- Written by Brock Butterfield
Brock and Patrick's recommended books for your bus conversion library
Bus Life Adventure Founder, Brock Butterfield and Content Editor/Social Media Monkey, Patrick Schmidt (@skoolielove) share their top books to have on board your Skoolie.
Brock's top four books.
Let me start by saying that I, Brock, am not a book reader. It's hard to find books that keep my attention enough to silence my monkey mind. Recently during COVID-19 I've found myself glued to my phone more than ever and I started to notice never feeling inspired, uplifted or optimistic after allowing the social media vacuum to suck me in deeper. It wasn't until one night when the battery on my phone went on strike that I decided to crack open Nomadland which I had purchased as a gift for a friend that I never ended up gifting (because he already had the book).
So, why would you take book advice from someone who doesn't read very often or enough? You probably shouldn't. Who am I to give good book reading advice when I'm lucky to read one book every couple years. But, if you're like me and find it hard to pick up those cellulose fibers that bonded together to make paper and a book, then here's a few books that were able to catch my attention and may catch yours.
In no particular order, here's a few books I've enjoyed before and during COVID-19. Also, while the links provided are Amazon items, consider supporting your small local bookstore first in these hard times.
Brock's one of two libraries on his Skoolie.
Author: Will Sutherland
If you're considering dipping your hairy toes into a bus conversion, this book will guide you in the right direction. I had the pleasure or reading this book before it was published and gave some feedback to Will before it went off to the print house. It covers everything from what to look for when searching for a bus all the way to backup cameras and bike racks before you hit the road. He even has a full break down of the cost of every item he purchased during the conversion of the bus he built for the book. Support a fellow bus lifer and pick up this guidance and picture filled book that would love to live in your Skoolie when you're on the road.
Author: Mark Sundeed
This book drew me in because I have an internal desire to be able to live without money. I'm the dude that if my life went completely sideways and I lost everything, I'd wonder off into the woods with the bare essentials and attempt to be completely self sufficient. In this book, Daniel Suelo does just that but not quite to the extreme that I had in mind. Suelo decides to give away his life savings and begins to live a life without paying taxes while also never accepting food stamps or welfare. By living in caves in the Utah canyonlands he finds food by foraging and dumpster diving while at the same time experiencing a spiritual journey that we all could use.
Author: Jessica Bruder
As mentioned, I picked this book up for a friend but after finding out they already had a copy I kept it and eventually cracked it open out of boredom. Nomadland caught and kept my attention because it covers the journey of one female septuagenarian (someone in his or her seventies) who is forced back into the workforce and without a house. By pulling the last of her funds and buying an RV, she secures seasonal jobs as a camp host in the summer and an Amazon warehouse zombie during the winters. This book will open your eyes to what's happening to many Americans and why we're seeing so many more run down RVs parked in Cities and old forest roads across the US. During my three years living full time in a bus I can relate to the struggle of being able to find a safe place to park and sleep for the night without getting the dreaded "knock". If you want a look into the world of our elders who are still forced to work and live in small cramped escape pods because their social security check doesn't cut it, then pick this book up to read.
Author: Dan Harris
This book took me a bit to get into but when it started to grab my attention I couldn't put it down. Dan Harris is a television journalist who had a panic attack on live television during an ABC News broadcast and that panic attack was one of the main driving factors that led him on a journey to understand the voice inside his head and the path to control it. For me this book hit home because I struggle with being way too hard on myself. I set goals and standards to live by that are unobtainable and yet I get really depressed when I don't hit those goals. Dan's experience and struggle with trying to climb the ranks as a television anchorman was completely relatable to me and my life. I had always tried meditating and never had any success but after Dan shares some of his experiences trying to meditate and going on a bizarre spiritual quest, I was able to pick up on a few things that truly helped me to utilize the voice in my head to my advantage.
Patrick's top six books:
Patrick reads A LOT. He also writes a lot and is currently working on a book of his own. His suggestions for books are probably much better than mine (Brock). Here's what Patrick has to say about each of them in his top picks.
Patrick's little free library on his Skoolie.
Author: Jon Krakauer
I’m sure many of you have read this book, but if you haven’t, you might want to. It’s one of the greats. It has wildly influenced how and why I am currently living my life. When I look around in my tiny bus home, and look at myself in the mirror, I can see McCandless staring back at me. This book was a LIFE CHANGER.
Author: Ken Ilgunas
Ken lived out of a Van while attending college, parked illegally the whole time, to cut down on rent and make it through college without any debt. His story is amazing, and hits really close to home. He’s a wonderful writer, and the story is one that will keep you entertained and asking yourself “Is tiny living and adventuring for me?”
Author: John Francis
John walked the Earth for 22 years, not talking 17 of those years. What an amazing feat! He saw an oil spill down in Southern California and it changed his life forever. He had a gut feeling and went for it, he simply started walking and appreciating the Earth. He did not speak the next 17 years, in defense of the planet. Do what you want to do, some people will never approve. You must do what you feel! Love the environment. Absolutely mind changing read.
Author: Paul Coehlo
I carried this book when I was hiking the Appalachian Trail. It is such a wonderful read! Traveling and life is a journey. There will be ups and downs. You can consider yourself lucky if you realize that you have everything you need right where you are. Pick this up for a gentle and kind read. This will tickle your spirituality.
Author: Gail Blanke
I read this book while I was down sizing for moving into the bus. GAME CHANGER! What “thoughts and emotions” do you have associated with your STUFF? Negative feelings? Those items have got to go. Positive feelings? Keep them. Eh feelings? Get rid of that stuff. When you throw out 5 pillows, that only counts as 1 item out of 50, because they are the same type of item. 49 items to go! It’s tough. As you throw out physical stuff, you’ll soon realize that you’re also shedding mental stuff. Best book I’ve found to help me get rid of my things.
Author: Gary Chapman
Want to love yourself more, as well as respect and understand the people around you? READ THIS BOOK! Love for many people is a foreign language, they simply don’t understand what to do, and don’t know what they're doing wrong. They feel empty and hollow and not appreciated by the people around them. This book plainly lays it all out, how to learn how to love and fill your inner “love tank.” LIFE CHANGER. A MUST READ.
Articles By Brock Butterfield
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- Written by Guest Writers
This lifestyle isn't an escape from reality.
This is about stepping into who you are and creating your new reality... One that has been designed for you, by you.
We had the house mortgage and all the material things that went in it, everything we grew up thinking would make us happy. We soon realised it wasn’t.
We were living someone else’s idea of "happy" and "home." We wanted something else for ourselves.
We are soulsom.buslife from Australia - Kara, Luke, Jayden, Savannah, and Dakota.
How did we get here?
It started with my (Kara) crazy idea of renting out our home and living in a caravan. So we did that.
8 months of living the van life is all it took to realize this was it. This was the life we wanted to live.
4 weeks later we upgraded to our beautiful bus home, which we built ourselves. A Home on Wheels, something small, but still big enough to sustain the kids growing up. We sold everything and hit the road.
This lifestyle is not an extended holiday, so you can't expect that it's all smiles and relaxation. The kids are not going to just run outside with excitment at every new place. We thought "home schooling will be so easy" because the kids won't need to do the same long hours as at school.
They'll be so grateful for this opportunity.
For "bus schooling" we have registered with our State to homeschool our kids. We utilize online resources a few hours in the morning, and the rest of the day is hands-on, out in the world learning.
I’m a health and Lifestyle Coach, so I teach the kids about mindset, believing in themselves and their dreams.
Do they just sit down and get to work? Haha, yeah! No.
Some days are great and others... not so much. But we can’t blame Bus Life for that.
🌅 Our mornings look a little like me annoying the kids to get up.📣🎶🥁🎺 Well I start nice, wake up Babies,🙋🏼♀️ then I try to cuddle them, 🤼♀️ 😴 but they are like zombies🧟♀️🧟♀️🧟♂️ growling at me, Ill sit at Jaydens doorway just swinging and talking to myself, as he usually farts when I open his door. 💨😵 But if that doesn't work,
I usually vacuum,😎 ( @bush.princess loves when I do that) she is like a cat swiping at my legs as I go past her. 🐈🤣 telling me to stop.😂 Meanwhile Luke is in the background like girls quick look at me. SMIIILLLE. 😂🤣😂🤣
Home schooling Day One...
Ok so It played out way smoother in my head, but we did it, we got through day 1.
It will take some time to get things going. To get the kids motivated, but once we got into things they were good.
Included in English is a travel Journal, and now being older we have decided that they can blog about it, we are using a free wix account for each of them, they can add photos, and share about each week, seeing our travels through their eyes. Super excited to see how each of them take this on.
Once they have their first blog up I'll share them with anyone keen to read.
It was an effort at times to get them to school or finish homework in a regular house. As parents, we sometimes forget that we need to find what works for each of our kids and learn as we go.
Are they grateful? Let me ask them...
...the verdict is in: They defiantly are!
If you dream it and put in the work, you can achieve it.
Old Life chasing the New Life
I grew up never wanting to try new things, following the crowd and just blending into the background. After having kids, I wanted them to see a strong mum, someone who owned exactly who she was.
Through years of studying, working on myself and really putting in hard personal work, I tapped into what my family and I love and realized where we wanted our life to go.
Bus Life, nature, and adventure fit perfectly within that vision, which has only grown with this lifestyle.
What I realized was this: don't try and run this new lifestyle like your old one, because it doesn't work.
Instead, learn to let go of the expectations that you have, and make your way though it, doing what feels right. When it doesn't feel right anymore, make some adjustments.
Give it time. Don't quit because it's not what you expected. Is anything ever like you expected it to be? Expectations vs Reality.
Our Current Reality
We were on the road in the bus for a year in 2017. After a few rough patches, we returned back to our home town. A little broken, we were wondering what to do.
Where do we park the bus? Should we rent an apartment or house?
We couldn’t go back into a house. We love living small, and being minimalists, we stayed in our hometown in our Bus.
Luke started working again and the kids started attending a new school. Here we were, making small adjustments as we went.
It took some time, but we realized that through it all, we couldn’t blame bus life for those hard moments. Life happens, house or bus or van or boat.
Learn to sit back and be grateful, grateful for the opportunities, to step out and create yourself. Grateful for what you are creating, grateful that you get to show your kids a different way of living or simply proving to yourself that you can.
If you have kids, find time for yourself, find time for you and your partner. Living small means you know what everyone is doing all the time, so take a step back from controlling what everyone is doing and have 'you' time.
U Got This self care benefits everyone.
We make sure we all have space. We can get on top of each other a bit, but I definitely prefer this over a house where everyone hides in their own corner.
We are a close family and Bus Life has created that. Having older kids, and us parents going out for plenty of walks, with separate areas in the bus, somehow it just works.
I sit in our Bus often and just smile. I'm so in love with what we have created and although it's not all smooth sailing, we are OKAY with that. Growth and new opportunities don't come from comfort and standing still, they come from stepping out and trying something new.
Don't fear change, as we were designed to evolve and grow.
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- Written by Patrick Schmidt
Staying Dry and Warm – Winterizing the Bus
Living in a converted school bus in the Pacific Northwest can be cold, wet and damp if you're not properly prepared. We learned and are still learning through trial and error the best way to winterize our Skoolie for the season.
Making sure our bus-plants are getting enough sun; Putting up the tarp to cover the bus from all the rain.
“At the end of the day, this IS a School Bus. They were never meant to be homes.They were built to transport, not live in,” Charlie Kern pointed out at the Tiny House Living Festival. “None of these buses are perfect. Miss-matching parts, different manufacturers. They all have their own personality.”
Each bus at the Tiny House Living Festival is as unique as it's owner.
Welcome to the Bus Life! It feels like camping, you're not quite home-less as much as house-less and whenever you feel like it, you tie everything down, button it all up, start the motor, and drive somewhere else. Can you say that about living in a house or apartment?
Free camping spot overlooking a serene lake in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.
Freedom of the road! Adventure!
What happens when you're not on the road, and you start living the #HomeIsWhereYouParkIt instead of the #OnTheRoad #NoStress lifestyle?
What is the reality of #BusLife in a cold and wet climate such as the Pacific Northwest?
Well, it’s cold, dark, and can be extremely unwelcoming. The days are dreary and short; the sun rarely peeks out to release any warmth.
State Park camping spot in Oregon.
While it’s nice to be able to pack up our home and drive it anywhere, it’s also really nice to have a permanent spot to park, serving as base camp. It’s not always possible, money wise, to fill up the diesel tank and go. My fiancee and I have agreed that we want to park in the Northwest this season. Enjoying the downsized, tiny lifestyle, but not having the worries and stressors of the road.
From Beach Boys to Nirvana
One of the first pictures of the bus the day I bought it.
When I bought the Big Blue Bus in March of 2015, I doubt this 1990 Church Bus ever thought it would become a Tiny Home and drive almost 25,000 miles across 42 states in less than 3 years.
Living mostly full-time in the bus since then, I believe the best part of living in a school bus is the view!
The bus is currently parked among the trees in an old-growth forest, and I’m staring out one of the drivers side windows, watching tiny snow flakes falling all around. Ferns, pines, shrubs, moss, mushrooms, bugs and birds.
Sitting in the “dining room” area of the bus, I lean over into the “kitchen” area and grab myself a cold La Croix from the dorm sized fridge. I turn slightly to my right, still sitting down, and get myself a snack from the pantry, which doubles as a convenient head rest when I’m sitting at the table. It’s all about convenience and efficiency in our bus home.
We are about an hour’s drive north of Seattle, tucked away on a dead end street away from any major roads. The silence out here can be quite deafening. Being able to sit motionless, listening to and seeing nature right outside my home is magical. Year after year, I am happy that I did not remove any of the windows in the bus; my fiancee and I initially felt so closed in when we first had the tarp wrapped over the bus, covering the windows and our view. We felt like we were going mad when we did not see sun or anything outside of our windows.
Since then, we’ve strung a 20x30ft tarp over the bus, in order to shield the bus from the majority of rain and snow which we will continue to experience up here in the Pacific Northwest. It is so peaceful out here, I can hear the sound of the snow drops as they fall and land on everything. Not much has fallen, less than half an inch, but a layer of white covers the forest and surrounding landscape.
The first time the bus has seen snow since I've owned it.
Past Winters in the Bus
The first winter I spent in Florida, parked in my friend’s driveway. I stayed warm with 1 single electric space heater, which was right behind the driver's seat. It was enough to warm up the front of the bus to a comfortable 60 degrees or more, while it was in the low 40’s outside. For about a week, I considered buying another space heater that I would use in the back of the bus in the bedroom. The front one was permanently mounted, and not able to heat the 189 square foot space.
Parked for free in my friend's driveway in Florida.
Living in a bus in a driveway, my friends were gracious enough to let me shower in their house, as well as do my laundry. I dumped the waste tank into their septic system. “Wintering” in Florida was therefore not a problem at all.
Only source of heat the first two years. Next to a hot/cold water dispenser.
The second winter I spent in Vegas, parked on my parent’s property. While it can get blistering hot in the desert, it can also become incredibly chilly once the sun goes down.
Parked beside the house within a gated community, we thought it was best not to live full-time in the bus due to HOA regulations.
So during the day, I would spend my time in the bus, since it is my home, but once it got down into the 50’s and 40’s, I spent my time in my parent’s guest room. It was unnecessary to try and heat the bus up, when there is a perfectly heated up house right next door. The bus became more of hangout over the second winter. No problems with the bus.
Cutting some wood with my dad, for the Skoolie interior.
But this year! This winter I am legitimately living and wintering in the bus.
Home is Truly Where You Park It!
Mary, now my wife, moved onto the bus on September 1, 2016 and we have been living on it full time since then.
We started our journey in Florida, and drove to the west coast to attend the Tiny House Living Festival in Portland, Oregon.
Throughout the trip, we were networking and actively searching for places to park our bus for the next few months. We placed ads on Craigslist in both Seattle and Portland, hoping to end up somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
After attending the Tiny House Living Festival, we still had no idea where we would park the bus. We decided to extend the road trip, and headed down to the California Redwoods, which we both had never seen. From there, we headed north again towards Bend, Oregon to attend the Van Life and Bus Life gathering ‘Descend on Bend’, with hopes of finding a place to park.
Hanging out with Jessica from BlueBusAdventure.
The weekend long event was a blast, and we connected with so many wonderful people. We also had our first taste of the Pacific Northwest Bus life: condensation on the windows, not enough solar power to charge the batteries and realizing we did not have an adequate way to heat ourselves.
I remember looking at Mary with a concerned look, wondering if being up here would be a good decision. We both really wanted to park and live here, so we set out to make that happen, even if we knew there would be hurdles along the way. When aren't there any, right?
Welcome to Seattle!
Parked at one of the only campgrounds that would accept a Skoolie. Just outside of Seattle.
With no electricity and no way to heat ourselves, we bundled up with blankets.
The first night in town, we parked the Bus at an RV park so that we could use their shower facilities, charge our solar/interior batteries and finally have enough power to run our space heater to keep warm. The windows were wet with condensation and we needed to get the bus dried out.
We had 2 Damp Rid RV buckets in the bus, Damp Rid closet hangers, as well as a routine of wiping moisture off the windows. We still had nowhere permanent to park, but my fiancee had a work meeting in the morning. When she initially turned in her 2 Weeks notice, her manager told her to reconsider, to take the time off for the bus trip, and when she came back she would get a raise. The meeting in the morning was a “welcome back, when can you work?” check-in with her manager. It was important for us to be in town, even though we would be boon-docking around the city with no actual place to park yet.
The RV park we found was only 1 of 3 that allowed RV’s older than 10 years (some are 15) and being a converted bus for that matter. They unfortunately did not have another night available, and regardless, we did not have a car, we needed the bus to get around.
We left the RV park in the morning and parked the bus along a busy residential road as Mary got ready to head over to her meeting. It’s always an uneasy feeling to be sitting in our home, as cars whizz by right outside. It was a great spot to park though, and I saw 3 other RV’s in the vicinity. The only catch was that we would have to move by a certain time, when the road becomes so busy that they need that lane to be unobstructed so cars can drive there.
Sitting on the couch, parked in the city, I logged onto Craigslist to see if there were any RV spots available on someone’s property. I also researched “Driveway Hosts” on the VanAlert App, and was emailing back and forth with someone.
"Unfortunately, we don't have a space as big as your bus. I would love to help you, but that’s like 6 vans you're essentially bringing in with your bus size."
After her interview, Mary mentioned that her friend offered for us to park in her driveway, it’s plenty big. So we took off from the roadside spot, just in time for when the lane opened up for the busy traffic.
Temporary street parking to figure out where we could permanently park.
Cars whizzing by extremely close as we get settled in for overnight parking.
At the house, I tried every which way to get the bus turned into the driveway to temporarily park and figure out our long term situation.
I was unable to get the bus into the spot next to the house. The bus was simply too big to make the turn (11 windows, ~34feet), making sure not to hit the house behind me, the cars in the driveway on my right, and leave the brick wall intact on my left. There was no way to fit.
At a loss of where we would park. It was a high stress and highly demoralizing turn of events. Coming from such a beautiful road trip, covering almost 4,000 miles in less than 2 months to being cold, wet, hungry and miserable feeling, trying to find a spot to park your one and only home.
"Park where you can" is our motto. Suburb of Seattle.
We ended up driving the bus to one of the neighboring cities and parking along the side of a busy road, every other street taken up by apartment street parking. We had to fold the mirrors in, in case someone got too close.
The leaks in the windows were getting worse, and it was obvious we need to get the bus tarped soon. The next day we drove north and parked in a casino parking lot for 3 nights. We had a lead on a permanent parking spot, and we were getting ready to meet a couple that owns a few acres and would love for us to park with them.
Nature reclaiming this van and ancient television.
Surviving Winter in a Skoolie: Number Juan Bus
Stuck in South Dakota | Staying Warm With a Wood Stove: Rolling Vistas
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Thank you all for taking time out of your day to read about some of the challenges of living in a custom Bus Home.
Make it a wonderful day!
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- Written by Brock Butterfield
Dear Bus Life Community,
Seeing the 3D visualizations and images of Australia on fire has rocked me. I have always been aware and supportive of efforts to resolve climate change but it wasn't until seeing a few of these images online that something inside of me awakened.
I'm writing all of you because out of all of this I've realized that the biggest thing each of us can do is create more awareness. One Instagram post by you on climate change could reach someone in your circle that isn't fully aware of the magnitude of the issue placed upon us. One conversation with a friend or family member or random stranger could get them thinking and hopefully get them to realize that we need to do everything we can to change what is happening to our little paradise in the unforgiving universe.
There is no bailout option from the universe. Once we're done, we're done.
I've also been thinking about my parents recently. My parents are amazing people with huge hearts that would do anything for anyone yet they don't reduce, reuse and recycle to the extent that I do and they buy cheaper and unsustainable things to make their dollar stretch further. Why? This has been a question on my mind for a while and I have finally realized that it's because they were never taught to. They didn't grow up in a world that is in the state that we are now. Nobody educated them on the effects of their daily routine. That lack of knowledge and education got passed onto myself and my two siblings. I didn't know any better because I was never taught. Sure, there was some light discussion of recycling newspapers and such but nothing about plastic, fossil fuels, over fishing and the impact that eating meat has on our environment.
So rather than blaming my parent's and older generations for the damage they've done to our planet I've decided to do two things to spread awareness:
1) I'm going to do my best to help educate older generations on how to reduce, reuse and recycle along with why it is so important to our existence. I am not going to shame or guilt them for what they may not have known.
2) I'm going to do my best to help educate younger generations on how to reduce, reuse and recycle because they are the future and if we can start to help educate younger generations, our planet might just stand a chance.
I'm also going to personally donate some of my own money to organizations that are doing everything they can to help with the situation in Australia. Not only are there Skoolie mates down under but there are humans just like you and I and I'll bet money that the more of them that survive, the more of them that will be 100% on board to help start making changes to help our climate get back on track.
Patrick Schmidt (our social media manager), his wife Mary and I have looked into organizations that we feel are the best options to donate to so if you're curious and want to donate as well then look into the three organizations below. I personally am donating to all three with as much as I can afford to.
If you're like me and don't have much money to give, you can still make a difference in the bigger picture by helping spread awareness. Take your younger cousin, niece, nephew, etc. under your wing and help get them to start thinking about their future. Post about it. We live in a world were information can be spread across the entire globe at the tap of a button.
Brock Butterfield @brockbutterfield
Founder - @buslifeadventure @thebusfair