Perth couple Harry Shaw and Hannah Repton converted a 12-metre (40ft) bus into a house on wheels.
“It was something that both of us had always wanted to do,” Repton told Business Insider Australia. “The idea behind it was we both wanted to travel and have the freedom to move around, but also to complete a really worthwhile project.”
The duo had been living in rental properties before they gave them up, put some things in storage and moved into the bus.
“We sold off pretty much everything to come on this trip with the intention that it’s going to be a long-term lifestyle,” Shaw said.
They embarked on the project in 2018, buying a $20,000 bus in July before picking it up a month later.
“We waited about a month until we could pick it up because it was still being used as a school bus,” Shaw said.
Starting from scratch, they pulled the seats out and stripped the bus down – taking out parts like the floor boards and ceiling until what was left was the metal framework and the windows.
From there, the couple did around four months of research on how to build it up, while also using that time to escape the heat.
“It was summer at the time, so it was really, really hot to try and work in it,” Shaw said. “On a 40-degree day it was impossible to do any work.”
With the research done, the couple began the construction work, putting the floorboards, roof panels and walls up.
“We had it all mapped out on the floor with masking tape as to where everything would go, which changed slightly when we realised you couldn’t run plumbing in certain directions because there were beams in the way or the engine was in the way,” Shaw said.
The couple did almost all of the work themselves except for using professionals for electricity and gas.
“It was really a step by step process because we had no experience in this sort of project coming into it,” Shaw said. “You would get to a job like doing the shower, for example, and then we’d have to learn how to do the plumbing – what plumbing fittings to use, how to do the drainage, what water tanks to use.”
Inside the bus turned home
The bus includes a bedroom at the back, two wardrobes, a full-sized shower and a (composting) toilet. There’s a kitchen area, a washing machine and two day beds that double as guest beds.
“We can have two people sleepover and stay in the bus,” Repton said.
They have capacity for 600 litres of water, an instant hot water system and enough battery power to run air conditioning and other appliances like the kettle and toaster.
“We can live off the grid for sort of three weeks at a time,” Shaw said.
In the front is seating for one driver and three passengers when the bus is on the road. On the back, they tow a trailer behind which has a dinghy and a four-wheel drive attached.
The pros and cons of living on a bus
The couple had a lot of positives to share about living in the bus, with one of the biggest advantages being that they have everything right there with them without having to unpack and set up – like a tent.
“We’ve got everything we own on the bus – it’s home,” Repton said. “We just roll up and we’re set up.”
Other benefits? Having a lot more space to store their items and the low cost of living compared to staying in, say, a caravan park. On top of paying for the bus, the building process cost roughly $40,000.
“Some of the spots we get to park in are just incredible,” Shaw said. “They’re million dollar views and you’re paying maybe $10, $15 a night to stay there if it’s not free. So it’s a fairly cheap way of living.”
One challenge with a bus is learning how to park it and having to maintain it.
“We’ve always got this never-ending list,” Shaw said. “As soon as we shrink it, it grows again. But that’s alright because that keeps us busy.”
Between going on adventures on the boat or heading to a national park, the couple also gets some down time where they can work on maintenance.
Travelling across parts of Australia
For people thinking of converting a bus into a home, Repton and Shaw advise looking at other setups online and speaking to people who have done it.
And be prepared to be involved in the process for the long haul.
“Don’t underestimate how difficult and long it’s going to be,” Shaw said. “Because we see a lot of people starting them and a lot of people selling them three-quarters complete because they’ve run out of money or they’ve had some sort of personal life issue.”
The couple had planned to kick off their bus trip earlier this year but postponed it because of the pandemic. They ended up leaving this July.
“We just went up the WA coast and then crossed into the Northern Territory last week,” Shaw said.
While they were concerned about making the trip to the NT because of the border closures in WA, they “bit the bullet” with the hope of returning to their home in the next year or so.
“From here we’re going to go down to Adelaide and then once we get to Adelaide we’ll see what happens,” Shaw said. “Then we’ll probably head east and then maybe do an anti-clockwise lap and then get back to WA in a year or two’s time.”