Most, if not all, families live in the city or the suburbs where they can put down roots. But the Mayes family, they’re not like other families. They live on the road, specifically inside a converted school bus.
Gabriel and Debbie Mayers, along with their four beautiful children, have been travelling across the US in their home on wheels, going on adventures that many could only dream of.
It all started when the married couple decided to pursue the tiny house lifestyle. Looking to trade their boring routine for a life of travel, they bought a used 250-square-foot ‘2000 Thomas High Top’ bus they fondly call Skoolie.
They then spent months working on the project, turning the old rust bucket into an airy home fit for a family of six. The result of all their hard work is stunning, not to mention practical.
The front of the bus shows a spacious layout that puts the living room and the L-shaped kitchen just behind the driver’s seat and entrance.
It boasts of space-saving techniques too. The two couches can unfold into a full bed for guests. There are also hidden drawers, wall hooks, a message board, a paper catchall, shelves, and a magnetic knife rack to provide more storage without adding visual clutter.
“This has been such a blessing and has helped us to keep the bus organized,” said The Mayes Team.
Thanks to the kitchen, the sleeping areas are hidden away from plain sight, giving the family privacy. In these sleeping areas, the kids have four bunk beds, while the parents have a bedroom at the far end. Again, to maximise space, the beds have drawers for their clothes.
And because the Mayes live in a small space, the interiors have big windows that give natural light, as well as an airy colour scheme that focuses on white, grey, and black tones. Also added were wood accents, like the countertops’ birch-wrapped plywood, to add warmth to the home.
It’s no wonder the family loves living in their school bus. Just look at it!
We recently caught up with The Mayes Team to learn more about their tiny house lifestyle and their renovated school bus.
What inspired you to pursue the tiny house lifestyle? What were your living arrangements prior to finding Skoolie?
“We were living in a 5,000 square foot house with Gabriel working multiple jobs, sometimes working until the early hours of the morning. We have always had someone living with us since we married 12 years ago. And we very much believed that our value was based on what we did.
“Things emotionally started to fall apart. We were both miserable and disconnected so realized we needed to change everything about our life.”
Please take us through the transformation process. What were the challenges of turning a school bus into a home? How long did the renovations take?
“I saw a YouTube video of Expedition Happiness on Facebook and instantly knew we would rock that lifestyle. Gabriel was a little skeptical but we were both knew that we were supposed to head to California so thought it would be the perfect way to reconnect as a family and head that way!
“We decided instead of converting the bus ourselves, we would hire someone to convert it for us. We were as involved as we could be. We were living in Oklahoma and the conversion happened in Tennessee.
“I was EXTREMELY detailed with the floor plan and design but the actual workmanship was pretty crappy, unfortunately. That has been the biggest headache.
“When we got the bus back to Oklahoma we realized that the right brake light and blinker was broken, the toilet and hot water were not connected. The plumbing was not done right and the roof leaked TERRIBLY. We got those things patched up enough to drive and within hours we broke down on the side of the road!
“We ended up spending three days living in a Diesel garage while they fixed the engine and then the plumbing leaked everywhere! There have been lots of things to overcome!”
What’s it like to be living in a tiny house (or bus) with four kids?
“We used to find ourselves all spending time in different rooms of the house but now the kids read to each other in their bunks, go on biking adventures, and we all curl up together on the couches and watch movies. Being in such a tiny space can be stressful but we have so much more opportunity to talk it through and connect.
“It hasn’t been easy! Rainy days are especially difficult when we have to keep everyone happy in such a small space. We’ve definitely minimized our toys and clothes and the kids spend much more time outdoors and exploring. They love the bus and the kids already argue about who is going to have the bus when they are adults!
“We have learned to teach the kids step by step systems for things like homework or bedtime…it’s definitely forced us to be more organized so that everyone isn’t running around and bumping into each other while we get stuff done!”
Which places have you taken Skoolie to? And which places are you planning to visit next?
“We travelled from TN to OK and then OK through KS, CO, WY, UT, NV and arrived in CA. We have fallen in love with Northern California and are settling down here. We plan to travel on the bus over the summer either to Alaska or Mexico.”
What’s your best advice for those looking to get into the tiny house movement?
“I would just tell them to start. Don’t waste time worrying about what other people will think or if everything is perfectly planned. We get so many emails from people who are miserable with their current life and want to do something similar and there is always a BUT (well-paying job they can’t leave, a family that disagrees, etc.)
“If you are unhappy with where you are at you are only ONE decision away from changing everything and you will feel so much freedom when you start living your life the way YOU feel called to live it!
“Sometimes starting can just mean minimizing what you already have, or not living beyond your means… taking any step in that direction will get your momentum going, you don’t have to make a sudden big leap like we did!”