4 Things to Know About Living on a Bus, According to People Who Have

published Sep 7, 2020
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Credit: Ben Tucker

Looking to pare down your world and live life on the cheap? If you’re considering living on a converted bus, it’s a great way to slow down, travel, and cut down on the bills we rack up every day. But there are some things you should know before you climb aboard. Ahead, Mande Tucker—who, along with her husband Ben, lived on a converted school bus called Fern the Bus—shares the low-down on how exactly to live on a bus.

Know the ins and outs of your ride

On Fern the Bus, Ben built all the electrical and plumbing systems, and both he and Mande knew what to do if something went wrong. You’ll want to learn the same about your own bus. Know how to fix it if something breaks; learn when you need to charge your solar panels or batteries; understand how often you’ll have to add water to the on-board tanks.

“We would stop at a campsite once every two or three weeks to wash the bus, charge up if we needed it, add water to our tanks, recalibrate, and be ready to hit the road again,” Mande says. “We had to strategize what stops we made and when and where they were, and if it would be a good time to fill up on water and plug in. It’s just part of living on the road.”

Credit: Ben Tucker

Get organized—really organized

Bus life means cramped life. There’s very little living space inside a bus once you add in everything you need to actually live, like beds, a bathroom, and storage spaces. The last thing you want to do is clutter up that space with more stuff. Mande and Ben worked together to create an organizational system for their things that made life on the road tidier.

“It flows better and feels less chaotic when you have a system for things,” Mande says. So put away your clothes at the end of the day, wash your dishes right after you use them, and put stuff back where you found it. “Things build up so fast and it feels messy quickly. [A system] helped us feel like we could be on the road longer because things had a spot, and it wasn’t an effort to make it feel clean; it was just part of living on the bus.”

Be fully prepared to compromise

It’s inevitable—you’re going to end up at a point where you want to do something that the people in the bus with you don’t. And to solve the problem, you have to be willing to compromise. Before Mande and Ben struck out on their own, Ben traveled on a bus with two friends of his. They treated it like a democracy: whichever person’s plan got the most votes, that’s what they all did. But, Mande says, with two people it’s not that easy.

“Communication is absolutely key,” she says, noting that being completely open about how you’re feeling is also important for managing arguments. “You have to be a team or it won’t work. Remind yourself that it’s not totally about you, and you have to be conscientious about others’ needs too.”

Bring the kids, too

Have kids? Don’t let anybody tell you it won’t work out on a bus. Mande and Ben bring their son with them on long bus trips, and he loves it—sometimes so much so that he doesn’t want to get out and sleep in his own bed when they get back home to their off-bus house.