It’s a November morning in Malibu, Calif., and Kelly Wilson is sitting outside their home on the beach, watching as her husband, Thomas, learns to surf.
“It’s day nine or 10,” she says. “It’s pretty entertaining to watch, but he’s getting it.”
Their home hasn’t always been on the beach, however. It’s also been to 18 states and five provinces in Canada, and has turned a number of heads along the way.
The Missouri Southern alums – Kelly graduated in 2014 and Thomas a year earlier, both with psychology degrees – are in the midst of a yearlong journey, traveling and enjoying life in the school bus they’ve converted into a home with all the amenities.
“It was a mixture of things,” Wilson says of the idea. “We were interested in the idea of minimizing and tiny living. Then we watched a documentary called ‘Expedition Happiness,’ about a couple that converts a school bus.
“A few weeks later we started wondering how much it would cost to buy a bus, saw it was a realistic plan and never looked back.”
They purchased the school bus – a 2001 International – in May 2018 in Rolla, Mo., and spent the next year converting it into a comfortable home.
Features include a kitchen with dining room table, a folding bar top, a couch that pulls out into a twin bed, and a separate shower and bathroom. In the back, there’s a queen bed, a closet, drawers, and storage for their camping and backpacking gear. On top of the bus are solar panels which provide power for the fridge.
They officially took their home on the road in July, visiting Kelly Wilson’s relatives in New Brunswick before making their way across Canada to British Columbia and then south along the West Coast.
“Our friends were all ‘Heck, yeah!’ when we told them about our plans; our parents wanted to know how it was all going to work, if it was safe and financially viable,” she says. “We both had pretty good jobs and had been saving money, so that’s what we’re living on right now.”
They’ve made a point to visit every national park they can along the way to do some hiking and enjoy the outdoors.
Traveling with them is their dog, Ayva – a “Snorkie”; a miniature schnauzer and Yorkshire terrier mix.
“She’s kind of an anxious pup, but she does all the hiking with us … she must be part mountain goat,” says Wilson. “She’s super in love with the beach.”
As for where they’ll go next, nothing is set in stone, she says. But New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado are all likely destinations.
“We’re not thinking that far ahead, but we’ll probably visit New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado,” says Wilson. “Our original goal was to travel for a year, but we’re thinking about trying for longer. Thomas is looking at doing travel occupational therapy. It’s a 13-week contract, and we’d go where the openings are.”
The couple have been documenting their travels on their Instagram page — @roamingwilsons.
“We had 300 followers when we left, and now we’re up to 1,300,” she says. “We’ve had a lot of people message us and a couple who have just come up and knocked on the door because they’re following us on Instagram and recognized the bus.”
She says they also plan to create a YouTube channel to showcase the features of the converted interior of the school bus.