culture.

tiny bus living

From Homeless to Homeowners: How this B.C. couple converted a bus into their own tiny home.

Rena Siddall / 22 October 2018

Why would anyone want to live in what’s proudly called a tiny home?

Meet Gus the Bus and Friends. No it’s not a Sesame Street special. It’s Steph and Rich’s home.

In a real estate market as tough to enter as B.C.’s south coast Steph and Rich found themselves, as they put it, homeless, “we just wanted to own SOMETHING and stop paying exorbitant amounts on rent. Then we immediately started looking online and Rich found Gus. It was like it was meant to be. We messaged the guy and took the ferry over the next morning and drove him home.”

Steph is talking about their home, a former transit bus they bought in June and started converting into a tiny home.

For those of us who have been renting, or worse trying to buy, in this affluent (a.k.a. effing expensive) part of Canada, we know all too well Steph and Rich’s feelings. Sure, you can step outside of the Metro and Greater Vancouver area and get a little more bang for your buck. A cool million might get you a townhouse in Port Moody and $460,000 buys you a 900 square foot, 2-bedroom condo in Victoria…if you don’t get outbid.

Unless you’re willing to relocate to one of, “more suburban” or, “more rural” then you better have an income of well over six figures or you’re simply not living in the bigger cities on B.C.’s south coast. And we’re only talking about buying. Forget availability of rentals, especially with the booming short-term rental (think AirBnB) market thanks to tourism and all that natural beauty the West Coast has to offer.

Given that, it’s suddenly easier to imagine buying a home for the $3800 Steph and Rich paid for Gus, investing another $12K, and calling it a day. Welcome to the world of tiny homes.

If you’re new to the concept, tiny homes are a growing way for people to live minimally in what’s proving to be ever more adorable ways. Just search the hashtags #tinyhome #buslife or #tinyhomeonwheels to get an idea of just how small (albeit beautiful!) people are willing to try living these days. 

Just how tiny is a tiny home?

Well, in Steph & Rich’s case, 25 feet from hood to trunk, but the living space is 16 feet long by 6 feet wide. In other words, 96 square feet of living space. Basically a tenth of that condo in Victoria at 2% of the price. Not bad when you look at it like that. 

Steph and Rich did have to downsize A LOT. They held a garage sale and parted with nearly all of their furniture, almost all of their art and reduced their wardrobes by about half.

Despite that they still keep a storage locker with any belongings they couldn’t sell at their rained out garage sale or give away to Salvation Army. 

How hard can living small actually be?

One of the hardest things about living in a tiny home on wheels is finding a space to park it if you’re looking for something long term. There are few listings online, and unless you’re willing to move pretty far out of any urban area there are even less. In Steph and Rich’s case, they were lucky enough to happen on a farm through a Facebook post that was owned by a friend of friends. “We pay a flat rate that includes hydro, water, septic, internet, laundry and the use of their washroom and shower temporarily until we have ours hooked up. Pretty much a dream actually.” They planto get a wireless booster to help with the spotty internet.

Steph and Rich use propane air heaters and a plug-in electrical oil heater but they’re saving up for a tiny home wood stove. They don’t have hot water or a completed bathroom, but they’re able to use a washroom with a toilet and shower in the barn where they rent space to park Gus.

“Honestly, it’s way better than we were expecting. We weren’t too sure how big [the] hallway or aisle would end up being once we finished the framing, but we ended up with enough space to have the fridge open and still have someone make their way past, so it’s totally doable. I even do yoga in there!” 

“Every day we get a little more organized. Every day it feels a little more like home.”

Due to their heightened timeline- moving out of their apartment and a week later into a tent while they started working on Gus- it was a stressful start to their tiny home adventure, but according to Steph, “it made us so much stronger as a couple. We realized we had to, and could, rely on each other. And we got to see so much strength in both each other and ourselves.”

What do they argue about? The normal things of course- the work, the next priority. Understandable when you’re waiting for your next pay cheque in order to be able to install hot water!

Life on the road, for a fraction of the cost.

Hands up if you’ve ever been hit by the travel bug? A huge bonus of the #buslife version of tiny home living is the opportunity to live wherever your bus can take you. Plus you can save big avoiding hotels. While he’s already been to a friend’s wedding, Steph and Rich hope to take Gus on some road trips to South America or maybe the States and up into Eastern Canada and travel back West. That’s undeniably a priceless advantage of the $16,000 home.

"Home is where you park it."

A quick search of the top results for #tinyhomeonwheels or #buslife shows owners recently in Peru, North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Australia just to name a few. But while the possibilities of places to go are limitless, the trick is finding a place to park it once you go. Certain states and provinces have rules about where you’re allowed to park. Apparently Wal-Marts and casino parking lots are always a safe bet. And scenic.

In all seriousness if you are thinking of tackling #buslife or a tiny home adventure Steph says they would urge anyone considering it to just go for it! But, “disclaimer, try to have more money and time than we did. It sucked…. haha.”

Ok, so maybe you need a little more than 2% of that Victoria condo- but price tag aside, you can’t beat a home you can take with you wherever you go!

Follow along with Gus’ adventures on Instagram, @gusthebusandfriends

Rena Siddall / ohsnapcreative@gmail.com

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