My partner and I live in a 230-square-foot school bus with an L-shaped layout. Here’s what it’s like.

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The couple posing outside of the painted orange-and-white school bus

We bought our school bus in May 2020.Nicole Jones

  • My partner and I bought a school bus for $3,500 during the pandemic and renovated it to live in.

  • It took nine months to complete, and we’ve since been traveling across the country.

  • We designed it with an L-shaped layout for privacy, plus a bigger kitchen and bathroom.

My partner and I couldn’t commit to buying a house yet, so we decided to move into something mobile.

Yellow school bus parked outside of homeYellow school bus parked outside of home

We bought this school bus for $3,500.Nicole Jones

My husband, Charlie, and I bought an old school bus for just $3,500 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and converted it into our dream tiny home.

We had been living in Chicago, Illinois, and even though we knew we didn’t want to be in the middle of a city any longer, we couldn’t decide where to plant roots.

So we compromised by moving into something mobile, as that would help us determine where we wanted to eventually settle down.

The build took nine months, and we’ve been living in the 230-square-foot space ever since. Here’s what the experience has been like, so far:

We’re so proud of the final product, which has an L-shaped layout.

The kitchen inside the school bus, with green cabinets, a white blacksplash, and wood countersThe kitchen inside the school bus, with green cabinets, a white blacksplash, and wood counters

Our renovated school bus has a full living area, kitchen, wet bathroom, and queen-sized bedroom.Nicole Jones

Our build features a full living area, kitchen, wet bathroom, and queen-sized bedroom, but one of our favorite parts of our space is its L-shaped layout.

We decided on this layout to create privacy and also allow for a bigger kitchen and bathroom.

Our kitchen is where the L-shape starts, with the counters extending into the middle of the bus. Plus the deep-green cabinets tie together the warm colors throughout the rest of our build. We want guests to be greeted with a cozy feeling when they enter our home.

Our main living space has a pull-out couch that converts into a guest bed. And there’s also a dinette, which allows us to have a permanent workspace, as well as a place to eat our meals.

We didn’t want to have to sacrifice what was important to us, like a full bathroom.

The bathroom on the bus, with a full sink/vanity and light-colored tiled showerThe bathroom on the bus, with a full sink/vanity and light-colored tiled shower

I wanted to have two separate sinks on the bus.Nicole Jones

On the opposite side of the kitchen wall lies another favorite part of the bus: our bathroom.

I really wanted two separate sinks — one for the kitchen and a vanity for the bathroom — with different purposes.

This was important to me, and adding the vanity is what led to the L-shaped layout. We needed room for a sink, mirror, shower, and toilet in the bathroom, so we had to find a way to make it all fit.

The bathroom is fully tiled, so it naturally flows into the shower area, which features a rainfall showerhead, complete with a skylight to give us extra headroom.

We had no experience with tiling prior to this project but loved playing with different options and are really happy with how it came out.

Our bedroom is my happy place in our home.

The bedroom on the van, with a queen-sized bed and orange/yellow colorsThe bedroom on the van, with a queen-sized bed and orange/yellow colors

We fit a queen-sized bed in the room.Nicole Jones

Heading toward the back, there are two closets — one for clothing and another for our electric system — before entering the bedroom.

I’ve really fallen in love with mustard yellows, burnt oranges, and neutrals, so we opted for warm tones in our bedroom, which truly makes me happy when I enter it.

We were also able to fit a desk for Charlie and a washer-and-dryer unit.

It took nine months to finish our build, and we’ve been traveling ever since.

The van parked in a parking lot by large, orange natural landmarksThe van parked in a parking lot by large, orange natural landmarks

We immediately traveled to somewhere warm.Nicole Jones

The whole build took us about nine months. We jumped on the bus with our 13-year-old cat at the end of March 2021 and haven’t looked back since.

Our first destination was just anywhere warm. We built the bus in Wisconsin and it had been brutally cold.

Plus getting used to tiny living wasn’t as hard as we expected it to be.

The first couple of weeks were an adjustment period, but we’ve always made traveling a priority as a couple, so we’re pretty used to being in small spaces together.

In order to work, we need to find a spot with service and make the most of our separate spaces.

The writer working on a laptop at small table on school busThe writer working on a laptop at small table on school bus

My partner and I both work from home.Nicole Jones

Both Charlie and I work remotely full-time on the road, so we need internet. We equipped the bus with a few different Wi-Fi options, but the place we’re parked needs to have a signal for it to function.

We both have video meetings, so we needed two separate workspaces to do so. Thankfully, the L-shape layout gives us this.

Privacy can be hard to find in small spaces, so creating this separation made the transition a bit easier.

Living tiny comes with its own unexpected challenges, such as finding good places to stay and paying for gas.

An outside view of the bus, which is painted orange and whiteAn outside view of the bus, which is painted orange and white

Our bus is self-contained with fresh water and solar power.Nicole Jones

We’ve made it our mission to chase sunshine and good weather, which can mean we’re sometimes moving around more than we’d like.

Most people assume we’re saving a lot of money by living tiny, which is true to an extent, but there are also costs you obtain on the road, like gas. We make that up a bit by finding free camping places, often on public land around the United States.

Our vehicle is entirely self-contained so we’re able to boondock for about two weeks at a time. Plus we have 100 gallons of fresh water, 1,050 watts of solar power, and a fridge-freezer combo, so we can live off-grid. This was a huge priority for us during our build so we didn’t always have to pay for RV hookups.

It can be stressful to have to think about where you’re sleeping each night but the pros far outweigh any cons or stress.

We don’t have any plans to move out of the bus yet.

The couple posing on the bench in the living area in their school busThe couple posing on the bench in the living area in their school bus

We haven’t found a place we want to settle down permanently.Nicole Jones

We plan to continue our adventures for the foreseen future.

Living in an alternative home, especially a moving one, has really opened our eyes to how many different ways there are to live.

We’re having so much fun on the road and aren’t ready to give up full-time traveling quite yet.

We also haven’t found the place we want to permanently call home, but we’re confident we’ll come across it along the way.

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