Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It's Finally Spring!

Say hello to spring! The warmer weather has been awesome! We've been out on the TransCanada Trail every single day! Last week we were walking on snow and ice now it's actual trail and it's beautiful! The dogs have been loving it and have both gone for their first swim of the year. Cooper actually got chased out of the water by trumpeter swans! Back on the bus we are getting closer to leaving by the minute! As we cross off each project on our list (Michael hates the list because it always involves him) we have been reflecting/ improving on past projects. We both realize that we don't need to take this much stuff with us and have really started downsizing the amount of stuff on the bus. We took out the big flat screen television. We don't need it, we barely use it and if we want to watch anything we can use a laptop. We have both drastically downsized our wardrobes again (all of my clothes fit in a small drawer). The only areas I don't seem to be shrinking is my kitchen. We both like to cook and by having everything we need it actually saves us money by minimizing the number of times we eat out and it also allows us to eat healthier less processed meals. Or at least that is what I am telling myself in order to justify how much space kitchen stuff takes up in this bus. Michael is going to be blogging about this trip from (what he thinks is) the dogs perspective, while I will continue with a human point of view. I will post his website details soon!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We survived the cold!

We survived winter! As the nights grew colder I had secretly wondered if the bus could be warm enough  and it was! Even on the coldest night it was toasty warm inside.  Most of the winter I was perfectly happy on the bus but I will admit that this past month has been a little rough.  I just wanted winter to be over and would rather  be traveling than stationary.  These last few sunny days have been amazing though and have given us a chance to wrap up a few unfinished "house" jobs.  There are still a few more outside of the bus jobs (like a good bus wash, adding decals, finishing our back deck/spare tire holder and possibly adding an under the bus storage compartment) but more importantly we are awaiting the arrival of our second grandchild!  Once she arrives we will head out!  In the meantime I've been thinking about what we will need while we travel and have recently recovered our couch cushions, added wireless internet to the bus and totally rearranged our storage areas.  I've been searching for useful apps for navigation, remote places to stay, free water sources and of course places of interest. While looking for apps I came across iMovie and have been experimenting a little bit, here is my first attempt:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Part Two: Not so Good.

  1. While maintenance of a bus takes a minimal amount of time and money compared to a house it can be difficult to execute. So far we have only had to do preventative maintenance but even then we had to carefully plan when it could be done and have a planned place for the dogs to hang out for the day. I imagine any last minute mechanical problems could be a nightmare requiring a few nights stay at a hotel that allows pets. Thankfully that hasn't happened but I do see the potential for problems in the future. 
  2. Now that the weather has changed we all spend more time inside and the bus seems to have shrunk! Especially at meal times or when I am making the bed. I'm sure this space would be the perfect size if we didn't have two big dogs (or if a certain person would pick up after himself) but now that it's cold outside it feels like just a bit too much togetherness! This might not be an actual problem and I can probably adjust to it but I thought I'd mention it as it could easily be a problem for someone else.
  3. We haven't had a problem finding public washrooms or places to shower yet and have found several places where we can fill up our water containers. However, we have had a few water related problems and all of them have involved the dogs. Our dogs seem to like skunks and in the summer this wasn't an issue because we could sent them to the lake to rinse off but now that it's cold out it is a little more difficult. I'm sure a hot water on demand system would eliminate this problem but last night I had to rinse off my dog in freezing cold water and today I will have to use the rest of our water sparingly because I'd like to refill at a natural spring out of town tonight rather than refill with town water. Again, not the end of the world or anything but I can foresee a few frustrating incidents ahead.
  4. When you move into a house there are usually one or two things you might have done differently if you were the one building it but for the most part you are usually happy with what you get. Although I am very proud of what we have designed in the bus after living in it I would like to change almost everything! I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing out the importance of a great design especially in a tiny space. Some of the great ideas we had just don't hold up to the extra wear and tear that is required when it is used all the time. Again, this isn't a deal breaker for us and we are having fun planning out our next bus!
  5. Finally, and as usual nothing has really gone as planned. We wanted to be adventuring around the country by now. I know you can't compare this to living in a house but when your purpose of moving into a bus is to travel around it is a little disheartening to still be near "home." I don't really mind this it has become an adventure on its own but I really hope the bus doesn't die before we get to travel the continent. In a house this isn't even a thought.
I hope this has given you a good idea of bus life and the differences between living in a traditional house. If you have any questions or comments send me a message and I will do my best to answer them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Good - part one

I started writing this a few months ago but never got around to finishing it because I thought we hadn't lived in the bus long enough to give a valid opinion. Yesterday was our six month anniversary of living on the bus and I think that it's been long enough to give a fair comparison to living in a house. I'm dividing this into two parts, here is the first one:

Everyday now I realize something new that I really appreciate or am grateful for that I didn't pay attention to or even notice while I lived in a house.  It made me think about the comparisons or trade offs I've made to get where I am today.  A few years ago when I got back from thruhiking the Appalachian Trail I went through a rough transition going from living outside on a trail to living back in a house, going to work and living in a typical Canadian small town.  I clearly remember thinking that so many of the choices we make living in society were totally wasteful and needless an at the same time missing or yearning for the natural beauty and peacefulness and freedom that I thought came from trail life.  I wanted to figure out a way to make those two totally different worlds come together because let's face it I probable couldn't live the rest of my life on a trail.  Fast forward three years and here I am doing exactly that!  I'm finding a way to make the two worlds collide!  Here is a list of trade offs I've made and how I think it's worked out:  Traded a 1000 plus square foot house for an 80 square foot bus.  This trade alone has given me so much more free time than I had imagined.  It takes minutes to clean or tidy up the bus compared to the hours it takes to clean a whole house. It takes way less work! Half a months wages to pay for a house compared to half a weeks wages to live in a bus for a month! Imagine only having to work for half a week a month to pay for you bills! Traded mostly indoor living for mostly outdoor living.  Even while inside now I have a 360 degree view!  This trade off on its own is enough to change someone! I have noticed every sunrise and sunset since living on the bus!  I have sat in bed as deer walked right past my bed on the other side of the window panes! I notice the clouds and their shapes, the colour of the sky, the direction and feel of the wind!  I hear the howl of the coyotes, the sounds of the birds and the scampering of the squirrels on a daily basis. I have a love for creation, an appreciation of the beauty of nature and a gratitude that I am able to enjoy it and a joy that wells up in me for life everyday!  This is the difference for me between living inside versus outside.  I am so much happier now!  Traded my modern day appliances and conveniences for a slower way of life.  This doesn't sound like an advantage but it truly has been.  We take our time prepping and cooking our meals together now.  Our food and coffee tastes better (well not as good as in Spain but you know what I mean).  We seem to get more enjoyment out of everything! We can pick and choose our surroundings for each meal. Do we want to eat at the park, by the waterfront, or at a secluded spot? Our life isn't so stationary anymore!  We spend more time together now compared to both of us being at home but in different rooms of the house doing separate things. Living in a bus has also made us so aware of everything we use and how wasteful we were before.  We carry limited water on the bus and use it sparingly.  We use solar power and are very aware of how much power we use if we ever plug something extra in. We don't have space for garbage and recycling on the bus and find ourselves leaving the packaging behind at whatever store we happen to be at when we purchase something and we only purchase what we need as we need it.  We notice how needlessly wasteful our society has become.  We are still getting shedding possessions that we realize we don't need and learning just how little we actually need to have a healthy, happy life!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Another Upgrade

The weather has been so good! We haven't needed to keep the heater on all night yet but we were a bit nervous about the cold weather that is going to come. The other day while at Canadian Tire we decided to pick up a small electric smart heater just in case our propane heater doesn't cut it on the cold nights. Friends have already offered their homes to us in case it gets too cold but we'd really like to try to stay in the bus. We came up with the idea of the heater knowing that if it gets too cold we can park in a friend's driveway and plug in the bus. This way we will be able to use both heaters if needed. Michael took the console at the front of the van off (so we've lost our cup holders) to make the perfect spot to mount the electric heater. He did a great job and we got to try out the heater last night. It was actually too warm and I had to turn it off during the night! I think the bus is ready for winter!

Winter Upgrade

We have been using the small 1 lb propane canisters for the Coleman stove and our Mr. Heater. They work great and allow for us to move the stove outside whenever we feel like cooking outdoors. However, it's not very cost effective and the it's hard to find places to recycle the empty canisters. Today we are mounting a 20 lb propane tank to the back of the bus and installing permanent pipes and hoses to both the stove and the heater.  It's hard to watch as Michael drills multiple holes from the outside in so close to the back window that I'm afraid the window is going to shatter. No windrows were broken in this bus renovation and all of the holes in the bus have been filled with screws or the pipe for the propane.   We chose the easy route and bought a hose designed to go from a propane tank to a barbecue for outside the bus. Next we purchased two universal torch extension hoses that we used inside the bus and some teflon tape to make sure each attachment is sealed. I was nervous as we turned on the propane for the first time wondering if we were about to blow up our bus but Michael had added an extra shut off valve so he was able to let just a little bit of gas into the lines and test each connection safely. It was a good thing he did because we did have a leak that needed fixed! Everything is in working order now and we can keep the heater on all the time if we need to! We just need to remember to shut the tank off before we drive away!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Winterizing the bus!

Our friends are starting to get concerned about us. Not because we are living in a bus (well some of them might be) but because the temperatures are starting to drop and they are wondering how we are making out. We are so fortunate to have friends who care and have offered to share their homes if ever we get too cold or need a place to go. But it made me think that writing a blog about what we have done to winterized the bus might put our friends at ease. It's only November but so far this is what we have done to keep warm:
1. Insulate the floor.  I bought a couple packs of those foam mats that fit together like puzzle pieces and put them together covering our beautiful floor. To be honest I wasn't sure how Michael would feel about it but he loved it and couldn't believe the difference it made. That started a whole conversation about what else we could insulate. I suggested buying more foam mats and covering most of the windows but Michael thought that it would make the bus seem like a rubber room so that was out! 
2. Insulate as many of the windows as we were willing to give up. 
What we ended up doing was using   1" styrofoam (that was originally insulating the garage but was just insulating the storage unit) and covering the back three windows on both sides leaving a three inch gap on the back windows for air circulation. Then we bought a piece of the cheapest wood paneling we could find ($23 I think) and paid a few dollars for the cuts we needed so we could install it immediately. We covered the hideous styrofoam with the panelling blocking most of our windows. Surprisingly, it looked great and made the bus feel like a cabin! That week we couldn't believe how cozy the bus felt and decided that the following weekend we would insulate the remaining two windows on each side but leave the top halves open so that we could see out and still use those windows of we wanted to let fresh air in. It is unbelievable the difference this has made even on a nice weather day. 
3. Install a heater. We found the smallest Mr. Heater Buddy on sale ($99) bought it and installed it on the back door. It burns propane and therefore we have to keep the windows down a crack to make sure there is enough fresh air in the bus but it works great even with the window open. Right now we are still using it with a  1lb.  propane canister but have purchased a mount to install a 20 lb. tank outside on the the back which will be much more cost effective for both heating the bus and cooking our meals.    My bus living friends seem to all be using Mr. Heaters of varying sizes and have had no complaints about staying warm. If I had taken the time to do a little more research I think I would have purchased a propane furnace instead so that I wouldn't have to worry about keeping my window open a crack and also because I think the furnace would have exchanged the air better eliminating any condensation problems we might have in the future. For now the heater seems to work fine and can warm up a cold bus quickly!
4. Insulate the passenger door. During the summer we had taken the door closing mechanism off and installed a simple door handle. It worked okay but the door definitely didn't have a tight seal like it did before. We added a few more parts to each door and now we can open and lock each door individually. That made a huge difference but still wasn't good enough! Next we added a foam seal strip down one side of the door (where the doors meet when they are closed) and a seal across the top of the doors. This has entirely eliminated the draft but we may add an additional foam strip down the insides of the door for added protection. I had a few pieces of foam from mats left over and we had realized that we don't ever use the bottom windows on the door so we covered them with black foam for the winter. Lastly, (and I'm really not sure that this is going to make it warmer) we installed a black roller blind above the door so we can pull the blind down to cover the top windows. It also gives us a bit of privacy! :) 
5. Cover the windshield at night. We are making use of an emergency blanket (those thin silver sheets people use to stay alive in emergencies) to cover the front window at night. It reflects the heat back at us from the heater and acts as a insulating window covering. It also gives us privacy! 
6. -7 degree sleeping bags. The sleeping bags we use when we hike are on the bus and although we use sheets and a big comforter we have the sleeping bags handy if we need them.