Getting on the Bus of Life Experience

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Fiona and James in front of our VW California Beach van

My kids receive a weekly allowance for helping out around the house and being responsible in getting their homework finished on time. Each receives the equivalent of half their age weekly which then gets lovingly placed in their piggy banks. When payday comes they are giddy with excitement as they dump out all of their coins and count once again their life savings. I think like most children who receive an allowance they learn quickly that it is better to save and accumulate more money for a larger, more fulfilling item than spending immediately on something sub par. My three kiddos have vowed not to spend their money on toys and sweets. They are saving up for an extra special adventure with the ultimate reward: life experience.

It all started on the number 7 bus one afternoon while we were traveling home from somewhere. We were reminiscing about our month long holiday traveling around Europe in a VW California camper van. We loved being able to sleep outside wherever we were, to stop and make a home along a Croatian beach, on a hilltop overlooking Bilbao, or in the forests of Andorra. To freely choose to stay or move on—to be free. Then it occurred to me to play a game with the kids. What if we could buy an old double decker bus and convert it into our home on wheels? How would we do that? What does that look like? The conversation exploded with lots of grand ideas.

We would have our living space on the ground floor: a kitchen, a dining area, a bathroom – all the basic amenities. Upstairs would be our sleeping area and lounge. We could easily make a small private bedroom in the back for me and Stephen. Then bunks for the kids and at the front of the bus would be our sitting room. It would have really comfortable sofas and, in addition to the gigantic sightseeing window in the current bus, we would have shades that came down electronically to black out the room. A flat screen tv would descend from somewhere and we would have our own cinema should we choose a break from playing outside. I would make popcorn in the kitchen and we would all put our feet up and relax to a movie.

Then it escalated, we would also have a spiral staircase that led to the pool on the roof. We could park wherever we found ourselves and luxuriate in the water. I pointed out that we should also have a fence of sorts around the rooftop pool to prevent slippery kids from falling off—they agreed.  Finally, we decided it wouldn’t make sense to have a pool year round so it should collapse into the roof and then, obviously, we could use the space for our winter Christmas tree.

To the five of us, London buses are not our idea of a clean haven that we would want to live in, so we would have to clean it, really, really well.  Rip out the seats and the flooring and have someone else put it together just the way we wanted it. We did toss around spending spare time fixing it up ourselves but if we’re being honest, construction and remodeling are not any of our strong suits, not even close. Yes, we think it would be best to hire a professional. Immediately upon returning home we were looking at automotive sites and the sale of used buses. There are so many, every shape and size. We also found companies who specialize in van/bus conversions. It’s all so possible, we were hysterical with delight. The kids made blueprints and drawings of their bus and hung them on the wall so that we could continue to improve our grand design and to keep focus on our goal.

This was two or three years ago. We told them it would take a while to save the money for such a big undertaking and that the timing would have to be just right to make it happen and to pack up and go. To this day they are reluctant to spend their precious savings because someday their dream will become a reality and to these three it’s worth skipping every chocolate and plastic toy for the chance at making it happen.

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