Family of five saves money with full-time bus life


Meet the Bratcher Family: Sharel, Tyler, AJ, Zoe, & Aurora

Skoolie family buslife roaming home


This family of five transitioned from a 2,500 sqft house into a self-converted skoolie. Tyler works in IT for a local school district while Sharel is rocking it as a stay-at-home mom. They both have several side-hustles: Tyler is a professional wedding DJ, drives rideshare, financial coach and travel hacking extraordinaire and Sharel is photographer, painter, and all-around creative. Their three kiddos are currently all under 4 years old and together they make up Roaming Home.

Roaming home roof raise bus conversion 

Bus specs:
Make: Thomas
Model: Saf-T-Liner
Motor: Cat 3126b
Year: 1999
Interior Square Footage: 250sqft
Current Location: Southern Oklahoma/North Texas
Location Purchased From: Lincoln, IL
Cost in materials for the conversion: $21,500
Total time from the purchase date to the road: About 1.5 years

Interviewees: Tyler & Sharel


Why a bus?
We were fed up with renting. We’ve actually moved every year since we’ve been married because we would need more space (thanks kids) or prices would continue to rise making it unaffordable for us. We felt like we were throwing our money away into rental properties and never investing in anything for ourselves. We also ran into several landlord troubles. We were just done.

We researched for months… Tiny house? Mobile home? RV? We wanted something affordable but practical for our growing family. We knew what we didn’t want for sure, but what would work for us? Then we stumbled upon the skoolie community. It took some convincing from the wife, but it all made sense. Affordable (check) Customizable (check) Mobile (check) Sustainable (check). With all the boxes checked, we set out on our skoolie journey.

Are you full-timing?
Yes. The bus is our home. We currently have it parked on some family’s land where we finished up much of our conversion but will soon be moving it closer to Tyler’s job.



Did you do the conversion yourself or did you hire someone?
We had absolutely zero construction experience. Tyler would get frustrated just putting together some store-bought furniture. So, we did the logical thing - we converted it ourselves of course! As you can imagine this led to a myriad of mistakes and learn-as-you-go projects. Several family members and friends helped out when they could which proved very valuable in getting some major tasks completed. As you could imagine, this DIY conversion has had its challenges but overall, we love to look back and see all that we accomplished and learned in this process.

Bus conversion kitchen roaming tiny home


What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself so far?
Tyler learned everything we have done as we went from blogs, videos, and simple trial and error. He’s learned how to weld, wire electrical, bus mechanics, plumbing, carpentry, as well as several other smaller tasks like cutting a straight line with a skill saw. We’ve learned about everything from painting, staining, composting, solar and off-grid sustainability, and physics ( oh, and don’t throw cinder blocks up to the top of the bus and try to catch them... That’s a story for another day.)

Tell us something you wish you had known going into this. Any tips or advice?
The primary thing we wished we’d known was the sheer amount of time it took to complete tasks. I mean, with all the mistakes and with more trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s than we could ever count, things that seemed like they would take an hour ended up taking an entire day. We would start on a project, realize something was wrong, watch more videos or do more research, and then start again. It’s just all very time consuming especially when you have three young children to take care of. So, the best advice we could give from that experience is to just plan, plan, plan. Have clear, written and drawn out plans for material and construction before beginning a project. If you have a partner you are working with, make sure they are on the same page about EVERYTHING before you dive in.

Roof raise bus conversion interior


Is there anything you wish you did differently in your build?
The biggest thing would be not having our living situation figured out during the build. Because the conversion took significantly longer than we anticipated, we were actually homeless for almost a year. During this time, we even birthed our third child. We jumped around from hotel stays to family and friends' houses for several months. We are extremely grateful for the friends and family that gave up their space for us but obviously, we’d much rather have been in a stable living situation during the build.


Tell us about your layout. Kitchen? Bathroom? Bedroom?
Upon entering, the steps have a separate “front” door beside the driver’s seat. We have 5ft bench seats in the living room, one opens up for storage and the other opens up and slides out to make a bed. We have our kitchen on one side of the bus with a gas stove, corner sink, fridge and microwave with cabinets lining the ceiling. Our hallway goes down the left side of the bus. As you walk down the hall, the bathroom is on the same side as the kitchen where we have our shower/bath, composting toilet, and some shelving. Going further back the hallway goes back to the middle of the bus where three bunks are stacked on one side while the washer/dryer and closet fill the opposite side. Finally, our bedroom consists of king-size bed space and a play area.

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?
We have several features in our conversion that we think are unique. We have a 20” roof raise, an almost 3000-watt solar array with Victron products and Nissan Leaf batteries, an actual bathtub, and three bunks. However, two of the most unique features are our king size bed lift and a movie projector. Our bed lift uses a winch and pulley system to raise our king size bed up to the ceiling during the day to give us a playroom/homeschool space/ and office area. At night, we lower it down to sleep on. Our projector is mounted on the ceiling in the middle of our kitchen and it projects down to a screen in our living room area. This gives us a 72” movie screen without having a large, heavy television mounted in the bus.

Skoolie bathroom shower toilet

What has been the hardest thing about this whole lifestyle change/ living/traveling in a bus? Easiest thing?
The most difficult thing is the transition into minimalist living - getting rid of all of our stuff. Sharel is a recovering hoarder and comes from a lineage of hoarding. We’ve always had more than enough things to fill the spaces of our large living areas. Now that we have moved into a tiny place, selling, donating and giving away much of what we own is much harder than we anticipated.

The easiest/best thing is having a place to call our own. We don’t have to worry about impeding on someone else’s home or a landlord breathing down our necks. We can actually invest our time and finances into pursuing our dreams. We hope to one day own land to park our bus and provide a place for others to build and park their skoolies or tiny homes. We look forward to living off the grid, creating a homestead, living rent and debt-free and the freedom to travel without the burden of a mortgage. Because of our bus, we have the opportunity to pursue entrepreneurship and experiences and help others to do the same.


What has been people’s reaction to you buying a bus to live in?
The reactions we’ve gotten have been all over the board. Sharel’s family was on board from the get-go, however, Tyler’s family has been much more resistant to the idea of a family of five living in a tiny space. We have received a ton of support from friends who have been both excited and impressed by the work we have done. Several people have told us that they have dreamt of doing the same thing but lack of experience, societal pressures or kids have held them back. We’d like to think that our story and experience is helping to break through some of those roadblocks people are facing to pursuing the kind of minimal and sustainable lifestyle they desire.

Update: After spending time with Jessica and family of Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio, who have a new kitten, the Bratchers decided to add a new addition to their home on wheels. Meet Asher, Roaming Home's skoolie cat. 

Bus cat skoolie pet

How can people learn more about you?
Instagram: @roaming.home
Website: https://roaminghome.wixsite.com/roaming-home

 

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College Student Veteran Converts Short Bus into DIY Cabin on Wheels

Brittany Newson DIY Bus Life 

Hey, world! My name is Brittany and I'm an optimistic Air Force veteran who converted a 4 window short bus. Domino is her name.

My bus life journey started after my second year at San Francisco State University (SFSU). I was paying $1,300 a month to rent a room in a house with four other people. After doing that for one year, I decided there had to be another way.

I fell in love with vanlife/buslife after watching countless videos on YouTube and I decided this was for ME!!

Bus life has helped me rediscover what makes me, Brittany, happy. I lost so much of my self being in the Air Force because I conformed into the person THEY needed/wanted me to be. 11 years, 2 months, and 23 days later...I now have the freedom to just be ME & bada ba ba baaaaa I'm Loving It! 

 School Bus Domino

Bus specs:

Make: Chevy

Model: 3500/ 4 window

Year: 1998

Interior Square Footage: Less than 80 sqft

Current Location: Reno, NV

Purchased From/Location: Online Auctions, Casper, Wyoming

Cost in materials for the conversion: Under $6k

Total time from the purchase to hitting the road: The original conversion was completed in under 3 months

 Short Bus Conversion Bus Life

Does your bus have a name? If so, why did you choose it?

Domino is her name. Bringing Dom home, my husband and I drove over 9 hours through the mountains with no mechanical issues. I figured she was lucky and named her after the Deadpool character Domino...her special power was luck!

 

Where are you converting/ did you convert your bus?

My initial conversion and remodel is being completed in the driveway of my apartment. To be honest, additional space would be great, but you don't need a ton of space to build.

 

Did you do the conversion yourself or did you hire someone?

My husband and I did the initial conversion. For this remodel, I've done 98% of the work myself.

 

What has been your favorite part of the build so far? Why?
The remodel has been my favorite part. With COVID halting the world, I have been able to sit and think about what I want to see when I wake up. I have added so many beautiful bright colors and GLITTER to Domino. I smile every time I open her doors. I trust myself with tools. I trust myself to make important build decisions. I know what I want this time around and I’m not afraid to make it happen.

 

 Glitter epoxy countertop  

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

Domino is all mine. I purchased her to live in while I was away at SFSU. Now that school is all online, Domino is more of an adventure mobile.

 

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

Before converting Domino, I only used a power drill. I learned how to use tools and build things off YouTube. I watched tons of videos, mainly videos with female builders, and used them as inspiration.

 

Tips/tricks/advice to help others have who want/are converting a vehicle?

Self-doubt has halted many dreams from becoming a reality and I think the most important thing is to not second guess yourself so much. Yes, measure twice, or three times if you have to, BUT, when you need to make those big decisions know that you are making the right decision AND to be honest, most things aren’t permanent. Maybe you can remodel in a year like me!

 DIY School Bus Conversion

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

I think my glitter butcher block is the centerpiece of my little cabin on wheels. It took three goes in order to get it right, but it's finally perfect and I'm happy with how it turned out! It screams Brittany.

 

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

My initial conversion was rushed because of my school's start date. I had kitchen cabinets from Habitat for Humanity and the style of the entire build was blah. Everything was functional but it was just blah. Now that school is out, I decided to remodel Domino and make her my little cabin on wheels. She is looking so good and like a real cozy space these days! So much has changed in less than 30 days. Domino has personality and style now.

 Camper Conversion Short Bus

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

For the most part, people weren't shocked when I announced my purchase. People who really knew me understood my vision and considered me a hippie or free spirit. So, Domino wasn't a hard pill to swallow for the masses.

 

How can people learn more about you?

I'm @Whereis_Brittany on Instagram and Where is Brittany on YouTube

 

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Digital Nomad Couple takes Long Route in Short Bus Conversion

Dan and Alyssa The Lucky Bus

Alyssa Bean and Dan Mini have been living full-time in The Lucky Bus since 2019. The pair, originally from Massachusetts, attended the first Bus Fair in their short bus conversion last summer and were ready to make the trek to Oakridge, Oregon, again before the show was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.

Not ones to let work keep them from a life of adventure, both Alyssa and Dan work remotely on the road. Alyssa is a freelance digital marketer and writer, and Dan organizes, edits, and produces videos for YouTube. You can see his work as Bus Life Adventure's new  YouTube manager, as well as through weekly vlogs aboard The Lucky Bus through Regretlyss. I caught up with Alyssa to learn how bus life has been treating them so far. 

 The Lucky Bus Thumb

Bus Specs:

Make: Ford
Model: E450
Motor: 7.3L Diesel Powerstroke
Year: 2003
Interior Square Footage: 98 
Current Location: Bend, OR
Purchased From/Location: Skaneateles, NY
Cost in materials for the conversion: approx. $20,000
Total time from the purchase date to the road: 1.5 years

Interviewee: Alyssa

Did you attend The Bus Fair?

Yes! My partner Dan and I were able to show our bus LUCKY at the first-ever Bus Fair in 2019. We had been on the road for just three months at that time. The Bus Fair was a pivotal point for us because it was there that we had our first real encounter with the bus life community. We met all of our closest “road friends” there.

After The Bus Fair, our entire journey was shaped by the friendships we made, giving us places to go, and people to visit. We have since reconnected and caravanned with friends from The Bus Fair multiple times - friends for a lifetime that’s for sure.

What can someone expect attending The Bus Fair?

Someone attending The Bus Fair can expect to experience the culture of nomad life, to make lifelong friendships, and be inspired by the creativity of the builds.

Why a bus?

I chose a bus for a few different reasons. The first is I loved the idea of giving new life to an old bus, re-purposing something that had such great potential. I also chose a bus because of its creative potential. I was able to truly make it my own. And lastly, my bus is only 22 feet long, so it’s still easy to park and drive around, I’ve even taken it through New York City!

Does your bus have a name or phrase you call it?

My bus is named “Lucky”. I chose that name because I truly felt so lucky to be living in a way that allowed me to reconnect with what truly mattered to me. The bus life is such a gift.

Are you full-timing?

I have been living on the road full-time for 15 months.

Adventure Travel Lucky Bus Conversion

Did you do the conversion yourself or did you hire someone?

I worked with a contractor on my build. I did all of the designing, material sourcing, purchasing, etc. I regret not doing the whole build on my own. There are a lot of issues that came up with working with a contractor. The contractor was helpful in the fact that they had the space and tools for the conversion I did not have at the time. That was the benefit of working with a contractor.

Who are you living/traveling with?

I am traveling with my partner Dan. I purchased the bus before I met him, and lucky for me he loved the idea of the bus life, so he hopped on board.

Skoolie Short Bus Conversion

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

It’s going to be way harder and way more fulfilling than you think it is.

My advice is to do your research, know that you’re capable, and to reach out to the community. The community has been the best part of bus life. I got so much advice and help from the community when I was purchasing the bus and also when I needed help / advice on the road.

What do you do for income?

I am a freelance digital marketer and writer.

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

I wish I included a diesel heater right from the get-go! I also wish I made my couch a dinette instead that collapsed into a couch.

Short Bus Conversion Interior Kitchen The Lucky Bus

What about the bus has helped you be successful in reaching your lifestyle goals?

The bus life has allowed me to live intentionally and stay connected with what really matters to me. No more mindless routine. No more working on someone else’s dream. The emotional and mental health benefits are incredible. Not to mention the financial benefits that go into living in a bus.

How has the pandemic affected bus life for you?

We have hunkered down in Bend, OR, on private property. We think it’s important for us nomads to do our part and stop traveling. I am so grateful for the safe place to park, and embracing the new space and slowed pace in my life.

Trees Short Bus Conversion Lucky Bus


How can people follow your adventures?

Instagram 

YouTube 

Website

  

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Young couple, two kids and a dog living on a bus

 Skoolie family We Live on a Bus

 

Hello Bus Life Adventurers!

Since The Bus Fair 2020 had to be postponed until June 2021, we thought about digitally coming together for the Bus community!

30 unique Skoolies were chosen to be Featured Exhibitors at The Bus Fair. Since we're unable to meet in person - we're bringing a handful of these bus conversions right to you!

Contributing Writers Elizabeth with LittleHouseOnTheHwy and Patrick with SkoolieLove have been working on these interviews the past couple of months.

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

Introducing the second interview from our 'The Bus Fair Feature' Series

We Live on a Bus

Skoolie camping We Live on a Bus

Bus Specs:
Make: International
Model: FE300
Motor: DT466
Year: 2005
Interior Square Footage: 234
Current Location: Granbury, TX
Purchased From/Location: Nixa, MO Interviewee: Tina Wann 

In 2017 Chris and Tina Wann sold nearly everything to live full-time on their 2005 International school bus conversion known as Big Booty Judy. Although they've faced many ups and downs like needing their engine rebuilt two weeks into their first big trip, the Wandering Wanns haven't let that keep them from their dream. The family is living their bus life adventure while working remotely and "road schooling" their two kids, Elijah and Rylee, along the way. 

Why a bus?

We love the fact that school buses are built for safety and the ability to customize the space to fit your specific needs.

Does your bus have a name or phrase you call it? If so, why did you choose it?

Big Booty Judy. We say she named herself. The first time I drove it Chris kept telling me to “turn wide”. When we got home I told him I thought I knew what the bus’s name should be. He said, “Big Booty Judy”. I was thinking the exact thing.

Are you full-timing?

We have been for one year.

Where are you converting / did you convert you Skoolie?

We had a contractor in Illinois do the rough-in. We finished the rest in Waynesville, Missouri.

Who are you living / traveling with?

We have two sons, Elijah and Rylee, and one dog: Dub the Skoolie Dog.

 We Live on a Bus kids

Were you all on the same page about living bus life or did one person (or more) need some convincing?

I brought the idea to Chris and expected him to say no to the entire thing. He said he would travel full time, but he would NOT live on a school bus. I dropped the bus idea but after he researched them he came back and said he thought that was the best option.

What advice do you have to help others who want / are converting a vehicle into a home?

Even when our bus broke down and I was posting the fact that the engine rebuild was costing us thousands of dollars, people still sent DMs asking if bus life was helping us save money. It drained our emergency fund and we were out of our home for 3 months for the repair. My advice is to have an emergency fund.

 

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

We have a water propagation wall.

Plant Wall We Live on a Bus

How do you make money on the road?

I manage Instagram accounts and have several smaller streams of income coming in. Chris teaches English to children in China.

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

The hardest thing for us was breaking down and trying to figure out what to do with ourselves while we waited. The best part is the fact that we have so much time together now.

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

I wish I had planned for a bathtub! It is the one thing I miss about our sticks n bricks!

What about your bus conversion has helped you be successful in reaching your lifestyle goals?

We don’t have a lot of bills so we don’t need to work full time.

Interior We Live on a Bus

What has been people's reaction to you buying a school bus to live in?

There has been a spectrum of reactions, but my favorite is the older people who tell us they wished they had done this when they were younger.

Tell us about your Skoolie layout.

We have a split bathroom. The sink is in the “hall” area so it can be used while someone is in the other part that contains the toilet and shower. The middle is our bunk room and storage area. Our bedroom is in the back. It has a small area where you can stand and a door that creates privacy

How has the pandemic affected bus life for you?

We were scheduled to leave right when COVID-19 started making its way to America. We are fortunate to be staying on private property and we don’t have a date that we need to leave. We are staying here in Texas until things settle down or until we are needed somewhere else.

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

Shelby, Illinois. It was our first night on the bus and it snowed. We hadn’t planned for a heater because we were going to “follow the weather.” It was less about the place and more about the experience!

How can people learn more about you?

Follow along with the Wandering Wanns on their website and on social media!

Website 

Instagram

 

 

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