Hello. My name is Luke and I am a digital nomad living in a school bus. As I write this post I have been living in my Skoolie (converted school bus) for exactly 2 years now. It has, honestly, been the most exciting time of my life. Prior to bus living I felt like I wasn’t really living a fulfilling or meaningful life.
I have a feeling that this article is going to be a bit lengthy so strap in and hang on. Pre-buslife, I lived a pretty standard life. I went to college, acquired a degree, had a fulltime job, rented an apartment, and spent the weekends doing things I like to do. For years, deep down, I always had a voice in the back of my mind telling me to escape.
My job had me working long hours and I even had to work weekends sometimes which was really burning me out. I realize that you need money to live but are you really living when you’re working so much living paycheck to paycheck and not being able to progress in life? I’m not sure what the American Dream is anymore but if it involves working your whole life at a job you hate making only enough money to survive and pay the bills while slowly minimizing debt, then you can count me out.
I feel as though life is a rare gift and we only get one chance on this planet so why spend it slaving away buying stuff that you don’t really need. I just couldn’t picture myself living my whole life in the same town, driving the same roads, and working the same job until I retire or die.
HOW I BECAME A DIGITAL NOMAD LIVING IN A SCHOOL BUS
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I became a digital nomad living in a school bus in October of 2018. Up until that point I worked a variety of jobs including machinist work, factory jobs, restaurant cook (at my parents restaurant), and a lot of freelance work over the past 10 years since I have a variety of skills in regards to the digital world. I obtained a college degree in web development and graphic design but I’ve always been a computer nerd so I self taught myself a multitude of skills including affiliate marketing, online marketing, computer, tablet, and phone repair, video editing, photo manipulation, computer programming, computer hacking (the ethical kind of course), digital product sales, and the list goes on.
I love freelancing work but I was never able to make a consistent income. As everybody knows monthly bills can add up. Rent, utilities, internet, phone, food, gas, car payments, Netflix, Amazon.
So I was always in and out of jobs. I don’t know about you but I’m not very fond of living paycheck to paycheck working all the time and not being able to fully enjoy life. All work and no play make Sir Luke a dull boy. I was becoming increasingly miserable, boring, tired out, and above all I was losing my sense of self. I was essentially becoming a robot.
Now I’m a huge fan of music and one of my favorite artists, Jim Morrison once stated…”The West is the Best. Get here and we’ll do the rest.” Ever since my teenage years I’ve had a fascination with the west coast. Beaches and bikini’s, beautiful weather, surfing, and palm trees. It’s a whole different world out west.
My initial plan was to just save money (enough to cover rent for a couple months), get an apartment lined up and a potential job, then pack up my car, and drive out the Cali. I’ve always been a minimalist so I came up with the idea of buying an RV and driving out to Cali and living in the RV until I could essentially get on my feet. I wasn’t very fond of the idea of purchasing an RV so I dug deeper online for alternatives. I recall coming across this “vanlife” epidemic. I had no idea that living in vans or school buses was a thing up until this point. I started watching YouTube videos and surfing the web gathering information about this new revelation.
I RECALL COMING ACROSS THIS “VANLIFE” EPIDEMIC
I already knew I was moving to Cali and I was currently in the money saving process but this new lifestyle that I came across changed things dramatically. I began watching youtubers such as The Nomadic Movement, Rolling Vistas, Foresty Forest, Trent and Allie, Max and Lee, The Matneys. I was hooked.
The lifestyle that these youtubers were living was exactly what I wanted and needed. They were living free, had minimal expenses, built up passive income streams. They were my ticket out so the search began. Craigslist and the Facebook market place were searched daily. The question was do I want a van or a bus?
I definitely wanted a vehicle that I could stand in so it came down to either getting a school bus or a high top van. At the time I couldn’t find any decent priced high top vans in Michigan but I did come across a school bus that a church was selling and it was only a 2 hour drive from where I was living.
FIRST SCHOOL BUS WAS A DISASTER
From the images on Facebook marketplace the school bus looked like it was in pristine condition. They had it listed for $6,500 so I checked it out. I drove out to the church and looked at it. It was in pretty good shape from what I could tell. I didn’t fully inspect it because I put trust in the pastor that was selling it. I did notice a small oil leak and a couple bottles of antifreeze inside the bus which I thought was suspicious but the pastor said it ran great and they never had any problems with it.
The preacher even brought the price down to $3,000 so I bought it. 30 minutes down the road it overheated and the transmission seemed to be acting up. I tried calling the church back but they didn’t answer. I was starting to get the idea that I was ripped off. I drove the bus home but it took a while because I had to continuously pull over to let the engine cool when it started getting hot.
Before I bought the bus preacher man did tell me that a mechanic looked the bus over for them and confirmed that it was in tip top shape. I ended up calling that mechanic and he told me that it had numerous issues including the fact that it needed a transmission replacement.
I knew at that point that I was ripped off by a church. They lied to me. Never in a million years would I have thought that a preacher would lie to me and rip me off but I suppose evil disguises itself.
Anyway, I thought my plans to live the nomadic life were over. I just wasted all my money I set aside for my vehicle. I was so furious!
THE SECOND SCHOOL BUS
The universe works in mysterious ways because the next day I came across another school bus in Chicago, Illinois on the Facebook Market Place that was already converted. I didn’t have high hopes for it though because from the images it had some rust and it wasn’t professionally converted so the inside looked like it could use some modifying.
Since this bus was already converted it would save me time and money. The other bus I bought wasn’t converted. I didn’t have enough money to replace the transmission and convert the church bus so I knew I had to figure something else out. This bus in Chicago was listed for $4,500 I believe. I figured I could probably get him down to $3000 which was the rest of my savings that was meant for travelling expenses when I hit the road. I knew that if I bought this bus it would set me back but I had no other choice.
So I drove to Chicago and checked out the bus. Oh, by the way, it was painted red, white, and blue. It was essentially a giant American flag.
It was previously owned by a guy living on a military base. He converted it himself and lived in it on the base but he was relocated to another country so he had to get rid of it.
I test drove it. It ran good. No leaks. transmission seemed good. By the way its a 2003 Ford E450 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel. From what I was hearing these were strong engines. The owner showed me paperwork from a mechanic. He spent 2 grand on repairs prior to listing it for sale. He did mention that the rotors, calipers, and brake pads need replaced though. I’m pretty handy so I figured I could do the repairs myself to save money.
Here’s the kicker, I told him about the preacher that ripped me off. He felt bad so he brought the price down to a thousand dollars! Yea, I couldn’t believe it. The universe was looking out for me.
So, I bought it and now my life as a digital nomad living in a school bus had officially begun.
Now I had 2 buses sitting in the parking lot at my apartment complex. So with the $3,000 I spent on the church bus and the $1,000 I spent on the American flag bus I was at $4,000 which was the max I wanted to spend on a vehicle anyway.
I ended up finding someone to buy the church bus for $1,000 bucks. I explained to them what issues it had and they were totally okay with spending the money to get it repaired. I guess they were going to use it to pick up and drop off kayakers and people tubing down the river in the summer time.
So I sold the bus for $1,000. Unfortunately I took a $2,000 loss but it all worked out anyway because that totals $3,000 that I spent in all for the bus.
And that is how I came to be a proud owner of a skoolie.
So I spent a couple months repairing the bus, painting the bus, and modifying and improving the interior. I initially painted it black but I just recently started hand painting it to my liking.
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I did a test run by staying the night in the bus a few days prior to departing. So I parked overnight at one of my favorite camping spots, ate some shrooms, and away I went. No that wasn’t a joke. I had some psychedelic mushrooms so I could become one with the bus.
THE DAY I BECAME A DIGITAL NOMAD LIVING IN A SCHOOL BUS
So on October 18th 2018, I said my farewells and I left Michigan. It took about a month to get out to California. I took it slow so I could take in the sights and sounds. I stopped at national parks, drove through mountains, soaked in hotsprings. It was the beginning of the best experience of my life.
A lot has happened since I left but I’m not going to include that in this post.
So right now I’m in San Diego, CA and I love it here. The weather is perfect all year round and there is so much to do. I’ve gotten some hefty parking tickets though. San Diego isn’t very vehicle dweller friendly buy luckily I have managed to find a collection of parking spots that I rotate around.
Right now I’m really trying to focus on growing my online presence. I just recently coined myself as the digital nomad guy so I’m expanding to multiple social networks, getting a YouTube channel going, a website, and now a podcast. So feel free to subscribe to me on YouTube and follow me on Instagram.
Check out my article “What is a Digital Nomad?” if you’re not familiar with what a digital nomad does. I make most of my income designing websites. I make other income by designing logos, hosting websites, maintaining websites, affiliate marketing, Google advertising, making custom graphics, selling my photos and videos, YouTube revenue, tech troubleshooting, and a variety of other things.
Over the past couple months I’ve had to do some hefty repairs on my bus so I’ve just been hanging around San Diego. I had to replace the front calipers, wheel bearings, rotors, and brake pads. I replaced a couple fuel injectors. I replaced a few tires. I had to fix a fuel leak. I just changed the oil and the fuel filter. It’s been a pain in the butt because I do all the repairs myself.
Luckily we live in a world with lyft and uber. I’ve had to get rides a number of times to the parts store when my bus was broke down and I was left stranded.
Being on the road I’ve had to replace the radiator, fan clutch, had to do a coolant flush, replaced the starter, fuel pump, alternator, batteries, glow plugs, idler pulley, cam position sensor, brake pads, calipers, rotors, and wheel bearings which I already mentioned.
I got my bike stolen off the back of my bus while I was sleeping as well so I have to buy a new bike. That was a $600 dollar bike. I was pretty upset about that. I enjoy mountain biking and if you’re a traveler you can find trails all over the place.
When I’m not working as a digital nomad I’m floating around Southern California, working on my bus, listening to tunes, working out, cooking healthy meals, soaking up the sun at the beach, working on my brand, playing a little guitar, or drinking some scotch whiskey by a fire.
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I plan on hitting the road in the next couple months so I can continue my travels. In the meantime I’m just going to enjoy sunny San Diego and pump out YouTube videos, website articles, and podcasts.
It’s been fun and until we meet again….peace out.