Your spouse just dropped the bomb on you that he¹ would like to live in a bus. He may have also eluded to doing the manual labor of converting an old school or transit bus into your abode. You counteracted both suggestions with ridicule and horror. I know because I reacted the same way when my husband proposed bus life.
Let me proclaim that living in a tiny moving home is a wonderful experience! Converting a bus by yourselves is grueling work and another beast to tackle so this post will not address that. But if your husband wants to buy one already decked out with domestic luxuries or if he pledges to convert a bus by himself, I urge you to consider it a blessing rather than a temporary leave of his sanity.
When My Spouse Suggested a Bus Conversion
Michael and I started dating in 2000 and, after moving twice in 3 years, he proposed that we buy an RV and live in it on the streets of West Los Angeles. I was working full-time in an architecture firm and Michael was starting law school. In other words, I thought we were living a typically happy life and wanted to continue on the trajectory of normalcy. I didn’t want to be associated with weirdos, the dregs of society, nor hippies, so I shot down his suggestion. This only made him want to push the issue and instead suggest living on a boat! I compromised with living in a studio 1 block away from Venice Beach, California.
10 years later, married with two young children, Michael again brought up the idea of an RV, but he assuaged the scenario. “We can travel cheaply around the country for a year!” Maybe the seed he planted in my mind a decade prior had finally sprouted into a bud of acceptance. Perhaps I was too tired from taking care of a 4- and 2-year old to resist his enthusiasm. I possibly just caught his infectious glee as he scoured the internet for buses. Whatever the reason, I didn’t outright refuse the idea this time.
The process of building the bus to an acceptable camping shelter took two years. When we moved to Washington, D.C., to start Michael’s new job, we planned on living in the bus for the Summer while we looked for a house to call our new home. With rental prices in the nation’s capitol so absurdly expensive, a lease for a new abode never urfaced. We decided to live in the bus full-time and have been happily doing so for the past 2 years.
The initial setting I painted may echo your own journey. Or possibly your husband just blurted out the beauty of nomadic life. Another scenario could be that he saw a passing RV and uttered what a great idea it would be to live in one with you and your domesticated animals. You also could have reached this post after years of his nagging that a bus conversion would make the family closer and fulfill your desire to travel across the country.
You are not alone in your shock and awe that your spouse would dare suggest downsizing to less than 300sf. I sympathize with you, but I also urge you to consider that the lunacy bestowed on your husband may actually be a stroke of genius. After having lived in our 35′ bus with our kids, now age 9 and 6, I wish we had started this lifestyle sooner.
The Benefits of Living in a Tiny Home on Wheels
Let’s entertain your spouse’s idea and see what the advantages are to bus life.
- Cheaper Living: Many campgrounds offer affordable daily rates that would hearken back to rental prices 20 years ago. Sure, your home is smaller than what you could get in a 1 bedroom / 1 bath apartment, but you will also have …
- An Enormous Backyard: Whether you are camping at a resort RV park or boondocking in remote meadows, your space to explore is vast and only limited by how far you want to walk.
- Less Clutter: With less space to hold your wardrobe and knick knacks, you will downsize to unbelievably bearable amounts. That outfit you haven’t worn for 5 years will have no room in your bus. You need not collect the litter of toys strewn about. Gone are the end tables that need dusting every week. Cleaning the home takes only 20 minutes.
- Spectacular Settings: Enviable vistas are no longer limited to those rich enough to buy the house atop a hill. When you travel or stay at a campground, you can be washing dishes while watching the sun set over the treeline 50 feet away. You could wake up to the sound of sparrows, push aside your curtains and watch the osprey diving into the lake for their breakfast of fish.
- Flexible School Options: If you have school-aged children, all is not lost in keeping them academically current. Many homeschooling and virtual schooling options are at your disposal.
Just as there are wonderful things about bus living, there are hardships that we should prepare you to encounter.
- Mother Nature Relentlessly Visits. You will look at the weather forecast at least a couple of times a day. Predicted lows indicate if you need to turn on an extra heater near your freshwater tank. Wind speeds govern whether or not you need to pull in your awning. You’ll need to draw your curtains in to prevent afternoon heat gain and stress on your air conditioner. Cold nights require you do the same action to keep the heat inside.
- Gaining Weight Affects Everyone. Extra pounds deter not just your health, but it also encroaches on your family’s well-being. I have to exercise extra mindfulness lest I whack my kids in the face with my hips as I bend down to pick up a stray lego. For our growing kids, their increase in height needs extra acclimatization lest they whack their head on overhead cabinets and bunk ceilings.
- Easy to Clutter: Cleaning the bus takes 20 minutes, but young children easily clutter the space in less time than you can utter, “It’s so neat here!”
- Passing By Is A Dance. Two bodies cannot pass through the hallway or enter/exit the bathroom at the same time without executing a dance. When my husband leaves the bedroom and I must enter it, we skirt each other like two kids with cooties. The kids have resorted to climbing the bunks and closets so they can pass by as I put away their clothes under their beds.
- Homeschooling Takes Energy. If you are not already accustomed to homeschooling, roadschooling might overwhelm you. Virtual school relies heavily on internet connection – something hard to come by at times.
Red Light? Green Light?
Despite the awkward space issues and the required sensitivity to weather, we still love living in the bus. The disadvantages pale in comparison to the joy we feel in living simply and mindfully.
You now have a couple of questions to ruminate. Will you join your spouse in the bus life, and will you enjoy it? I hope this article has given you a glimpse into what it could be like for you and your family. It could be horrific, but it could also be the most positive transformation you’ve ever undergone. Our advice is to take the plunge, live outside the norm and embrace the adventure.
¹ I refer to the spouse as a man because most of those struck with the idea are male. But I have met several women with wanderlust that have a reluctant husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. To make this article easier to write, I refer to male partners as the instigator of bus life, but be aware that women prompt the idea, too