Every once in a while, my husband and I will get fed up with the stresses of modern life and one of us will declare that we should pack up and just move somewhere new. Like New Zealand, perhaps. Or better yet, how ’bout the moon?
I’ve heard of families living on sailboats or moving into the woods and taking up in a yurt. But until recently, I had never heard of a family — with kids — living on a school bus. But that’s exactly what Rebecca Saunders and her family have been doing for the last few months; and lucky for us, they’re blogging all about it.
It all started a little over a year ago, when Rebecca, a homeschool mom and blogger, and her husband Edward, a mechanical engineer, decided to to do the unthinkable: They would up-end their life, renovate a school bus, and travel the country with their kids, 12-year-old Eliza and 9-year-old Orrie. Not to mention their two dogs, Flynn and Cash, and three cats, Lynx, Popper, and Gus.
“Ed was unexpectedly laid off from his job where he worked as an engineer for a local company designing fire trucks,” Rebecca explains. “I ran our small organic farm where we grew produce, raised hens for eggs, along with pasture-raised chickens and pigs. We had somehow survived the recession years earlier relatively unscathed and Ed had never been laid off before, so being thrown into that uncertainty was new for us.”
The couple had always managed to make ends meet and led a pretty comfortable life as Rebecca tells it; but when Edward was suddenly laid off, everything changed. After several job interviews and the stress of trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage and keep up with the bills, Edward had a stunning idea.
“‘I wish we’d just get a bus, turn it into a tiny house and go,'” Rebecca recalls her husband saying, after a particularly frustrating job interview one day. “‘Just own it outright and not have all of this weighing us down like it is.'”
Rebecca admits she felt tied the family land and was reluctant to pick up and move. But sometimes, the universe has other plans.
“It was actually during a long drive home from picking up more feed for our pigs that I passed a skoolie [school bus] going down the highway,” Rebecca shares. “I had never seen one in person before — only on posts Ed would occasionally show me on the tiny house blogs he followed. It felt like kismet to a degree, and it hit me then that maybe it wasn’t as far fetched of an idea as it seemed.”
Earlier this summer — after a whole lot of planning and some good old fashioned elbow grease — the family finally finished renovations on the bus and moved in. They’ve been trekking across the country together ever since, in their very own version of the American Dream.
Ed was even able to find a remote job that fits their lifestyle perfectly.
“I think his boss is still confounded over why we’d do such a thing,” Rebecca shares, “but he’s thankfully supportive none the less. Without his company being accommodating, and him having a remote-friendly job working as a project engineer, I doubt we could have done this quite as easily.”
Daily life for the Saunders family isn’t actually as out of the ordinary as one might imagine, given their new home has wheels. They still cook family dinner together, study their homeschool lessons, and walk the dogs, just like the rest of us. But the best part? They can go anywhere their hearts desire — at a moment’s notice.
“Weekends are spent exploring,” Rebecca says, “and so far, we’ve visited the big cities on the East Coast, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington D.C. Once we start to head down south and out west, most weekends will be spent exploring historical sites and national/state forest areas. We love to hike and ride our bicycles, so we’ll be doing a lot more of that once we’re away from the bigger cities.”
The family currently plans to keep up their nomadic lifestyle for the next two years. But after that? Who knows.
“Having everything so open-ended with no solid plan is equal parts freeing and somewhat terrifying,” Rebecca admits. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a privilege that not many people have had in their lives and we appreciate the heck out of our ability to do it. It’s still definitively overwhelming, though.”
As for other families who may be contemplating a similar lifestyle transition? Rebecca has this advice to share:
“I think the key thing to realize is that yes, it’s going to be hard. Big changes always are. Prepare yourself for ‘the suck’ of the transition- that’s going to be the hardest part,” Rebecca tells Babble. “Learning a whole new way of living is probably one of the hardest transitions to make, but once you’ve made it through and found your new normal? All future changes will seem easy by comparison.”
Want to keep up with the Saunders’ family travel adventures? Follow their blog, Broken Compass Nomads.