Is converting a school bus or a van into a house and living the dream… a dream? No, it is just the latest trend among contemporary nomads.
Travelling with absolutely everything you need: is it or is it not everyone’s dream? Packing is complicated for many people. It imposes renunciations and choices: “should I bring this book?” or “maybe it is better if I leave these shoes at home”. In the United States – which often surpass us Europeans in the so-called “art of making ends meet” – many people have solved the problem by living in caravans. But for those who like to build things with their own hands, today’s trend is called “skoolie”.
The term “skoolie” refers to the conversion of a school bus into a house. According to Will Sutherland, a famous Australian cricketer, who told his experience on Popular Mechanics, it’s like having a source of income and a promise of adventure right under your feet. In fact, his “skoolie” has also become the most voted Airbnb since 2015. But why convert a retired school bus into a small house? “Simple,” Sutherland explains, “because they are cheap and durable vehicles”.
One thing is certain: choosing a “skoolie” or camper van as your home is one of those life-changing decisions. Without any doubt, those who take such an idea into consideration may have to deal with a lot of doubts and perplexities. The world is changing rapidly and opting for such a choice could be more correct than ever in an unstable society in which real estate costs are increasingly high and taxation has skyrocketed. Such a choice, then, can have both advantages and disadvantages. At this point, all that remains to be done is to go into more detail and see if it is really worth choosing a motorhome as a home or if, instead, it is an idea not to even consider.
Sometimes traditional houses are only used for sleeping. The hectic life and a work far from home could force us to spend very few hours at home. This could weigh even more if you have a large, very expensive and demanding house. In such cases, not only is the property exploited for a short time, but even a small part of it is exploited. In practice, you could incur expenses that are completely unnecessary. In light of this reflection, opting for a ““skoolie”” or a van might be the best solution. They are the ideal solution for those who want to get rid of bills, rents, mortgages and, above all, a roof over their head in a fixed location. Obviously, such a decision completely revolutionises one’s way of life.
How to build a “skoolie”?
The cost of a school bus at auction in America ranges from $2,000 to $5,000, about 10% of the cost of a camper van. Moreover, unlike the latter, the school bus is the closest thing to the solidity of a real house. Once you have chosen the structure, you move on to building your own house on wheels. First step: demolition. Remove the seats, the floor and the panels fixed to the ceiling. There will also be power lines and heat coils to be converted. The two most useful tools you will need at this stage are an electric drill and an angle grinder.
Once the demolition phase is finished, you will have rust, holes and tears to repair in front of you. Start with the floor and then move on to the walls, windows and ceiling. This is followed by the isolation phase of the rooms and the actual design phase, where you can choose where to place the walls, the distances from the interior, the distribution of the rooms, from the bed to the kitchen.
How to camp a van?
If Americans are crazy about school buses, it seems more common in Europe to convert commercial vans into comfortable nests on four wheels. After all, musicians have always taught us this: a properly arranged vehicle is able to take you anywhere, welcome you and offer you rest. Camperizing a van is not an impossible task. On the contrary, it is certainly easier than converting an entire school bus. However, it requires design skills to allocate the smallest space in the best possible way.
Arranging bed, sink, stove, fridge, luggage area, bathroom and chairs for passengers may not be a joke. The white surfaces of the vehicle offer better interior brightness, giving the illusion that the spaces are larger. On sites like PamTheVan there are plenty of tips. Pam is a young Italian girl who, after living in the north of England, where she worked, decided at the age of 25 that she needed something else. So, she modified a “van”, a 5-door Kangoo, and turned it into her home. Later, with only the company of her dog Odie, she went on an adventure and now it’s more or less 2 years that she travels around Europe and tells her life and her travels on her blog and YouTube channel.
If you feel guilty about the environment, remember that you can mount solar panels that can power the internal consumption. Working from the inside, like a real digital nomad, will be a joke.
“Skoolie” and van: these are the Instagram profiles to follow
If you’ve decided to abandon the comfortable home for a house on wheels, built on the new life of a school bus or a van, the socials can help you as always. The hashtags to follow are #skoolie, #skoolieconversion, #skoolienation, #skoolielife, #busconversion, #buslife, #buslifeadventure. But also #homeonwheels or #vanbuild and #vanlife.
On Instagram there are so many profiles dedicated to “skoolie”. Among the most interesting to follow are Lady Alice, who writes on her profile “Breath! You’re Alive! Converting a bus into a home” (Breath! You’re free! Convert a bus into a home). Here you’ll find tips on design furniture, suitable for an old vehicle that has always carried only children. In the ladyoftheecanyon profile, Yessika shows the efforts made to make her bus not only habitable, but also incredibly beautiful, thanks to the suggestions captured by the designers’ profiles on the net.
The binks_tubes are a couple who live and travel aboard a converted school bus. Real “skoolie” influencers, with lots of merchandise, e-commerce and contests for their fans. Disco Moose the Bus is a profile born from the conversion of a “skoolie” that lasted 14 months. Each phase has been documented through colourful and funny posts.
What about you and your language exchange friends? Would you be ready to build a mobile home with your own hands and travel the world? Let us know in the comments!
Written by: Martina Sassi, Staff Writer