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Scout & About: Family of 4’s Debt-Free Off-Grid Skoolie Rig!


Just about two years ago, Jake & Jenn decided they didn’t really know where they wanted to settle and put down permanent roots, and they hadn’t seen much of the rest of the US. So the couple started looking for the perfect bus to turn into their family’s tiny home!

Together with their two kids, they’ve gutted and transformed the bus into their new home (@scoutandaboutskoolie). While COVID has delayed their official departure, the home is just about complete! The coolest part? They took their time on the build so they could do it entirely debt-free! The bus itself was about $4,000, and they’ve put another $20,000 into it, including a full solar system that enables them to be off-grid.

We got to interview Jenn about the conversion and transitioning to tiny life, so be sure to check those out after the photo tour!

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Family to Travel US in Their Bus Conversion

Here’s the family with their bus before they started renovations.

Getting so close to done on the inside!

View looking from the back of the bus.

Mom & Dad’s bed (getting a little test-drive).

Gorgeous bathroom!

They chose a composting toilet so they could be totally off-grid.

Check out this solar array!

The couch looks like it passes the “comfy” test!

In this progress pic you can see the kids’ bunks on the left.

How gorgeous is the sage green color of the bus?

Q&A with Jenn: Family Bus Life

————————————————————————–

What are your name(s)?

Jake & Jenn

How many people (and animals) are living in your bus?

4 humans!

Where do you live right now?

We live on the west coast in Florida, just minutes from the beach.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

Jake is a freelance carpenter and Jenn is a Wedding and Family Photographer but we plan to work remote and travel full time.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

I think like most tiny dwellers, we didn’t want to be held back by stuff. We knew that we valued experiences and nature over material things and just really wanted to prioritize that in our lives. When you have a larger home, sometimes it’s difficult not to fill every corner out of obligation or simply because you can, I mean – you have the space right? But when you challenge yourself to live within 250 sq feet, you’ve made the decision to be intentional with the things you’ve chosen or the things you need. Those things you are surrounded by need to be your favorite most useful things. Plus, our kids are just mentally healthier with space in nature to roam. So in short, we just prefer the lifestyle that living tiny allows.

Do you think you’ll live in a bus long-term?

Our original plan was to travel for a year or two, but honestly we will probably live in it until we’ve decided as a family that it doesn’t feel right anymore. Then re-access our goals and plans at that point.

How did you first learn about tiny house life?

Dare I say Netflix documentaries!

Tell us about the process of building out your bus? How long has it taken?

As of right now it’s been about a year and 8 months to build out (bought in the fall of 2018), but also about 6 months to find the right bus that was within our budget and had the specifications we were looking for. It was incredibly important for us to NOT GO INTO DEBT so we would save, work, save some more and build when we had the money in hand. So about 2 years later and here we are! It’s been a huge labor of love and we definitely wanted to make sure we did it right, so it feels like a more extensive build.

Did you do it all yourselves?

About 90% of it we’ve done on our own. We had a few friends & family help here and there and then we hired a technician to install our A/C and a few other things we just needed some reassurance with. But Jake has a pretty broad skill set and grew up doing carpentry & woodwork, so he was able to just research and navigate through most of the build himself including the plumbing, electrical and solar.

Are you comfortable sharing how much your bus cost? What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

Sure! We paid 4k for the bus alone and then have put about 20k (give or take) into it at this point. We now have solar and our a/c will run off a mixture of solar and a generator, so no energy cost really outside of gas. When it’s all said and done, it will be about 27K. We were pretty thrifty and Jake was able to repurpose a lot of what we’ve used in our build from things we had. We will have minimal bills, so the change month to month is pretty drastic. Fuel is costly when you are actively traveling a lot – but if you stay put for a while, then you cut that expense.

What are you most excited about as you set off on your tiny journey/bus life?

We are excited to be mobile and have our home with us! But more importantly we are excited to experience different areas in the US and to discover new opportunities. We are really looking forward to going out west!

Anything you’re nervous about?

I think the first time experiencing anything new is essentially nerve-racking, right? Especially having all of your belongings with you at all times and in a vehicle no less (hello anxiety!).Making sure we are all safe and that the bus mechanically runs well and just mentally preparing for mobile tiny living. I heard a comment somewhere, probably on a podcast, about how entrepreneurs and generally successful people focus on and see mainly on how an idea can succeed as opposed to all of the reasons it can fail and I’ve tried really hard to implement that here. Of course there will be times when things will feel overwhelming or costly, but focusing on how we can make this succeed regardless of setbacks is important. Not only for us individually but also for our kids to be able to see that.

How do your kids feel about the bus?

Currently they are ecstatic, but we are still preparing for full time living. So come back in a few months and our answer may change haha! But really, they’ve been so good about downsizing and we have worked on making their spaces personal and their own, so that helps in the transition. They’ve been able to see everything transform from the ground up! Kids are so resilient and as long as we maintain our optimism, they follow suite.

Any particular challenges having kids in a tiny space?

Both of our kids are energetic (in a good way!), so that can be challenging at times. Also kids have THINGS, and I’m not talking toys since we’ve been able to donate a lot of that and really focus on the ones they care about & play with most. However homeschool, the way we have chosen to do it, we still need space for books and art supplies, etc. So organizing all of that in a way that’s practical without feeling cluttered is always a challenge.

What makes your bus special?

Having been able to do it as a family and the fact that Jake has managed almost all of the physical part on his own makes it so special to us. Being able to step back and say “wow, WE did this” feels like such an accomplishment.

What is your favorite part of your bus?

This is such hard question because I really love the kitchen and bathroom (wallpaper!) but the bedroom is so cozy too and I find myself back there reading a lot. Jake is really proud of the solar, so that’s his vote!

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in bus life?

We always say If not now, when? Do your research and know what you’re getting into (don’t bite off more than you can chew!) but we always so GO FOR IT. If it doesn’t work out, at least you gave yourself the opportunity. Ask for help, draw up a loose budget and then double it for all of the things you didn’t know you needed. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! It’s a heck of a lot of work and then some, but take each project one at a time and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a fully converted school bus tiny home.

Highlights:

  • 2004 Thomas Caterpillar Flat nose
  • Furrion 21’ Propane range
  • Dometic Fridge
  • Nature’s Head Toilet
  • 75 gallons of fresh water
  • 24V Solar system with 2 3000 watt batteries, 1 MPP Solar hybrid 3k inverter charger and 5 375 watt REC panels.
  • Custom cabinetry.
  • tankless propane water heater
  • Senville 9000 BTU Split Unit A/C.

Learn More:

Related Stories:

Our big thanks to Jenn for sharing! 🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

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 two little kids. She and her family just purchased a small fixer-upper and are starting a self-sufficient homestead on their happy little acre.
{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Avatar Marsha Cowan
    August 9, 2020, 2:49 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! I love everything about it, especially the kitchen. Love those overhead cabinets. The Master bedroom is gorgeous, and the bunks are very cleverly done. I love the bathroom, and the front door, and the exterior color, just everything! Great job! Beautiful family, too : )

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      August 10, 2020, 1:33 pm

      They definitely did a great job.

  • Avatar Karen Ziegler
    August 15, 2020, 11:26 pm

    Is there a shower?
    Looks beautiful

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      August 17, 2020, 10:09 am

      Yes there is 🙂

  • Avatar sheila
    October 19, 2020, 12:12 pm

    This is beautiful!! Everything inside is beautiful. So comfortable looking. 🙂

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      October 19, 2020, 2:54 pm

      Totally agree!

  • Avatar Melissa Robinson
    October 19, 2020, 1:23 pm

    Hi Natalie-
    I would LOVE to tour this bus since this family lives in FL. They’re on the west coast and depending where, may not be far from me. I’ll do some research in order to reach out to them – I’d love to actually see their bus in person before they leave for their on-the-road adventure. They did an amazing job on this build! It’s certainly an example for those of us in the “planning” stage of going tiny!

    I have a question for you. Is Alex working with you on this page anymore? I haven’t seen his name pop up on any articles in quite a while.

    • Natalie C. McKee Natalie C. McKee
      October 19, 2020, 2:53 pm

      Hi Melissa! Yes Alex is still here 🙂 He has been doing a lot of the background work to make things run smoothly, while I’ve been writing a bit more. He’s the boss and the mastermind behind THT! You can contact Scout & About by sending them a private message through their Instagram channel >>> https://www.instagram.com/scoutandaboutskoolie/

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