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Brooke Miller
July 30, 2022

Beau the Skoolie A 2000 Thomas Freightliner

Howdy, Y’all! I’m Brooke. My husband is Kyle and we have two amazing little girls who make our world go round, they’re five and two. We homeschool them and they have wanted adventure as much as we have for their entire little lives! We’re from eastern Kentucky. We’ve only been to a few states in our lives.

We have always loved all things that have to do with a nomadic lifestyle but as society told us to do, we bought a home, did a career, had nice expensive cars, and lived only for belongings and for one-half of a decent vacation per year. The typical “American Dream” if you will.

This didn’t feel right to us and we slowly started to realize we wanted more out of life than just to float along daily doing the same things in the same town. So, we listed our house in December 2021 (conveniently when the market was up) and it took off from there!

The day our house listing went live on the market we had so many viewings and offers that we took the highest one and called it a day. Once we closed on our home in January, we started to look into what we would do for the time being while building our tiny homestead on the property.

I have family land that we originally planned to build a tiny homestead on after selling our house in the suburbs. This plan seemed the most reasonable in the realm of things that were possible at the time for us.

The day we brought home the bus.
The day we brought home the bus.

We thought of possibly renting again, for a short 3-6 months but then thought of RV life, so we started to look into used RVs for sale. Kyle came across a listing on the Facebook marketplace for a “partially converted school bus” with interior pics that looked very dreamy.

He showed the listing to me and I told him it was cool but probably wouldn’t work for us as a family, after all, I had never even heard of a Skoolie. He talked me into at least checking it out and just seeing what it looked like in person before I decided it wasn’t for us. We went and looked at the bus and just couldn’t get it out of our heads, so we bought it the next day!

The original owners were a young couple who worked on it through the pandemic but realized it wasn’t for them and they wanted something smaller. They were very kind, open, and honest with us about what was finished and what needed work.

Luckily Kyle has his CDL so he was able to check out the engine and such to make sure it was all good to go. The previous owners told us they named the bus Beau and said they put their all into this bus, so to keep their same spirits we decided that name still fits best.

Once we bought this Skoolie we started moving out of our just sold house and it started to sink in that this would soon be our full-time living space. We kept saying how crazy we are for doing this, how insane!

We knew we needed to change a lot of things before officially living in it. We have no previous experience with building other than renovating our entire 1,750 sq. ft. house on our own.

The largest items on the list were installing the solar system, updating the grey water tanks, and building a bunk bed area. We didn’t quite realize the amount of work we would be putting into this tiny home on wheels of ours until we brought it to Kyle’s dad’s house for a “check-up”.

Another shot of the kitchen area when we first got the bus.
Kitchen area in the bus after a redesign.
The original kitchen area when we bought the bus.

We didn’t know a single thing about a converted school bus when we bought this rig. We loved it so much that we knew we had to give it a shot and see if we could make it work for us.

The first order of business was installing new PEX lines from our 75-gallon fresh water tank that lives under the bed to our shower and sink. We realized the PVC pipes were busted from the freezing winter temps the bus had endured.

We are assuming this bus sat empty for quite a while before we purchased it from the several things that were broken or in need of repair. Nonetheless, we persisted and kept changing things to make this into our home.

Once the 10 feet or so of water PEX lines were replaced Kyle immediately got to work on our shower which previously had little to no waterproofing done in it. The shower drain was essentially just a hole in the floor that drained to nothing, the sink line was like this as well. There was a busted shower head and the window didn’t even have frost on it or a window covering at all.

Restroom with composting toilet.
The shower after renovations.
The shower before renovations were made.

We didn’t know of many options at the time so we used FRP boards for the walls and kept the theme of tiling on the floor and seat area that’s over top of the wheel well. I’d like to rip the FRP boards out and do a concrete-style shower. For the time being, what we have works and doesn’t look too bad.

We had to come up with a drain system that would use greywater tanks. By this point, we had created an Instagram account for the bus and connected with some of the most prominent people in the bussing world. They all have been so kind and generous.

This community has helped us with endless information on things we weren’t so sure of. We reached out and got enough information to figure out how to mount a greywater system under the bus for the shower and sink.

Next on the list was a wall for the bedroom area to separate us from the back door, creating a garage if you will, along with something to mount our mini-split on and eventually the kids’ bunk beds that are over the top of our queen bed.

We built the beds from 2x4’s and old pallet wood, all sanded down. We used a king-size 4-inch mattress topper cut in half for the mattresses to fit perfectly in their twin bunks. This is a great setup for us and we love that we kept all of the original storage space.

When we bought the bus this was the wood stove area.
Cubic Mini wood stove and the dining area of the bus.
Mini-split installation in February.
New tiling, we completed ourselves.

Our mini-split installation was something we didn’t think we would need until further down the line when summer comes as we do have a cubic mini-wood stove in the living area. The stove was already installed when we bought the bus.

After working in the cold temps for a few days and only having the woodstove going, we realized it just wasn’t realistic for us to only have one heat source onboard.

We ordered our mini-split right away and received it in the mail a week later. My father-in-law did the entire installation of it one morning because he has a background in HVAC systems.

The instructions are clear as day and we believe anyone could install one if they wanted to. We even had an electrician friend come by to check things out; making sure all was clear before using the mini-split.

Having both this and the wood stove gave us options. Having multiple heat sources is very important to us and we’re very glad we’ve got them! After this, we moved into our bus to live full-time while finishing other things that needed to be done. We felt as though it was very much livable at this point.

After these major projects were done to make the space livable, we sat down and made a list of things we had to finish before we hit the road. We decided we didn’t want to stay in one place anymore if we lived in a school bus.

We had seen all of the amazing families traveling full-time in their social media posts and we KNEW this is the life we wanted. So, the list consisted of a solar system installation, propane tank relocation to under the bus, selling our vehicles and the rest of our belongings that were in storage.

Our solar charge controller we bought on Amazon.
Solar panels are mounted to the bus roof.
Solar panels before they were mounted to the bus.

We got to work on the solar system, which took a lot of learning, reading, and research to make happen. The shore power already existed so that’s what we used for the time being. The original owners generously gave us the solar panels and connections they had purchased, they just never got around to installing the panels or hooking the system up to the battery bank.

We knew this before buying the bus and took on the challenge with the mindset of “it can’t possibly be that hard!” But it took us weeks to learn the solar setup and to be able to connect it all. Once we learned all the components, we needed some other things for our solar to make it work, so we ordered the parts and hooked it all up in one day!

My father-in-law helped us do things like venting the tankless propane water heater, building the bunk beds, installing the mini-split, and installing our entire solar system. We’re very lucky he is so handy and has a shop on his property for us to use as well. We would’ve probably given up entirely on this bus and resold it if it weren’t for him. We’re very thankful!

We had some time to kill in between finishing up more items on our to-do list and patiently waiting to get on the road. We decided to start another project that wasn’t completely necessary. We wanted to give the bus some sort of facelift with a new paint job.

We had heard one too many folks call it a prison bus because of the original paint colors and decided to pick something we’d use for the inside and outside of the rig.

The orange, yellow, and green colors scream us and they added to the character of the bus. However, we did not realize it would make us stick out like a sore thumb once we hit the road.

We love our bus now and all the work we had to put into it to make it our tiny home on wheels, including the extreme paint job! Our two girls helped with the painting inside the bus. They loved doing that project with us. They have decorated their bunks also with whatever they wanted, rainbows and unicorns are the themes currently!

Another massive hurdle to figure out was a mobile income of sorts. Kyle worked for the same company for many years. I stayed home with our children to homeschool them.

We didn’t even know what to do to make this lifestyle happen but we were bound and determined to live free, or freer anyways. We just started researching again what we could do for income on the road. Our best bet was remote work or work camping.

The Miller family and their Skoolie Beau.

We applied to camps and many wanted us for the season. We narrowed it down to a select few and finally found the one that was perfect for us. We told them to give us a week and we’d be there.

We thought workcamping would be good for us so that we can stay in one spot for an entire season. The income doesn’t have to be huge for us anymore as we did get rid of the majority of our bills by selling our home and belongings. The work seemed fun, easy, stable and it came with a free campsite.

We won’t have to work in the winter at all and can spend all those months traveling. We’re very pleased with the path we chose and hope to find some sort of remote jobs for next season. We do miss the road and all the excitement of traveling all the time! I’d love to be a freelance writer with graphic designing as an option too.

Kyle is a wonderful artist and will put that to use too for our income at some point. This is our current plan. We know more opportunities will come our way if we work hard for them.

We sold our vehicles just a few days before leaving and didn’t want to tow anything for the time being to see if it could work for us. So far, so good. We did have a tow bar for the bus but never installed it.

We were running out of time and wanted to do away with our car payments with all the extra insurance expense so selling those was our best option. We’re happy with that decision and haven’t needed another vehicle for anything. We can go anywhere in our bus that we could a small car, we get our groceries delivered to our campground, as well as Amazon packages! It’s been very easy for us.

A few things we would do differently in our Skoolie would be the floor plan. I would have a designated area for the bunk beds instead of building them over our queen-size bed in the bedroom area at the back.

To keep our massive double door closet, pantry, and separate toilet room from the shower we needed to build the beds where we have them now with this floor plan. We were on a tight schedule and budget at the time and this solution was fast, easy, and at a decent price for us.

We considered building their beds in the front of the bus but again, I didn’t want them sleeping next to the front door and didn’t want to lose so much living space. I don’t necessarily hate the way the bunks were done but I’m not in love with it either.

Bunk on the driver’s side of the bus.
The bedroom area of the bus.

I would’ve gone a different route with our solar batteries. Ideally, we want to eventually upgrade from our three regular lead-acid batteries that are around 300-amp hours, to a lithium battery bank and a Bluetooth charge controller.

The solar system we have now was what was affordable for us, as we had to replace each battery because they were all dead. We will either be buying new batteries eventually or getting sponsored by a battery company (we hope one day!)

If we would have built this bus from the ground up, we would have used better insulation. The floors are just vinyl on top of the original metal bus floors. We all know in the converted Skoolie world that this is a huge no-no! We think the ceiling is the same way.

Honestly, it hasn’t made a big enough difference for us yet to redo those things, and the heating and air do great in our rig so maybe one day we’ll change that but it’s just another thing to consider.
We chose this bus because it looked cool. That’s the sole reason we bought it instead of an RV. Now that we’re in the bus world, we know how much sturdier they are, that they are a safer option, that you can customize them, and that they are better all-around for long-term traveling and living full-time on the road.

This lifestyle is something we knew we wanted once we found the bus. We’ve overcome every obstacle in our way to make this work. It’s all about your mindset. If you want your life to change and you think about it every day nonstop, just do it. Look at everything that is in your way as another hurdle to the finish line.

If you think you can’t do this because you own a home or cars, have kids, have a career, or anything else, there are options, there really are. Our daughters love our bus and seeing new places, they’ve made more friends on the road than they ever did living in the same place since birth.

We all have less stuff and feel so free from the binds of belongings and bills to keep us stuck in the same place and the same, never-ending cycle. We always dreamed of this life and the way we are living it, and the only reason we can do it is because we wanted to.

If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it work which is what we’ve done. As a family, this is the best life we could’ve ever chosen. You have to weigh what’s most important to you to be able to mentally give everything up you knew before to live in a bus on the road. This was more important to us than all the material possessions we owned. The best advice we can give you is to just chase your dreams because at the end of the day, this is your life to live!

Article written by Brooke Miller

Brooke and Kyle Miller have been together for nine years and married for six of those years. They are the proud parents of two daughters. 

Before bus life, Brooke was a housewife and Kyle worked for a large corporation for many years. They have always had a deep love for traveling and the nomadic living lifestyle.

After selling their home and all their belongings they bought a partially converted school bus to renovate it so they could live full-time on the road while traveling the United States. 

One day they plan to go abroad with their two children. While they’re still working out some quirks of a mobile income, they both have goals to do freelance work.  Brooke is working on working in writing and editing. Kyle is looking to work in art and graphic design. 

Their children like mom and dad, both love adventure and seeing new places constantly. This family of four is living life freer than ever while living with less. Their top priority in life is spending as much time together as a family as possible and experiencing all they can. 

You can follow their journey on Instagram and TikTok, or you can visit their website. 

You can also contact them via e-mail BeauTheSkoolie@gmail.com 

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