If you drive up a small road on the Key Peninsula in Washington state and see what looks a little like a school bus emerging from a tiny, shingled home — your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That’s the Thompsons’ tiny school bus house.
And it’s not their first school bus house.
“After living the typical fast-paced Western lifestyle,” Mira Thompson told Yahoo Real Estate, the “idea of living simply [and] intentionally” grew on her and her husband, Jeremy. “We wanted more time to set aside for family, travel, and to live in the moment. So, after eight years together, we got married and hit the road, living nomadically for a couple of years, part of which we spent in a converted mini school bus. We fell in love with our new lives and the freedom we had found, and decided not to go back.”
Their converted school bus RV took them all along the West Coast. They spent their days hiking and walking the beaches, and at night they parked at rest areas, truck stops, casinos and churches — wherever they were allowed to plop their roving home for the night.
“We slept in our bus on the street in San Fran until someone tried to break in one night,” Jeremy Thompson says. “We even met folks at a laundromat in San Luis Obispo who had been travelers themselves, and opened their driveway and house to us. We also stayed with family members and friends all along the way. At one point, we volunteered for room and board at organic farms” through a program known as WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.”
To make the whole thing work, the couple planned for about a year, scrimping and saving and building their future roving home. They paid off their credit cards, rented their house, sold most of their belongings, and saved money they were given for their wedding.
They picked up paid work at farms along the way, and Mira Thompson, a massage therapist by trade, incorporated a massage table into the van. It became their headboard.
Eventually they bought two tickets to southeast Asia, trading work at a Thai restaurant for room, board, and cooking lessons. They call it their “extended honeymoon,” and that was all they needed for a while.
But when they decided to become parents about three years ago, things changed a little. “While our 85-square-foot bus was super cute and cozy, we couldn’t see making it our home for good, let alone having room for a family,” Jeremy Thompson says.
Yet the school bus theme had served them well, so they decided to continue with it. “While we traveled in the little bus, it became apparent from all the people we met that a school bus gives people a happy feeling, and we wanted that feeling of nostalgia and whimsy to become part of our tiny home,” he says.
So the couple, originally from Washington, started to work on their more permanent school bus house when they were at home visiting family. Jeremy’s unique experience — decades in carpentry and nine years of working on cars — gave him the expertise needed to marry the body of a school bus with the structure of a “little cedar cottage.”
Mira worked on the floor plan, and designed and decorated the interior.
The couple did the entire thing themselves over the course of about two years. The overall cost is hard to pin down, they say, because they found some materials over the years and traded a van and labor for more.
The bus is built on a piece of property where the couple’s family owns a vacation home, so they have that space for overflow as well as for some of life’s more essential daily activities, such as laundry and plugging into the Internet. Otherwise, the couple and their 2-year-old daughter, Carys, live in the school bus house year-round.
The best part?
“Being a super-close family,” the couple says together.
They plan to return to traveling a little later, including trekking around Asia, when their daughter is a little older and her immune system has had a chance to mature.
For now, the couple is running a woodworking, home building and design consulting business, Von Thompson Creative in Washington.
They’re setting down roots again, but in a totally different way than they had before they embarked on their school bus journey.
“We also believe that creativity is essential to stay young at heart and in body,” Jeremy Thompson says. “It seems like such a common thing in our culture for the years to slip by as we are consumed by the daily tasks of working to live, in homes way bigger than we can even appreciate or afford.
“We decided instead to work pretty hard for a couple of years, expanding our minds in creativity, to give us a place that meets all our needs beautifully, while still nudging us to get off the couch, out of the house and out to live our lives.”
More on Yahoo Real Estate:
• In Off-Grid Yurt, Montana Couple Live ‘On Our Own Terms’ (56 photos)
• Vacationing Family Stumbles Across Abandoned French Chateau, Decides to Restore It (53 photos)
• Vermont Couple in Their 80s List Christmas Tree Farm: ‘We Really Have It All’ (29 photos)
• Yahoo Real Estate’s archive of “Living the Dream” stories