Saturday, November 15, 2014

So you want to live in a bus?

Ok, so I know what many people are wondering: why a bus?  Why not a trendy little tiny house?  Or for that matter, why not just settle down and buy a regular old house already?  These are all good questions, and ones we've thought about extensively over the past few years.  Cammy and I are both gainfully employed, educated, and desire a place we can call home.  However, we both also have similar ideas about living more simply, creating less of an impact on our environment, and living in a "non-traditional" way that allows us to be free from the burdens of a massive mortgage, ginormous debt, enormous electrical bills, and the weight that comes with buying to many things.   

Cammy and I saw this graph the other day.  It blew our minds. 

Don't get me wrong, I see the advantages of buying a house.  In many ways it's a great investment.  I am not questioning anyone else’s decision to own their own home and their own property.  After all, this is the American Dream, right?  I have had dreams of owning my own house; perhaps a place outside of town with a few acres where we can grow our own food, harvest our own wood, and call our home.  But at this point in my life, I have come to realize that home to me is not a geographic place, tied to space.  More than anything, home to me is a feeling.  It’s the feeling you get when you wake up to family on Christmas morning, share a Thanksgiving meal together, or are greeted by your loved ones after a long day’s work.   Sometimes, I think it’s just the feeling of having a place of personal solitude: somewhere to get away from the hubbub of life.

Cammy and I have had some long conversations about what we want and where we want to be in 2, 5, or 10 years so on and so forth. This is where our ideas become murky, and in many ways ambivalent.   We both love travel.  We love the feeling of seeing, experiencing, and even living in  new places.  As a wildlife biologist, I have many opportunities to travel for work and we could live a nomadic lifestyle if we so choose.  But we also feel a deep need to be somewhere and to have a place that is ours, a place that is comfortable, and a place that makes all of the feelings of being home meld together.  After many deep discussions about what we want with our lives, we came to a few realizations that ultimately led us to buy the big old tortoise shell of bus.

Extra credit for anyone who can identify this raptor I am holding!
How about this one?  Hint: the top photo
is a male and the bottom photo is a female.
They are both approximately the same size....
but they are in fact different species.
Here's what we have come to realize:

(1) Right now we don't see how buying a house is going to improve our quality of life.  We want time to hike, travel, see family, and just simply enjoy life rather than working all the time so we can pay our mortgage and other debts.  We will have plenty of time when we are older, to settle down and give all our money to the bank if we choose.

(2) We still have a desire to have somewhere we can call home, be it a bus, a yurt, or a hobbit hole.  It’s important to have a comfortable, simple dwelling for us and the huskies.  But we want to be able to build it, customize it how we want it, take it off grid, and simply take it with us wherever we wish. If we want to buy 40 acres in the hills, we can, and we’ll park a bus on it. If we both get laid off at work and need to move, we’ll take the bus with us.  If we want to travel and visit family for extended stays, we will always have a place to sleep, a chill spot for the huskies, and a wicked bus to call our home. 

(3) We don’t want to throw our money into rent anymore, because that’s just paying someone else’s mortgage.  
Maybe THIS is why home prices have
become so ridiculously expensive.
Just sayin'

(4) Buses are awesome.  Yes, they are huge vehicles, but they make for incredible tiny houses.  A few solar panels, a wood stove, and some ingenuity and you’re off grid in no time.  The size of the average American house grew from 983 square feet  in 1950 to about 2,500 square feet today, and with it so did urban sprawl and the human footprint on the planet.   Our bus will be about 180 square feet.  How’s that for reducing our footprint? 

(5) Everyone I have ever known that has built their own home alleges that it gives one a sense of accomplishment and pride like nothing else.  In a world where our professions, our work, and our ideals seems so abstract at times, being able to build a real, tangible home with a little sweat and blood (both of these have already happened by the way) just seems like something I shouldn’t just want to do, but have to do. Also, I should mention, we are keeping a tally of how many time we each bang our heads off of something in the bus while constructing it.  So far, it is a dead heat: 10 to 10. 

I leave you with a quote, that as a wildlife biologist, I particularly appreciate:  “Here is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house that there is in a bird's building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged? But alas! we do like cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in nests which other birds have built, and cheer no traveller with their chattering and unmusical notes.” Henry David Thoreau – Walden, 1906.

Ok, here is you last chance to redeem yourself. Name
THIS species, and yes I am talking about the spindly tree.  Triple points if
you can name the National Park where I took the photo. 
Hint: Some of these trees are old than Jesus himself.


  1. Great explanation of your thought process on picking a bus, Erik! I might have to forward this post to my mom, who thinks you two are mildly crazy….

  2. Thanks Kate. Glad you liked it and glad your mom only thinks us mildly crazy ;)

  3. Erik, you are a great writer! :)

    1. Thanks Amanda! It's actually pretty fun to write about the bus. Blog writing is so different that the technical writing I typically do (and that is pretty much the only time I ever write anything!), so it's nice to have more literary freedom :)