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From Long Distance Relationship to Skoolie Travel Life

Emily and Josh were both working jobs that kept them apart, and then driving to see each other on the weekends. They’d save up PTO to travel for a few weeks during the “off-season” and wish they could do it full-time. When 2020 changed their career trajectories, they were finally able to consider living nomadically full-time!

It took about two years for them to complete their skoolie conversion, and they spent the second year living in it while finishing the interior. You can read more about what led them to go tiny and how they feel about nomadic life below!

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Amazing Pantry Storage, Two Offices, and Large Bathroom Skoolie

Prior to going tiny, Josh was working long hours in his family’s construction business and I was working at a job about 5 hours away from Josh and my family. We were spending every weekend driving to see each other committing a lot of time and effort into doing a long distance relationship.

Once the construction season was over, we would use our PTO to take the most adventure-packed week road-trip we possibly could. We did a few years of living like this, enjoying our roadtrips so much and wishing we could make it more of a lifestyle.

However, Josh’s job doing construction was holding him back. Then, the pandemic came upon the scene. I was now able to work remotely, which means I was able to move home!

Later that year, Josh was able to make a career change and found a remote job that was still related to the construction field he is so passionate about. We both went to Massachusetts for him to do some training in the office before he went fully remote.

While we stayed in Massachusetts, we had some practice “living tiny” because we were in about a 200 sq ft apartment (similar to what we live in now actually)! Now that we both worked remotely, the idea occurred to us that we didn’t have to be tied down to any certain location! We could both work our jobs from anywhere, as long as we have internet!

Thus, the idea of living on the road bloomed. We could turn our 2 weeks of road trips into a lifetime of road trips, making the most out of our lifetime; experiencing as much as we could even on weeknights!

We built our home; while we were in Massachusetts or Josh’s job training, we were able to decide what worked well for us in that tiny space and what we were willing to sacrifice in our future space. We tried to think of creative solutions to be able to make the most out of the spaces and really prioritize the spaces that meant the most to us; for us, that is the kitchen space. Josh and I love to make meals together and try new foods, so made sure that our kitchen design could handle more than one cook in the kitchen.

The build of our bus took us about 2 years. We were both working full-time, so building our skoolie was only possible in the evenings and weekends. We spent about the first year working on the underbay storage framing, the 18″ roof raise, other metal working and body work as well as the paint job. Our second year, we were able to focus on the interior of the bus: building the cabinetry, taking rough sawn maple to turn it into tongue and groove planks for the ceiling, to sewing insulated curtains for all of the original bus windows. This process was a bit longer than we anticipated, but we chose to live in our bus even while the interior was not completely finished so we could avoid working on our project in the snow of a midwest winter.

While we were working on our build, we started to find more skoolie accounts on social media and we learned about a gathering for other people living out of converted vehicles – whether it was skoolies, vans, or even ambulances. We knew we wanted to go to one of these events just to see what it was like; not going in with any expectations of what it was going to be like. We spent a week at Skoolipalooza, finding friends a few days into the event. We moved our skoolie to their skoolie circle for the remainder of Skooliepalooza and it hasn’t been the same since.

We made friends for a lifetime. Even though the community by nature is always ebbing and flowing with people in different locations, we all have similar values of enjoying experiences instead of material items so the community is strong. The friends we met at last year’s Skooliepalooza will remain our friends forever and we plan to continue going in the future to make even more friendships.

We have both kept our remote jobs that originally allowed us to work remotely. I (Emily) work remotely as a structural engineer, while Josh works as a virtual engineer making CAD GPS models for construction equipment. We are so fortunate that Starlink is so readily available now. It has simplified our internet system and works in areas where cellular data wouldn’t have worked. This allowed us to work our 9-5 jobs even in the remote areas of Canada and Alaska this last summer!

The hardest part of tiny living is being away from family. When we were working on our build, we were always surrounded by family. It was hard to leave them! We have been lucky enough to have some of our family join us on parts of our travels, which has been incredibly fun, and it’s a great reason to turn our couch into a queen size bed.

The flexibility the lifestyle brings! We rarely make solidified plans, finding we enjoy the “go with the flow” nature of this lifestyle. Do we want to go on a hike with another skoolie couple? Have a potluck for dinner? Talk to some locals about what the hidden gems are that most people miss?

Every day is different, but not having plans makes it a joy to try new things and spend time on any experience that sounds fun. We can spend as much or as little time at a destination as we want, because we aren’t locked into a “vacation itinerary”.

Life on the road can be as much of a lifestyle or vacation as you want it to be. We chose to keep our jobs and experience our travels in the evenings and weekends, but we also know people that have saved up to travel full time, going back to their jobs after a certain period of time. There’s no one solution that will work for everyone. We treat living on the road as similar as we can to life at home; we still have our work schedules, “eat in” most of the time, and our big sight-seeing we usually save for weekends. Being able to work during the day keeps us humble (and pays for fuel), but being able to sight-see in the evenings brings a whole new meaning to work-life balance.



  • Josh and Emily had a long-distance relationship since their jobs kept them tied to different places.
  • They’d drive to see each other on the weekends and then once a year use their PTO to travel.
  • When 2020 changed their job situations, they finally found themselves free enough to travel full-time!
  • They spent two years converting their bus home, and work from it full time while also exploring the country.
  • The bus has a spacious bathroom and two office spaces, so they can each work without bugging each other.
  • After a visit to Skooliepalooza, they found an incredible community that they still stay in touch with.

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
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