While you might be able to fathom having a family with toddlers in a skoolie, you might think it can’t be done with teens and tweens — but this family of 5 has proved otherwise! They have a 14, 11, and 10-year-old and have been on the road now for three years after downsizing from a 270
Their IncrediBus has a super unique layout, with one bunkbed over the cab (there’s a two-foot roof raise), two couches that fold into a king bed, and then a back teen room that’s been wonderfully decorated with pictures and posters. There’s an awesome Q&A with the family that you can read after the photo tour of their rig!
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Nomadic Life For Family w/ “Big Kids”
Here’s the front of their rig. The roof raise allows for lots of upper cabinets.
Even while living tiny, they keep plenty of board games on hand!
This was from their first Christmas in the bus.
The spacious galley kitchen has lots of storage.
They can fit plenty of drinking water!
I love that they have full-sized appliances.
Check out the cool teen room!
This looks like such a fun place to hang out.
This is the bunk over the cab.
We are Joe (42), Mandy (42), Sierra (15), Christopher (11) and Logan (10). We have lived in a 40-ft Blue Bird converted school bus that is 220 sq. ft. for almost 3 years
What got you into tiny living?
Mandy: Tiny living was such a fascination to us. How could someone, much less a family, live in such a small space…and like it?! In the spring of 2019, my husband showed me an online article about a family that converted a school bus into a tiny home and traveled the country and I thought, “we could do that”. I was so intrigued. I went to my first tiny home festival in Atlanta a short time later, willing a skoolie to be there, and while there was a converted short bus and not a full-sized bus, I was still eager to see if this was something we wanted to do. An adventure was waiting for us, I just knew it!Joe: Obviously, the view never changes in a brick-and-mortar, and we had explored most of our backyard. Since everyone was saying how terrible everything on the West Coast was, and I hadn’t been to California in like 38 years, we decided to sell the house and drive around for a bit. In November 2019 we got rid of most of our stuff and put the rest in a 20-foot shipping container in the woods of North GA.
Did you build your home or buy it? How long did the process take?
Mandy: Originally we planned on designing the bus build. I spent months stalking Instagram skoolie accounts and making diagrams of potential layouts. We were both working full time, Joe as a pharmacist and I as a global sales director for a hotel company, and we didn’t have the time or the skills to build our own bus. We decided to hire a builder, but before we committed, I found a listing on Facebook Marketplace and the rest is history. Well, it took 6 months from the time the listing was posted to the day of sale because the original owner/builder didn’t know if he actually wanted to sell so it was process.Joe: We looked hard at RVs and actually bought a bus from a church in TN (planning to demo it and find some help building it out) but we really wanted to get on the road ASAP. After finding the future IncrediBus 80% built just a few hours from Atlanta, we were somewhat frustrated 6 months later upon realizing that the builder would never complete the bus. When our new friend raised the price the week we were supposed to pick the bus up, we decided that we could not recommend buying an incomplete bus from some guy in North Florida you met on Facebook.
How has tiny living changed your life (for better or worse)?
Joe: We consume a fraction of the resources we did in a home, but we wash our feet a lot less. This is a bigger problem for some than for others, but we chase low-humidity climates and use baby powder when we aren’t jumping into lakes, rivers, and the ocean every chance we get.Mandy: We need less, so we have less and we use less. We came from a 2700 sq. ft. house where we are conditioned to fill with stuff. Every cabinet was full, every closet was packed, and there was just stuff. Now, we have space that we intentionally fill. We only have half a cabinet for pots and pans, so we only have what we need instead of having cookware we’ve collected over the years and never got rid of because he had a place to put it and forget it.Tiny living also means we don’t spread out as much. In a house, everyone had their own room and a place to retreat and get away from everyone else. When there was stress from school or work and everyone wanted to hide, we were hiding during the only hours we were home together. We never spent time together. Now we homeschool our kids because we travel 100% of the time. We are together all the time which has been such a special experience, but when we need to be alone we go outside instead of hiding inside. We appreciate the healing qualities of nature, the stillness of the outside. We also don’t want to be inside all day in such a tiny living space, so we are encouraged to explore all the beautiful places this country has to offer.
What’s the hardest part of tiny living?
Mandy: There was an initial adjustment period where we were trying to figure out what we thought we needed vs. what we actually used. We still purge from time to time. We have to limit some things we bring into the bus simply because of space. We have one boy who is the ultimate outdoors man, and he wants all the things – bb guns, bow and arrows, spearfishing bow, knives along with his nerf guns and the other is creative and loves art projects as well as action figures and Legos so we have to have a limit to what we can have.Our daughter wants a place for all her books and posters and pictures. We cannot accommodate everyone but we try as best we can and realize that we all have to sacrifice for this life, and that’s ok. Joe has the least amount of space in the bus, and he never complains.
Sierra: you can hear everyone breathing all the time. One bathroom.Logan: Driving around all the time, not knowing where we are going to be.
What’s the most rewarding part?
Mandy: We have come to know what we actually need/want to have close to us, whether it is possessions or people. It is surprising how little we actually need to be happy. We are constantly traveling in our tiny home, so we differ from those who are stationary. We have been able to see and experience this country in a way most people cannot even dream of. In 3 years we have experienced 28 states, visited close and extended family, spent 24/7 with each other and we still love each other. This is time we will cherish forever.Realizing what is important has been really empowering for us. We don’t need all the stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love stuff, but I was stressed by all the stuff – constantly organizing, and putting things away. I would save things for “what if” and then find it years later when the “what if” never came. Or it did, and we didn’t remember we had it.We are constantly moving. Some people live their whole lives in the same town or the same state, and we have been able to experience the country in a whole new way. We are so fortunate to just drive and when we want to stop we stop and explore and when we are ready to move, we do. We have parked our home on the side of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, in the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic Peninsula, alongside the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach. Wherever we want to be, that’s where we take our home on wheels.Christopher: We need alot of cool people. My best friends are kids I have met on the road.Mandy: We meet the most amazing people who travel in their tiny homes – vans, cars, box trucks, trailers, RVs or buses. We have a community of nomads that we would have never known we wanted to be apart. We can have different neighbors every day or none at all as we move around.Joe: We have the most interesting life of any family we’ve ever met. It’s not a competition, but if it was, we feel like we’re way ahead; our kids are the coolest we know, our friends are the best we can find, and we know the greenest grass in the world grows just up the road.
Any advice for people looking to go tiny?
Mandy: Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to try it.Don’t be afraid to get rid of things. They are just things. How often have we, have you, held on to something because you’ll “use it later”, put it in a closet and never think about it again? We found that things were like a rope around our necks us dragging us down. Having less means you have more time for experiences.Living tiny makes everything more intentional. If you are looking for a way to change your life to live with more meaning, living tiny gives you exactly what you need without a lot of other things to get in the way, and it bleeds into all areas of your life.Joe: All you need is a diesel heater and a van with a watertight roof to fill your life to overflowing. A sturdy pair of shoes, a paddleboard, and a thick towel won’t hurt.
- Family of 7 Living Full-Time RV Life for 3 Years
- Family’s Class A RV Conversion with a Playroom
- Family of 4 Sells Home To Travel U.S. in a Skoolie
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Did I miss a video? Would have loved to have seen the parents’ space. Who gets over-the- cab? I would guess daughter, since she IS the only girl 🤷♀️ And I absolutely LOVE that they didn’t clean up for us-“this is how we live, take us as we are” good for you. Life is not about cleaning, life is about LIVING! Keep on doing you!
They’re on Instagram, look for “Reels” for their posted videos…
Ok….near as I can tell….daughter in front, oldest boy in back, parents in the back and a kid on the floor?
Mandy explained the sleeping arrangement in her other reply, but youngest sleeps above the driver in the loft… Middle child goes down in the back, they have a thick mattress that goes on the floor of the back bedroom for him that was not pictured. It raises and lowers so he has floor space to play or use as needed and then lowers for bedtime… Then teenager goes to bed and the front couches pull out and form one very large bed, which I believe is where the parents sleep, though, they also share it when needed, like if one of them needs to be quarantined in the back for a bit or they’ll stay at a hotel.
Daisy, hi! It’s us from the IncrediBus! Thank you so much for supporting real life. Being picture perfect is never a reality and while I did move a few things around to get the bedroom shots just so you could actually see the beds, this is as good as it gets. 🙂 It’s the reality; we use the stuff we have so why pretend like there are never things on the counter tops? There is ALWAYS stuff out. We’re livin’ baby!
I’m wondering about their bathroom – composting toilet or black tank? How much water can be stored other than bottled? What if someone doesn’t want to go to bed at the same time as bunkmate and do parents sleep on couches/benches or the double bed shown in picture? Has anyone needed to be quarantined or segregated because of illness/covid and how was that handled? I love my dog but don’t like to sleep in a hairy bed, is there a washer/dryer on the bus? Laundry must be constant – do kids have chores? How is power for heat/internet and cooking provided – solar or propane? Are there any seats other than benches and what about seat belts when in motion? So many questions, a video would have answered I suppose. Stay happy and safe!
“I’m wondering about their bathroom – composting toilet or black tank?”
Tank, the dad considered a composting toilet but was out voted… and they have a Solar Power system, but don’t know if that’s part of their heating.
You’re hired as PR for TheIncrediBus! Thanks for helping us out with some of these comments. I’m going to dig into Linda’s comment today so she has more info and…you’re right!!!!!…composting toilets are just not our jam by a ruling of 4 to 1 lol
Hi Linda! It’s the IncrediBus following up on all our questions and to give you the skinny.
When we got the bus it already had a flush rv toilet and we did not want to turn around and spend $1000 on a composting toilet or make our own. Frankly, we like the flush toilet even though it means we have to find a dump station every 10-14 days. 1 of us empties the black tank and 4 of us don’t and unfortunately he was out-voted in the ‘switch to composting’ vote. Eventually we might just so we can be 100% off-grid but not now.
We drink A LOT of water and we did not want to take away from our tank water with our drinking water so we store 16 gallons of bottled drinking water above the sink and we have 100 gallons of fresh water stored under the bus that we use for the toilet, dishes, showers and hand washing. It’s easier to take the gallon jugs to the store to refill than drive the bus to fill up so that’s why we store water above the sink. We try to conserve wherever possible though. We have a jug in our shower so when we are heating heating the water, which only take about 10 seconds depending on the starting temp, we fill a jug that we reuse for the toilet if needed.
The bus is powered by solar that is mounted to the top of the bus and runs to our battery system that is under the floor in the back bedroom. Solar only works when there is sun so we bank as much solar on those days but when the batteries run low and it is cloudy or we are in more foresty places we have a generator that is loaded in the back outer compartment of the bus and runs to the batteries. Everything runs on electric except for our stove/oven and our water heater – those are propane. We have 4-5 gallon propane tanks in a storage bin under the bus and refill those as needed.
We have two ac/heater units on the top of the bus that we rarely use. We could power one with our solar power but they work best when we are hooked up to shore power (a big electrical plug). We like to follow the weather so we don’t typically have a need for AC and we have a diesel heater that is installed under one of the couches that heats us up pretty quickly.
There is a place under our kitchen counter for a washer/dryer combo with the water lines and exterior exhaust hole to the outside but we decided to turn that into a place for our dog’s crate and for shoe storage. We put our laundry in collapsible baskets on the shelf over the fridge and honestly, we don’t shower every day and we re-wear clothes if they aren’t dirty. Sometimes our kids don’t change for a week when we are in drier climates so that cuts down on laundry and when we have a few loads, one of us goes to the laundromat for a little peace and quiet and clothes washing. Usually every two weeks or so.
Bedtime can be a challenge but we have it down. Our youngest sleeps above the driver in the loft. He goes to bed 30 minutes before our middle goes down in the back. We have a thick mattress that goes on the floor of the back bedroom for him that was not pictured. It raises and lowers so he has floor space to play or use as needed and then lowers for bedtime. An hour after that the teenager goes to bed and then the adults have their own time too. The couches pull out to a huge bed and everyone has just learned how to go to sleep with a little bit of noise and everyone gets the sleep they need. Staggered bedtimes and wake times gives everyone one-on-one time with the parents at the beginning and end of each day.
Our couches don’t have seat belts and usually only one child is riding in the bus and the others in the follow car we have. We have grassy floor space in the space next to the driver that we often use for school or building legos, etc.
Only a few times have we had someone need to be quarantined but we really don’t really get crazy sick over here and if someone is sick, we’ve all already been around that person so we already have the germs so we don’t really separate. When one of us had covid that person was in the back of the bus and the rest of us were either out of the bus all day and then slept in the front of the bus and on one of those occasions we went to a hotel because the slightest noise was a killer.
Bring on more questions. We are happy to share!
Well, if it ever comes up for reconsideration, there are more options for Dry Toilets…
Like the Laveo Dryflush, which you may have seen in Matt Damon’s The Martian movie, which wraps each use into a sealed baggy and you just replace the cartridge every 15 flushes, and it all gets thrown out like you would diapers in a bag. Powered by either a plug in AC to DC or a battery that’s good for about 300 flushes.
There’s also incinerating toilets, which cremate the waste and a propane unit could work on the bus.
While composting toilets aren’t limited to the container type. You can actually have one that flushes, some universities and places like the Bronx Zoo and some camp grounds have them and there’s a couple different types, including alternative to composting called vermicomposting.
Alternatively, you could limit composting to your food waste to help reduce how much trash you produce and maybe use it for some gardening or house plants. While you can consider using gray water or rain catchment water for the toilet. So none of your potable water needs to be wasted that way and can stretch out your boon docking a little longer by being more efficient.
It’s me again! Living the real life, and being a democracy when deciding on a toilet 😍. Except for privacy periodically, this family feels like a slumber party would fit right in to the lifestyle! And before I meant the older boy in the over-cab bunk, not the back. As for “what if someone isn’t ready for bed when someone else is”…looking at the energy expended during the outings, I would guess everyone is ready for bed as soon as the sun goes down 😜. I am tired just reading and watching your adventures. Good for you and God bless 🙏