Before we get into the lessons we learned from our bus, let me give you a little backstory. It has been almost exactly a year since we bought a school bus to convert into a tiny home. ‘We’ being Isaac (the evil mastermind), Joy (the relentless supporter), Leo (the exuberant helper) and Jovie (born into it). We never dreamt about living tiny or converting a van or bus or anything into an adventure rig. We only found out about ‘skoolies’ about a month before we bought one.
It all started when our Subaru Forester was totaled in a hit and run, we decided to use the insurance money to buy an adventure rig. One thing led to another and we stumbled upon a school bus for sale on Craigs List only a mile from our house. After looking at it twice (and having fire-truck-mechanic-friend check it out) we handed the man $3,400 and drove it home. We had very little experience with building, no experience with electrical, plumbing, mechanics or any of the dozen other things that would have been nice to have prior knowledge of. We just went for it, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Six months later, after tons of hard work and a lot of trial and error we drove our bus down the West Coast to California. We lived in the bus for three months while we worked at a summer camp and we are now renting it out to a friend on our property in the beautiful PNW. We are not full-time nomads or van-life experts but we have learned a ton over the past year.
Here we go:
1. Nothing worth doing is possible alone
The help we got from our friends, family and community during our build was amazing. We had at least 20 different people come over during some part of the build and help with the bus. Then there were the countless people who consulted, gave tips and shared their experiences either on Instagram, blogs, over the phone or through YouTube.
Before the bus, I was a DIY guy. I wanted to fix everything myself but after being in over my head for 6 months I have realized that nothing worth doing is possible alone. I went from DIY to DIWYF (do it with your friends) less catchy, but truer.
Life is better tackled as a community and if you have a question, ask it! Humans were created to share. Knowledge, expertise, experiences, work, life, laughter, everything is better when it is shared.
Do something you can’t do alone.
2. You don’t need to know everything before you start something.
Don’t get me wrong; having a plan, doing your due diligence, and having most of your ducks in a row are great things. BUT… thinking, dreaming, problem solving, and scenario planning without action is exhausting, discouraging and often a waste of time. There is no way we could have planned for most of the problems that we came arose during our build. We couldn’t even come up with a floor plan until we bought our sink, fridge, microwave, and bathtub and set them up inside the bus. If we spend all of our time anticipating and planning for the worst, we won’t get anything done.
What’s the saying? Busses are easier to turn when they are moving? It is true. Make a plan, research a little and then make like Nike and just do it. Life is better when it is filled with equal action. Get the wheels rolling and then make adjustments along the way.
3. Power Through
There were days after I got done working in the skoolie that I just wanted to sleep forever. My back, wrists, knees and mind were worn out from months of non-stop working and problem solving.
We found this poster at a local art festival early in our build and it encapsulates the attitude you need to have when converting a bus, or van or anything for that matter.
Be ready for setbacks, crappy days, and discouragement and resolve that you will power through them. A lot can be said about resolve but I believe now more than ever that it is a decision that you make before emotions and circumstances blow up your perspective.
Life is difficult, relationships are difficult, kids are difficult, anything worth doing is difficult and if you resolve to power through and stick it out, I promise the results will be amazing.
When giving up isn’t an option it makes the decision to keep going a lot easier.
4. The bus won’t solve all of your problems
We bought our bus right around the infamous quarter-life-crisis. I was transitioning jobs and struggling to find identity and purpose without a steady income. There was a lot going on in my heart and soul and the bus was a fun distraction, but when it was all finished I still had to sit face-to-face with reality and find peace.
Saint Augustine famously said, “…our souls are restless until we find our rest in Thee.”
The human soul is on a relentless search for meaning, peace and rest. No bus, van, person or lifestyle is going to satisfy the longing of the human soul.
Be careful with Instagram. Instagram has a way of multiplying and exacerbating our restlessness. Joy equals reality minus expectations. Instagram pumps up our expectations way beyond what reality can deliver. People post the highlights from their life and whitewash the rest (I would know, I do the same). No one wants to hear a baby cry for an hour while we traveled to our epic location. Comparison will rob you of joy and cause even greater dissatisfaction in your soul.
The biggest problem is that we go wherever we go.
No bus or van is big enough to fill the hole in our soul.
Our search for contentment must go beyond the bus.
5. There is potential in everything
I will never look at a bus the same way again. Converting a bus into a tiny home has taught me to look at the world through the lens of endless potential. Everything can be transformed and made better. With enough love and time, a 26 year old rusty, yellow, stinky school bus can be transformed into a beautiful home.
The same principle applies to life, work, health, relationships, parties… everything! Love where you are now and put in the love and time that it will take to make it better.
Are you going to a dinner party? How can you make it better?
Does your job/workplace suck? How can you make it better?
You get the idea.
Converting a bus into a tiny home is a transformative experience that is not for the faint of heart. It is filled with endless problem-solving and lots of hard work. It will challenge you to look at the world differently and you will not be the same at the end of it. Don’t give up, stay open and look for lessons in every season of life.
This article was written by Issac and Joy. To follow along on their adventures you can check them out on YouTube or Instagram @ColaVentures.