It all started with a roadtrip.
There we were. Sun setting behind us, the kids asleep in their seats, the beautiful desert scenes passing by outside. We were on our way home to Texas from a two-month roadtrip along the west coast.
Was it already over? I mean, two months is a long time, but does it have to end? How could we make the adventures last longer? What could we do to live a life of constant adventure?
These are the kinds of things we were talking about as we drove that day.
An idea was born.
We made it home from our roadtrip and we got back to our normal routine.
But we were different. The spark was set and unbeknown to us, a wildfire of inspiration was about to break out.
As we talked about ways to prolong our roadtrips, we ultimately came across a movement of people self-building miniature campers. This was perfect. We could figure out how to do the work ourselves and we could pull one behind our small SUV.
So we started researching, then planning, then designing. Before long, we had a super cool model started for our own mini-camper!
It was tiny, but it would have been absolutely perfect for us!
Put on the brakes.
You know how sometimes life decides to throw something your way that changes EVERYTHING? Yeah, that happened.
As we were finalizing plans for our mini-camper, calling for prices on materials, and figuring out how we were going to pull this whole thing off, reality knocked.
Surprise! Another baby on the way!
Yep. See, we already had 3 and our mini-camper plan would have been super tight for us, but doable.
4 kids made it impossible.
It all came to a screeching halt.
We were stoked to have another kid, but this upended our plans.
So we sat on the idea for a while.
Enter the skoolie movement.
As we began to scrap our plans, we started once again talking about what we could do in the future to live a life of adventure.
It was during our research for the mini-camper that we came across yet another nomadic movement of DIYers, the Skoolie movement.
Basically, the idea is you take a retired school bus, gut it out, and build a house on the inside.
It was a cool idea, but it didn’t seem like something we could ever do. See, with our mini-camper, we would keep our house and just use the camper on trips. A skoolie would mean going on the road full-time. Surely we couldn’t do that. Right?
If not now, when?
One day, Jeff had a long call with a co-worker wherein they discussed life, travel, kids, and the future. Once the call ended, Anna, overhearing part of the call, came in to his office.
“Let’s do the skoolie thing!” she said.
“Whaaa…are you serious?” Jeff said in complete bewilderment.
“If now now, when? Why can’t we do it? Why do we have to stay still?” said Anna.
And that’s where it all changed.
The thought of leaving our home behind and hitting the road full-time was exhilarating, but also terrifying.
Jeff has always worked from home and we made the decision to homeschool our kids before they were even born. So at least we weren’t tied down by those two items.
Cue the list of fears. What if we lost our income? What if we break down? How will the kids meet friends? How will we make acquaintances? What will call home? What if, what if, WHAT IF?
Once we went over all the possible fears and tried our best to talk ourselves out of it, we couldn’t turn away from this possibility. We had to do it.
So we did it. We went 110% into research. We learned about the different types of busses, various engine and transmission combinations, how to register a self-built home on wheels, how to find a bus to buy, how to design a tiny home…the list goes on and on.
We spent the next couple of months in intense research.
We need to minimize.
We were a family of 5, going on 6. We had a 2-story, 4,100 square foot home. How on earth were we going to fit into less than 300 square feet?
We started donating things, we had a yard sale, we donated some more things.
Man, we had too much junk!
Time to buy a bus.
We knew we needed a 40 footer, flat-nose, and rear engine. We took to craigslist and searched with passion.
We also started a savings plan because one thing we knew for sure is that we weren’t going into any debt for this project. If we were breaking free, it didn’t make sense to put any debt over our heads.
The search continued and we found a few prospects.
We took a small roadtrip down to Houston, TX as we found a couple of busses in the area for sale that matched our criteria.
Then we found it! It was perfect! It had everything we wanted and it was in really good condition.
Only problem, we hadn’t saved enough yet. So we went home excited to keep saving so we could buy this perfect bus.
Remember those life brakes? They came back.
We finally saved the full amount that we needed and we excited drove back down to Houston to get OUR BUS.
When we arrived at the lot, something wasn’t right. There was a different bus parked where our perfect specimen once sat.
Surely, they just moved the units around.
See, someone came in to “make a repair” on the bus and somehow fried the computer.
Our bus was no more. The cost to fix the damage exceeded even the selling price of the bus. There was no way we could get this bus.
They had a few more busses that we looked at, but they didn’t have what we needed.
Back to the drawing board.
While we were in Houston, we decided to look at a couple of other busses that we had found.
They were a no-go.
Sadly, we headed back home. Our plans came to yet another halt.
We could not believe it.
That bus was perfect, we had finally saved the money, everything was going exactly as it should.
But it went away as fast as the well-intentioned shade tree mechanic crossed some wires. (we never did find out exactly what he did)
We went back to searching all of the websites that we had used to find the bus, but there was nothing.
Then it all changed for the better.
Jeff’s mom sent a link to a prospective bus dealer. (She had joined in the search for our perfect bus...thanks mom!)
It was sometime after midnight as Jeff searched through the online listings of this prospective dealer.
Wait…is that it? THAT’S IT! IT’S THE PERFECT BUS!
There she sat in her yellow glory, a 14-window, 2004 IC 3000RE. She had EVERYTHING we wanted!
All fingers (and toes) crossed, Jeff boarded a plane for Chicago.
This dealership was located about an hour outside of the city.
There she was. She was even more beautiful than in pictures.
She. Was. Perfect!
We’re really doing this!
After a thorough inspection, it was time to do the deal!
A friendly mechanic at the dealership took Jeff on a test drive and gave him some pointers on driving a 40 foot monster.
A few hours later, Discovery was en route to Texas and our new life was about to begin!
Hard, hard work.
In our research phase, we had basically already designed everything we wanted.
So it was time to get to work.
We started tearing out the seats, the ceiling, the flooring, the old insulation…everything had to go.
It was rough, but we made our way through and we finally had an empty shell to build in.
Let the construction commence!
We started bringing in materials and adding new insulation, sub-flooring, and more.
Pretty soon, we had some walls going up. It was starting to look like something!
It’s always impossible until it’s done.
The work was hard and the new was wearing off. Had we bitten off more than we could chew?
There were times that it seemed impossible, but we kept steaming ahead.
We can go ahead and move in, right?
We were about 25% complete when we made the decision to go ahead and move in and complete the work around us.
This will not go down as one of the best choices we’ve ever made.
It was a terrible decision.
Sawdust was on everything, tools were strung out everywhere, the kids undid some of our progress…well, as kids sometimes do.
The work was already hard and us moving in meant it got even harder.
Do the dream.
Yes, it was difficult, but we had a dream and we were absolutely set on doing that dream. Nothing was going to stop us.
We plunged ahead and little by little, we started seeing it come together.
We did it.
The day finally came when we were painting the last bit of trim and finishing the final few touches to our masterpiece, our own tiny home on wheels.
We drove out of a frigid Kansas winter and made our way to sunny Florida.
When we finally thawed out, we looked around and realized…we did it! We actually did it!