Life feeling a little dull lately? Ever wondered what it would be like to call a vehicle your home? Our friends @Stu.The.Bus offered to give us the inside scoop on what it’s like to live #BusLife.
Why did you decide to convert your vehicle into your home?
We decided to buy a bus and convert it because we were feeling uninspired and unfulfilled by participating in the rat race. We lived and worked in Seattle for several years after graduating college but we had no time to travel and hardly even got to spend time together, so we decided to make a drastic change. We have now lived and traveled full-time in the bus for over 2.5 years and at this point, we have no desire to go back to city living any time soon.
What are the essentials for living in your bus?
Some of our essentials include our Nature’s Head compostable toilet, comfy camp chairs for outdoor lounging, our trusty two-burner Coleman camp stove and Omnia stove top oven for whipping up delicious meals, and, of course, our Pale Blue Earth rechargeable batteries to power our headlamps, flashlights, etc. Some tasty snacks and cold beers also never hurt!
How is #BusLife sustainable for the environment?
Buslife is more sustainable than apartment life for us specifically in many ways. We only have a 21-gallon water tank on board (plus 14 gallons in reserve), so we are vastly more mindful of our water consumption. Generally, a full supply of water can last us almost two weeks. We also use a composting toilet, which saves a ton of water. Our solar panels provide clean, sustainable energy for all of our daily needs. Finally, we actually drive much less than we did in our pre-buslife days. This might seem counterintuitive seeing as we live in our vehicle now, but in Seattle we both had cars and drove to and from work everyday, to and from the climbing gym several times per week, to our parents’ houses to spend time with them, and to see friends on a regular basis, in addition to a few trips each year that we could squeeze in. Now, we can go for about a week at a time without driving at all - usually until we run out of fresh food and need to restock at the grocery store. We do an annual migration south for the winter and north for the summer, but we still drive less cumulative miles than we did previously, which reduces our carbon footprint.
What do you use for power in the bus? Do you use solar power?
We have two 160W solar panels and three 100Ah batteries that provide and store all of the power necessary to run our fridge, water pump, lights, vent fan, toilet fan, and devices. We also recently acquired a Jackery Explorer 1000 and two portable 100W solar panels that provide additional power storage which comes in handy if we are both working a lot (laptops draw a lot of power) or if we have a string of cloudy days that deplete our house batteries. Conveniently, we can charge our Pale Blue Earth batteries from either of these sources!
What is the annual cost of living in a bus? Have you saved money?
We save a ton of money by living in the bus. Many of our bills have been completely eliminated and others have been drastically reduced. I ran the numbers last year and calculated that in Seattle we spent over $42,000 per year, while in the bus we spend only about $9,600 per year. We both work as freelancers in the bus, so we are making less money than we did at our full-time Seattle jobs, but we also have less financial commitments and indeed more stability. We bought and converted our bus for $13,000 while we were still working and then sold both of our cars and much of our furniture and unneeded items. We are also both fortunate enough to have no student loans or debt of any kind, so at this point we own our home on wheels and our main expenses are limited to groceries, diesel, cell phones, and bus insurance. In Seattle, all it would have taken was one catastrophic illness or injury and we would have been in serious financial trouble attempting to pay for our rent and car payments and everything else, whereas now, we have very few recurring bills and could go several months without working and still be fine financially.
What are some tips for people beginning their #BusLife or #VanLife journey?
You don’t have to have a trust fund or be loaded to live buslife or vanlife. Choose your rig carefully after you’ve made a list of non-negotiables - for us, these were: must be able to stand up inside, must be big enough to accommodate a queen-size bed platform and a bathroom, and must be close to our budget of $5,000. Test drive any vehicle before you purchase it to be sure that you are comfortable driving it, everything works as it should, and there’s no smoke billowing out of the exhaust or any other red flags. If you can, check for rust and leaks before you buy as those can both be a huge pain to fix. During your build, don’t get discouraged - it will take a long time and be hard work, but it’s SO worth it in the end. And finally, once you hit the road, take your time when you are traveling. We started out traveling at breakneck speed and spent wayyy more than necessary on diesel, but now we have learned to slow down, have a rough plan of our route, and appreciate everything about an area before moving on.
Best adventure while living #BusLife?
In the interest of transparency and truthfulness, I will provide our worst and best adventures here. Our worst day was probably when we got the bus stuck in a riverbed near Whitefish, Montana. It was a beautiful spot, but we took a turn a little too wide when we were turning around and got too far into the loose rocks, so we ended up stuck at an awkward tilt just a few feet from where we wanted to be. We tried calling Good Sam Roadside Assistance for a tow, but they were no help at all (another tip, don’t trust Good Sam) and then to top things off, we accidentally overflowed the pee jug of our Nature’s Head toilet. Huge mess. However, the next day, a very nice couple cruised by in their pickup truck and offered to pull us out. We dubiously looked at the 90s-era Ford F-150 truck and the minuscule chain they produced but they seemed confident so we gave it a try and thankfully they were able to get us out. We thanked them with a couple of cold beers.
Our best adventure was also in Montana, on the eastern side of Glacier National Park. We met a girl who lived in her van in the visitor’s center parking lot, drank wine with her as we boondocked just outside of the park, and then woke up early to do the Grinnell Glacier hike and ferry ride. It was an insanely beautiful adventure and we saw a moose, grizzlies, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats as well as the stunning glacial lake at the top of the hike. We then enjoyed hot chocolate in the Many Glacier Lodge before driving our rigs a few miles down the road to where we could legally camp. We made delicious food, appreciated the brilliant stars, and had a few tasty beverages - really the ideal day!
Where is your next adventure?
Due to the tumultuous and uncertain times at present, we don’t have any firm plans for our next adventure. We will remain in the Southwest where the temperatures are comfortable, and say yes to adventures as they find us - safely of course.
Follow their journey @stu.the.bus