BUS LIFE

Bus Life: Frequently Asked Questions

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We get messages across our social media and email asking questions about our build and what bus life is actually like. In fact, we get some so often that we decided to put together a fun little skoolie frequently asked questions post here so that all the answers were in one place! Here is everything you wanted to know about our bus, the build and life on the road living in a school bus.

WHAT KIND OF BUS DO YOU HAVE?

Oliver is a 2004 International RE {that’s rear engine} 40′ long school bus, with a DT466e and Alison 3000 transmission in his enormous back compartment. He came to us fresh from his route hauling high schoolers at Polson High School in Polson, MT with 135K miles. As a matter of fact, he still has their logo, a pirate, on his front driver side bumper – an homage we paid to his roots while painting.

We get messages asking questions about our build and what bus life is actually like. Here are the answers to those frequently asked questions! | Since We Woke Up | sincewewokeup.com

HOW LONG DID THE BUILD TAKE YOU?

We spent a year converting Oliver from school bus to tiny home, but that time frame is a little misleading. Right in the middle, he was put on hold while we finished selling our house and business and belongings and sat through the winter half-finished. In spring we started back up and moved into him in May. So total work time was probably around 6 months.

HOW MUCH DID IT COST?

The bus itself was $5K – more than we planned on paying, but worth it for the perfect drivetrain and storage/setup. The completed conversion is somewhere in the neighborhood of $20K, including the construction, decor, and titling.

WHO DESIGNED IT AND DID THE WORK?

We did! The design is based on the list of “must-haves” we had from the start, and elements are pulled from tons of skoolie and tiny home builds. We did all of the construction work ourselves, so it’s actually crazy how well it turned out since we had no construction experience. The gaps were filled in by my dad, brother and our best friend – RV techs and an electrician, respectively. My dad installed the entire plumbing and propane system, my brother the solar and some of the electrical and our friend finished the electrical system out. My dad also built a ton of custom metal elements for us – our front door with the original bus windows, the fridge surround, and the wood stove surround.

WHERE DID YOU GET INSURANCE?

We have full comprehensive insurance through AllState with an RV policy for Oliver and renter’s insurance to cover any additional belongings we decide to store. We also carry their motor club policy, which provides roadside assistance, gas and tire changes in emergencies, and covers hotel fees should we have to have Oliver worked on somewhere.

HOW MUCH SOLAR DO YOU HAVE?

We have six 100W Renogy solar panels {600W total} on the roof, with a 600AH AGM battery bank underneath. You can read about the complete system and how it’s put together here.

HOW DO YOU DO LAUNDRY?

Same as you – in our washer/dryer! We have a Splendide combo unit that does an amazing job. The caveat is that we need to be plugged into shore power to run it, so while traveling we occasionally make runs to laundrymats instead of finding hookups. Just one of the nuances of bus life you get used to.

HOW MUCH WATER AND PROPANE DO YOU HAVE?

We have two 40 gallon water tanks and two 20 pound propane tanks. Living normally, we have to refill the propane every three to four weeks and the water every two to three weeks. When we’re conserving, we can make our water last an extra week or so, giving us about three weeks of off-grid time. When the kids travel with us, those times go down considerably.

DOES YOUR COMPOSTING TOILET SMELL AND HOW OFTEN DO YOU EMPTY IT?

We love our Nature’s Head toilet – and we aren’t paid to say that! That said, there was a definite learning curve with that baby. We empty the urine tank every few days and the solids bin every other month or so. When the kids are with us that’s every day on the urine and once a month on the solids. The only time we’ve noticed a smell issue is when the urine gets into the solids bin, but other than that even when we’re emptying it there’s no smell except for the natural smell of whatever composting medium we’re using {coconut or peat moss}. We’re working on writing up an honest review of our experience with it.

HOW MANY MILES TO THE GALLON DO YOU GET?

We average about 8 miles to the gallon when traveling. Oliver has a 100-gallon tank, meaning fillups run us between $275 and $350, depending on how empty we are and what part of the country we are in. He gets his best mileage on state highways, slightly less in mountainous areas and interstates with higher speeds.

HOW IS IT ALL SET UP?

One of our criteria when we were searching for a bus was a ton of preexisting underbelly storage. Our propane tanks, water tanks and battery bank/solar components all fit underneath, in their own little boxed off sections, with plenty of space in between for storage. The interior of the bus has the living space all at the front, bathroom in the middle, and bedroom at the back. You can see the full interior plan here.

HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY WHILE LIVING THE BUS LIFE?

We have a few different income streams that allow us to live on the road full-time and work from wherever we happen to be. You can read the full breakdown here – and snag a free PDF download of the steps we took to get to this point and how we make it all work!

We get messages asking questions about our build and what bus life is actually like. Here are the answers to those frequently asked questions! | Since We Woke Up | sincewewokeup.com

WHAT DID YOU DO WITH ALL YOUR STUFF?

Sold it! Well, most of it. We have a few tote bins stored at our parents’ house containing memorabilia type keepsakes, but the rest of our belongings were sold along with our house and business. We kept a few pieces that had meaning to us, but everything in the bus was purchased specifically for it and is part of the final price tag. We carry everything we own!

HOW MUCH STORAGE DO YOU HAVE?

Considering how little we kept – too much! We have a massive amount of storage under the bus where our camping gear and tools and other “garage” type stuff is held, along with the battery bank, solar components, propane tanks and water tanks. All is secured with a custom installed locking system. Our platform bed has four foldup compartments with another massive chunk of storage underneath where we keep winter clothes and blankets and shoes. At the front, there is a huge pantry type cupboard under the sink for food and first aid supplies. We also have a vintage steamer trunk and bins under the couch that hold board games and other random oddities.

WHERE DO THE KIDS SLEEP?

When we first built the bus, they had bunk beds. After our first long trip out, they mentioned it would have been nicer to have a bigger living space instead of huge bunk beds to ride in, so we scrapped their original beds and used the lumber to put in a living room area with a fold-down murphy bed. Now one takes the couch and the other the murphy bed.

WHERE DO YOU PARK?

The kids’ dad lives in Montana, along with our parents, so we spend a good deal of time there. When we are around home base, we park mostly at my parents’ house {it’s right down the street from the kids’ dad} or our friend’s house. Montana has tons of public land, so we also spend a good deal of time boondocking in the mountains about an hour from home – it’s a quick trip in and out to have a spectacular back yard. When we travel, we’ve parked everywhere from WalMart parking lots, RV camps, the side of the road and public lands. Our favorites are the random shoulder turnouts off little highways that mean we go to sleep and wake up to incredible views – like this one.

We get messages asking questions about our build and what bus life is actually like. Here are the answers to those frequently asked questions! | Since We Woke Up | sincewewokeup.com

HOW DO YOU WORKOUT ON THE ROAD?

As former personal trainers and gym owners, it was important to us to continue our healthy lifestyle. Not trusting our ability to always find a gym, we decided to carry one with us into our new bus life! Part of our under storage is devoted to a bar and plates – a simple setup that allows us to workout wherever we’re parked. On our to-do list is adding a pullup bar to Oly’s rear end that a TRX band can attach to. My yoga mat also goes with us, and yoga on our rooftop deck is more awesome than I can possibly explain.

We get messages asking questions about our build and what bus life is actually like. Here are the answers to those frequently asked questions! | Since We Woke Up | sincewewokeup.com

WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING?

That one is simple – not a thing. Aside from the bunk bed remodel, we haven’t found a single thing so far we would change. If we do, the nice thing is that we can change it out ourselves, having already done all the work and knowing how to!

IS IT HARD TO DRIVE?

There is definitely a learning curve to driving a 40′ bus. While it doesn’t require a CDL to drive a school bus once the seats are removed, learning how wide to take turns, how to safely back up and use all six mirrors effectively took a little time. The main thing is understanding where your pivot point is {ours is at the rear wheel} and making sure that point has cleared whatever you’re trying to maneuver around before committing to the turn.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU TRAVEL?

It just depends. We have to be mindful of the kids’ time with their dad, so we travel with and without them to give them ample time with him and our family. We try to plan trips around the weather we want to be in and holidays in certain locations. We also travel internationally at least once a year, so not all our travel is done in the bus. All said, we probably spend half the year in Montana, and the other half moving around.

WHAT IS BUS LIFE REALLY LIKE?

In a word – wonderful. There are concessions, of course. We have to empty our toilet and fill up our water tanks, there’s the inevitably of things breaking that need to be fixed on a moving house and sometimes the places we find to park aren’t always on the scenic beat {like the WalMart in the middle of Idaho when we were too tired to push on}. But the flip side is a backyard that changes whenever we feel like it and complete freedom {financially and otherwise}. We wake up in the morning, make coffee and enjoy the view of wherever we happen to be, work for a while in the morning from the comfort of our couch and then spend the afternoon exploring or doing yoga and reading before making dinner and enjoying a movie in our bedroom.

We get messages asking questions about our build and what bus life is actually like. Here are the answers to those frequently asked questions! | Since We Woke Up | sincewewokeup.com

IS IT HARD LIVING WITH TWO KIDS IN A SMALL SPACE?

When we designed the floor plan, one of the “must-haves” was a separation of kids and master suite. Their sleeping area is as far removed from ours as possible, which does give us an adequate amount of privacy. When we’re traveling, it can be easy to start feeling a little claustrophobic with four people and a great dane in 250 feet of space, so we make sure to get out and about at least once a day. When we’re parked in Montana, the kids choose to spend their nights at their dad’s house, so Mike and I get plenty of alone time.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW?

Did we forget something? Have a question you want to know about bus life? Send it in and ask us so we can add it to the list!

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