This Family of Four Calls a Cool, Renovated School Bus Their Full-Time Home

This Family of Four Calls a Cool, Renovated School Bus Their Full-Time Home

The clever layout of this 234-square-foot skoolie balances bright, open spaces with private nooks.

After selling their home in Nixa, Missouri, Chris and Tina Wann decided to hit the road with their two sons Elijah (15) and Rylee (12) and blind pup Dub the Skoolie Dog in tow. Seeking a life of adventure, and to minimize their cost of living, the family of four has embraced a mortgage-free lifestyle, following their whims down the open road.

"We all work online during the day, so we added two counters for working to our living/dining room," Tina says.

The wandering Wanns chronicle their travels on their Instagram account, @weliveonabus. "Even though we are currently nomadic, Missouri often calls us back," Tina says. "We stay at least a month at a time to see friends and family. Being able to be their neighbor for a little while is one of the perks of travel life."

Chris and Tina searched online for a few months and serendipitously found a bus just five minutes from their home. "She had been sitting there the whole time," says Tina, of the retired school bus from Jefferson City, Missouri.

The family kept as many windows as possible to embrace natural light.

The family had help from a contractor for the first part of the build, but ended up doing the rest of the overhaul themselves—Chris installed the air conditioner, solar power, and propane while the family lived on the bus on a campground. "It was difficult to do while living in a small space, but we made it work," Tina says.

The 234-square-foot bus, which the family affectionately calls Big Booty Judy, was designed with a galley-style layout to maximize space and natural light.

With a love of plants, Tina made greenery a focal point. She created wall to display her plant clippings. The thoughtful use of space allows her to keep plants without overwhelming the space. It’s also a work of art.

"You can stand at the front of the bus and see the back end," Tina says. "We kept many windows open so that we could constantly see the changing view and the beautiful nature scenery that often surrounds us. This makes the space seem larger than it really is."

The family created a storage area above the driver’s seat.

While the bus has an open and flowing layout, Chris and Tina wanted to make sure that it could also provide privacy so everyone would have a space to get away. 

"For the boys, that meant creating bunks that had enough height for them to sit up and be comfortable. Privacy curtains can also cover their bunks if they choose," Tina says. "For us, it meant a private bedroom with standing room to change clothes and a heavy wooden door we can close."

"There aren’t windows in this space, so it has the best temperature control," says Tina, of the boys’ bunk room.

They boys’ bunk room is in the middle of the bus, with a bed on each side. And Chris and Tina’s room is situated at the back of the bus, so that they can open their door and see the great outdoors while in bed.

With a sink out in the open and a toilet and shower tucked away behind a barn door, a split bathroom keeps the space functional and makes sharing one bathroom easier.

A split bathroom allows the sink to be easily accessible in the main living area of the school bus, and a toilet and shower are tucked behind a yellow barn door.

"The split bathroom has been so helpful, and the lockers provide so much storage," Tina says.

"Worth every penny," says Tina of the $1,000 composting toilet, which allows the family to unplug and go off the grid.

The family carved out several areas for online learning and working—two counters in the living and dining area. "Everyone who walks into our home says it feels bigger than they expected—and that was intentional," Tina says.

"The middle of our bus holds most of our clothing, and provides a space for our boys," Tina says.

The family was very intentional about how they furnished their home, and they carefully considered how items will travel on the road. Furniture and decor had to have longevity and durability, and had to jibe with open-concept living.

"I fell in love with plants, a green ottoman, and dark-gray cabinetry," Tina says. "After those three pieces were in, everything else fell into place."

The couple’s bedroom is tucked away at the back of the bus.

"This headboard made from shims is our newest DIY project," Tina says.

With off-grid capability (thanks to solar power and a composting toilet), the wandering Wanns are able to unplug for short bursts of time and don’t have to rely on campground living. "We recently spent seven months in Texas without traditional electricity, and it was amazing to see what our little home could really do," Tina says. "She allows us so much freedom."

In lieu of an oven, the family uses an electric pressure cooker and gas stovetop, which has suited their cooking needs thus far. Although the family has a small kitchen without all the bells and whistles that you’d find in a traditional home, Tina is quick to say that she now enjoys the process of cooking more than ever before.

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The family does most of their cooking using a pressure cooker and stovetop.

"Storage baskets are my current obsession," Tina says. "If they attach to the wall, even better."

"The good part about all tasks being new is that you find joy in things that were once mundane," Tina says. "The feeling of lighting the gas stove with a match each morning still hasn’t worn off. There is something satisfying about the process."

Living on the road isn’t for the faint of heart, and Tina says adapting to a new lifestyle has a big learning curve. There are plenty of challenges, but also rewards. "Once you choose life on the road, everything is new," she says. "Slowly, it becomes normal."

"Our home is only 234 square feet, but we utilize the great outdoors and rarely feel like it is too small," Tina says.

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