As of today, I've been living on a bus for exactly one year and two weeks. Many folks have been curious about my life as a nomad, so I thought I'd take a moment to share my experiences after this 12 month milestone. Click the link below for all the details.
First some stats on my rolling home: My home is a 1997 Prevost bus which was manufactured in Canada as an standard bus and converted into a motor home the same year by Liberty Coach in North Chicago, IL. The bus has 340 square feet of interior space (40' length x 102" wide) along with a "basement" for storage (where your luggage would be stored on a Greyhound bus). I get between 6 and 8 MPG depending on how fast I'm driving and what type of terrain I'm covering. I also tow a Jeep Liberty, which I can easily connect or disconnect in less than two minutes. In order to afford this lifestyle, I sold my house in the mountains west of Boulder, CO and have a few things in storage (which takes up less space than a one car garage). This allows me to have no debt of any kind (no mortgage, car payments, or credit card debt).
You can take a video tour of the bus on Inside Digital Photo's video podcast in iTunes.
Modifications I've Made: The bus came with two sofas in the living room. I've removed one of the sofas and replaced it with a lounge chair and ottoman. I've made the dining room table my office by replacing one chair with an Aeron office chair and the other with a table that holds about a dozen hard drives and a color laser printer. I plan to add an ink jet printer to the mix over the next six months (now that they've gotten smaller).
Where I've Been During the Year: I've traveled through 22 states over
the last 12 months and visited more state and national parks than I can
keep track of. I've also visited many friends and made new ones along
the way. I've put exactly 15,871 miles on the bus since I bought it
last year. I started and ended my first year at Liberty Coach's sales
location in Stuart, FL. My favorite place so far would have to be Utah.
Specifically the Utah, Arizona border near Page, AZ. There is simply so
much to see and photograph around that area that I can't wait to return.
Unusual Parking Spots: You and I have a much different perspective on parking. When I say "parking," what I really mean is "living." Whether I'm in them for one night or several weeks, my parking/living spaces have run the gamut from marvelous to mundane. I've parked everywhere from the beach on the edge of Lake Powell to a spot marked "Bus Parking" next to the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills (thanks to Jeff at POG for the parking suggestion). Some of the most wonderfully unexpected parking places have come from people who read this blog. For instance Marci found me a nice place to park near Ocala, FL that had a view of a lake (I even got a haircut outside near the edge of the lake). Kathey found me a free parking spot on Key West in Florida and arranged kayaking and other outings with the locals of Key West. Scott Sheppard from Inside Mac Radio even helped me find a free parking spot within a few blocks of the Golden Gate Bridge. I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to cheer me on through lending a hand finding parking spots or suggesting little known places to visit... you've made the journey much more interesting and rewarding. I look for these unusual parking places because I rarely pay to park since the bus has storage tanks and batteries that allow me to boondock for over a week before I have to dump or fill my tanks. I'd also rather be parked in an interesting location instead of looking out the window at dozens of other RVs at a campground.
Before moving onto the bus, I had visited a Wal-Mart maybe twice. Now
it's one of my most common places to go grocery shopping. That's
because most Wal-Marts will allow you to park overnight in their lot
for free. I've met all sorts of interesting people in Wal-Mart parking
lots including a group of Germans who were returning from an RV
vacation that took them across the county and a guy who lives on a 1958
I'm amazed at how many people I meet and friends I run into (unplanned meetings). For instance, when I was exploring near Fort Bragg in California, I hiked up a sand door while scouting for shooting locations and noticed 15-20 people standing at the top of the dune. As I got closer, I noticed cameras dangling from their necks and then realized that Greg Gorman and Jeff Schewe were teaching a photography class right in front of me. Had I waited five minutes more before hiking up the dune, then I would have never seen them since they would have been out of site in a more remote. I hung out with them for a day and had a really good time.
I've even had friends like Jeff Limbok come knocking on the door when I was parked in a remote location in Utah. He was sailing by doing 70MPH when he caught a glimpse of the bus on side road and stopped to visit (we had no idea we were in the same area of the country). We explored Lower Antelope Canyon and got together for dinner with hyper realistic artist Bert Monroy who was also in the area. In fact, I see more friends (and make more new ones) than I ever did when living at a fixed location.
Other friends have invited me into their homes on holidays. Like when I spent Thanksgiving with Marv Miller and his family in Novato, CA. I've also bumped into relatives that I haven't seen in years, including my cousins Jimmy and Sara.
I've also e-mailed people that I don't know to ask if they'd like to get together for dinner and, so far, have never been turned down. This has included some of the people who have inspired me over the years like famous darkroom photo compositor Jerry Uelsemann and his wife and digital artist Maggie Taylor, who had me as their guest for a day. The shear number of people I've run into over the last year is staggering.
The bus is a very popular place during conferences and trade shows. I've had quite a few parties on the bus. Having a dozen friends on the bus makes for a comfortable gathering... but when over 30 people show up it gets to be a little crowded.
Prevost Owners Group is a great bunch of people who created an on-line community of bus owners right around the time I bought my bus. They have a yearly rally where everyone gets together to swap stories and share maintenance tips (the next one will have over 60 buses together in one place). I attending their first rally right after purchasing the bus and met a great group of people who have become good friends. I regularly visit these guys as I travel through their home states and they help me anytime I have a question about one of the systems on my bus or where I should explore. Jeff, Jerry, Mango, Jon, Lew and the others are great on-line buddies and even better in person.
What I don't like about this lifestyle: Having to find a new doctor, dentist, hairstylist, etc, whenever you need them. It's not that big of a deal, but it's one thing that takes time to adjust to. Also, having to always think about where you'll end up parking. I'm quite used to finding places to park and it doesn't take much energy to do so, but it is something I have to think of on a daily basis. I'd like to eventually find a companion who can share in my adventure, but it's not easy to start a relationship when you're always on the move (not that it's all that different of a situation than when I lived in a remote area in the mountains of Colorado). Don't get me wrong, I have zero desire to live in a fixed location and absolutely love my lifestyle.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section of this post. If I get enough questions, then I'll create another post with answers to your questions.