- Bus Conversion By Young Canadian Woman -
-Interview By: Brock Butterfield
- Bus Conversion By: Kieren Britton
Raised by a family that encourages and nurtures adventure, Kieren new from a young age that one day she's be a traveling nomad. She began with a cute little boler trailer but after being rear ended and totaling the trailer she decided to pursue the option of converting a school bus.
With two dogs Kieren has been traveling across the states getting used to being a "skoolie". She learned that a little bit of internet research and she could usually find free parking where ever she ended up for the night.
-Motor: CAT 3126
-Interior Square Footage: 108 sq ft (18x6)
-Current Location: Saskatoon Sk
-Purchased From/Location: Saskatoon SK
-Cost in materials for the conversion: $10,000, including bus itself. ($6000 for mechanical work along the way)
-Is the conversion complete or still in progress?
It was complete enough for my adventure, but it is still in progress in my opinion. Now that I'm back, I plan to rearrange the kitchen so that its further back. This allows for a larger bench in the front of the bus. I will also add an extended bumper with storage wells to the back and a trailer hitch (hopefully to hold a moped). The top roof rack will become a small deck. And I would like to have solar panels up there one day as well.
-Does your bus have a name?
Herbus. This name came into existence when my friends and family would refer to it as "her bus". And usually whoever asked the question as to who's bus it was would be shocked to find out it belonged to a young lady. Personal win.
Tell us a bit about how the idea to build a bus into a home on wheels came about.
I was so blessed to have grown up in a family that cherishes travel and adventure. We would jump into the westfalia and take off to the west in search of mountains. Or fly to Europe and spend two months driving around and camping (also in the westfalia). So, I had always told myself that I would take a year off at some point and just travel. It worked out nicely that I could finish some online classes while doing so. And because I have two big dogs on my own, I knew the travelling would have to include them. I decided I would do a giant road trip and I started gathering ideas of places I wanted to go.
After two years of saving up, I bought a boler trailer in June of 2015 and took off down to California in August of 2015. While I was in California, my dad and some of the other firefighters he works with all pitched in to buy themselves a bus. They put a couple tables in it, and used it to haul their toys (bikes, kayaks, etc) to and from their adventures. I was very interested in this, and began to see more and more "skoolies" on the highway.
I lived in that boler trailer for a month and a half, but was then rear ended in California. The boler was totalled, but I knew I was just getting started. The dogs and I ripped back to Saskatoon in late September, and I immediately bought a bus.
Who is involved or part of the crew with your bus?
My dad was amazing. He was extremely busy with work, renovating two houses, and rebuilding his westy engine (he is a jack of many trades). However, he still took the time to guide me through, and help out in times of need with the bus.
I also had a couple friends pop in and help as well, which was amazing. Sometimes you just need those extra hands.
Mom was so enthused about the decorating of the bus that she went out and bought all of my fabrics. She's adorable and now wants her own bus! But I think we have enough adventure vehicles for now.
The majority of the time it was myself working on it, and myself and my two dogs living in it.
What materials did you use during your build? Any reclaimed/upcycled items?
I bought a lot of my materials from the Habitat for Humanity Restore. The flooring is laminate from the restore, and the sink is just a $10 silver bucket for now. I wasn't 100% sure if I'd like where I put my kitchen, so I know I'll be redoing it in the near future. The futon couch was off of Kijiji, and so was the memory foam mattress.
How many can the bus sleep and how is the sleeping arrangement designed?
The bus can sleep two or three. A couple can fit comfortably on the bed, and the couch is a single sleeper.
What is your kitchen and cooking setup?
Currently my kitchen is across from the couch and bathroom. It has the bucket sink, and a propane stove
. Lots of counter space, which is an osb board for now.
What I don't like about my kitchen set up is that my bathroom and kitchen create a bit of a bottleneck when entering. Which is awful with two large pups.
I'd like to change the big storage shelves I have into a narrow pantry, so that there is room to push my kitchen back further, eliminating that bottleneck. In the front I'll put a bit of a bench seat, with a pull out table. Once I've done this I'll invest in a real sink, draining into a tank under the bus, as well as a nice counter. But until then she does the trick!
What is your power source?
I don't need much, so I have a 12 volt battery powering my lights and charging my phone. I would trickle charge this battery every two weeks and never had an issue. I can't wait for the day where I'll have solar panels on the roof! I have left a space for them on the front end of the roof.
Do you have a heat source for colder weather?
If I plug in, I have a baseboard heater in the bus, which does the trick. Though the coldest I have experienced living in the bus with no heat was -18 celisius, and I cuddled my dogs without issue. I mean it wasn't comfy, but I was happy. I didn't do much for heat as I spent the majority of my trip in California and Nevada. But this may be looked at for snowboarding trips in Canada!
How do you stay cool in the hot summer months?
Lots of open windows. All but one of my windows are still accessible, and I left them open at night to bring in cooler air. But to be honest, I'm usually out doing something during the day so we didn't really ever get roasted.
What are you doing for water source?
Since I wasn't yet sure on the kitchen, I just kept two 5 gallon tubs of water, and would fill them as I went.
Do you have a bathroom solution for the "rumble guts" hit?
I have a bathroom at the front of my bus with a portapotty
in place (which I bought new... I just couldn't do a used one). I put my bathroom in the front behind the drivers seat because it's less bouncy up front, and the walls were strong. If I were to roll it would shield me a bit. Don't worry, I don't plan on rolling Herbus, she's a pretty sturdy beast. And if I did, I planned to time any possible accidents to immediately after emptying the portapotty, in order to avoid a mess...
At least that's how I hope it would go.
What is the most unique feature of your conversion?
I love both of my bathroom walls. I know that seems a bit funny, but it's more about how I decorated than anything. The owner of Artifacts Jewlery is a friend of mine, and she made me a beautiful moon phase ornament to hang. I'm in love with it. And on the other wall, behind my drivers seat, I have post cards from every place I visited. The collage contains a lot of memories.
What do you do for income while living in the bus?
I've only lived on the road since August 2015, and in the bus since December 2015. From December - March I just traveled. In March I came back to Saskatoon and parked my bus outside my house. I still had tenants in the house until the end of their lease. I took small trips, and did odd construction jobs until I started working again in May. I am a consultant, and work at an office, so I get up in the mornings, get ready, and head to work, just like I would have if I lived in a house.
What do you do for Internet while on the road?
While on the road, I would use my phone as a hot spot if I really needed to use my computer. But that was rare. Lots of times I would park outside of a Walmart, McDonald's, Starbucks (if they had the parking space), or any large chain and snag some wifi from them. It would usually reach the parking stalls that were close.
What’s the hardest thing about living bus life?
Bus life is amazing, but life in general gets a bit more tough with dogs. You have to think about rain, mud, ticks, and all of the things that having a dog can bring. It is really just like living in a house, just on a smaller scale. But you also have to plan stops and walks very diligently. Personally I found our greatest success was when we did 4 30 min walks a day, and dinner in the evening. Also every chance we had to be out of the bus, we took. Whether that's walking around towns, or just laying on a beach.
We ended up ending the trip early, and the biggest reason was that my one pup couldn't handle it anymore. She had gone on a bit of an independent run (she totally took off on me) and sliced her paw open. She needed stitches and medications. Those medications made her a bit loopy, and with those meds, the cast, and her giant cone of shame, it became very difficult to live in a bus for her. She couldn't get the exercise she needed because she wasn't allowed to walk. She would get car sick, and scared when we drove, her cone would get caught on the furniture, and all of this brought along some anxietie in the bus.
I also had two big fixes along the way. I had to replace my water pump and belt, and I had to adjust, and then replace my clutch. But living on the road one should anticipate mechanical troubles.
Where can people follow or find out more about your bus? (social media, website, etc.)
I documented my Boler restoration, my bus conversion, and my journey on Instagram. The handle is @live.love.and.wander
My most common question on the road was where do I shower. Would shower about twice a week, and use wet wipes and dry shampoo a lot. Showers would be at recreation centers, friends places, pools, marinas, and sometimes campgrounds would let me use theirs as well! I also recently bought a solar shower bag
that I plan on strapping to the outside of the bus for quick rinse offs after surfing.
Another big question was where would I park.
I usually parked in pull outs or parking lots that allowed over night parking. I only ended up paying for a camp spot twice. Once after the accident, and once on my way home, so I could charge my battery. I used the website freecampsites.net
my me to help guide me to my next spot every night. California became a bit more tricky, as there wasn't too much to choose from. I always made sure to pick up after myself and leave the spot BETTER than I found it (if it wasn't my garbage, I would pick it up anyway), to ensure that others could camp after me as well. I encourage you to do the same.
Short video tour shot by Kieren: