The Bus Life

What is it like living on a bus? Before embarking on our adventure, and when I was still daydreaming about the freedom of the wide open road, that was a question I imagined I would be frequently answering. In reality, its not, but I’m going to go ahead and answer it anyway…

The Bus Life is very different from the more frequently traveled life paths, that is for sure. I don’t have my very own room to decorate exactly as I want. Instead, I share my 240 square foot living space with my two best friends. With everything we do to our living space, we consult each other first, resulting in a co-opperative creation filled with color and texture and ideas that would have never come to fruition had any of us done the designing and building solely by ourselves. We’ve managed to miraculously include a decently sized (almost) fully functioning kitchen, composting toilet closet, three cot style bunks, a clothing dresser, and a small sitting room into this tiny abode, but this bus is by no means oozing extra space. We do a great deal of dancing and shuffling around each other on a daily basis. Sometimes it can get pretty crowded in there, and my old claustrophobic neuroses show their ugly faces. In those times, I’ve learned the most productive response for me is to simply walk away from the bus. Living with two others in such close proximity has taught me many valuable things about myself. I now know that if I’m feeling overwhelmed or closed in, it is because I haven’t taken adequate space for myself. When living on a bus, taking literal space is not always a possibility, so I’ve also learned to get creative with how I take my mental space. I’ll write in my journal, get enrapt in a good book, or work on a crafting project while listening to music. If I absolutely NEEEED physical space, that’s on me; usually I manage this by taking a walk, run, or skip through some wilderness, if I can get my hands on it. Bus life can be small, and, at times, cloistering, but it is so satisfying .

Of the many many things that differentiate my life from the typical path, I don’t work a regular job to pay for my living space, nor the bills that go along with it, which is nice. But there are several obstacles we have learned (and are still learning) how to overcome in regard to the jobless, rentless, and utility-less (?) aspect of our lives. We don’t enjoy the convenience of endless running water, flushing toilets, or the electrical capacity to run a juicer, a circular saw, and a food processor all while charging a couple laptops and playing music over a speaker system. Showers are now a treasured luxury to us. To keep up with our personal hygiene, we use washcloths and dr.bronners. Sponge baths do the trick for a while, but there is truly nothing so refreshing as getting really clean in a shower of continuously flowing water. We’ve been very blessed along our journey to be offered showers from strangers that we meet, and surprisingly, the average time we go between showers is pretty much a week. Not too shabby, not too shabby at all. If we haven’t found a shower for a while and are starting to smell stronger than feels comfortable, we seek out a nice, chlorinated hot tub to sneak into. Bonus points on sneaking into the hot tub of an apartment complex or hotel: we live to break the rules, and succeeding in this pumps us with some adrenaline and feels very satisfying. If you’re a rule follower, you might ask yourself why you are following a particular rule. Is the rule breaking hurting anyone in any way? Does it make sense? Are you only following said rule from fear of getting busted? If that is the case, stop doing that, and start governing yourself based on your own internal moral compass. Life is too short to do what others tell you to.

Like, “Go get a job, dirty hippie, you stink and you aren’t doing your part as a cog in the machine. Do us all a favor and become a wage slave like the rest of us. We are not down with your liberation…” Yeah, no thanks. I don’t have a “job,” my one, meaningless contribution to the perpetuity of the capitalistic system, because I believe my time is worth much much more than a paycheck will provide me. I don’t have a “dependable”, steady flow of income, but I also don’t answer to anyone but myself. All of my energy isn’t drained working eight hours, five days a week, just to support myself. Instead, I can focus my energies on things that actually interest and enrich my life. Like making home made, health giving meals from scratch. That stuff takes time, y’all! It’s no wonder so many american families turn to frozen, prepackaged, pesticide and preservative laden microwavable meals to provide their sustenance. The demands of civilization to keep up with the status quo continue to get steeper and steeper, robbing participants of their precious time and energy, and totally zombifying them in the process. I believe that life is too precious to waste doing things I don’t want to do, even if doing those things ensures that I will have financial security.

Now, my being jobless does not mean that I am lazy, unmotivated, or incapable of making money to support myself. Quite the contrary. I’m going to take this moment here to brag a little, because a little self bragging every now and then is healthy…… WE BUILT THE INTERIOR OF OUR HOME BY OURSELVES, USING RECYCLED MATERIALS, AND ARE LIVING AND LEARNING EVERYDAY HOW TO SELF WEEN FROM DEPENDENCE ON CONSUMERISM!!! It’s something I am pretty proud of. It has not been easy by any means; the path less traveled is shrouded in brambles and sometimes you have to navigate your way across roaring rivers without a bridge, or over steep mountain ranges, in the darkness of a new moon night. But the important thing is that we did it against whatever odds we faced, not because we felt it was expected of us, but because we want to grow and change for the better of humanity, and this just happened to be the path we had to hack our way through. Okay, brag session over. The truth about making money on my own time…. is that it is completely my own time. I alone am responsible for motivating myself, for finding the discipline to get the hard, tedious stuff done so that I can bring in the cash without torturing myself. And I have not got the hang of it yet. But hey, everything worth doing takes effort. I’ve done many odd jobs to make a little extra cash, such as face painting, cleaning an old bus out, helping a friend move, belly dancing for tips, and offering up my organization services.

A typical day in the life looks, roughly, like the following: I wake up according to my body and the natural circadian rhythms it follows, which is generally a short time after the sun rises. I don’t rely on alarm clocks, unless I absolutely have to, which is rare. Instead, I let my body and mind get the adequate sleep they need, and as a result, I usually wake up in between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. with no resistance. I immediately swing down from the pull up bar connecting my and Natalie’s bunks and go into the compost toilet closet to pee into a white cup that says “Love” in bright red letters on the front. Since urine is completely sterile and choc-full of nitrogen, we typically find some plants nearby to pour our pee onto. I then drink a glass of water, take vitamins, and put on water for breakfast tea/warm water with lemon juice. Mornings are a sacred time for me, because I have the quiet and space to do stuff for myself, uninterrupted. I will sip herbal tea while I write in my journal about my goals and to-do’s of the day, read, or listen to music, mentally preparing myself for whatever lessons the day will present me with. Natalie typically wakes up sometime closely before of after I wake up. Unless we are going somewhere specific that day, Jamie sleeps a little bit later than us. After waking up, I do something physical, like yoga, stretching, walking, hiking, running, or biking somewhere. Then breakfast, about an hour after initially waking.  The rest of the day has no real kind of routine to it. It all depends on where we are, what I’m doing at them time, who we’re hanging out with, and whether or not the Bus is having mechanical problems, which take precedence over most other things. Really, our days are filled with whatever we feel like/need to do. I like filling my days with love and laughter, with music and creativity. I like exploring unknown areas. I like trying new foods, as well as doing necessary kitchen things to prepare for our meals. I’ll go into detail about that in a future post. Sometimes I feel like crafting or reading or writing all day long. From the outside it may look like we don’t do much in a day, but please don’t let appearances ever determine your perception of the whole picture, because often, appearances are deceptive. The things I deem of highest importance are preventative health care, self love, and learning. So a great deal of what I do in a day revolves around food preparation, since food, along with water, air, sun, and sleep, is a direct and irreplaceable source from which we draw life energy. Because we live without a refrigerator, I’ve been slowly but surely learning food preservation alternatives that will meet our needs without depleting us of too much energy. We have a pressure cooker that we use to can food, and I am constantly trying to creatively incorporate any leftovers into our next meal so that no food goes wasted. I’ve recently started fermenting extra vegetables too, which is super exciting! More on that later…

Anyway, back to a day in the life: currently we are in El Cajon, California, semi-permanently stationed at a bus conversion shop while we work on diagnosing and fixing our coolant leak. So lately, we have incorporated mechanical work into our daily grind. Other things being at H.B. Industries has brought to our lives: a secure place to live, for the time being! It is such a relief to know where the bus is parked, and will be till we say so. Parking on city streets, there is ALWAYS a sinking suspicion, no matter how minuscule, that we will get back to the bus after a day of running around and exploring to find a parking violation ticket stuck to our windshield, or, worse yet, we will arrive to the spot the bus was parked to find it towed away. Oh, the horror! So its nice to know where Bessie will be. When we are living between semi-permanent parking spots, we park wherever we can. Usually, we’ll find a spot either in a parking lot (its never too long before someone comes a knockin on our door to tell us we have to move, but we do what we can…) or on the street. It’s always interesting to look out the living room window and see unsuspecting passers by walking only a few feet away from our bus. From the shop, we can go to the city via public transportation to busk at farmers markets, or do errand runs with our pal Gerry, the head honcho here at the shop, and come home to the bus, surrounded by about a dozen other bus conversions, and know that we can be here, safe and sound. Having a secure place to be is also allowing us to work on the never ending list of personal bus projects; we’ve already completed a few. We’re constantly working on storage and organizational solutions that we hope will improve our daily quality of life (though life is what you make it! We all have the choice to feel happy and blessed with exactly what we have.)

So yeah, I guess that is a not so short summary of a day in the life of a bus dweller. This bus dweller, anyway…


One thought on “The Bus Life

  1. Great post. I am very happy you decided to answer that unasked question. Great insight and testimonial of what the roving life is like. I really enjoy reading this blog. Keep it up and stay safe!

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