- Written by Madi Bowman
Why We Decided Not to Build a Bathroom
By Contributing Writer: Madi Bowman of The American Field Trip
When we first started making plans to convert a shuttle bus for full-time living, we assumed we’d want to include a bathroom. But as we did more research into what a bathroom build would involve, we started to question whether it would really be the best use of space and resources. Ultimately we opted for an outdoor shower and a self-contained toilet, but in 18 months of living on the road, we’ve never used the toilet and only occasionally made use of the shower.
If you’re navigating bathroom build issues, consider this—
What if a bathroom is not as crucial as you thought!?
How big will your water tank be? A low-flow shower head will use about 0.5 to 1.5 gallons of water per minute. If you’re very efficient when showering and turn the water on and off as you need it, you’ll be able to get clean without using too much water. But if your water tank is small, even a short shower will run you low, in which case you’ll need to find a spot to fill up. Often, the most convenient spots to fill up water will be campgrounds, which generally have showers available.
Do you need hot water? If you want your shower warm, you’ll need a way to heat the water. Most water heaters need to be vented to the outside, so installation can be tricky. A solar shower, which can be made of black PVC pipe and mounted to your vehicle’s roof, is a good option, but if you want to shower inside the vehicle, you’ll need to pipe the water in from outside; this can work well, but your water supply will still be limited, and you’ll still need to fill up about as often as you’ll shower.
Where will you be staying? If you’ll be primarily in campgrounds, you'll usually have easy access to showers and bathrooms. If you’ll be in wilderness areas, you can go au natural (just be sure to use proper Leave No Trace potty protocol!). If you’ll be staying in Walmart parking lots, stealth camping, or otherwise remaining in town often, you’ll probably have access to a public restroom except in the middle of the night—in that case, it’s good to have some kind of alternative, in the form of a self-contained toilet or simply a jug.
How many people will be using the bathroom in your rig? If you’re living solo, your water-filling and tank-emptying chores will come up less often. But small black tanks and self-contained toilets fill up quickly, especially if there’s more than one person using them, and require that you stay on top of cleaning them out. If your tank fills up and you’re in a jam, you’ll have to find another place to go anyway; and if the tank fills up mid-stream, you’re in for an unpleasant backup situation.
Would you rather deal with finding a place to go, or with regularly cleaning out a black tank? Cleaning out a black tank doesn’t have to be nightmarish, but it’s one road life chore you can easily eliminate. If you’re willing to deal daily with finding places to go, it becomes just another little piece of living on the road—and in our experience, it’s almost always a very simple one.
What you can do instead:
Shower in campgrounds—usually these showers take quarters, so even if you’re not staying at the campground, you can ask whoever’s in charge if they mind you using it; no one has ever turned us down when we asked.
Wash off in the nearest body of water—showering in lakes and streams can be an awesome back-to-nature experience, even if it’s a bit chilly at times. Just be sure to use biodegradable soaps and make sure you’re downstream from any water sources.
Plan on parking in spots where you can go when you need to go—if you’re in a remote area, get comfortable with going in the woods; if you’re staying in a more populated area, make sure you’re near a public restroom.
Keep a container on hand for emergencies—in a pinch, pee in a bottle or jug. Men have it easy in this situation; women, invest in one of these SheWee units.
It might seem odd at first, to have a home without a bathroom—and I certainly wouldn’t have thought 18 months ago that such a situation wouldn’t give me pause and maybe a shudder or two. All I can say is that, as with many aspects of road life, you get used to it!
If we had more space to work with, I’m sure we’d have enjoyed a bathroom of our own. But with 4 people in 80 sq. feet, we just didn’t want to sacrifice living space, or be in constant close proximity to each other’s intestinal output :)
Make it a wonderful day!
- Written by John and Jayme Sebell
"Effective Ways to Meal Plan"
While Living Nomadically
~ By Contributing Writer: The Gnomad Home ~
Let’s talk about everybody’s favorite topic - FOOD!
Your eating habits on the road can make or break your budget. If you eat out frequently, you are shoveling out a bunch of money. If you eat nothing but ramen packets - you may save loads, but what is it costing your body? Here are some ways we’ve found to fuel our bodies in positive ways, without breaking our budget.
First and foremost - one-pot meals are a great best friend to have when living in such a small environment. Personally, we love a large elaborate meal! Anytime we have access to a full kitchen with a four burner stove, oven, multiple dishes and more - we wreck the place in the happiest of ways. BUT... when you are living in such narrow quarters, you need to keep the wreckage to a minimum if you want to remain even the slightest bit sane.
This is why we find one-pot meals handy. One-pot meals can surprisingly cover a large array of dishes and cuisines- you have soups and stews, pastas, stir-frys, quesadillas, paninis, scrambles and chilis and more! You can get pretty elaborate without having to deal with a wicked mess in the end.
Dishes That Can Be Reincarnated
One of our best kept secrets in regards to eating on the road is to create meals that you can turn into something else with the leftovers. We rarely make enough food for just one evening. Most of the time, we purposefully make a ridiculous amount of food in order to turn it into something else the following day.
Our greatest example is whenever we make lentils. We love making some lentils! You can combine them with rice. You can enjoy them with naan. You can eat them loaded with veggies and tofu, or you can throw in some fish or chicken. There’s all kinds of ways to mix up spices and seasonings to create an enjoyable dish and make it different every time.
This is one of those items we specifically make way too much of so that we can guarantee having a dank lunch the following day. Normally the day after a lentil party, we take the leftovers for lunch, crack in an egg or two, mix it all together with some flax (optional) and shape them into patties. We then cook them in our cast iron pan in some coconut oil until they brown on each side and voila! We have ourselves some lentil patties for a scrumptious sandwich, salad, or wrap.
So much variety!
There are so many items that can be resurrected into new dishes the following day. Stir-fries can become tacos. Or, transform your leftover medleys (veggie and/or meat): mix in some tortilla chips and salsa, crack open some eggs, sprinkle with a little bit of cheese, cover with a lid for a minute or two and BOOM! You just made yourself some grand ole chilequiles.
Just Throw It All In!
Whether you live in a vehicle or a mansion, we all have those days where you just don’t feel like trekking to the store to get more ingredients. We fall into this headache far too often. We frequently find ourselves debating whether to get off our butts and surrender a beautiful spot to another eager camper or take whatever we have, throw it together with a bunch of seasonings and see what happens.
More times than not, the modge podge of food option takes the cake! We actually have had some of our best meals when they aren’t entirely planned and it’s just a free-for-all of what we throw together.
A trick to making this little hack even MORE successful - have plenty of tortillas on hand at all times. Got nothing but a can of chili? Throw in some flax or flour, thicken it up, grab a tortilla and BAM. Instant burrito! Got nothing but cheese and tortillas hanging out in your fridge and that unopened jar of salsa in your cabinet? I don’t know about you, but I’m smelling a quesadilla on the horizon! Basically tortillas are the glue that hold our miscellaneous items together when we don’t know what else to do.
United We Van Cookbook
For our final tip, we suggest investing in a cheap and handy cookbook for those times you lack food creativity or inspiration.
The United We Van Cookbook is our personal favorite. This cookbook was made as a collaborative effort by nomads living out of vehicles from all over the world!
For $12.99 you get over 100 pages of all kinds of meals that people actually make in their tiny homes on a daily basis. And the best part about it? 100% of the proceeds are donated to The Nature Conservancy!
This book is jam-packed with recipes including breakfasts, snacks, an entire section on tacos, one-pot meals, desserts, beverages, pastas, salads and SO much more. There is even a meal in here made entirely of items a woman foraged in Alaska.
It’s only available as an ebook, so you can download it to any device you wish and not have to worry about taking up any additional space in your tiny house on wheels. You, my friend, are so very welcome.
Get Cookin’, Good Lookin’!
There are tons of ways to plan your meals for when you hit the road. We feel that a decent amount of veggies and beans are always great to travel with. They make for great side dishes, salads, items to stuff other items with, and are perfect for on-the-fly cooking when you’re so stinkin’ hungry but don’t have a single plan in mind. Throw ‘em in the pan with oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder - drizzle whatever your favorite sauce is on top, and you are good to go with minimal effort!
Using a fuel efficient Bio Lite cooker for some sausages!
Happy munchin’, friends!
Check out another great article on waste free tips for van life.
Articles By Gnomad Home
- Written by Brock Butterfield
Parents pull kids from public school system and homeschool from the open road.
"Create memories with them instead of being away from them 8 hours a day."
~Guest Blogger: Ashley Trebitowski ~
Brandon and I have been parents for a little over 9 years now. We had our first child in 2008 when Brandon was still in college and working full time. We were scared and worried 100% of the day. Always concerned that our kid wasn’t getting enough oxygen or nutrients from the food we were giving him.
After having two more children, things drastically changed! Our 3rd gets away with murder because she’s the baby. Our middle is active and constantly doing things to get attention. Our first son is brilliant and yet bossy. They all have their own personalities and we have learned to cultivate their strengths and try to ignore their shortcomings in hopes that they’ll outgrow them.
When Cayden (our oldest) started kindergarten he quickly was being punished for bouncing in his chair or making his classmates laugh. They tested him within the first month of school and he scored 100% on his standardized tests. At that point his teacher realized he was bored out of his mind. Thankfully he had a wonderful teacher who utilized his strengths and had him help other kids with their reading. Also she offered to send home extra homework to keep him challenged.
Quickly we found that extra work at home was not our favorite. After being at school for 8 hours the last thing we wanted to do was complete more worksheets in the 4 hours we had before bedtime. We didn’t do it. The teacher understood and openly stated “I’d rather families spend time together than worry about homework, but I’m required to send it home”.
This picture was taken in Disneyland. Our kids favorite place to visit. In 2016 our family spent over 30 days in Disneyland. It’s one of our favorite pastimes.
We slowly stopped caring what the district required of our kid and started enjoying life again. We were absent 26 days in 4 months and late 12 times. We travelled to Portland to see our dear friends in the middle of September and took a wonderful trip to Disneyland with our best friends in February. Missing school wasn’t something we worried about. We were more concerned with spending time experiencing life everyday rather than living for the weekend.
Teaching my kids to read is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. When it finally clicks for them I am assured that I’m doing what I’m called to do. It takes a lot of work on both of our parts.
This is Cayden taking drawing the Columbus River as we passed over it on our way up to Seattle.
Brandon has worked a remote job since before he graduated college allowing for a lot of freedom and travel. School wasn’t going to take that from us. Slowly but surely we realized that homeschooling was going to be out best option.
We could allow Cayden to read at a 4th grade reading level while helping him with his struggling spelling skills. We could spend more time on Math and typing instead of teaching cursive. Public school doesn’t allow for that flexibility. The requirements are harsh on teachers and hold these wonderful people back from their full potential because of rules. Don't get me wrong I’m not bashing public school but its harsh on teachers! They are expected to deliver so much and have so little help or time to help the kids they need to.
The Gum Wall in Seattle’s was a fun and disgusting experience. Reagan our youngest was upset she couldn’t eat all the gum off the wall.
We always try to do a small craft for holidays. Even in a small space we try to keep traditions as a priority. This was taken in Hillsboro, Oregon. We later that night walked Main Street in Hillsboro for a fun trick or treating experience. This town was to friendly and amazing to our kids. All the restaurants and shops opened up to give kids candy. It was our absolute favorite city to go trick or treating in.
It’s hard sometimes to let the kids have a lot of friends over at once while living on a bus but we try to allow them to get time with their friends 1 on 1. This Reagan and her BF Marley coloring barbies on the floor of our bus in Seaside, Oregon. It was a rainy month while we were there. Forcing us to spend a lot of time inside.
As time went on we decided that traditional school wasn’t for us. We realized slowly that a lot of traditional things weren’t for us.
I had a lot of wonderful friends and family who homeschooled and could help me with my journey as I started out. Curriculum choices, groups to join, activities to put the kids in. I was blessed to have them helping me.
It took about 2 years to truly get the hang of it and by that time Jackson (our second son) was ready to start kindergarten. We went through many different curriculum books. Wasted hundreds of dollars finding what worked for us.
Curriculum has to work for the teacher as well as the pupil. We would find a history curriculum that would have us baking pies and making teepees for three hours a day that the kids loved but it made it so mama never got alone time. Alone time is crucial for a mom, you go crazy without it…literally crazy, full mental crying break down. Momming is hard work!
As a homeschool family we start “school time” at an early age. The earliest the kids get into a routine of doing school the better. This pic is of Reagan doing “school” at age 2 (15 minutes of practicing coloring, cutting, stamps etc)
Typical road schooling session. We keep a folding table in the closet and set it up on the days we do school inside.
Typical thanksgiving craft. The kids love doing art together whether simple or super elaborate we try to do at least 1 craft day a week.
So after finding what worked best for Cayden I thought “well this will be easy” with Jackson. I was wrong. They are different kids, and learn in completely different ways. Cayden was born in November so starting kindergarten he was 2 months from being six where Jackson was born at the end of June. He turned five only 1 month before kindergarten started for him.
I pushed him too hard. Wasted so much time when Jack just wasn’t ready. He loves athletics, bike riding, and interactive learning. Cayden loves building legos and doing art projects. Worksheets were no problem for him but for Jack it was like pulling teeth.
I learned quickly that instead of giving Jack a worksheet we had a better day if I gave him bean bags that had numbers on them and vocally told him addition problems and he threw me the correct bean bag with the sum of the two numbers on it.
Once we bought the bus (February 2016) we started the conversion process in April 2016 just in time for summer break. Over that summer we finished the bus conversion and got it ready for travel. We took our first trip in late July and we hated having to move back into our 2000 sqft. house. Come August we made the decision to move onto the bus full time and travel with our good friends (fellow bus dwellers the Miller’s). We sold our house within 1 week of it being on the market, sold 85% of our belongings and moved onto the bus September 22, of 2016.
Impromptu field trip to Astoria, OR. Here he hiked up the enormous Astoria column. At the gift shop they sold $1 wooden tiny airplanes you could throw off the top of the column. It was BY FAR our favorite field trip of our 6 month trip in 2016/2017. The sunset over the coast while we were up there and it was gorgeous watching these little airplane fly for what felt like forever. The kids jumped up and down watching them fly.
Redwood Forest was another amazing day. The drive through the gorgeous giant trees that met the coastline was beautiful. A sight I’ll never forget. We hiked for the entire day and still felt like we needed more time. We taught the kids about wildlife and how to guess the trees age by counting its rings.
We planned to hit the road for about 6 months heading from Seattle, Washington down to San Diego, California. We did our first “road schooling” on that trip and we loved it. I continued teaching math, english, and grammar the way I always had. What changed the most was our history lessons. Instead of teaching a specific curriculum we mixed it up and taught about where we were that day.
We drove through Utah and learned about the indigenous people of that region. Learned about the crops that were most prevalent in that state, and why. We would do trivia over the CB radio with our friends, learn about the Columbus River as we drove over it in the bus. We went to the Maritime museum in Astoria Oregon and hiked up the Astoria Column to throw wooden airplanes off the top while watching the sunset over the most beautiful coastlines we had ever seen.
Traveling and teaching was amazing. We learned about the differences between sea lions and seals on the same day we saw them sunbathing along the bay at Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco, California. Cayden participated in a magic show while we were there too which helped him to learn its not so terrifying to get up in front of lots of people. We went to a vintage arcade and played games from the early-mid 1900’s.
San Francisco is always a fun quick trip. We love to watch the free magic show and share a crepe at Fisherman's Wharf. The kids love the vintage arcade down the street from the Wharf and we also have biked the Golden Gate Bridge to get ice cream in Sausalito.
Cayden doing his school work before going out to play on the beach in Silver Strand Beach San Diego, CA
he kids exploring the beach on Christmas Eve in Silver Strand. We went whale watching here also.
We did a quick study on trains at the Sacramento Train Museum. The possibilities are endless when you’re able to step away from the traditional way of learning. Homeschooling has opened so many doors for us.
Bus life naturally encourages it because why not? If you’re able to travel why wouldn’t you!? Let your kids learn through experience instead of only reading about it in a book.
Create memories with them instead of being away from them 8 hours a day. I enjoy teaching them, I enjoy them learning alongside me. Is it hard? Yes, but isn't everything that is worthwhile hard work? If its a priority you'll make time for it and you’ll make it work. So we MADE it work for our family and haven’t regretted it for a moment.
List of books used for homeschooling on the road from Ashley:
- Learning Through Sounds - 1st Grade
- Alpha Math - 1st Grade
- Handwriting Without Tears
- Star Wars Reading - 1st Grade
- Bob Books
Learn more about the Trebitowski family at:
Want to see the full inside tour of their full size school bus conversion? Check it out here.
- Written by Brock Butterfield
A leaking skoolie roof is no good especially if you've already invested the time and money into a school bus conversion.
~ Written By: Brock Butterfield ~
For this tips and advice article I'd like to share my experience as well as a few other's experiences on how to prevent water leaks in your skoolie roof from molding or ruining all the work you've put into your school bus conversion. I'll recommend a few products that have been tried and tested by either myself or other skoolies and discuss what common products to avoid if possible.
Step One: Preparing the school bus roof for leak prevention.
You will find a pretty common factor among most school buses with the white roofs. Almost all have the little black dots caused from oxidation. With my first school bus conversion I thought that those little black dots and specs were from a tree dripping sap. I simply used an automotive wash brush to scrub the roof and prepare for paint. I learned later that this was an epic mistake. This little black dots didn't really come off during the scrubbing so I assumed they weren't going anywhere but after time they were able to loosen up causing my paint on the roof to chip and flake away.
To properly prepare for paint or elastomeric paint (which I'll talk about in the following step) you'll need to get out the sandpaper and get rid of any residue that's on the roof. For this task I like to use a sanding pole, 120 grit sandpaper and then my automotive brush with the hose attachment to clean it up.
Step Two: Using the proper caulk on your seams and vents.
I'll refrain from my normal joke making of how everyone likes good caulk to save you some reading time. It's important to mention here that I would at all cost avoid silicone for this part of the job. I used it on my first skoolie and regretted it. I've working in construction since 94 so I'm no newbie to using good product but my guess is that the constant change in heat and cold on metal along with a moving and vibrating vehicle caused the silicone to fail. I began to experience leaks not more than one year after applying silicone to everything. Seams, rivets, around marker lights and vents.
In speaking with other skoolies and dipping into the RV world of repairs I learned about Dicor's 501LSW-1 Lap Sealant. It's got a nice self leveling feature so all you have to do is run it through the caulk gun and let it settle. I like to go overboard however and put on a pair of latex gloves and really smear it around to make sure all seams, rivets, screws, vents and marker lights are completely dialed. Let it cure and dry in the sun or a warm and dry shop for at least 24 hours. It'll be ready for the next step once it's no longer tacky to touch.
Step Three: Using the proper roof coating
After you've finished playing with your caulk (last caulk joke I swear) you're ready to move onto school bus conversion roof sealant. This will be the saving grace of preventing a roof leak on your school bus roof. There are two main roof coatings that skoolies, RV owners and van lifers seem to approve of. The first is Henry's Enviro-White Roof Coating which goes on like frosting and settles into one giant membrane of elastomeric and quoting from their website here is what it has to offer:
Henry® 687 100% Acrylic Enviro-White™ Extreme Elastomeric Roof Coating is a premium, high solids white reflective roof coating. It features Dirt Pick-Up Resistance (DPR) technology, which prevents dirt and dust buildup, keeping the roof whiter and more reflective longer. When cured, it forms a permeable membrane, which prevents liquid infiltration, but allows moisture vapor to vent or breathe out of underlying substrate.
- Dirt Pick-Up Resistance (DPR) technology for longest lasting reflectivity
- Waterproofs as part of a Henry® Maintenance System (HMS)
- Bright white with excellent hiding power
- Reflects >80% of sun's heat and UV rays after 3 years; prolongs roof life
- Lowers roof and interior temperatures; reduces air conditioning costs
- Mildew and stain resistant
- 12 year limited warranty with 1-time application
- Approximately 100 sq. ft. per gallon per coat
In speaking with Ryan, Laura and Alysha from Skoolie Nation they said that during the day of applying the first coat in the sun, the internal temperature dropped 22 degrees after the first coat was applied. The walls of the bus were also insulated at that point so keep that in mind. They applied a total of 4 coats to really ensure that all seams, rivets, etc were completely waterproofed. Here is a couple photos from them applying the roof sealant on the school bus conversion.
The second roof coating that people tend to talk a lot about and recommend is Pro Guard's Liquid Roof RV Coating and Repair. While it's significantly more expensive, it's been tried and tested by RV owners and RV repair shops for years. You have to use a drill and mixer to combine the two components before applying and once you activate the two components it's game on and you better be prepared to apply it. It also can't be used later for another application unless you put it in your freezer. Here's a little info from their website:
Seals and protects your RV from water damage and expensive fuel loss due to drafts. No other product can match the
durability of EPDM Rubber and LIQUID ROOF® is backed by a 5-year warranty. LIQUID ROOF® is available in white.
Each gallon covers approximately 42 square feet.
All these features in a single product
* Chemical resistant * Ease of application * Long-term durability * UV and Ozone resistance *
* Produces a seamless membrane * Excellent flexibility and elongation *
* Outstanding ponding water resistance *
* Temperature resistance from –60°F to 300°F *
TO LEAK PROOF:
FLASHINGS – RIPS – TEARS
CRACKS – DELAMINATED SEAMS
CAN BE USED OVER:
METAL – FABRIC – RUBBER
FIBERGLASS – FOAM – CONCRETE
Regardless of what roof coating you decide to use for your school bus conversion I'd recommend applying it all the way to the rain gutter on the sides of your skoolie as well as the slanted marker light section in the front and back if your bus has that style. Avoid slathering silicone all over if you can. I hit every seam and rivet on my school bus conversion and ended up scraping it all off later as it wasn't good enough.
Overall it'll probably take you 3-7 days to complete depending on drying time, weather and humidity so plan accordingly. Below are the tools and products to consider for the task at hand. If you're anything like me Amazon Prime is a life and time saver!