Inside Look at Our School Bus Conversion

Boondocking on BLM land just outside of Zion National Park.

Prior to beginning our full-time travels in our school bus conversion, we were an urban family dreaming of an outdoor life. Living in a 3-bedroom apartment on the north side of Chicago, our kids were more “city kids” than “country kids,” and Jason and I were more “theater people” than “travel people.” Our lives revolved around the city we’d built our home in and the theater community we’d built our careers with. RV talk revolved around “when the kids are older.

But in the summer of 2015, everything changed. Job opportunities presented themselves that allowed us to start our own business. We knew our time in the home we’d loved so much was coming to an end. We were feeling the Chicago crunch and facing decisions that would either move our family into a smaller apartment, relocate us to the suburbs, or travel.

I’d be lying if I said that last option didn’t freak me out. The idea of selling everything we owned, leaving the comfort of Chicago, our home school community, the theater community, and hitting the open road with three kids was both overwhelming and electrifying. Could we do it? Would our boys be happy? Would we be happy? Could I survive without my neighborhood Thai place? So many questions and very few answers. So, we tabled to discussion and moved on with our lives. Until one cold night in February 2016…

Take A Chance On Me

I was dozing on the couch with the kids fast asleep — just about to call it a day. Jason comes over, sits down next to me, and says “What do you think about converting a school bus into an RV?”

I looked at him, and, I mean, REALLY looked at him because I thought I was dreaming. But I wasn’t dreaming, and he was serious. Curiously intrigued, I said, “No way.” But Jason saw right through me.

Over the next few days, as we struggled to find an RV in our price range that had a dedicated space for three growing boys, YouTube videos on skoolie bus conversions started casually (and constantly) popping up. The more I watched, the more I began to realize that converting would allow us to design a space to our exact needs at a fraction of the cost. It would allow us the freedom to pursue this dream debt-free.

It made sense, but could we pull it off? Jason had more than enough experience in construction and electrical, having spent more than 20 years designing for the theater. However, this was a massive undertaking. So massive that I thought, “What the heck? Why not?”

And, just like that, we were on the hunt for a bus conversion to call our own.

A Million Dreams

It didn’t take long before a 2002 Thomas fell into our laps. Fresh off an Ohio school district route, the bus checked off most of our boxes (flat front, extra tall ceilings, nice and long, low mileage). Plus, the price was right and the seller was motivated. Problem was, we lived in Chicago in an apartment with zero space to park a bus. We immediately started scouring Craigslist for a shop, lot, or individual who’d be willing to let us keep the bus and convert it on their property for a small monthly fee.

Within a few hours, we’d found a guy about 90 minutes from us in Hammond, Indiana. It wasn’t going to get any better than that, so we snagged the spot, put the kids in the van, and made the five-hour drive to Ohio and back to pick up the bus.

Jack, Ethan and Henry moments after our purchase of Wander Bus.

Bright New Day

With the bus officially ours, we eagerly began the conversion process, a job that was on a very tight schedule. We had six months to turn this whole project around. Our lease was up at the end of August, and it was already late February.

I look back now and I am amazed we accomplished all that we did. In six months we converted a bus into a home and sold all our belongings. We also continued to build our business and home school our kids. Determination and a hard deadline are incredible motivators, but, in the end, we got there.

Dancing Through Life

In August of 2016, we officially became a skoolie family. Wander Bus (or Bussie) became the sixth member of Our Wandering Family and we loved her instantly. To build a home and customize it to your needs and life is an incredibly empowering endeavor. A school bus conversion into an RV — who would have thought it?

And, yet, here we are in a home built just for us. We have the freedom for our family to come together and enjoy the beauty of our national parks, our state parks, and all the urban adventures in between.

Our bus conversion at Foscue Creek Campground in Alabama.

I may not have my local Thai place or a Starbucks on every corner anymore, but what I do have is a life of travel with the people I love most in a home that was created with our own very hands. It is truly a grand adventure, and, boy, am I glad we didn’t wait until the kids were older.

Want to see what our home on wheels looks like? Check out our YouTube video for a quick walk-through!

You can also find more information on the total cost of our conversion by clicking here.

Meet The Family

Abigail Epperson, F488212,  is one of the five wanderers that make up Our Wandering Family. Along with her partner, Jason, and three boys, Abigail spends her days traveling the country in a 2002 Thomas school bus conversion. She’s the Publisher of RVMiles.com a travel site dedicated to the RV and outdoor lifestyle. She is also a co-host of the RV Miles Podcast and the America’s National Parks Podcast.

In a previous life, she was an actor/director. In this current life, she still fulfills her need for theater as the Managing Editor of PerformInk. When she is not in our national parks, you can find Abigail drinking coffee and doing all things social media for Our Wandering Family on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. To read more about the Eppersons’ travels and life as a full-time family on the road, visit ourwanderingfamily.com or check out the RV Miles Podcast.

3 Comments on Inside Look at Our School Bus Conversion

  1. Hi! Our family of 3 has been RV’n for two years now! We love it! But now we are ready to change our lifestyle and from berbs to traveling full time. I have a few questions. Do your kids attend online school? Do you pick a place and live there for a few months then move again? How do you receive mail? Do you ever get tired of traveling? Are you a part of a community where the children can meet other kids to play with?

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. School Bus Conversion – Why We Chose A Skoolie – Our Wandering Family
  2. Episode 75 — Solar, Batteries, and Generators, OH MY! | RV Miles

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