Before we converted our bus, we were both working full-time in an office where we had the standard 2 weeks per year of vacation time. So we were only seeing each other at nights and weekends, and even then we were drained from work and couldn't fully enjoy our limited time together.
We wanted to travel and spend more time together. After graduating college together, we took a month-long backpacking trip through Western Europe to try and 'get it out of our system' and that just made us want to adventure more. Bus-life allows us to travel constantly, while spending less money than we did when we rented an apartment.
Our Charming Bus
We have a self-converted 25ft skoolie, and two Lectric eBikes for extra mobility. It took 6 months of us both working on the bus to get it ready. We quit our jobs before starting so that we could really focus on it, and vlogging our experience with the conversion helped to jump-start our YouTube channel.
We wanted something with more living space than a van, but also something that was easier to drive than a long bus or large RV. We chose a bus over an RV because we liked the character and charm that a retired school bus has. The bus is something we felt more connected to, and we knew we wanted to build it with our own hands.
Documenting Our Adventures
Before full-time travel, Jimmy was a Sr. Software Engineer and Natalie was a Sr. Financial Analyst in Atlanta, GA.
Now, our biggest source of income is from our YouTube channel where we currently make travel vlogs while adventuring with our skoolie. We are also using savings that we accumulated while working. We saved aggressively for about 2 years before quitting our jobs.
Christmas In A Canyon
Our favorite experience traveling so far is probably when we stayed in this canyon in New Mexico over Christmas. We parked our bus right inside the canyon walls, and the closest paved road was 10 miles away. We didn't have any cell service, but the place was absolutely breathtaking. And it was free! So we stayed for about 5 days.
Second Times The Charm
We had a bit of a rough start to bus-life, to say the least. On our first week, we made it to the next state over (North Carolina), and hit a very mountainy stretch of road and our bus just couldn't keep up. We'd had a mechanic look over the bus before we moved into it, but they must not have been very thorough and it's hard to find someone who knows a lot about a bus from 1997. So we knew we needed to get it looked at again, and we ended up spending 2 weeks parked at a mechanic's shop, living in the bus the whole time. (There was one night we even slept in the mechanic service bay.) The whole place then shut down due to a massive outbreak of COVID (30-40 employees tested positive), so we had to head back home and quarantine. So our first attempt at hitting the road was pretty much a disaster, but it worked out in the end!
Affordable Internet Connection
Connection For Internet, we use a hotspot from our cell phone. Our carrier is Visible, which is a subsidiary of Verizon. It uses Verizon's towers, but has lowest priority. Since we use YouTube to support ourselves, we need a lot of data for our hotspot. Visible lets us a have unlimited hotspot for $25/month. It definitely requires patience and flexibility when we get throttled, and it's not very good in crowded areas, but it's by far the cheapest option for an unlimited hotspot.
Budget Friendly Travels
- We share one cell phone. We love finding ways to reduce our recurring expenses, and this one saves us quite a bit. The two of us are rarely apart, so we don't really need phones to contact each other, and we have walkie talkies as a backup. It probably wouldn't work for everyone, but we're happy with it!
- Free camping is pretty easy to find. We haven't payed for camping at all in the last 3 months, which saves us a ton of money. We use iOverlander to find most of our spots, and we made sure to build our bus to be as off-grid as possible so that we could avoid paying for spots. This was a big investment up front, but we love cutting down on recurring expenses and now we have a functioning off-grid electrical system as an asset.
We Had An Easy Adjustment To Bus Life
What was an adjustment? We had a hard time coming up with something for this, because we love living on the road so much more than being stationary. I guess resource management was an adjustment, because we always have to know how much water, propane, diesel (for the bus AND for the heater), food, battery power, etc. we have left. But we honestly really like this aspect of living on the road. It's fun to optimize and approach it like a game. The satisfying feeling when you're all stocked up on everything and are heading into an adventure is truly unmatched.
No End In Sight
As long as we can afford to we plan to Travel! We're working on growing our community on YouTube, and our goal is to get to a place where we can fully sustain ourselves before our savings run out. We love making videos, so that would definitely be our ideal plan.
After bus-life, we talk about possibly converting a van or even doing more backpacking overseas. Settling down is not really on our radar right now.
As of right now we are working on making our way up to Canada! We're currently in Arizona, and are planning to chase the nice weather and arrive in Canada sometime this Summer. We are most excited to see Banff National Park in Alberta. The whole area looks absolutely gorgeous, so we really can't wait!