BUT HOW?! Cost, Money, Work,

Thanks again for all the kind comments. I cannot keep up with everyone’s love across the internet. Thank you to all the people commenting on the articles, logging onto my Instagram, and reading this blog.

The overwhelming question has been in the form of HOW?? and What?!

How much did Big Blue Cost?

$4,500. The bus is in EXCELLENT condition. A church owned it since they bought in 1990. It only had 68,xxx miles on it. No rust, since its a California bus. Engine has had all the maintenance done. It was already painted, all the school bus equipment is gone. It also has a roof rack with a ladder. You can buy buses at auction for $1,000 but its recommended to buy the best bus you can, and have the best platform to work with. You don’t want to buy a rusty $500 bus because its cheap, only to spend $5,000 on repairing the bus.

How much did the conversion cost?

Roughly $8,500. Big ticket purchase item was solar for $400. Mattress $400. Electric came to $2,000 for quality gear. Plumbing. Construction material came to be the biggest expense, for the wood, nails, screws, drill bits, and so forth. This price does not include tools, as we already had almost everything we needed.

What do you do for money?

For this trip, I have mainly been living off of the savings I have kept over the years. I started with a few hundred dollars, put that into a CD account at the bank, when interest rates were still high. Leave the money in the account for 6 months and get a decent amount back on interest. Invest that amount for 9 months. A year. Invest that for 3 years. All the while putting in money whenever I can. It all added up over the years. When I’m not traveling, I don’t go out very much, in terms of eating out, going to bars, spending money. I’m mainly a go to work, otherwise stay home and watch Netflix kind of guy.

Bus Life is fairly cheap, minus the diesel (mpg explained further down). The bus is titled as a Reconstructed Motor Home, so insurance for the whole year is very cheap, compared to monthly car insurance. Taxes for the Bus is $200 a year. I’m currently staying for free at my friends house, so I have no mortgage, no rent, no major bills. So on the day to day, I am really only paying for food and things here and there. Ive been selling candles along the way, and have an etsy shop set up under “skoolielove” where I sell handmade natural wax candles. Currently looking for temporary jobs in the area. When I leave Florida, I will be looking into “work camping” where you work a certain amount of hours per week at certain Campgrounds, and you get to stay there for free, as well as get paid.

How did you/do you pay for this?

I have had a savings account since I was 18. My parents taught me valuable lessons in terms of how I use my money. You cant always control how much money you make, but you can control how much you spend. When I have a job, I work really hard. I put in the effort to become a supervisor or fill a training position in as short a time as possible, and make more money in less time. So then for a few years, I save as much as I can. Then I take time off and live as free and as adventurous as I can. Then I get another job and work really hard there. My parents were such a tremendous help with build as well. Not only did I not have to pay for labor to build the bus, as my dad did all of the work with me, they also helped me by donating the solar panels, my bed, as well as some of the build material.

How is the gas mileage?

Not very good. But that is not why I decided to live in a bus. Overall expenses on the bus are very minimal. And I can say that I am a mortgage free homeowner. I get roughly 6-8 miles a gallon, on a 55ish gallon tank. So, driving almost 10,000 miles, I would say that I spent more than $3,000 on gas. I would have spent that much in rent alone if I still lived in my apartment. Its all a matter of perspective.

How long did it take?

I bought the bus on March 18th in Long Beach. Drove it over to Vegas and parked it at my parents house. The build did not really start until the beginning of May this year. From that point on, we worked on the bus nearly every day. It was more than a full time job. Everything was custom, so we had to figure out how to make the curves on the wall for the curve of the roof of the bus. The black water tank was a nightmare to install. So on and on. Trial and error the entire way. Waiting on packages. Getting shipped the wrong item. Tools breaking. Personal issues of me moving back into my parents house for the build. Anyhow, I left the day that the build was done and the bus was ready to go. That was August 15. I loaded up all my belongings and left for California. So for all rough estimates, it took about 3 months of straight work to complete the build.

Whew! I hope that answered a few of your questions!

Feel free to comment below and I will answer your questions on the next blog post.

 

 

Single Man Endures Cold Showers for Adventure

As I am sitting here in my bus, in the air conditioned bedroom, on my queen mattress, jamming out to Bob Dylan, running my little fridge and charging this laptop, I figured I could write a bit about what it takes to keep the interior of a Skoolie powered along the highways of America.

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I quickly came to realize there are a lot of highways throughout America, but I was not able to properly power the bus for many of those miles.
Ill post all the specifics and particulars about all the parts that were used in the conversion in a separate detailed post, but in this article ill try and keep it simple.

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To give you a better picture of my electric needs, I consider myself an outdoors-man. Trekking through the Appalachian Mountains, mountaineering, kayaking, camping, those all require very little electricity and power usage. I’m perfectly OK with that environment. Wet wipes. Simple meals. Pooping in interesting places. So in terms of that, I am living luxuriously on the bus. I always have light. Running water (although not usually hot). I am able to charge my Bluetooth speaker, iPod, and other devices. I have a toilet, a camp stove for cooking fabulous meals, and the ability to (sometimes) use my air conditioning.

So clearly, my electricity needs are different from others. I am a single guy, who bends the rules on cleanliness by a few days, so frequent hot showers become unnecessary. I do not bake, or cook fancy meals. I do not use an electric razor, coffee machine, microwave or television.

But even without all those energy suckers, I simply did not have enough power.

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The basics of my system:

I have 200 watt solar panels, which charge 4 6-volt golf batteries, which power the interior. These are separate batteries from the 3 that run the motor. I also have an isolator on the alternator, which charges all 7 batteries while the engine is running. I knew that 200 watts would not be enough, and it turned out to be entirely true. Someone told me that as a rule of thumb, you should have one 100 watt panel per battery. I would need at a minimum 200 more watts for my 4 batteries. I definitely need more solar and more batteries.

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In short, the batteries drained too fast, and were unable to always be fully charged. What that meant for me was, anything that needed a lot of power really fast, like the space heater, the hot plate, the water heater, I was unable to use those if I was not plugged in at a campground. So anytime I was off-grid, or parked along a street, I would have to take cold water showers, use my gas camp stove instead of my appliance hot plate, and simply put on more clothing to stay warm. The air conditioner has an energy saving mode, and if the batteries were fully charged, I would be able to comfortably use it. Otherwise, I was sweating like a pig in the 100+ degree Nevada/California weather. I usually did not keep anything in my mini fridge, in fear of not having enough power to keep it cold. I mostly snacked and ate less perishable items.

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Clearly, this is not reasonable to most people, especially families. When I am plugged in to power at an RV Campsite, the bus is the perfect tiny home. Warm showers, hot cooked meal, the electric fireplace is on. But to have that experience on the road, I would need to make a few changes. I am thinking about buying higher quality batteries. These were on the lower end of the price range. Also, I need a lot more solar power. Serious Skoolie owners, with their job related to their bus, usually have over 1000 watts of solar, and 8 or more batteries. All my appliances are energy efficient, so there is nothing to really change there.

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The whole point of this Bus Life is to downsize and live small. In the last few months I have been able to accomplish that. Ive adapted my life to live in a 189sq ft bus. I may not always have enough power, but ill take that any day, in order to be able to call the road my home.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂