Jesus would open the doors for our business that only He could. And He has continued to lead us- all our success is because of Him.

What has been the biggest hurdle? 

Keeping the bus clean, so we have a no-shoes policy on the bus. 

We all share resposibility for chores and keeping the bus clean. Sweeping, taking the garbage out, and making the beds are daily things.

Honestly though, perspective is key. We don't really see things as "hurdles"- as big or small problems, it's all just little things.

We try to never leave the bus a mess- so the kids normally pick up quickly before we jump off- that way when we are walking back to our bus and someone says: “Wait, is this your bus!? I need to see this!!” We can have them peek inside.

cleaning skoolie chores

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

As far as we can see, everyone loves it. We are asked multiple times a day if someone can come aboard. Everyone loves the authenticity of a school bus conversion.
We actually ended up with a sign in book and it’s become pretty important to us now. We have loads of signatures from people all over the world. Yay for Skoolies!

 

 

We met the most wonderful family last night in our home town! And it was our first time meeting a skoolie in our own skoolie! 🚌💕🚌 Their bus was so adorable and homey and the children were great! We couldn’t believe they road tripped with 7 kids, but they make it work and are so inspiring 🚌💕 They had us sign their little guest book they had of all the people they meet and check out their skoolie. They even gave us one to have for Alice! Isn’t this such a cool idea?! Their oldest son drew our buses next to each other and it is spot on! If you scroll, you’ll see our actual buses next to each other 😍 Such a great memory to have, filled with wisdom, creativity and good vibes. We so enjoyed the company of your family @wildandfreelawsons 😊 y’all are such wonderful souls. Thank you for the knowledge and book and inspiration! Hopefully we’ll meet again soon 🚌💕🌻#alicethewonderbus

A post shared by Alice The Wonder Bus #skoolie (@alicethewonderbus) on


Have you met other Skoolie Families during your travels?

Yes! We LOVE meeting other skoolies on the road!! It’s such a fun group of people. We meet a lot of families- thus the reason for our sign in book. We love going out of our way to meet other families on the road.

Life on the bus is such a fun thing. It's filled with community and togetherness and adventure; we love it. It’s been such a blessing to us. Seeing the world, learning, growing, exploring, reflecting, going on the simplest of adventures- all of that really stirs a joy in us and the root of it all is that we’re together. Living simply. Being connected. Loads of time to just sit and talk and draw and laugh.

Easiest thing about living in a bus?

lawsons simple life lounging

The simple life! It’s waking up in the morning and finding an adventure or waking up and just taking it slow. We love being open and free to go where we feel led.
We typically have an idea, a general direction- but nothing is really ever set in stone. Less to do, more time to just be.

"Nowhere to be and all day to get there!" As the Bills sing.

One afternoon, we were eating hand made popsicles in Nashville and as we were thinking of dinner- everyone voted for pizza. And so, being the wild and free Lawsons, we loaded everyone on the bus and headed straight for Chicago. (Laughing!!!) A day later we were having pizza in the Windy City. It was amazing.
Another easy thing: family time. Just pure, plain and simple- being together.

Traveling/living/sleeping on the bus, in the small space as a family of 9 is much more beautiful than we ever expected. One of the reasons I love our bus so much is all of the windows. We can sit down and have God’s beautiful light shining in from all angles. And whether it’s rainy or sunshine… The 360 view is beautiful.

law sons looking skoolie window

We love the uninterrupted family time. We love waking up together in a new place almost daily and most important, always having a new adventure. We love watching every sunrise and every sunset together. Eating every meal side by side. Never being bored. Doing life together.

Have you seen the movie “Captain Fantastic?”

Not yet!! Should we? Now I feel like we need to.

So bus life is working out like you imagined?

Yes!!!!! It’s better than we imagined it!!
We love love love it!! We basically tell everyone we know: you need a bus!!!! As a matter of fact, our other photographer, Rob and my videographer Adam are now looking to each convert a bus with their families. Traveling cross country with our photography tribe. Buses following eachother on old county roads?! Yes, please!!!!!

you are awesome steve lawson skoolie

Do you have a base camp / permanent address?

We have a home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and we park the bus on our property when not on the Open Road. It fits like a glove on the side of our home and calls out to us when we're not on the Bus.

It says things like: “Hey guys... let’s get on the road!! Let’s see things!! Why are we still here!!” You know, things like that. LOL :)

So far, we have been to and explored Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana in our bus. in September, we will be driving from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego then north to Canada then east to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, then south to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and so on.

It’s going to be EPIC!!

lawsons unschooling wild free

What is your cooking/kitchen setup?

We built a kitchen counter and kitchen storage with power outlets underneath the cabinets. They are powered by our Thor inverter. At RV parks, we plug into 30/50amp shore power or use our generator.

For appliances, we have a mini refrigerator/freezer, cook top griddle, toaster oven, tea kettle, and coffee maker.

its all good things skoolie interior

Washer/dryer? Bathroom?

We have the Dry flush toilet, which is amazing!!! We really love it so much! The battery lasts forever too!
For washer and dryer, we use the comfort stations at RV parks and State parks and at friend’s homes along the way.

What Is a Dry Flush Toilet?

Safety/Security concerns living on the road in a Bus?

We have a lock when we leave the bus. It’s a master pad lock and it works great!! When we are inside the bus at night, we have a separate lock.

Crazy adventure story:

We were riding through Custer State Park in South Dakota. This park is wild! It’s located in the Black hills and it’s just such a cool place to see! We had encounters with big horned sheep, elk, prairie dogs, bison and burros. And at one point, we got out to explore and see some burros a bit more closely. And a few of them wanted to get in our bus with us. The kids laughed and laughed and we tried to push their strong bodies out from stepping into the bus.

unschooling learning burro skoolie advenuture

How can people learn more about you?

The best way is to meet us! We have scheduled photo sessions across the country- you can book a session and meet us while we take your photos! We always announce which states we are journeying through.

The opportunity to meet up with other like minded tribes is fun! We do always try to meet up with families and couples along the way- bus or not. It’s exciting! We love meeting others and sharing stories and adventures, advice and options.

Find us on Instagram! The Bus instagram is @WildandFreeLawsons and our personals are @SteveLawson @MichelleLawson

Michelle Lawson Photography / @MichelleLawsonPhotography /305-986-7029

We hope that we can be an inspiration to other families to live out their dreams. To get in the frames, as Jack Johnson sang. To spend more time together, because now is now. No one is ever promised tomorrow.


"Slow down everyone
You're moving too fast
Frames can't catch you when
You're moving like that"
Jack Johnson - Inaudible Frames

seek first skoolie driver lawson

michelle wild free skoolie