The dream of tiny living is taking over the country. Be it financial or environmental concerns; yearning for freedom or being bit by the travel bug, tiny homes of all sorts are becoming en vogue. For reasons of my own, I decided to take up the adventure and convert a short school bus; a lifestyle that has spawned its own lingo, culture, and community; that of the #skoolie: #skoolielife #skooliebuild #skoolieconversion and #skoolieadventure.
I have no background in renovation or construction; I can barely use an Allen wrench. My motto: if Duct Tape or Velcro can’t fix it, then leave it be. So, when I drove Bubba the Bus from Nashville to San Francisco, with the intention of converting him into a tiny home, the learning curve was steep. I had been immersing myself in YouTube videos, blogs, and chatrooms, while creating my Vision Board of my ideal #buslife. Yesterday, we—(Bubba and I)—went to our first Tiny Living Festival, held in Richmond, California. It is a short jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge, the sun—(and the tourists)—were out in full force
The drive to Richmond is an interesting event. You roll over the 1.7-mile engineering marvel that is the Golden Gate Bridge; her orange vermillion rods shimmering in the sun, the Pacific Ocean flows underneath, ocean breeze kissing your face. Then you drop into the postcard-perfect seaside community of Sausalito, sailboats resting in the harbor, flowers in bloom dotting the streets; followed by the rest of Marin County, which is as equally beautiful and serene. Soon you cross the Richmond Bridge, which is 5.5 miles of spectacular scenery. It does not garner the attention that her sisters in the Bay do; but, this bridge is art in the sky. And then, you are dropped into Richmond, California. It feels like what I imagine Will Byers must have felt when he was abducted by a creature from the Upside down in Stranger Things. Business with boards and bars across the windows, graffiti-covered buildings, grassless lots and beige section 8 housing units greet you. According to reports and studies published in papers and online, Richmond is a city in transition; from where I sit, the transition hasn’t reached the Deep C, as this part of the city is knows. It is sectioned off into blocks like 600, 700, and 800 or ‘hoods like the Barrett’s apartment complex; which is where I parked Bubba to walk to the Tiny Living Festival, being held the next block over.
The Tiny Living Festival was to take place for the entire weekend of October 5/6. Although I only attended on Saturday, I gained some new insights, got some great ideas, connected with a couple of fun skoolie folk and left feeling inspired. Part of the $20.00 ticket price was a donation to support the local not-for-profit Tentmakers Inc. to assist affordable housing in the Bay Area.
An obvious question is, how you can make money while living in a converted skoolie, van or other vehicle; and it’s a great question. There are tons of websites that for a fee, will offer you a ‘secret to success’ or ‘how to make millions’ or ‘how to get paid to travel’ via your blog or affiliate marketing. The truth can be far from that, no matter how convincing the Instagrammers are. If you choose to live the #buslife lifestyle, then you have to be as equally creative in your money-making ventures. At the festival, there were some creative folks doing just that.
Some highlights were the Black Sheep Brass Band. I am a lover for all things busking, traveling arts, and these guys were fun. Hailing from Sonoma, they are an 11 piece all-acoustic, New Orleans Jazz/Hip Hop marching band, with accolades ranging from being featured on NPR Tiny Desk Concert Series to winning the Creative Sonoma Grant to complete their album. They refer to their sound as 100% certified #BRASSfedFUNK.
A couple of my favorite conversions were vans. One was a moving van, ala: retired U-Haul and it included a bathroom.
I met the fantastic Brock, who you should check out in IG @between_airports. He has converted a box truck and is living on the road fulltime. He showed me how he did his build for the bed and didn’t lose an inch of storage; an idea that I am going to steal.
There was a photographer, who would set up backgrounds outside her bus, take professional photos, edit and upload them; a great traveling income.
There were actual tiny homes that you could also peruse; however, I spent more time with the bus’s and vans’, as they fit my project.
The event was small, but packed with speakers who gave good information, fun conversions and a spirit of community.
After a few hours, I left to go back home to San Francisco.
It’s human nature to search for belonging. From our first day of preschool and well into adulthood, we gravitate toward those who reflect the kind of qualities we admire. We look for people who share and reflect our values while simultaneously satisfying our need for companionship.
That being said, finding a tribe is hard. That’s why there are so many movies where high school students end up eating lunch alone. And as we bloom into adulthood and lose the setting of forced social interaction, it can be even more difficult to find authentic connections. I continue to discover and build my own community of #skoolielife lovers, and events like these are one way to do that.