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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Hello everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio.

art supplies bunk bed travel studio

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

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

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

Bus specs:

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

Bus owner and Interviewee: Jessica Rambo


paint can project marine veteran combat bus conversion

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

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

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

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

Why a bus?

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

artwork flag cat interior bus conversion


How long have you been living in your bus?

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


Where did you convert your bus?

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

skoolie van bus conversion meet up painted buffalo

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

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


Tell us about your layout.

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

clean interior painted buffalo studio paint can project

son bedroom bunk marvel star wars interior

Did you do the conversion yourself?

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


Who are you living/traveling with?

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

painted buffalo studio cats dogs veteran mom bus life

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

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


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

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


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

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

fixing underneath bus chassis female veteran life adventure

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

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

cat son big tub skoolie interior bathroom

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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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

children kids painting art learning unschool home school outdoors


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

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

What might you be doing three months from now?

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


How can people learn more about you?

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

exciting life bus conversion adventure laptop interior design

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Hi there!

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

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

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

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

There is always something new to fix or repair.

shelby david aimless travels interior cooking kitchen

clothing closet storage bus conversion home on wheels aimless travels

About our bus and us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aimless travels driving picture go pro bus life adventure

Why a bus?

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

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

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

home on wheels tiny house bus interior bedroom

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

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

beautiful gorgeous interior aimless travels bus conversion

What makes you happy?

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

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

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

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

What more could we possibly need?!

bathroom compost toilet bus conversion motor home aimless travels

shower plumbing bus conversion aimless travels adventure

Sharing what we know

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

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

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

bus life adventure skydiving skoolie conversion

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

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

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

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

Interview by: Brock Butterfield

School Bus Conversion: Spencer Family

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

Spencer Family 1

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

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

Spencer Family 2

 

Spencer Family 3

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

Spencer Family 4

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

 

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

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

Spencer Family 5 

 

Spencer Family 8

 

Spencer Family 11

TBF 2019 square

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

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

 Spencer Family 6

 

Spencer Family 7

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

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

 Spencer Family 13

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

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

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

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

 Spencer Family 9

 

Spencer Family 10

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

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

 Spencer Family 12

 

Spencer Family 14

LINKS

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