Trevor Stutzman is a sophomore physics-engineering major who took the spring semester to remodel and live in a school bus. Stutzman has been living out of his bus in remote sections of Southern Colorado and New Mexico since the end of February.

I have been living in a school bus with my dog Rafiki for six weeks. It’s been an amazing experience for both of us. 

Rafiki is 12, and when we left home, she was fat and clearly quite old. After 6 weeks, she’s slimmed down, gained lots of energy and seems years younger. I feel like the same has happened to me as well. 

Gary, the school bus, has been a literal vehicle to a simpler and less cluttered life, which I’ve really enjoyed. 

I was excited to build Gary this semester, half because of how much I would enjoy building it, and half because of how much I would enjoy living in what is essentially a tiny home. 

I’m not totally sure why I enjoyed building the bus so much, but I know it felt immensely satisfying to build something that I knew I would be living in myself. 

I was able to list what I wanted and what my priorities were and then make the bus fit my needs. It’s satisfying to know where every wire runs, and why everything is where it is. So far, everything has worked as I wanted it to.

One of the things I’ve loved most about living in the bus has been how little resources I use. 

For example, I use about three gallons of water a day, which means I can go two weeks without refilling my tank. My propane use is about 1-2 gallons per week; so my tank can last up to 3 weeks. 


Stutzman with his dog in the desert


My devotion to consuming as little as possible means I drive as little as possible, which sometimes means I don’t hike on trails as much as I would like to. But driving as little as possible means I feel much more present in my setting. 

It also means I pay more attention to my surroundings, seeing if I can find interesting places to camp without needing to move very much. I started to appreciate even the most random stretches of National Forest. 

I’ve also learned to be content in a small living space. I only wished that the bus was bigger on one occasion, which was when I had some family visiting me.  I’ve wished that the bus was smaller more often than I wished that it was bigger. 

There is research that suggests Americans only live in roughly half of the footprint of their homes, and somehow, I’ve found that’s true for my 100 square foot bus, too. I spend 95% of my time in the middle half of the bus where the bed, sink and my favorite side of the table are. The rest, like the storage areas and bathroom are also necessary, but I don’t spend much time in them.

I’ll be selling Gary in mid-May because there aren’t really opportunities to live in it for the next several years. I’ll be sad to no longer have my bus, but I’m glad that I took the opportunity to build and live in it when I had the chance this semester. 

To anyone who has ever thought about living in a bus or van, I highly encourage you to try it. 

I recommend designing your system to allow for as much time off-grid as possible, using as little gas as possible and traveling slowly. A life on the road can be achieved on as little money or as much money as you want, so if you get the chance to make it happen, do it.  

Here’s one last tip: take a dog along.