You might be a bit confused at this point, so if you have no idea why someone would say School Bus and RV in the same sentence, go check out my other post What is a Skoolie? first. Now that we’re on [relatively] the same page, let’s get into it. Naturally, when I tell people my big dream, they respond with “But, why a school bus? And why do you want to travel? Shouldn’t you wait until the kids are older and you retire (aka are almost too old to hike/explore/enjoy)?” and while I can’t pinpoint the exact attraction or calling, here’s my story, take from it what you will.
Why Either One? | Wanderlust
Growing up, my family didn’t “camp” much, let alone “glamp” (was that even a thing back then?). From what I was told, we went to Kitty Hawk NC once, so that my dad could go hang-gliding, and stayed in a rental house nearby. I have very fuzzy memories of visiting a local campground in the area, where we did some crafts and I got to play with the camp kids. As far as vacations, as a child I went to Disney once, at age 3, and it’s safe to say I remember zilch. So perhaps it was my shelteredness to it all that caused such a Wanderlust to rise up within me in the past several years. Sure, I’ve always wanted “to see the world”, but in a sense I’m a bit of a homebody (and a total germophobe when it comes to things like hotel rooms and public toilets #barf) too, so what better way than to travel with a home on wheels?
School Bus or RV? Camping or “Glamping”
To be completely honest, “camping” in it’s raw sense doesn’t appeal to me for the most part. My two tent experiences I’ve had left much to be desired. We went to Creation Northeast (huge Christian concert in the beautiful hills of Mt. Union PA) in 2011 with our church, and decided staying in a tent would be super fun! Wrong. Once again we tried tent camping for a family camping event our local Sportsman’s Club held, and it was miserable for me. I don’t like bugs, I don’t like to sleep on the hard ground, I don’t like waking up in a lather of sweat, and I especially don’t like walking to a port-o-potty or the nearest bush to do my business. Obviously traveling/sleeping in an RV appealed to me, but I assumed it was for the rich and/or retired. Things can get expensive quickly when you’re traveling in a fuel-sucking mini-house every other weekend, then the cost of maintenance and campgrounds, etc. I basically put this idea on the back burner as something we may try in the distant future if we can afford it.
So… Why a Skoolie?
The first time I actually realized School Bus Conversions were a thing was in 2013. 2 months before the end of my oldest son’s 4th grade year in public school, we decided on a whim to pull him out and homeschool him. I started researching my options and came across “Unschooling”, which we ultimately decided was not for our family at that time. However, the idea in general was fascinating to me, and I did lots of “Instagram studies” on it, one family I found called themselves The Unschool Bus, and they actually lived in a bus! I loved the idea, but it was soon forgotten and I moved on to other things.
We homeschooled for several years, I worked on my various business ventures, stopped homeschooling and sent the kids to private school, etc. I started trying to make some income again as I had a bit more free time, and got into some Facebook groups where tons of people were making mobile income! I realized that many of these people were traveling around the US and basically going on these ginormous vacations and earning income! I couldn’t believe what my eyeballs were telling me! While I haven’t quite worked out 100% what that’s going to look like for us, as I’m still in the figuring out what works phase, I know that if it’s God’s will, it will happen – and I know that I will blog about it!
Most of the Facebook mobile income groups I stumbled upon were RV’ers, not Skoolies. While trying to decide what type of RV would work best for us to travel/live part-time in I came across things I didn’t like in each category of RV’s. I won’t go into detail but just little nuances or details that didn’t seem like the right fit. Somehow, I remembered that “Unschool Bus” family and went on Pinterest to see if it was a thing, and Boy, was it a thing! I was suddenly and completely fascinated, pinning everything I loved, watching endless Youtube videos for ideas and even drawing up a blueprint based on a 1998 Thomas Flatnose Pusher which has the body/style/specs that I love!
Reasons I feel a School Bus is superior to an RV:
- 100% Customization! We will be able to customize everything! Literally. From the insulation to the wiring to the plumbing to the colors of the walls and appliances! No drab RV browns & tans!
- Structure! School buses have a steel frame, they are heavy duty for both safety and durability.
- Looks. Um, I don’t know but there’s something about a flatnose bus that I just reallyyyyy adore! I think they’re super cute.
- Price. Well let’s get real here, for a fully loaded RV (which would still be a compromise as we’d never be able to find one we 100% adored) you’re going to pay a LOT. I’m no mathematician but I’ve seen them go for anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000+ – more than a MORTGAGE! Crazy. And anything under $30,000 is probably going to be “roughing it” compared to what we could have with a bus. My estimation - and this is with us doing all of the work ourselves, from the potential roof raise (we know a welder) to the plumbing and electricity (Gotta love Youtube tutorials), and having solar, I’m looking at $15-20k tops. If I take my time and source some materials used/scraped, I can get away with less. It all depends how things go.
- Family Project. What fun is it to get in a shiny new RV and start driving? Ok, I mean Yay for vacation time – but, truly, half of my excitement comes from wanting to make this a Family Project! It will be a great bonding experience for us, and we will be teaching our kids the value of hard work, extremely useful life skills, and it will be something we are DANG PROUD of!
Things to consider:
Just because I picked a School Bus over an RV for the reasons above, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for everyone! You may have your own reasons, and maybe an RV would be right for you! Here are some additional things to consider:
How much money are you willing to invest? More importantly, how much time are you willing to invest? This is a big one, and is a multifaceted consideration.
Buying a new off the lot RV is going to cost more money (up front) but it will be ready to go, whereas a School Bus is going to need demo/repair/rebuilding.
Buying a used RV could potentially be cheaper up front and long term, but there are a lot of considerations:
Does it need repair? Do you want to change anything about it? How many miles does it have? etc. This will all take time too!
Buying a bus is most likely going to be the cheapest up front investment, however you’ll be putting a lot of time into it.
Time to search for “the perfect bus”, possibly traveling to get the bus, demo/repair/rebuilding
Here’s another one that kind of goes along with the time/money: Do you know what you’re doing or are you willing to learn? Because, unless you’re rolling in cash and want to hire out, you’re going to need to learn some basic (and some complex) building skills eventually!
Parts and Servicing – this one’s really depends on your resourcefulness, as you can pretty much find anything online these days, and if you can learn how to repair/rebuild an engine and other parts of your bus, you won’t need a garage as often.
This is definitely something to consider though, as not all diesel/RV mechanics can/will work on a School Bus.
What do you want to do with it?
Boondock or Campgrounds mainly?
This is not from personal experience (obviously), but something I see in my Facebook groups occasionally is that certain campgrounds are picky about who they let in.
This doesn’t concern me in the slightest, because there are plenty of fish in the sea when it comes to places to stay in your Skoolie/RV.
Ok, so at this point you’re probably like “Kelly, where’s the bus? What’s the plan? Is this just a pipe dream or…?”
Well, that is in the works! I plan to share everything, from the planning & saving to the building & traveling! The timeline is posted here and I’ll also be writing blog posts as warranted.
Have you ever wanted to do something similar? Share your story in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!