Ashley Hancock
May 30, 2023

Skooliepalooza 2023 The Ungathering

Skooliepalooza 2023 was held January 21-31, in the desert outside of Ehrenberg, Arizona. This was the 7th Skooliepalooza gathering. To capture its casual atmosphere, it is labeled as an “ungathering” by those that organized it. It is free and welcoming to buses, RVs, vans, and tent campers. Many people park in parallel, or in group circles with friends. Many come to this event to experience nomadic life, and to hopefully tour the homes that allow life on the road to happen. 

All our friends that came to the worship circle.
All our friends that came to the worship circle.

There are many vendors, bartering, trading, and accepting donations for homemade medicines, pottery, jewelry, food, books, art, thrifted clothing, chiropractic services, and almost anything else you can think of. There was a sign in staked in the ground at the main Y in the road. The sign pointed newcomers to the appropriate camps and had a makeshift schedule. The sign and schedule noted events, classes, and gatherings that were open to attendees. We even attended a worship circle! 

The hand-drawn map and schedule that was at the ‘Y’ in the road.
The hand-drawn map and schedule that was at the ‘Y’ in the road.

The hand-drawn map of the land was most helpful, labeled with where the different camps and sections were. There is one area for parties, one for families, and another for quiet introverts. 

There were social media groups with information on the event live while the event was happening. This was helpful if one needed help with a project or simply lost their fur babies. The social media group is also openly asking for suggestions for the next gathering, they very much want everyone to enjoy themselves. 

The area has no hookups, it is dry camping, so solar panels and water tanks are very helpful in the desert environment, as are generators. It is Winter, so the daily temperatures aren’t unbearably hot. There is a small town right next to the land the event takes place on, and two larger towns relatively close as well. We made grocery runs, and laundry trips, and even had mail sent to the post office in Ehrenberg with zero issues. Many people would carpool or even pick things up for each other.

Our bus basking in a sea of nomads.
Our bus basking in a sea of nomads.

It was our first year attending this event, as with Skoolie life, we broke down last year heading to Skooliepalooza 2022 and missed it. We are open-minded but had no idea what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised. I myself felt like there was something for everyone, all unique kinds of people. You could easily find a group with similar values and lifestyles as you and connect with them. We helped host a potluck dinner for many. We also enjoyed some free food from others’ cooking. 

The unique cultures, passions, careers, professions, and backgrounds of people blended seamlessly. We shopped with some vendors and supported other nomads like us. During the day, our children played with many other kiddos running around the area, it felt very safe for us. Almost every night there were DJs playing music, amazing songs, and beats for dancing. The fire spinners would come out with professional talent. You could be completely sober and still find yourself dancing. 

Rita Marie Carr from @ritaandtheroad
doing a tattoo on Ashley.
Rita Marie Carr from @ritaandtheroad doing a tattoo on Ashley.

We felt no judgment throughout the entire event. We met many other families. We also met many people just beginning their lives together, and on the road. Some individuals were even working on their builds and helping each other at the event. It felt almost like meeting celebrities and connecting with the people behind the social media accounts we have followed for years. 

We had been inspired by their builds, and their travels in a digital media, but seeing how they live, and connecting with them on a personal level, was indescribable. These are friendships that will last on the road for our lifetime. There was a wide variety of budgets and builds. Endless ideas were all over. 

There were over 300 buses and over 511 other rigs at one point. Traditions that start at Skooliepalooza continue, like the howling at sunset each night. We know many people that continue to do so. There’s just an environment of freedom and understanding that you don’t want to end. 

We felt like we could be authentically ourselves, and we fit right in as if these were our lifelong friends our entire lives. There was something so healing happening inside of us. We saw some trades happen for goods, something we really enjoy having as an option. Sticker trades were big and always something to consider having when coming! It’s definitely optional, but we love receiving stickers from those we have met to affix on the back of our bus. A little piece of a special memory made.

We are already missing the community, the belonging, the family gatherings during the days, and the dancing at night. Our journeys lead us to many places, but we cannot wait for Skooliepalooza to meet this coming winter, in the desert again.

Playing games in the
@thepricefamadventures bus.
Playing games in the @thepricefamadventures bus.
Article written by Ashley Hancock

This family of 5 comes from Northern Illinois but has now decided to explore the U.S. in their self-converted school bus.

Ashley and Brad met in high school, married when they were young, and have enjoyed entrepreneurship together. They are wedding photographers and return to Illinois for Spring and Fall wedding events.

They homeschool their three children whether on the road or back at their home base. They are devoted to giving their children a childhood they never had. The family is currently working on visiting all the National Parks together.

This family unit converted their school bus to a full motor home in just 69 days, and on a modest budget. Not much holds them back from their dreams.

You can follow their journeys on
Instagram @barefoot.bus

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