Name: Kai and Julie
Location: Homebase is Berlin, Germany
Size: 118 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, owned
We found our home in Berlin by accident. We saw the bus standing on the street on our way to grab a coffee and bought it one day later without knowing anything about US school buses. In Germany you rarely find buses like that and the size is perfect for traveling Europe.
→ Kai and Julie share their school bus life online through Instagram, @wetravelbybus and on Facebook, also under the handle @wetravelbybus. And check out Kai's work, a cinematographer and director, on his website.
We stripped the bus down to the bare metal and started the conversion from ground up. Having a blank canvas is a great way to start a conversion like that, and it's the toughest. We didn't have a master plan and developed everything on the go.
→ See before photos of the bus!
Since sleeping comfortably is key and cooking is just as important to us, we made the whole layout favoring these two key elements. Having a wood stove was also a must for us since we are open fire addicts. Also what was important to us was the use of refurbished materials as much as possible. As a tribute to our home base Berlin, we used old Berlin loft flooring wood for the cupboards and the table. The woodwork on the wall and shelves comes from old vegetable boxes, which we took apart.
"Our bus is a very peaceful place and sometimes, at special places, time seems to stand still."
We were trying to keep things as simple as possible, even though the technical installation is rather high-key, since we wanted a four-seasons, off-grid bus. We carry about 26 gallons of fresh water, which is filtered to drinking quality, and we use a portable composting toilet, which works great.
We had the Tiny House idea in our heads for quite some time, but there was always the problem of where to put it; we didn't want to be stationary. The bus gives us the best of both worlds.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: I guess you call it shabby chic.
Inspiration: We got most inspiration from Instagram and from Youtube. We looked at other bus conversions but drew a lot of inspiration from tiny house builders.
Favorite Element: Our favorite element is definitely our wood stove. It makes you feel super cozy and gives the whole bus a true cabin feeling. It just makes you feel at home. Nothing beats having a candlelight dinner with the stove on. Besides the entertainment, there is a practical part, too. We heat the bus with it and we also use it to cook, which works great.
If you could magically change something about your home, what would it be? I would put a "shower on demand" in it.
Biggest embarrassment: To be honest… nothing! We are totally proud of what we have achieved together and spending time in our bus is priceless.
What friends say: Actually most people that stop by say that they always wanted to do something like that, or to live like that. Unfortunately most people don't do it.
Biggest Challenge: Since we did the whole conversion ourselves the biggest challenge was learning everything we needed to know. Converting a bus is the same as building a house, just smaller. You have to master the same disciplines. Insulation, plumbing, woodwork, electric installation, etc.—that was pretty tough. YouTube helped quite a bit and of course a great van life community.
Proudest DIY: Skill wise definitely the electrical system with solar energy etc. Idea wise our "pull out" table. It's a game changer.
Biggest Indulgence: There is no place on earth we have ever slept so good. Our fixed queen-size bed was a must for us and we just love it. Since we mostly park at remote places we truly enjoy the silence and the sounds of nature when we wake up. Our bus is a very peaceful place and sometimes, at special places, time seems to stand still.
Best Advice: Don't overthink stuff and follow your gut feeling!
Wood Stove — Cubic Mini Wood Stoves