Travel North America in An Off-Grid Skoolie
At one point or another, most of us have dreamt of living a carefree lifestyle of freedom and traveling. No alarm clocks, lunch hours, TPR reports, and spreadsheets to be handed to the boss. Traveling and living full time in an off-grid skoolie is the solution.
Imagine being mortgage-free, no utility bills to keep track of every month, no HOA nazis breathing down your neck because your lawn is higher or thicker than normal. There is a way to escape that lifestyle for one of freedom, adventure, and ever-changing scenery.
It is much simpler and attainable than most people think it is. It requires a fire and desire in your heart and gut to make something happen! Nat has always told me, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
If you keep accepting the status quo. If you keep living a life and lifestyle that modern society has deemed and indoctrinated us to believe is “normal”, then you will continue to dream and tell yourself, “One day I am going to ______.” (fill in the blank for your dreams)
Living and traveling full time in an off-grid skoolie was the vehicle, no pun intended, to make that happen for us. Since we left our “normal” lifestyle, life has never been more exciting or better!
What Is An Off-Grid Skoolie?
An off-grid skoolie is a type of motorhome, but unlike the traditional “Winnebago” type of motorhome, an off-grid skoolie is designed to be, well, off-grid. The unofficial definition of the skoolie is a retired school bus that has been converted into a motorhome.
Traveling in an off-grid skoolie means that you are not dependent on the electrical grid for power. Carry an ample supply of fresh water and have the ability to filter water from raw sources such as lakes, ponds, or rivers.
Having a solar system that allows you to harness the energy of the sun is a very empowering feeling. Knowing that you are responsible for your own electricity based on your own individual needs allows you to park and camp almost anywhere that is legal.
Why Should I Travel in An Off-Grid Skoolie?
There are so many reasons and advantages of living and traveling in an off-grid skoolie.
The main reason Nat and I decided to sell our home, transition into a remote income job situation, and travel in an off-grid skoolie was so that we could experience life and adventure while we are still mentally and physically able to do so.
Our mantra when we first started building our first skoolie was, “Adventure Before Dementia!”
We had both traveled abroad more than we had traveled right here in the United States and Canada. We knew there was so much of our own beautiful country we wanted to see and experience that waiting another twenty years to do so was out of the question.
A huge advantage of converting a school bus into a skoolie is the cost. Retired school buses can easily be purchased for less than $10,000.
These school buses have been meticulously maintained by their respective school districts and the basic construction of a school bus makes it one of the safest forms of road travel there is.
For a DIY build, it is reasonable to expect to invest another $10,000 to $20,000 for the build itself. This would include a full off-grid solar setup, freshwater, and living quarters.
For an equally comparable RV or Motorhome, you can expect to spend a minimum of twice that amount. Not only would you be spending much more money on a pre-manufactured motorhome, but the quality for the price would also be far less desirable.
To be able to travel across the country in a comfortable, custom-built, off-grid skoolie for less than $30,000 total investment is nothing less than epic!
Besides the cost of purchasing and building an off-grid skoolie, the other expenses to consider are fuel costs, insurance, and a mobile wifi data plan. These costs compared to a mortgage, rent, and utilities however are pennies on the dollar.
Most skoolies are DIY. If you search on YouTube, there are countless videos on converting a school bus into a skoolie as well as living and traveling in a skoolie. This is a great blog post explaining in more depth what a skoolie is and the different types of skoolies available.
Your style, your personality, and your needs. This is one of the things we love so much about a DIY school bus conversion. You build your skoolie exactly how you want it and how you need it to maximize your living and traveling experience.
There are several different types of skoolies you can convert to an off-grid skoolie. If you are not familiar with the different styles and options of school bus conversions, read this blog post to learn more.
The only thing you are limited by is your imagination and your budget. The nice thing about your budget limitations though is that you can take as much time as you want or need to build, change and upgrade any part of your build.
Park and Camp Anywhere
If your off-grid skoolie can safely navigate the road, trail, or open land to park, and legally do so, then you potentially have a private and serene place to live and park for a little while.
One of our favorite places to park and camp is on BLM land and dispersed camping land. These are areas of Federal land that have been opened to the public for camping. Most dispersed and BLM locations will allow you to camp for up to 14 days before having to move to a new location.
Once you have reached the 14 days, you will need to move, usually 5-10 miles from your current location. You can then park and camp at your new spot for another 14 days. You can safely do this for as long as you want.
Is It Difficult To Build An Off-Grid Skoolie?
One of the most common questions we get from others who are exploring diving into the skoolie lifestyle is “Is it difficult to build an off-grid skoolie?”
It is a very subjective question with a very deliberate answer. It is not difficult to build and convert your own off-grid skoolie.
The main skills needed to build your own off-grid skoolie are resolve, determination and diligence. You have to want to accomplish the goal more than you are afraid you can not do it.
Our background before taking on the challenge of building our first off-grid skoolie was forensic science, insurance and real estate for Don and Nat was a web developer and freelance artist.
Neither of us had any carpentry, solar, plumbing, or electrical experience and background.
We did however have YouTube! We watched countless hours of YouTube learning and absorbing information and then applying that knowledge to applications in our build.
There are thousands of other people who have the same dreams of freedom and traveling at their discretion. One of the greatest assets we have utilized is the skoolie community. Through Facebook, Instagram and gatherings, there are hundreds of good people who are on the same journey as you and willing to share their knowledge, experience, and hands to help you along!
Remember, Nothing Changes, If Nothing Changes! Stop waiting for that “One Day I am going to….” Make it happen and embrace it.
See you out on the road in your own off-grid skoolie!
Don and Nat