- A New York City family of four decided to leave their apartment for 18 months and travel across North America in a converted Ford city shuttle bus turned tiny home on wheels.
- The bus – nicknamed “Buster” – consists of three “rooms”: a kitchen, bedroom, and dual office-garage space.
- Buster was driven approximately 30,000 miles on the trip in order to reach what was, at that point, all 59 National Parks.
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Husband and wife David and Madison Bowman converted a city shuttle bus into a tiny home on wheels to bring their two children Graham and Margaret on a road trip across North America with a goal of visiting what was then all 59 National Parks.
The family originally resided in a New York City apartment before deciding to embark on the 18-month long journey, in part to “delve into the issues facing public land preservation so [they] can be knowledgeable advocates on complex issues,” according to their website, American Field Trip.
The adventurous idea to embark on this #VanLife journey started after Madison asked her husband to write a bucket list. The top two items were to adventure to every National Park and reside in a bus.
However, this goal wasn’t as unrealistic as it sounded: the couple had already driven cross-country multiple times.
“Planning our route around the 59 US National Parks is, for us, more guide than gimmick, and it’s definitely not about checking places off a bucket list, but we do love the National Park System and the lands it protects, and we hope experiencing them all will give us a good sense of the American landscape and what’s at stake when it comes to protecting public lands,” the family wrote. They have since visited the newest National Parks, bringing them to a total of 61 out of 61 parks traversed.
David and Madison saved up to buy and build the bus, but to continue supporting their lifestyle, the couple rented out their New York CIty apartment. David also sold – and is still selling – his photography and worked as a freelance graphic designer on the road. They also had some “emergency” money in investments that they could have dipped into whenever they needed it on the road, according to Project Van Life.
Keep scrolling to learn more about the family’s tiny home on wheels that brought them around North America:
The trip fulfilled their “major lifelong dreams” and has allowed them to spend more family-time outdoors.
Their biggest expenses were health insurance and gas.
The trip was 18 months long. They left New York City in April 2017 to make it back to the city in time for Graham to start kindergarten in September of last year, although the couple decided to homeschool.
“We are constantly influenced by past events, even without actively recalling them, and I think travel’s most salient benefit is in shaping our views, perspectives, and character,” the family wrote on their website in response to people claiming that the children are too young to remember the trip.
As for the decision to convert a bus instead of a van or RV, the bus provided more space and customisation than the other options, according to the couple.
David and Madison claimed they had “no clue” how to do a bus conversion and learned by watching YouTube tutorials.
They purchased a used 2007 Eldorado Aerotech created on a Ford E450 chassis from an Arizona-based dealer and named the bus “Buster.”
Buster came with 143,000 miles already clocked in.
The bus was already fitted with a Ford 6.8-litre V10 engine, which is known to run for a “looooong time,” according to the family’s website.
The Bowman family drove Buster approximately 30,000 miles on the trip.
The interior space is about 7.5-feet wide and 16 feet long “depending on how you measure it.”
It was tall enough for David, who is six-foot, two-inches tall, to stand in.
The family gutted the inside of the bus, including removing the handicap lift that was later given to a man who worked in accessible transportation for a neighbouring city.
However, the family saved several of the seats to be reinstalled as seating around the dining table.
They insulated the bus by using a one-inch foil-backed foam board. This was placed on the walls, floors and ceilings.
A plywood subfloor was placed on top of the insulation. The couple decided on vinyl plank instead of hardwood because they claim it is lighter, waterproof, and more flexible and durable.
The walls and the ceiling were also lined with plywood.
Buster has a solar system kit, which includes six 100 watt solar panels, two 200-amp hour batteries, a 60 amp charge controller, and a 2,000 watt AC inverter.
They left as much of the original electrical system in place as possible.
The bus has three “rooms”: a kitchen with seating space in the front, the bedroom in the middle, and a dual office-garage space in the back.
Most of the kitchen — the cabinets and fixtures — was furnished with IKEA furniture.
The most difficult part of the build was installing the propane tank, according to the family’s website.
There is a full-size bed for the parents, and two smaller bunk beds for the children, all in the same room.
A 39-gallon water tank supplies the kitchen sink. The sink is their favourite feature on the bus, according to the family’s bus YouTube tour video.
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