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.
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 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.
"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."
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."
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.
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 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."
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 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."
If you’re interested in small-space living, check out the family’s e-book, Making the Most of 234 Square Feet, which includes layout and storage tips.
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