Skooliepalooza 2022 – Newbie Nomad (Bus Life is More Than it Seems)

It was the turn of the second year in the pandemic. Thoughts of leaving home flooded my mind, ways I could get out, questions of what my next step would be. I owned a Merle Norman cosmetics franchise with a full-service salon attached. We had up to eighteen girls at one time. The business wasn’t doing well in Small Town America, my daughter was finishing her last year of college, and it was taking everything I had to keep us afloat. The town and business I had dedicated my life to for the past 22 years were now more of a burden than something I loved. What should I do? Well, without any plan in mind and enough money to just scrape by, I turned to the internet and social media to fuel my fantasies and dream of a life I knew I would never have. That is when I discovered conversion videos and what people were calling Bus Life. Now I didn’t just dip my toe into the proverbial water, no. I fell, and I fell hard. I began watching and following as many conversions as I could, learning the best way to install cabinets, how I could put in a bathroom, simply how to maximize the space so I could live out of a bus.
Celia Wells’ Skoolie.
The passenger side view of a Bus Named Pearl.
Within the next ten months, I had a relatively complete conversion plan, a 28-foot Thomas International school bus, solar panels, and every reason to leave home. It was another three months before I outfitted my bus the way I wanted (mostly), packed what little belongs I had left, and said goodbye to my friends and hometown. January 19, 2022, marked the start of my nomadic life. I had no plan. Everyone from home thought I had lost my mind. I mean, who would want to leave Mount Sterling, Kentucky in a bus with a dog, $800 to your name, and no idea where you were going to end up? If I am being honest, the idea of a normal 9 to 5 with no spontaneity and the weight of a small town had become crushing. Since the world was thrown into chaos with the pandemic, I started to care more about my time and experiences rather than the physical things I had. I felt like I had been missing something for a long time and needed a new perspective and a sense of purpose, fulfillment, something that gave my life meaning again.
Steve Ford’s Skoolie.
It was while I was converting my bus that I met Steve Ford online. He runs an Instagram account @Dackthebus. A much more experienced bus conversion nomad, we quickly became friends and he invited me west to Arizona. They were beginning to set up at an event called Skooliepalooza. I thought that it could not have been better timing for me to begin this new life. My first destination was going to be a place with people, who like myself, were searching for something more, wanting to get away from mundane life. I was going to meet new people, and find adventure. I arrived on a Sunday morning after four grueling days of straight driving. Kalvin, my dog, was also very happy for a break from the bus. What was in store for us, I could not have imagined.
Nomad convoy!
Caravan to the new Skooliepalooza site.
Buses converged into a community in the middle of the desert.
People from all backgrounds, professions, and talents gathered together for eleven days.
There, a caravan of some 500 busses, vans, ambulances, RVs, and even a classic Gillig, were sprawled across a few dozen acres of Arizona desert. People of all ages, some friends but mostly strangers, greeted me as if we were childhood best friends. These people offered me time and help to complete my conversion, offered me free drinks and food, loaned books, bartered and traded, and came together in the community at night for fires, dinner, and entertainment. One friend even helped me get a sales job here, at Bus Conversion Magazine.
An organic jam band gathered for the first time ever and entertained on the Wuzabus roof deck.
Audio Perdisco performing on their bus’s roof deck.
There was so much kindness, generosity, and love in the air that it made me realize people could be good. It was exhilarating to see people from different cultures, cities, and lives come together and coexist. The talent that these people possess is extraordinary. People were making blown glass jewelry and beads, paintings, fixing busses, creating podcasts, installing solar panels, hosting acrobatic shows, and performing in bands. There was never a dull moment at Skooliepalooza. But, being a mother, the best sight I saw was the children riding bikes, running barefoot, or playing in the dirt without being attached to digital screens or the woes of modern society. It was like I had been transported back to my own childhood when we never worried about posting the right photos or being glued to a compuĺter screen. It was on the third night that I realized how peaceful and serene this lifestyle could be. I was laying in bed, listening to the wind howl across the desert and feeling the slight sway of the bus. Kalvin was already asleep at my feet after a long day of playing with other dogs. But I couldn’t sleep, not then. These people come together at events like Skooliepalooza to meet others and share what they have. To give without thought, without expecting repayment is something that I think people could use more of today. I thought about that and how the last few weeks of my nomadic life had given me so much fulfillment as the sway of the bus finally lulled me to sleep. It really doesn’t matter if you are looking for God, trying to find meaning, trying to understand your spirituality, or you simply want to get away. This community of people welcomed me with open arms, no judgment, or questions. They accepted me as I am, and they would do the same for you too. This feeling of peace, serenity, and amazement is something that I hope everyone can feel at least once in their lives. I am so lucky to have been able to experience this now and if I had to stop this adventure tomorrow, I would have no regrets. I look forward to the adventures and people ahead of me so much that I can barely contain my excitement. Maybe everyone should take a step back and realize that Nomad life might be the best thing after all. To watch a YouTube video about Skooliepalooza 2022 by TravTavels, click HERE and then consider making your way out to Quartzsite next year to share this unique experience.

By Celia Wells

Celia was a salon business owner for 22 years and a Cosmetologist for 31 before deciding to take the leap and travel in her bus. After working in retail for so long, Celia realized she loved meeting new people, helping others, and spreading joy, so that is what she plans to do.

Celia is originally from Morehead, Kentucky, and lived near the area all her life until she set out in her bus. Now, with her daughter moving out, she is bringing her artist and hairdressing skills on the road to find a new adventure. She enjoys painting, being outdoors, swimming, and good ole home cooking!

Celia recently joined the team at Bus Conversion Magazine as an Advertising Sales Associate. Welcome aboard Celia.

You can follow Celia and a Bus Named Pearl on
Instagram or you can email her at
Celia@BusConversionMagazine.com.

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