Shuttle bus reno
The couple bought their shuttle bus for $12,000. @cassata95 via Instagram

After months of dedicated research and hard work, Michael Cassata and Sara Cokeley have transformed a shuttle bus into their dream home. This journey, marked by countless late-night internet searches and considerable investment, has culminated in a unique mobile living space that offers comfort and adventure.

The Beginning of a New Adventure

As they prepared to relocate from Orlando, Florida, to the Pacific Northwest, Michael and Sara faced a crucial decision: should they rent an apartment or convert a shuttle bus into a mobile home? Despite the costs associated with both options, they were drawn to the concept of a long-term, mobile residence. This approach promised the freedom to travel and explore while avoiding the ongoing expenses of traditional housing. Additionally, investing in a vehicle they could own outright was an appealing prospect.

The shuttle bus has since allowed them to visit various scenic locations, from friends' homes to remote forests while maintaining the conveniences of a fully functional living space. Equipped with a kitchen and running water system for showers, Michael and Sara enjoy the luxury of "glamping." For Michael, this project was not his first renovation endeavour; he had previously modified a van with his brother during the pandemic, which further fuelled his enthusiasm for the shuttle bus project.

Securing the Perfect Vehicle

Shuttle bus reno
@cassata95 via Instagram

The initial phase of their project involved an extensive search for the perfect bus. They encountered numerous setbacks, as many of the buses they found had significant mechanical issues or were inoperable. However, perseverance paid off when Michael stumbled upon a listing on eBay at two in the morning. The bus, located in Atlanta, Georgia, was listed for $18,000 and had been well-maintained by a nursing facility despite its 83,000 miles. The couple promptly made a $12,000 offer, which was accepted by the following day.

They were excited by their purchase, so Michael and Sara flew to Atlanta to finalise the transaction. They then drove the bus back home, ready to embark on their ambitious renovation project.

The Renovation Process

The renovation process was both challenging and rewarding. Michael and Sara invested approximately $16,000 into transforming the bus into a comfortable and functional living space. Michael's background and the skills he learned from his carpenter father were invaluable throughout the renovation. Nevertheless, they faced significant challenges, particularly navigating the bus's curved construction and installing the electrical system. This electrical setup, costing around $5,000, was the most substantial expense.

They installed three 200-watt solar panels on the bus's roof to enhance sustainability and reduce costs. These panels power various devices, including a blender and TV, making their off-grid lifestyle more convenient. Plumbing installation, though daunting, was accomplished with relative ease. They invested around $500 in a tankless water heater, which uses propane to heat water instantly. The bus also features a grey water tank for used water disposal and a cassette toilet in the shower, designed for easy disassembly and emptying.

Transitioning to Life on the Road

Shuttle bus reno
@cassata95 via Instagram

Before embracing their mobile lifestyle, Michael and Sara worked in the hospitality industry at Disney World. Michael earned $3,200 monthly, while Sara's income from two jobs amounted to $4,000. Despite their stable earnings, they were dissatisfied with their jobs and longed for a more fulfilling life. Quitting their jobs was challenging, but ultimately, they prioritised personal fulfilment over financial security.

Since moving into the bus, Sara has ventured into selling handmade earrings at various farmers' markets and marketing her accessories online. Her income, which once stood at $4,000 per month, now fluctuates based on the number of markets she attends, the time of year, and their travel destinations. Michael has transitioned to working as a wedding DJ, earning between $600 and $900 per event. Although their combined income has decreased, Michael asserts that the trade-off is worth it for the enriched quality of life they now enjoy.

Overcoming the Challenges of a Mobile Lifestyle

Living on the road presents challenges, yet Michael and Sara have never been happier. Michael acknowledges that while the obstacles may seem minor, they occur frequently. For instance, living in a bus requires constant maintenance, with repairs for items like the refrigerator and air conditioner. The couple emphasises the importance of maintaining a safety fund to manage these expenses.

Another significant challenge is the unreliable mobile and internet connectivity in many locations. They often ride their bikes into nearby towns to update their social media accounts and YouTube channel and find parks or cafes with reliable WiFi. Despite these hurdles, Michael encourages others interested in a mobile lifestyle to try it, emphasising the rewarding nature of their experiences.

Embracing a New Way of Life

Shuttle bus reno
@sara_cokeley via Instagram

Michael and Sara's story is a testament to the possibilities that arise when one dares to step outside conventional norms. Their journey from traditional employment to a mobile, self-sustained lifestyle demonstrates how determination and creativity transform dreams into reality. By sharing their experiences, they offer valuable insights and inspiration to others contemplating a similar path.

Their decision to invest in a shuttle bus and convert it into a home on wheels has afforded them unparalleled freedom and flexibility. While the financial rewards of their previous jobs were substantial, the personal satisfaction and adventures they now enjoy far outweigh the monetary sacrifices. For those considering a similar venture, Michael and Sara's story serves as a powerful reminder that with passion and perseverance, a dream lifestyle is within reach.

Tips for Aspiring Bus Renovators

For those considering a similar lifestyle, there are several practical tips to remember. First, thorough research is essential before purchasing a bus. Inspecting the vehicle for mechanical issues and negotiating the price effectively is critical. Michael and Sara's experience underscores the value of having a clear plan and budget for renovations. Skills in carpentry and basic plumbing can significantly reduce costs, and investing in sustainable energy solutions like solar panels can enhance off-grid living. Additionally, setting aside a safety fund for unexpected repairs and being prepared for limited connectivity challenges are crucial for maintaining this lifestyle. Following these guidelines, aspiring bus renovators can embark on their own unique and rewarding journey.