This Nomadic Mom Proves Home Is Where You Park It
Sometimes, you don’t quite end up where you always imagined. You meet the love of your life, you have a darling babe on your hip, and it should all be perfect, right? But before you know it, you’ve got this dark, looking cloud of a mortgage, work responsibilities that have you sitting in traffic, and Netflix taking over your romance.
There’s a point, when you’re sitting there, poor and frustrated… when you just take a look around you and feel you’ve reached a dead end… when you know you need to take the road less traveled to get to where you always wanted to go. And that’s just what Colorado mom, yogi, and nature enthusiast, Kayla did when she traded in her family home for life on a school bus.
Unconventional, yes. But with her intense wanderlust and laid-back attitude, Kayla teaches us one important lesson: Life isn’t what you run away from, it’s what you run to.
On what led to a bus life....
We were so tired of living in debt – we didn’t have a ton of it, but debt is debt nonetheless and it’s stressful. Also, we lived an hour away from my husband’s work which meant a two hour daily round trip that was really cutting into our time together and leaving him just exhausted. The stress was straining our marriage and we knew we had to do something drastic.
We wanted a solution that would basically unshackle us from life’s pressures. We wanted freedom to travel and freedom from debt. Selling our house and converting a school bus into a tiny, 200 square foot home was it for us. With the bus, we can live closer to my husband’s work and travel together on the weekends.
We just wanted to be able to give into our wanderlust while living within our means. We wanted to stop sitting on the couch watching Netflix (and since we don’t have a TV anymore, that battle is already won). We wanted to actually get out and explore and enjoy life together as a family, and the bus is our tool to do all of that.
On the practicalities of making it all work...
Currently, we’re traveling within Colorado, staying at national and state parks as well as national forests. We’re pretty mobile and move every couple of days, without any real home base (though we do try to stay close to my husband’s work and travel further away on the weekends).
We’re hoping to live in the bus for at least a few years so we’re prepared for all weather conditions, honestly staying pretty warm and cozy this winter. Living in the bus, we’re able to save money by cooking in and boondocking (camping off the grid) as much as possible so that we can afford to go out to eat or enjoy a cup of coffee when we want it!
We have a bathroom on the bus that’s composting so we don’t have to deal with a grey or black water tank, which is nice. We’re also in the process of completing a shower but the good news is most campgrounds fill that need and if not, we have an awesome gym membership with showers that are really just wonderful… seriously better water pressure than we ever had in our house!
But getting here has meant a lot of challenges. Being a bit of a pack rat by nature, I’ve had major panic attacks over downsizing and and fitting our lives into a mere 200 square feet. The whole process really pushed my sense of identity and I realized how much stuff mattered to me.
Also, they say that house renovations are one of the biggest causes of divorce and building out our bus will definitely point out all your weak spots. Communication, bad habits, all of it comes out when you pick up your entire life to start over in 200 square feet. But it can also bring you closer together, which I’m glad to say was our case.
On parenting behind the wheel...
Both my husband and I try to take a relaxed but practical approach to parenting. We try not to worry about too much and understand that children go through phases. Sometimes, life just happens, and you have to be flexible. At the same time, we do our best to teach Jessamyn safe boundaries for life.
I’m not sure that we’re parenting well but we really want Jessamyn to have the freedom to express herself and to make her own choices. We also want to raise her with an appreciation for nature and give her as many opportunities to explore and learn as we can possibly give her.
Jessamyn is pretty strong willed and I can already tell that she’s going to forge her own path. So my hope, really, is that our wanderings provide her with opportunities to grow as an individual and experience life fully whatever that ends up looking like to her.
Initially moving into the bus, Jessamyn struggled. She cried a lot and was just overwhelmed by the new circumstances. I actually talked to a couple other moms about this, wondering if we had made a mistake. But shortly after that, she came around and has been amazing.
She loves living so close to our two dogs, watching for bunnies every day, and going on walks. We have had close encounters with deer near our bus several times and she has been so excited and won’t stop talking about them. She thinks the black and white birds that steal our dogs food are penguins, and has basically just brought a sweetness and magical lens to bus life that otherwise I don’t think we would have experienced.
On her daughter’s education...
Jessamyn is only two, so we will cross the homeschooling bridge when we get there. One thing I know for sure, I am not going to be the one to teach her. We may potentially road school her and Colorado has a lot of good options for that which would allow us to travel and allow her to get a good education. I may put her in a half day preschool next year just to let her get some more socialization as she absolutely loves hanging out with other kids and I don’t want to deprive her of that.
On finding the right balance...
My husband works a regular 10-hour shift job, four days a week and I work from home. We pretty much schedule our lives around his job. For me it’s a bit harder trying to fit everything in, what with my work, doing all the things required to live on the bus, and taking care of Jessamyn. But it really is all about balance and we make it work! My husband gets a lot of time off and so we plan to travel extensively, while maintaining a regular job and continuing to save and live responsibly. Bus life is really all about balance and it can still work for people who don’t exclusively work from home.
On daily routines on and off the road...
Usually Jessamyn wakes up around 7:30 and we get up and have breakfast. My husband, Ben, works swing shift so he sleeps in until later. We let the dogs out, feed them, start a fire if it’s cold, clean up the bus a little bit, and then if it’s a nice day, we’ll go for a walk.
Once Ben gets up, he’ll eat breakfast and then we hang out, do bus “chores”... whatever needs to get done. Sometimes we’ll go for a walk, sometimes we’ll go get coffee somewhere and then we’ll make lunch and he’ll leave for work for the day. Jessamyn goes down for her nap about this time and I clean up, blog, answer emails, catch up on everything I missed online since the last time I was on. Once she wakes up, we usually go for a run or go to the gym and then find somewhere to shower. After that, it’s just dinner and hanging out for the rest of the night.
We don’t have a terribly crazy routine, but it really does end up filling up the day. When it comes to our social life, we’re kind of loners to be honest. We tend to keep to ourselves and spend more time in nature. We do have friends that we get together with occasionally, but with all our wanderings, we end up spending a lot of our off-time together in nature more than with tons of people. Also believe it or not, I am the biggest introvert and so is my husband… so I think we’re really content just being together. And we try to balance that with a social life that includes good friends for Jessamyn.
On her dream adventure...
We’re planning a big trip out west up to Seattle in the spring. We would love to visit all the state and national parks in Colorado and then as many as we can everywhere else!
On positive outlets...
I try to bring our life as beautifully and honestly as possible to Instagram, while connecting with people in a positive way. Instagram isn’t the real world and so in that, I don’t share all our hard moments or ugly moments and I don’t judge other people on there in that way. But it’s a space to creatively share positivity… it’s an outlet to share the good in our life and receive the positive gifts that others bring through their comments and their own posts.
I also wanted to say, because we've been getting a lot of comments about how awesome we are (and don't get me wrong we so love and appreciate all the positivity but… we aren't that awesome (actually, we’re pretty boring). We just had a dream and took the necessary steps to make it happen. We work normal jobs, we didn't inherit a ton of money, and we have big dogs and small children... We aren't special.
I guess what I'm saying is that it’s up to you to achieve your dreams, write you life, make your story… It could be anything, but it has to be yours and you have to make it happen.
Song she keeps on rewind:
Even the Darkness Has Arms by The Barr Brothers
Favorite after-hours indulgence:
Right now? Pickle flavored potato chips because….pregnancy problems.
Best way to unwind:
Going for a long run and then taking a hot shower.
Last thing she does before tucking Jessamyn in:
Brush her teeth and find bunny because it wouldn’t be bedtime without bunny.
For a daily dose of bus life, follow Kayla on Instagram @this.little.wandering.
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