Persephone VanDenburg
October 6, 2023

Skoolie U.P. 2023 A Teen’s Point of View

I’m Persephone and I’ve been traveling around the country with my family in a Skoolie for the past five years. Our journey has been filled with wonderful experiences and we’ve met some truly amazing people along the way! This summer, we had the pleasure of staying in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains in New York State with our friend Steve from Dack the bus. We had a blast exploring the area and discovering all the hidden gems it had to offer.

First night on the road to U.P. Spending the night at a Harvest Hosts location, The American Winery and Brewery.
We better make sure everyone knows what we are up to.
We saw a giant beer bottle from the off-ramp and just had to take the photo opportunity. Taken at The Big Buck Brewery, also a Harvest Hosts location.
We made it across the Mackinac bridge!

Two years ago, we had the wonderful opportunity to attend the inaugural Skoolie U.P. event, where we made many new friends and had a fantastic time. Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last year’s gathering.

However, this year, since the event was held nearby, we decided to participate once again. Additionally, Steve decided to join us to socialize with new acquaintances and discover Michigan’s attractions, as he had never visited before.

We traveled together from New York all the way to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula in Michigan) and stopped at some beautiful places along the way. After four days of driving, we arrived, and I had a friend waiting there for me whom I hadn’t seen since the first U.P. in 2021. One of the things I love most about this event is all the fun activities they have scheduled throughout the week. 

There wasn’t much scheduled for the first day since most of the first day consisted of settling in and socializing with old and new friends. They took video introductions of most people that were later played on a TV in the pavilion. There was also a scavenger hunt in the welcome packet for people of all ages to participate in. For the scavenger hunt, you had to find people who fit a description as listed on the page.

The checklist included finding someone with skills such as piano playing, being a twin, being a vegetarian, and speaking multiple languages, among others. I participated in this with my friend Caiden and my brother. It was a fun way to meet new people and learn more about people. That afternoon they had a game called Question Ball where each person would take turns answering a question that was written on the ball. This was another fun icebreaker. That night there was also a Mexican Potluck which had a lot of interesting and delicious items. Next on the schedule was a community fire with live music and a smores bar. 

The next day is Michigan Day. This day includes learning about the state and traditions they have. Some things on the schedule for this day included a nature walk where Jennifer Walenski from The Bus Story taught people about the plants that grow in the area and about all the different things they could be used for. After her seminar, she then took people on a nature walk and pointed out the plants that she was just teaching everyone about.

Other activities included learning to play a game called Euchre, Michigan trivia, Pasty making, and a game of Euchre. One of the other things I enjoy about this event is that they take you on little field trips if you’re feeling up to it. That day there was a trip an hour away to a waterfall hike. I did not participate in this trip, but I heard from many people that it was beautiful and worth the trip. There was also a full moon community fire with a drum circle that night.

Wednesday was beach day!! The morning started off with kids making DIY boats using cardboard and various other materials. Then that afternoon we traveled to Lake Michigan for a beach day. On this day they also had a field trip two hours away to Lake Superior for cliff jumping. So, people had to choose which trip they would rather go on. My friends and I decided to go to Lake Michigan. 

The weather started off beautifully for a beach day and when we first got there, they had the cardboard boat race. It was fun to see all the creative boats and try to decide which ones would last the entire race. We then swam for a little and played football on the beach. 

That’s when the weather kind of took a turn and started pouring. After that, most people got in their vehicles and returned to camp. 

Even with the weather, the beach day was a blast! Later that evening there was a beach blast party at the pavilion. They had fun beach decorations, music, and food. There were pools of water with squirt guns for everyone to have a water fight. Then they started to play Limbo and of course, my friends and I had to join in. We did a pretty good job and lasted a while.

Thursday was game day. In the morning people were able to create their own game and then take a turn trying everyone’s creative games. Next, there was an Uno Tournament then proceeding that a Mario Cart Tournament.

My brother playing Mario Cart for the first time!

My brother participated in Mario Cart and had a fun time playing with kids his age. Next, there were yard games. These games included Corn Hole, Ladder Toss, Three-legged Race, and Tug of War. 

I didn’t do very well at Corn Hole or Ladder Toss, but my partner and I did great at the three-legged race. The last one to be played was Tug of War. This one didn’t last very long and the side I was on lost. Next, was the donut eating contest. You had to eat as many mini-donuts as you could in a minute. 

Doughnut eating contest.

If I remember correctly the winning number was 14 doughnuts.  There was another potluck and then following that some bingo.

Friday was color day. This was one of my favorite days during the event. There was a painting craft in the morning then after that paint twister. I decided to just watch the twister. No one was sure how well the paint was supposed to come off, so I decided to just observe. Although it was a lot of fun to watch and there were some great players participating. In the afternoon they had refreshing snow cones. 

My brother is helping to paint people for the glow party.

Next came the best part of the day which was body painting. The paint was fluorescent paint for the glow party that was just a little later. Caiden and my brother took turns painting me and then my brother and I took turns painting Caiden. My brother refused to let anyone paint him but he had plenty of fun painting others. After the painting, the glow part started. They had black tarps they used to block off the pavilion and had black lights hanging from the ceiling. There were fog machines, laser lights, glow toys, and good music. It was a good night with lots of dancing and laughter. 

Saturday was a talent day. I spent most of the day walking around with friends and socializing until the bus games started. The bus games had a series of activities to complete and be scored on. Caiden and I partnered up and started off with the generator carry. We had to carry a generator across the lawn and back all while being timed. Then we had to do the same with a big tire. Caiden just ended up carrying it himself and I ran beside him offering emotional support.

Next, was the 5-gallon water jug carry. There were two that had to be carried so we each carried one. Halfway across the lawn though the handle fell off my jug and rolled away. I chased it and carried it to the line but then after dropping his jug off at the finish line, he came back to carry mine the rest of the way. The last game for the bus games was unfolding and folding a map and we managed to complete that pretty fast. 

Next, there was the Chilidog Cookoff. The competition was good with many good tasting chilis. Then there was karaoke. After watching a few different people go up Caiden finally agreed to do karaoke with me. All it took was Frank having everyone vote on whether he should do it or not. Everyone voted yes. We ended up singing Riptide by Vance Joy. After that, I convinced Eliana to sing a song with me and we settled on Kilby Girl by the Backseat Lovers which turned out perfect because it mostly involved us doing air guitar. To end the night there was movie night at the pavilion and we watched the new Mario movie.

Sunday was Fun Day. This was a little bit of a sad day knowing it was the last day of the event, but we made sure to have as much fun as possible. In the morning there was a community breakfast which included pancakes, eggs, toast, sausage, and bacon. 

My brother joined in on rock painting.
Finished product of his rock!

Then there was painting rock craft my brother and I participated in. I saw lots of cool and fun rocks being painted.

Next, there was a water balloon fight which was fun. They had tons of water balloons and squirt guns. I ended up getting very soaked because someone decided to dump a pool of water on me and then I got sprayed with a hose. After getting dry clothes on we headed to the ice cream social where Caiden and I had a debate on whether chocolate or vanilla is better. It’s still an ongoing debate. 

Community campfire

Then Caiden and I went to the escape room. The theme was that you were cursed by a witch and had to find the ingredients for the cure before you turned into a goblin. It took us 15 minutes to complete which is pretty good, but the winning time was 6 minutes. 

That night there was a community fire and games. Some games included ring toss and corn hole. They also had some fire spinning which is always cool to watch. They also set off fireworks. That was the end of Sunday, the last day. 

The next morning, we woke up and said goodbye, and watched our friends leave. It’s always sad saying bye to friends but the best part of this lifestyle is that we know we will see each other down the road and have a great time. Skoolie U.P. is one of the best events I’ve been to, and I can’t wait to participate in future events!

Some of the buses that were in attendance. 

Altogether 83 buses and more than 100 other rigs were in attendance.

Article written by Persephone VanDenburg

Meet Persephone, a seventeen-year-old who has spent the last five years traveling around the United States with her family in a converted bus. They have explored all but three states in the lower 48.

This nomadic lifestyle has brought Persephone many wonderful experiences and opportunities for personal growth. Because she was homeschooled during this time, she was able to graduate high school at the age of fifteen. Since then, she has been working summer jobs and continuing to travel with her family while planning her future. Persephone has now joined the United States Air Force and is currently in basic training.

She will always cherish the life of a traveler. She even envisions owning her own bus one day, continuing to explore the world on her own terms.

You can follow her family’s journey on
Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.

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