Many people dream of traveling full-time. Savannah King and Drew Richter have made that dream a reality. Musicians and creators, they’ve been traveling in a 23-foot-long converted shuttle bus with their dog, Mateo, for about a year. They’re taking us inside their amazing home on wheels for the story behind what got them started and how it’s changed their lives.
Meet the Expert
Origin Story: From Van Life to Bus Life
Before moving into a bus, King and Richter lived in a 1987 Ford e250 high-top camper van for four years.
“Our motivation was financial freedom and the ability to sustain ourselves from our music and creative endeavors,” says King.
Unfortunately, when everyone was sent into a global lockdown in early 2020, they lost all of their touring income and were forced to become stationary for a while. That’s when they made the bold choice to sell their van and convert a shuttle bus.
They bought a 2007 Ford e450 bus that was a former Children’s Hospital of Boston shuttle bus. The vehicle itself is 23 feet long and has 112 square feet of living space.
“[Building it] was a huge learning curve and took about 2,000 hours of labor and research over five months,” explains Richter, “But the result was a home we built with our own hands that is truly a reflection of who we are.”
Creating an Open Aesthetic with Storage and Design
After living in a 75-square-foot van for four years, King and Richter had a good idea of what they wanted and needed in their bus conversion. “We knew that both the functionality and aesthetic feeling of an open space was our priority,” says King.
They designed an open floor plan with only one full wall for their bathroom. The rest had windows that let in lots of sunlight.
They also got creative with storage solutions. They designed overhead cabinets, a large closet at the foot of the bed, and added under-bed storage. They also concealed their fridge and freezer in sliding drawer spaces under the counters.
“All of this kept the aesthetic feel of an open layout while remaining extremely functional,” explains Richter.
Financial Freedom on the Road
King and Richter said they have more freedom now than ever before. They often make travel plans that take advantage of the changing seasons, spending summers on the east coast and winters in the southwest. And they’ve built relationships with people from all walks of life, says King.
However, the greatest thing that bus life has given them is a lower cost of living that allows them to work when and how they want.
In summer 2021, they spent time building out a second shuttle bus to sell. They documented the entire process on their Youtube channel. They also sell downloadable build plans and accept custom build projects.
“[Bus life] has given us the freedom to try new things without worrying about looming fixed monthly costs like rent, utilities or car payments,” notes Richter.
With an irregular income, they’ve been able to adjust their cost of living depending on how much money they make each month. For example, if they have less work in one month, they’ll choose to drive less to save money on gas.
“While this lifestyle is by no means free, our overhead is significantly lower than a traditional path,” King explains.
Pros and Cons of Bus Life
King and Richter’s favorite thing about their build is simply being able to move it. They can choose where and how to spend their time, while still feeling at home. “We don’t have to sacrifice any of the comforts of home while traveling for work or on adventures,” explains Richter.
However, having a home and vehicle in one comes with its own set of challenges. “Vehicles break down and when they do, your house goes into the mechanic shop with the vehicle,” notes King. “This can be stressful in the moment.”
Advice for People Designing their Builds
For anyone interested in bus life, King and Richter advise them to be realistic about their DIY abilities, budget, and why they want to do it in the first place.
“You don’t need to start with a huge budget to get into a bus that will give you freedom,” Richter says. “There is nothing wrong with starting simple and not spending a lot of money.”
They admit that their first van was a fraction of what they spent to build their bus, but it allowed them to discover that they loved the lifestyle.
They also want to paint a realistic picture of life on the road: “There is a lot about this lifestyle that is difficult and inconvenient such as having to get water, dumping tanks, mechanic bills, finding places to park, etc.,” admits King. “[However] it is out of those struggles that you get the beautiful moments and freedom.”
What’s Next: Continuing Life on the Open Road
After six years on the road, neither King nor Richter have plans to stop traveling anytime soon.
Before they built their bus, they briefly considered building a stationary tiny home, but couldn’t decide where they wanted to stay permanently.
“That was a clear indication that we still wanted to be on the road and weren’t quite ready to be stationary,” says Richter. “Our plans are always evolving and we look forward to what the future holds!”
Rapid Fire Questions
Favorite area of your home:
Something you had to get rid of to live here:
Drew: I actually had to buy a few things.
Savannah: Our van was smaller, so we actually upgraded.
Biggest monthly expense:
Most challenging spot to keep organized:
Savannah: Under-bed storage
Favorite appliance that makes tiny home living easier:
Drew: Solar and battery bank
Savannah: The Dickinson vented propane heater
Something you learned while forced to be stationary:
Drew: Nothing is guaranteed and plans are only placeholders.
Savannah: Appreciation for living in solitude in nature.
Favorite overnight parking spot:
Drew: Sonoran desert. The best stargazing!