What's the IDEAL vehicle for visiting all 59 U.S. National Parks?

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What's the IDEAL vehicle for visiting all 59 U.S. National Parks?

Meet the Bowman Family and their converted Shuttle Bus "Buster"

~ By Contributing Writer: Madi Bowman of The American Field Trip ~

Follow them on Instagram & American Field Trip Website

bus life adventure zion

"We're hitting the road! With what vehicle?!"

When my husband and I decided that, along with our two kids, we were going to live on the road, we weren't sure which kind of vehicle we'd end up in.

Honestly, the choice to live full-time out of a vehicle seemed pretty easy compared to deciding, once we were settled on doing a stint of road life, which vehicle to choose.

 

abey road adventure

"Now that we've been in [the shuttle bus] full-time for 15 months, we can honestly say that the choice has been perfect for us."

Skoolie? Standard RV? Some kind of Van?

We did tons of research and a lot of pondering before we settled on a shuttle bus, and while our choice wouldn't be right for everyone, we wanted to lay out our thinking in case anyone else is going through the same process.

Our criteria: We wanted something reliable and safe, something in which we could stand up, with enough space to feel livable for a family of four.

american field trip hobbit house

Initially, we were most attracted to vans. We liked the stealth, the gas mileage, and the safety, and there are so many resources for van conversions that we were confident the project was doable. We thought we'd go that route and spent most of our time considering whether a Sprinter or Ford Transit would be best. But in our configuring, we just kept running into problems.

Sell Everything. Build a Van. Explore the World.

The biggest Transit was too small. The Sprinters were a good size, but we weren't thrilled about getting into a Mercedes. We have family members who own FedEx routes and fleets of Sprinters and they unilaterally described Sprinters as problem vehicles.

It seems that once Sprinters get a good bit of mileage on them, they start having a lot of engine problems, and because they're Mercedes, the problems are super expensive to fix. While we know plenty of people who love their Sprinters, we didn't want to get into something that would be so potentially problematic.

We also looked into installing extended fiberglass tops to other types of vans in an attempt to get the Sprinter height with the reliability of another vehicle. But other vans had shorter wheel bases, which meant much less living space.

Bumble Beast - Sprinter Van Conversion

So we started looking at RVs. They seemed like an obvious choice and still, when we showed people what we were planning with the bus, we were invariably asked some variation of, "So why didn't you just buy an RV?"

So, why didn't you?

Well, for a few reasons. Safety was a big one, especially with the kids. While buses are basically constructed inside a metal cage, RVs are much lighter and less rugged. The kids' seats would probably have been hooked to dinette seats, which vary in their construction, but are frequently much less sturdy than typical car seats.

We're not planning on getting into any fiery crashes, but if we did, we want something that will hold up. I definitely don't think an RV is an irresponsible choice. But knowing how much time we'd be spending on the road, we wanted to be really comfortable with our level of safety.

We also had a hard time finding an RV layout that made sense for us. We wanted to sleep in the same area as the kids, but probably not the same bed, which we couldn't configure in an existing RV layout. We wanted to be able to work comfortably after the kids went to sleep. And we really didn't want a bathroom, so we were hesitant to sacrifice space to one. It might seem odd that a bathroom was on our list of undesirables, but we didn't want to deal with a black water tank or a frustratingly tiny sink, and we definitely didn't want an RV shower.

bowman family american adventure bus

When you are 6 feet and taller, RV showers are just a special kind of cruel. (But all this about the bathroom would likely be totally different for someone else. I have strong, experience-borne aversions to RV bathrooms that a lot of others don't share. So take it all with a grain of salt.)

We also wanted solar power, good insulation, and a full-sized sink, along with a bunch of other features that weren't totally crucial, but would make it more livable for us.

Basically, we knew if we got an RV we'd have to gut it to get a layout we were really happy with, and if we settled on a layout we didn't love, we'd still want to add enough upgrades that it didn't seem to make sense to invest in an RV in the first place.

bowman family bus life adventure shuttle

So we were down to buses.

We honestly never considered a school bus because as soon as we started looking at buses, we found a wholesale dealer in Arizona and immediately connected about a couple of shuttle bus gems, including the one we ended up with.

School bus conversions look awesome, but we think it would have been a poor choice for us, mostly for time reasons. We had to get our build done in a little over a month and the shuttle bus didn't require any metal work or window replacement.

buster family skoolie

All in all, we are super happy we ended up with what we did. The shuttle bus isn't perfect, of course, but we loved being able to design and build it to fit our little family. And now that we've been in it full-time for 15 months, we can honestly say that the choice has been perfect for us.

buster bedroom layout skoolie

blank landscape buster bus

"So many things I love about this little home of ours, but maybe the best thing is that it runs like a dream. We had nightmares about breaking down in the emptiness of West Texas, but Buster chugged on like a champ. He really is a legend."

 

adventure exit outdoors

"Nothing better than being able to take your home along with you wherever you go, to step out your door straight into the most beautiful places on Earth. Also, you can’t beat getting back from a hike and laying down in your own bed, right by the trailhead, for a long afternoon nap"

The steps required to insure your school bus conversion with links to insurance companies who offer coverage for school bus conversions.

~ Written By: Laura Scothern from Skoolie Nation ~

You converted a skoolie!  All systems check out and you're ready to drive away towards unknown adventures, right? Not quite. Obtaining insurance for your liberation mobile can be nearly as daunting as the build. Hopefully our experience of the process outlined below will make legalizing your dream machine less disheartening.

After calling several insurance companies and receiving many rejections, we discovered AIS (Auto Insurance Specialist). With access to multiple insurance providers, AIS makes finding the best coverage and price possible. The following information is our experience with AIS regarding their policies and procedures.

Companies are ever tightening their requirements for Skoolie insurance so having a few things prepared for your potential insurer before calling will really help.

  • Your bus must show living quarters similar to an RV. Stovetop, sleeping quarters, and possibly a bathroom space(but not required).
  • You cannot live in it full time.
  • Your bus must be in good condition. It cannot appear that it is a makeshift job and should meet professional standards. AIS, among other companies may require the bus to have its decals removed and yellow paint covered.
  • The insured driver must be a good driver. Our Sales Representative informed me that a policy was denied because the driver had an accident and a ticket in the last 3 years. More than 1 accident will usually result in a decline.
  • There is not a big difference from state to state in regards to insurance, other than each state has their own minimum coverage requirements.  In Florida any personal injury claim within any 5 year period will usually result in a decline.
  • You must have active personal auto insurance and will be asked for proof. This is because they do not want people driving their bus as a primary vehicle (used for work commute or for personal errands).
  • The policies available are usually only liability and uninsured motorist protection. They do not offer comprehensive, collision or any contents coverage.
  • Wood stoves or the "appearance" of a wood stove and chimney pipe are not allowed.

The following pictures will be required of the interior:

  • cooking area
  • sleeping area 
  • bathroom space 


Cooking Area


Sleeping area


Bathroom area

 

 

After sending those, they requested the following:

  • photo from the back of the bus towards front 
  • photo from the front of the bus towards the rear 


View from back of the bus to the front.


View from the front to the back of the bus.

For the exterior they requested the following pictures:

  • Front
  • Back
  • Both sides

 

 

After an entire week of hope and anxiousness, National General became our new insurance provider, freeing us to take our home onward and upward.  

There are other insurance companies who will insure bus conversions but will not consider coverage if your bus was previously used for school. If you're in a pinch and need to get insurance quick, Progressive offers insurance online however you will be dropped within two weeks.

AIS also has pre-conversion commercial insurance available. Even if your skoolie is not used commercially, one of these policies may still be possible; however, they are usually slightly more expensive than personal policies. For more information regarding bus conversion insurance, visit the AIS website at:

https://www.aisinsurance.com/products/recreational-vehicle/bus-conversion.aspx

Below is the contact information of the Sale Representative that we worked with at AIS. Please let him know that Laura Scothern of @skoolienation sent you his way.  

Auto Insurance Specialists

Phone: 866-570-7335 fax:866-732-6739  

http://www.aisinsurance.com

 

 

Living care-free in a Converted School Bus around America.

What life changing E-mail are you waiting for?


What are you currently trying to accomplish? Achieve? Acquire? What do you need to happen in life for you to feel more fulfilled? What passions are you pursuing? What makes you get up in the morning?

Do you ever say to yourself “If only I won the lottery, I would...”


 

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” 

-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

It’s a beautiful story of a young shepherd boy who travels the world looking for a worldly treasure that was promised him. During his travels, he meets all sorts of interesting people, makes a lot of money, loses it, makes some more and seemingly endures one hurdle after another. That is, until his grandest dreams come true.

The Alchemist has my name and story written all over it.


I herd sheep and my name is Alchemist.

Actually it's not. 

I'm Patrick, a dude living in a School Bus.

 

On March 4, 2015 the idea of “SkoolieLove” was born. A Skoolie is a converted school bus, which I would ride around spreading awareness and Love. Social Media accounts were created, and everything was setup for me to become a famous Bus driver. 

 

 

 But how?!

I set off on my EPIC 10,000 mile road trip across this great country on August 15 of that year. I lived as much as I could, enjoying myself tremendously, taking notes and as many pictures as I could. Building my Tiny Home on Wheels, and the ensuing adventure was a success!

 

A few days into December of 2015, I posted a “Bus Road Trip” picture album on the site IMGUR, which went completely nuts! I posted it and soon had 10 views. 30 views. 250 views. 1,000 views. 5,000 views! It went viral. You can see it HERE. Now up to over 250,500 views! 

 

I stuffed my face into a pillow on the couch to calm my breathing. This was so amazing! I was so excited. It was the first nod to me, that people appreciate the way I live. They were approving of my choices and wrote some tremendously positive comments. It’s nice to know when other people agree with my life choices and accept me for them. 

 

“It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” 
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The next morning, I saw that my email inbox had blown up. There were requests for interviews! I couldn’t believe it! I got in touch with as many people as I could to get the word out about down shifting and living in a bus.

Over the next couple days, I talked with ABC Travel news, Mirror, DailyMail, and other outlets that were covering the Big Blue Bus story. Once the articles came out, it was so super awesome to see my life’s story, Bus Life, written out like that. To be mentioned because I chose to live in a bus, after posting an album on a picture website! 

 

When I started, all I wanted to do was live in a Bus, and do nothing except the things I loved. Less dishes, less cleaning, and NO job to go to. Reading when I want to read, seeing what I want to see, doing exactly what I want to do. I wanted there to be nothing that I HAD to do. I wanted MY time to be MY time. 

That was my goal when I bought the bus. Was is possible? I HAD to find out.

A couple weeks after the interviews came out, I received an e-mail from a Home Show director in New Jersey. Turned out, he heard of the Bus and loved my story, inviting me to come attend the show. He would even pay me for doing so! I was beyond excited. What a wonderful opportunity, to have my Tiny Home FEATURED at an event!

 

I called my dad, and teared up on the phone, my leg shaking. We built this bus together. We had such growth in our relationship because of the build. Here, it was being acknowledged. It was beautiful.

 

The show went amazingly well. 

 

 


 


In July of 2017, I had gotten an email from a production company in England. They were sending a production team over to the States and wanted to shoot an on-the-road documentary about Marijuana Legalization. They contacted me wondering if I would be willing to rent them the bus. Long story short, AWESOME OPPORTUNITY, not great timing. Did not work out. 

 

 



These are the possibilities! I never imagined these would be the calls and e-mails I’d be answering. Bus Life has been the right decision, through and through. 


So let me ask you this:

If you received one e-mail today, which could dramatically improve and change your life, what would it be?

What are you currently trying to accomplish? Achieve? Acquire? What do you need to happen in life for you to feel more fulfilled? What passions are you pursuing? What makes you get up in the morning?

Do you ever say to yourself “If only I won the lottery, I would...”

What do you wish you would do? What are you excited about, waiting for?

Step out of your current life’s “limitations” and think about what you would do if everything was possible. Imagine how you would feel if you get what you are working to attract?

 

I was tired of paying rent, exhausted from long hours working a job that wasn’t right for me, and driving too long and often to get there. I had money, but was always short on time. I wanted to reclaim my time, even if it meant I would have less money. Working as a digital nomad, freelancing could provide me with more time AND more money.

My main objective back then was to live in a place that I felt comfortable in. A place where I could put up anything on the walls, paint it however I liked, and make it feels as homey as possible.

 

I wanted to live in a bus and came away with a whole new outlook on life, realizing each moment is filled with endless opportunities. Put your intentions out there; you never know how far they will reverberate and come back to you ten fold.

Putting a number on it, I would say life has become 99.98% more interesting since I bought a church bus to live in. It’s a different kind of buzz.

 

Currently, I feel like I have won the lottery of Life, cause I feel like a million bucks! I’m a soon-to-be-married, debt-free homeowner; in the process of writing two books and SLOWLY making writing a viable source of income for our “Bus”hold. (Household)

Writing

Since quitting my time-clocked, steady paycheck job, I have been questioning myself regularly: “What do I have to offer? What can I do, what can I provide to be useful? What is my value and how does that lead to creating an income?”

 

 

It has been a balance of physical day labor, as well as mental, creative labor; in the form of writing, building websites, e-commerce, social media and photo editing/graphic design. 

 

Creating a structured story out of thin air is one of my favorite passions. I spend most of my time reading, writing, and researching.

 

That “Winning the Lottery!” Email

When first coming up with the “SkoolieLove” idea in March of 2015, creating social media accounts and trying to find other bus people, I came across “Bus Life Adventure” on Instagram. I was BLOWN AWAY that Brock was living out of a white shorty bus, hitting the slopes wherever he and his friends could find snow.

#HomeIsWhereYouParkIt

I was searching for anything Bus Life/Skoolie/Bus Conversion related, and found Bus Life Adventure to be one of the Top Skoolie accounts sharing positive information with the Tiny Living community. (Still is, 3 years later) 

So the other day, while sitting in the dining room chair of my Bus home, I was working on a story about a time traveling bus, when my phone lit up. I turned on the screen and saw I had gotten an e-mail from Brock, the Bus Life Multi millionaire-Extra-extraordinaire. (He’s probably more of a thousandaire, but his personality and style is AWESOME!)

 

It has been so amazing following their popularity rise over the years. It was especially amazing to meet Brock in person, years after “meeting” him and his bus Bruce online. He has been my best friend since the first day we met, his personality is that positively infectious.

Bus Life Adventure – Contributing Writer

View SkoolieLove Blogs & Articles

I met Brock and his fiancee Heidi in person in September of 2017, at the Tiny House Living Festival near Portland, Oregon. There is an immediate connection and bond among the Bus and Van Lifers, sharing so many of the same experiences living in a small home on wheels, traveling across the country. We instantly felt like we had been close friends forever, and he did not hesitate to invite me into their Bus Home for a glass of whiskey. Bus Life is the Good Life.

 

#LifeInTheSlowLane

Then we talked about engine troubles, how we built our interior walls, where we poop and shower, what we eat and how we cook it – you know - typical Bus Life stuff.

 

The e-mail I was looking at on my phone was from Brock, tossing around the idea for a “Contributing Writer” and social media assistant he was looking to hire. He knows I love writing, and asked me to start putting some articles together for the site. 

The journey continues! Another e-mail has found me alive and well.

Meet the newest Contributing Writer for BusLifeAdventure!


Through my writing, I hope to get more in touch with the Bus Life/Vanlife/ community. Sharing positive knowledge, and growing the network of information- That’s what Bus Life Adventure and SkoolieLove are all about. We don't have a product to sell, as much as we are promoting a way of life.

Every moment is a new opportunity. The next moment could be The Grand Opportunity.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” 
― Seneca 

Never Stop Exploring

-Bus Life Adventure and Skoolielove

 


 

~North Carolina high school students in drafting class challenged to design a school bus conversion.~

Interview By: Brock Butterfield ~

Instructor: Todd Matthews ~

I opened an email in my inbox recently that both surprised and intrigued me. Topsail High School teacher Todd Matthews sent me an email explaining how he had tasked his students with designing a skoolie for their family as the final project for his Drafting I class. He asked if I had some time to do a Google Hangout the students that had some questions from an "expert". We organized a time and I spent just time with his two classes to answers some questions they had in regards to building a skoolie. At one moment when we were talking about the layout I asked how many of them had taken into account for the wheel wells of the bus of which no one raised their hand. A mistake I had also made in my first drafts and layout of my first school bus conversion.

After the video call I spoke with Todd and asked if I could write an article on the students and the class curriculum. The fact that high school students are now being given the challenge to look at tiny living as a way of the future made me realize that one day it may not be a fun challenge but yet, a reality.

Todd Matthews drafting class reviewing school bus conversions.

Topsail High School Teacher Todd Matthews shows the students the Bus Life Adventure website to give them an idea of what they're going to be designing.

 

 

"Wave to the camera kids! I wanna take a screenshot!"

 

I was curious more about the class and how Todd had come up with the idea so I composed some questions and shot them his way.

How did the idea come about to have your students design a skoolie layout?

I came up with the idea from my love and experience of traveling. Also I use a final design project to assess the students by giving them a hands on project that will encompass the full curriculum/class.

Students use software to layout the school bus conversion.

What criteria did they have to follow?

Final Design Project Drafting I Skoolie Design

Design a Skoolie (Converted School Bus to RV) that will fit your family. It needs to have the following:

  1. Bed/Sleeping area for each person.
  2. Kitchen area with sink and cooktop/oven
  3. How will you have electricity? (Solar/Generator)
  4. Bathroom with toilet and shower/tub
  5. Laundry Washer/Dryer
  6. Living room area/Gathering area/Dining area
  7. Walls need to be 2” thick

Grading Rubric

  1. Brainstorming Ideas/questions? Full Page = 20 pts.
  2. Research notes with website URL’s (Wikipedia not allowed) 4 websites and full page of notes = 20 pts.
  3. Sketches with explanation notes. 1. Sketch Isometric/Oblique/Perspective 2. Multiview = 25 pts.
  4. Engineered blueprints with Title Block, Border, Dimensions, Multiview, and notes. = 35 pts.

 

 

 

 

 

What obstacles did they encounter in their designs?

        - Time management (students get distracted by talking to each other)
        - Lack of creativity or lack of motivation
        - Not taking into account the wheel wells of the rear tires after discussion with you.
        - Fitting all of their immediate family. I have a student that has 7 people living with him.
        - Lack of design experience this is a Drafting I class.

Students use drafting software to layout school bus conversions.

Students use drafting software to layout school bus conversions.

What was the most creative use of space that a student demonstrated?

One picture had the bathroom right behind the driver area and the washer and dryer across from it, followed by the lounge/living room/kitchen area and beds at the back twin XL underneath parents Queen above. I like this idea since you don't have to walk all the way to the back of the bus to use the restroom if you're outside hanging out. Another one was the student with 6 people in his family. 2 sets of bunk beds with parents queen at the back. One student with a washer/dryer across from the bathroom made a statement that this location gives easy access and convenience. (Awesome thought, take off dirty clothes put in washer/hamper, dirty towels, etc.)
 
The coolest ideas was the student that had the sliding porch/deck that came out from under the bus. It would take a engineer to work out some of the issue and I'm sure water tanks would hinder placement and size but it was an out of the box thought. This is the first time I've done the skoolie project, I've done the container house project and small under 1,000 feet project. I enjoyed this one because I want to be able to travel with my family across this great nation. When teachers are passionate about something it helps motivate and inspire their students.

 

One students school bus conversion layout concept.

 

Another creative use of space and layout for a school bus conversion.

 

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