College Student Veteran Converts Short Bus into DIY Cabin on Wheels

Brittany Newson DIY Bus Life 

Hey, world! My name is Brittany and I'm an optimistic Air Force veteran who converted a 4 window short bus. Domino is her name.

My bus life journey started after my second year at San Francisco State University (SFSU). I was paying $1,300 a month to rent a room in a house with four other people. After doing that for one year, I decided there had to be another way.

I fell in love with vanlife/buslife after watching countless videos on YouTube and I decided this was for ME!!

Bus life has helped me rediscover what makes me, Brittany, happy. I lost so much of my self being in the Air Force because I conformed into the person THEY needed/wanted me to be. 11 years, 2 months, and 23 days later...I now have the freedom to just be ME & bada ba ba baaaaa I'm Loving It! 

 School Bus Domino

Bus specs:

Make: Chevy

Model: 3500/ 4 window

Year: 1998

Interior Square Footage: Less than 80 sqft

Current Location: Reno, NV

Purchased From/Location: Online Auctions, Casper, Wyoming

Cost in materials for the conversion: Under $6k

Total time from the purchase to hitting the road: The original conversion was completed in under 3 months

 Short Bus Conversion Bus Life

Does your bus have a name? If so, why did you choose it?

Domino is her name. Bringing Dom home, my husband and I drove over 9 hours through the mountains with no mechanical issues. I figured she was lucky and named her after the Deadpool character Domino...her special power was luck!

 

Where are you converting/ did you convert your bus?

My initial conversion and remodel is being completed in the driveway of my apartment. To be honest, additional space would be great, but you don't need a ton of space to build.

 

Did you do the conversion yourself or did you hire someone?

My husband and I did the initial conversion. For this remodel, I've done 98% of the work myself.

 

What has been your favorite part of the build so far? Why?
The remodel has been my favorite part. With COVID halting the world, I have been able to sit and think about what I want to see when I wake up. I have added so many beautiful bright colors and GLITTER to Domino. I smile every time I open her doors. I trust myself with tools. I trust myself to make important build decisions. I know what I want this time around and I’m not afraid to make it happen.

 

 Glitter epoxy countertop  

Were you all on the same page about living bus life or did one person (or more) have to be convinced?

Domino is all mine. I purchased her to live in while I was away at SFSU. Now that school is all online, Domino is more of an adventure mobile.

 

What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself so far?

Before converting Domino, I only used a power drill. I learned how to use tools and build things off YouTube. I watched tons of videos, mainly videos with female builders, and used them as inspiration.

 

Tips/tricks/advice to help others have who want/are converting a vehicle?

Self-doubt has halted many dreams from becoming a reality and I think the most important thing is to not second guess yourself so much. Yes, measure twice, or three times if you have to, BUT, when you need to make those big decisions know that you are making the right decision AND to be honest, most things aren’t permanent. Maybe you can remodel in a year like me!

 DIY School Bus Conversion

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

I think my glitter butcher block is the centerpiece of my little cabin on wheels. It took three goes in order to get it right, but it's finally perfect and I'm happy with how it turned out! It screams Brittany.

 

Is there anything you wish you did differently in your build?

My initial conversion was rushed because of my school's start date. I had kitchen cabinets from Habitat for Humanity and the style of the entire build was blah. Everything was functional but it was just blah. Now that school is out, I decided to remodel Domino and make her my little cabin on wheels. She is looking so good and like a real cozy space these days! So much has changed in less than 30 days. Domino has personality and style now.

 Camper Conversion Short Bus

What has been people’s reaction to you buying a bus to live in?

For the most part, people weren't shocked when I announced my purchase. People who really knew me understood my vision and considered me a hippie or free spirit. So, Domino wasn't a hard pill to swallow for the masses.

 

How can people learn more about you?

I'm @Whereis_Brittany on Instagram and Where is Brittany on YouTube

 

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Digital Nomad Couple takes Long Route in Short Bus Conversion

Dan and Alyssa The Lucky Bus

Alyssa Bean and Dan Mini have been living full-time in The Lucky Bus since 2019. The pair, originally from Massachusetts, attended the first Bus Fair in their short bus conversion last summer and were ready to make the trek to Oakridge, Oregon, again before the show was postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.

Not ones to let work keep them from a life of adventure, both Alyssa and Dan work remotely on the road. Alyssa is a freelance digital marketer and writer, and Dan organizes, edits, and produces videos for YouTube. You can see his work as Bus Life Adventure's new  YouTube manager, as well as through weekly vlogs aboard The Lucky Bus through Regretlyss. I caught up with Alyssa to learn how bus life has been treating them so far. 

 The Lucky Bus Thumb

Bus Specs:

Make: Ford
Model: E450
Motor: 7.3L Diesel Powerstroke
Year: 2003
Interior Square Footage: 98 
Current Location: Bend, OR
Purchased From/Location: Skaneateles, NY
Cost in materials for the conversion: approx. $20,000
Total time from the purchase date to the road: 1.5 years

Interviewee: Alyssa

Did you attend The Bus Fair?

Yes! My partner Dan and I were able to show our bus LUCKY at the first-ever Bus Fair in 2019. We had been on the road for just three months at that time. The Bus Fair was a pivotal point for us because it was there that we had our first real encounter with the bus life community. We met all of our closest “road friends” there.

After The Bus Fair, our entire journey was shaped by the friendships we made, giving us places to go, and people to visit. We have since reconnected and caravanned with friends from The Bus Fair multiple times - friends for a lifetime that’s for sure.

What can someone expect attending The Bus Fair?

Someone attending The Bus Fair can expect to experience the culture of nomad life, to make lifelong friendships, and be inspired by the creativity of the builds.

Why a bus?

I chose a bus for a few different reasons. The first is I loved the idea of giving new life to an old bus, re-purposing something that had such great potential. I also chose a bus because of its creative potential. I was able to truly make it my own. And lastly, my bus is only 22 feet long, so it’s still easy to park and drive around, I’ve even taken it through New York City!

Does your bus have a name or phrase you call it?

My bus is named “Lucky”. I chose that name because I truly felt so lucky to be living in a way that allowed me to reconnect with what truly mattered to me. The bus life is such a gift.

Are you full-timing?

I have been living on the road full-time for 15 months.

Adventure Travel Lucky Bus Conversion

Did you do the conversion yourself or did you hire someone?

I worked with a contractor on my build. I did all of the designing, material sourcing, purchasing, etc. I regret not doing the whole build on my own. There are a lot of issues that came up with working with a contractor. The contractor was helpful in the fact that they had the space and tools for the conversion I did not have at the time. That was the benefit of working with a contractor.

Who are you living/traveling with?

I am traveling with my partner Dan. I purchased the bus before I met him, and lucky for me he loved the idea of the bus life, so he hopped on board.

Skoolie Short Bus Conversion

Tips/tricks/advice to help others have who want/are converting a vehicle? Something you wish you had known going into this?

It’s going to be way harder and way more fulfilling than you think it is.

My advice is to do your research, know that you’re capable, and to reach out to the community. The community has been the best part of bus life. I got so much advice and help from the community when I was purchasing the bus and also when I needed help / advice on the road.

What do you do for income?

I am a freelance digital marketer and writer.

Is there anything you wish you did differently in your build?

I wish I included a diesel heater right from the get-go! I also wish I made my couch a dinette instead that collapsed into a couch.

Short Bus Conversion Interior Kitchen The Lucky Bus

What about the bus has helped you be successful in reaching your lifestyle goals?

The bus life has allowed me to live intentionally and stay connected with what really matters to me. No more mindless routine. No more working on someone else’s dream. The emotional and mental health benefits are incredible. Not to mention the financial benefits that go into living in a bus.

How has the pandemic affected bus life for you?

We have hunkered down in Bend, OR, on private property. We think it’s important for us nomads to do our part and stop traveling. I am so grateful for the safe place to park, and embracing the new space and slowed pace in my life.

Trees Short Bus Conversion Lucky Bus


How can people follow your adventures?

Instagram 

YouTube 

Website

  

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Young couple, two kids and a dog living on a bus

 Skoolie family We Live on a Bus

 

Hello Bus Life Adventurers!

Since The Bus Fair 2020 had to be postponed until June 2021, we thought about digitally coming together for the Bus community!

30 unique Skoolies were chosen to be Featured Exhibitors at The Bus Fair. Since we're unable to meet in person - we're bringing a handful of these bus conversions right to you!

Contributing Writers Elizabeth with LittleHouseOnTheHwy and Patrick with SkoolieLove have been working on these interviews the past couple of months.

We are here to bring you personal interviews about these bus homes and the folks behind the buses.

Introducing the second interview from our 'The Bus Fair Feature' Series

We Live on a Bus

Skoolie camping We Live on a Bus

Bus Specs:
Make: International
Model: FE300
Motor: DT466
Year: 2005
Interior Square Footage: 234
Current Location: Granbury, TX
Purchased From/Location: Nixa, MO Interviewee: Tina Wann 

In 2017 Chris and Tina Wann sold nearly everything to live full-time on their 2005 International school bus conversion known as Big Booty Judy. Although they've faced many ups and downs like needing their engine rebuilt two weeks into their first big trip, the Wandering Wanns haven't let that keep them from their dream. The family is living their bus life adventure while working remotely and "road schooling" their two kids, Elijah and Rylee, along the way. 

Why a bus?

We love the fact that school buses are built for safety and the ability to customize the space to fit your specific needs.

Does your bus have a name or phrase you call it? If so, why did you choose it?

Big Booty Judy. We say she named herself. The first time I drove it Chris kept telling me to “turn wide”. When we got home I told him I thought I knew what the bus’s name should be. He said, “Big Booty Judy”. I was thinking the exact thing.

Are you full-timing?

We have been for one year.

Where are you converting / did you convert you Skoolie?

We had a contractor in Illinois do the rough-in. We finished the rest in Waynesville, Missouri.

Who are you living / traveling with?

We have two sons, Elijah and Rylee, and one dog: Dub the Skoolie Dog.

 We Live on a Bus kids

Were you all on the same page about living bus life or did one person (or more) need some convincing?

I brought the idea to Chris and expected him to say no to the entire thing. He said he would travel full time, but he would NOT live on a school bus. I dropped the bus idea but after he researched them he came back and said he thought that was the best option.

What advice do you have to help others who want / are converting a vehicle into a home?

Even when our bus broke down and I was posting the fact that the engine rebuild was costing us thousands of dollars, people still sent DMs asking if bus life was helping us save money. It drained our emergency fund and we were out of our home for 3 months for the repair. My advice is to have an emergency fund.

 

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

We have a water propagation wall.

Plant Wall We Live on a Bus

How do you make money on the road?

I manage Instagram accounts and have several smaller streams of income coming in. Chris teaches English to children in China.

What do you think will be the hardest thing about this whole lifestyle change / living / traveling in a Skoolie? Easiest thing?

The hardest thing for us was breaking down and trying to figure out what to do with ourselves while we waited. The best part is the fact that we have so much time together now.

Is there anything you wish you did differently in your build?

I wish I had planned for a bathtub! It is the one thing I miss about our sticks n bricks!

What about your bus conversion has helped you be successful in reaching your lifestyle goals?

We don’t have a lot of bills so we don’t need to work full time.

Interior We Live on a Bus

What has been people's reaction to you buying a school bus to live in?

There has been a spectrum of reactions, but my favorite is the older people who tell us they wished they had done this when they were younger.

Tell us about your Skoolie layout.

We have a split bathroom. The sink is in the “hall” area so it can be used while someone is in the other part that contains the toilet and shower. The middle is our bunk room and storage area. Our bedroom is in the back. It has a small area where you can stand and a door that creates privacy

How has the pandemic affected bus life for you?

We were scheduled to leave right when COVID-19 started making its way to America. We are fortunate to be staying on private property and we don’t have a date that we need to leave. We are staying here in Texas until things settle down or until we are needed somewhere else.

What is the most memorable place you've traveled in your bus conversion?

Shelby, Illinois. It was our first night on the bus and it snowed. We hadn’t planned for a heater because we were going to “follow the weather.” It was less about the place and more about the experience!

How can people learn more about you?

Follow along with the Wandering Wanns on their website and on social media!

Website 

Instagram

 

 

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Hello everyone!

Unfortunately, The Bus Fair 2020 had to be postponed until June 2021.

Fortunately, we are still able come together as a community, digitally!

30 unique Skoolies were chosen to be Featured Exhibitors at The Bus Fair. Since you are unable to meet and view the buses in person - we're bringing a handful of them right to you!

Contributing Writers Elizabeth with LittleHouseOnTheHwy and Patrick with SkoolieLove have been working on these interviews the past few weeks. Get ready!

We are here to bring you personal interviews about these bus homes and the folks behind the buses.

Let us introduce to you the first interview from our 'TheBusFair Features' Series

The Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio.

art supplies bunk bed travel studio

          "Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio is A 501(c)(3) nonprofit Veteran Artist founded and operated art studio. We seek to build bridges of cultural understanding through artistic expressions for Veteran Artists.We dedicated to building a bridge between each participants capabilities and his or her imagination to provide a place where veterans can non-verbally can speak through their art.

          The Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio's mission is to enhance the quality of life for members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their community by providing alternative tools in art and art making.

          With the use of community based art practices and Art Therapy methods Painted Buffalo Traveling Studio is dedicated to getting veterans outside, art supplies in hand telling their stories."

Bus specs:

Make: Blue Bird
Model: TC-2000
Motor: Cummins
Year: 1997
Interior Square Footage: 240
Current Location: Atlanta GA
Purchased From/Location: Toms River High School Marching Band, Toms River NJ
Cost in materials for the conversion: $20,000
From bus purchase to on the road: 13 months

Bus owner and Interviewee: Jessica Rambo


paint can project marine veteran combat bus conversion

The Painted Buffalo is built into the belly of a retired marching band school bus. With the help of local Greensboro, North Carolina community members, Veterans across the country and other supporters, the retired school bus was converted into a Skoolie. 

Jessica Rambo and her family are dedicated to the mission to art and currently reside in the Traveling Studio full time.

The Painted Buffalo is equipped with an 8 foot by 8 foot living room/ art studio space, a fully functioning kitchen with a stove/oven combo, 7.6 cubic inch fridge and loads of art material space. The Skoolie has a functioning composting toilet restroom, shower and bath capabilities. It has room to snuggle 6 people in and sleep comfortably.

With the layout of the traveling studio, art classes are hosted aboard the bus in our "living room," which can accommodate up to 8 adults at a time.

Why a bus?

I looked into trailers, RVs and stationary tiny homes but I thought 1. It was cheaper to go with a bus, and would have the most personality out of all the options. I didn’t want to tow the tiny house around, and wanted one able to get rid of a vehicle if need be.

artwork flag cat interior bus conversion


How long have you been living in your bus?

We have been full-time bus living since August 1, 2019


Where did you convert your bus?

Most of the bus conversion happened in Greensboro NC in between Art school classes, raising my kids, and working part-time. After moving into the bus we went to Splendor Oaks in Georgia to finish the rest of the build.

skoolie van bus conversion meet up painted buffalo

What have been people’s reaction to you buying a bus to live in?

My friends were so excited that I bought a bus and have been living vicariously through us. I think it gives other people hope that if I can do it so can they. We have met so many great Skoolie friends along the way, and can’t wait meet more!


Tell us about your layout.

Our bus is laid out with the driver’s seat, living room area, kitchen, toilet, bunks, shower/tub, and the Momma bed. We have one straight hallway where from my bed, I can see the front door, that was important to me.

clean interior painted buffalo studio paint can project

son bedroom bunk marvel star wars interior

Did you do the conversion yourself?

I had my hands in every nook and cranny of this bus! I’m proud to say that. But I do have to give a lot of props to Dan and Rachel from The Messi Journey and Kurtis from Splendor Oaks. Both of them helped tremendously in the success of the electrical and plumbing.


Who are you living/traveling with?

The Painted Buffalo currently carries Liam, 9 years old full time, and Skyler, 12 years old part-time and me! We also have Bella, black Lab, Atlas, Blue healer, and Sushi the cat on board.

painted buffalo studio cats dogs veteran mom bus life

Were you all on the same page about living bus life or did one person (or more) have to be convinced?

I was all on board for bus life, it took a lot of convincing the kids that they would have an awesome time too. Now when I talk about moving into a regular house they get really upset! They love it now!


What type of skills for the bus conversion did you have prior and what did you learn or teach yourself so far?

I grew up with a crafty and handy mechanic mother and I was also in the Marine Corps. There were a lot of new tools to build the bus, but that was the best part! Learning new things.


Tips/tricks/advice to help others have who want/are converting a vehicle? Something you wish you had known going into this?

No matter if you’re building it yourself or having someone build it, make sure you know how each piece works, and be able to fix it when it breaks. Because something is going to break!

fixing underneath bus chassis female veteran life adventure

What is the most unique feature of your conversion?

Most people comment on our bathtub. We have a 4 foot horse trough. And also all the art supplies. We have so many! We host Veteran art classes on the bus and travel to veterans to tell their stories through art.

cat son big tub skoolie interior bathroom

What do you do for income? How often do you work on the bus?

I’m medically separated from the Marine Corps, so I get disability. We live well within our means to make bus life work, it’s hard but worth it. I also sell artwork to make it work and to do fun adventures.


The hardest thing about this whole lifestyle change/ living/traveling in a bus? Easiest thing?

For me, it was stripping away all of the extra stuff. Parting with junk/stuff is the hardest part. Once you start getting rid of stuff it becomes easier. The easiest thing is spending time with my kids and going on adventures.



Is there anything you wish you did differently in your build?

Like most builders, we all have our next bus build planned. I would put my bed differently so I can walk around and left the bed for storage.


What about the bus will help you be successful in reaching your lifestyle goals?

Raising kids in bus life is really setting them up for success. And bring us all back together. I spent so much time away from them while in the military. This bring us all back together.

children kids painting art learning unschool home school outdoors


What is the most memorable place you’ve traveled in your bus conversion?

For the kids, it’s when I pick them up from school in the bus. We’ve been to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida on the bus so far. The most meme table has been swimming with manatees in Crystal River.

What might you be doing three months from now?

I hope to put a roof deck and solar to become more off grid.


How can people learn more about you?

Visit Painted Buffalo traveling studio on Facebook or Instagram or PaintedBuffalostudio.com

exciting life bus conversion adventure laptop interior design

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