Bus Life

So You Decided to Live in a Bus

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We’re asked a lot why we chose to live in a bus, and what led to that decision.

If you looked back at our life not long ago, it probably would’ve seemed relatively similar to most Americans. We owned a gym and spent our time training clients or teaching classes. We had a big, beautiful house, a brand new car, and lots and lots of “stuff”. Once a year we would manage to get away and take a big two week trip to a far off destination like Rome.

We spent 12 hours a day at our business, earning money for those above-mentioned things we were never home to enjoy.

Our new car drove us to and from work, and occasionally to get groceries. We filled our lives with stuff, yet life felt incredibly empty. We spent our weeks looking forward to the weekend, and our months looking forward to our one trip a year.

We're asked a lot why we chose to live in a bus, and the steps we took to get there. Living in a converted school bus isn't a conventional choice, but it was the best one for us. Here's how we got there. | Since We Woke Up | sincewewokeup.com

Something wasn’t right.

Was this really all there was to the coveted “American Dream”?

Before rousing from the even deeper sleep we were walking through life with, it was this very question that first woke us up out of our zombie-like state of complacency.

We realized we were not leading a life, we were following one. One of cyclical, pointless monotony, broken for many only by death. We slammed on the metaphorical brakes and took a good, hard look at it.

What were we doing? And why? What is the point of all this? Did we even like this life? Did it look like us, or were we simply chasing what society told us to?

The answer we found, when we finally got brutally honest with ourselves, was that we didn’t really like our “dream” life all that much, and it had started to feel more like a nightmare.

SO YOU’RE GOING TO LIVE IN A BUS

A week or two later, we saw a documentary called Expedition Happiness that featured the travels of a couple in a school bus they’d converted to a tiny home. One short talk and a little research later, and we’d decided to buy a school bus.

Now this drastic life change probably seemed impulsive and reckless at first, and to some people, it probably remains so. However, what others call reckless impulsivity, we call living genuinely and unencumbered by societal expectations.

Our course and intention were set. We were going to buy a school bus and convert it into an off-grid-capable, tiny-home on wheels. Then, we were going to use it to travel anywhere and everywhere it could physically take us. We’d found a life that looked like us, and now we just had to pursue it.

As easy as it was to come up with this idea, bringing it to fruition was a different story. While we are quite impulsive, we are also very thorough. If we were going to do this, we were going to do it right.

STEP ONE – SELL EVERYTHING WE OWNED

We had an entire house full of stuff that was not going to fit in a bus. We sold every single piece of furniture and valuable item online, purged closets, gave away boxes and boxes of random stuff that was too small to sell individually, and purged closets again. Within a month, we’d condensed the contents of our life to seven tote bins. Our brand new shiny car left as well in lieu of a smaller, older model that we could use around town until the bus was finished.

STEP TWO – SELL THE HOUSE

Next, we had to get our house up for sale and then of course, actually sell it. That one was a bit tricky.

We actually had the house sold 3 different times, with all of the transactions falling through at the last minute. Finally, we decided to simply keep the house as a rental, and had renters installed a short time later. With the mortgage paid, and a little side income hustle going on, we decided to check that one off the list and move on.

STEP THREE – FIND THE BUS

Next, and most obviously, we needed a bus. But more importantly, we needed the right bus. Good drivetrain, decent condition, not too many miles, not a lot of rust, etc.

Again, this took some time as we had to wait until the right one became available. However, we refused to settle if this vehicle was going to become our new home. After two months of what seemed like endless searching, we found our bus – a 2004 International that we christened “Oliver”.

STEP FOUR – CONVERT THE BUS

Finally, we had to go about converting the school bus into our home.

We were gym owners. We’d never done anything of the sort before, but with the help of the hundreds of Google searches {and some help from those far wiser than us}, we felt confident enough to take a whack at it.

Converting the bus was worth the entire venture.

We had our struggles, of course, but the overall experience was one of joy, learning and fulfillment.

Construction, or deconstruction I should say, began with tearing everything out of Oliver. That part was an absolute blast. Who doesn’t enjoy tearing things apart?

Now that isn’t to say it wasn’t hard. If any of you have children riding buses to school, I can assure you – they are absolutely safe. It took grinders and specialty tools and brute force to pull the seats and flooring out.

Then there was the year that followed of start and stop construction until one day, we found ourselves going to bed in a school bus for the first time.

However, transforming that bus into our home has been one of the most rewarding endeavors we’ve ever undertaken.

STEP FIVE – SELL THE BUSINESS

With the house rented, the car and our possessions sold, and Oliver almost built {and the kids now being homeschooled, we should add – another huge but satisfying choice}, we had one thing left – our business.

While we were hesitant, we knew what we had to do. We loved our gym and the community of people it housed. We’d built it from the ground up. The thought of stepping down and handing the reigns to someone else was incredibly difficult.

But it couldn’t belong to us anymore. It was the last piece of the puzzle, an enormous anchor tying us down as long as we were the owners.

So we took a deep breath and began the process of selling our business.

It went about as smoothly as the rest, and after some contemplation and a few potential buyers falling through, we ended up simply closing the gym down as we finished up the bus. We’d opened the gym on my 30th birthday, and closed it down almost four years to the day later as I celebrated turning 34 by eating ice cream on the new deck of the bus.

We're asked a lot why we chose to live in a bus, and the steps we took to get there. Living in a converted school bus isn't a conventional choice, but it was the best one for us. Here's how we got there. | Since We Woke Up | sincewewokeup.com

We understand that our dream is not representative of what would make everyone happy. Living in a school bus and leaving everything behind is not for everybody.

But Oliver represents more than that, more than just our dream. Oliver is the embodiment of freedom, passion and joy. He is the manifestation of a life chosen with heart, rather than one forced into a box whose dimensions are dictated by society.

The reality that Oliver has actualized in our life is worth every day of the struggle we endured to get here.

We will be able to pay off our remaining debt with the sale of the gym. We don’t have any utility bills or car payments or a mortgage. Our only cost of living is the food we consume or luxuries we choose to enjoy.

When it’s done, our new home will be completely self-sustaining. If we decide we don’t like our current neighborhood, we can simply park somewhere else. We have the means and liberty to travel wherever and whenever we want. We can see every part of the world that we can drive to, and our house comes with us. We live everywhere and nowhere. We are completely nomadic.

In other words, we are living a life that looks like us – and we are free.

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