Nik and Lauren Weinmeister liked the thought of a tiny home. They liked the thought even more when they realized they could take it on the road, living and working from anywhere in North America.
A friend from Europe introduced the couple to the idea of converting an old school bus into a mobile home when he came to their wedding. And while the pandemic has slowed the conversion, it has not dampened the desire.
In fall 2019, the Weinmeisters started turning their dream into reality when they bought a flat nose, 2005 diesel, International school bus. The 42-footer had just under 100,000 miles. When their conversion is complete it will be a 250-square-foot tiny home on wheels.
“RVs are really expensive, like the six-figure mark, and also it’s already laid out,” said Lauren Weinmeister when asked why not just buy an RV. “Our school bus was $4,500, and this allows us to invest as much as we want into it. We can design it however we want.”
The Weinmeisters started with a budget of $30,000, but Lauren thinks they will end up closer to $35,000.
“That includes doing engine work to make sure it can make it across country,” Nik Weinmeister said. “We put new tires, then all the appliances and the construction and tools.”
Nik handles most of the construction work, and Lauren has laid out the design. The couple has a condo at Smith Mountain Lake and take in views of the water while working on the bus.
What does it take to make a school bus a home? A detailed plan, very precise measurements and the willingness to live in close quarters.
“With a small space when you put in an appliance like a washer and dryer unit you also have to design the bus to be able to access it and remove it if necessary,” Nik said. “So, everything has to be designed down to the nth.”
“We raised the roof on the bus,” Nik added. “We cut it in half, removed the bus windows and put sheet metal where the windows used to be so we could put in RV windows.”
Where the bus roof is round, they had to bend wood and figure out how to fit a shower sink and toilet in a small space. They decided to conserve space with the bathroom to have more living space in the rest of the bus, reasoning that is where they would spend more time.
“Ever since we met, we’ve lived in a one-bedroom apartment with two dogs,” Nik said. “So, we’ve gotten used to living in close together, especially recently. And some of that went into the design, having a separated space. The bedroom, we’ll be able to close that off, a workspace in the living room will have a foldout desk, and we also have a roof deck which is a fun thing. There’ll be a power outlet up there. That will be my favorite place I think.”
“We have a 110-gallon freshwater tank so we will be able to live off grid for about two weeks,” Lauren said. “We also have six solar panels that are a total of 600-amp hours.”
They will work on the road. Nik is a software developer so he can work anywhere. Lauren’s job as an account manager for a staffing agency ends this month. She is going to pick up some freelance marketing gigs and document their journey on social media.
They plan to spend a week to a month in each place they visit. “We are hoping to hit Maine to Florida this year then head out west next year, visit all the national parks and explore,” Lauren said. “The world will be our back yard.”
April 3 is the target date to hit the road, but that is flexible. The bus won’t be finished when they hit the road. They have left a few projects that they will work on as they go.
“What I have learned is you are never really done with your conversion because you will always want to change something,” Lauren said. “And we’ll be going down bumpy roads so there will always be repairs that need to be made.”
One good thing about the bus being totally custom is they can change things if they need, for example, to create a nursery.
“There’s a large number of people in the ‘skoolie’ community that raise their families on board,” Lauren said. “One of our favorite families we follow just had their fifth kid. I want to raise my kids onboard especially during their formative years to teach them that experiences are more important than material things.”
The couple can be found on Instagram at @wanderingWeinmeisters and Facebook or their website at livingonabus.com.