Hungry for a life of travel and adventure, Cody and Laura Smith, also known as A Tale of Two Smittys, set out to build a home fit for life on the road. But instead of going the conventional RV route, they converted a 2009 Bluebird Vision bus into a 200-square-foot tiny home on wheels. Since then they’ve traveled across the country, living out their dream. We caught up with the Smiths to hear their story and what it’s like living on the road.
Meet the Expert
Origin Story: A Life Inspired by Expedition Happiness
Married for six years, Cody and Laura love to travel. However, they found that with such limited vacation time from their previous jobs, they could only afford to travel for friends’ and family events — never just for themselves.
“We wanted to figure out a way to travel for our own enjoyment, while still making it to important events,” says Cody.
One film, at the time available on Netflix, convinced them that it was possible: Expedition Happiness. It follows a German couple as they convert a bus into a tiny house and travel throughout North America. After discovering the potential of converting a bus, they started researching what a conversion would look like. They considered other vehicles, but at every turn a bus seemed like the right choice.
Thus, their bus TOTS was born. They purchased it in 2019, and after about a year of self-converting the bus, they officially moved in at the end of December 2020. January 2021, they hit the road.
A Tiny House With Plenty of Room
With this being their first bus conversion, and their first dive into tiny living, the Smiths made sure to include plenty of space for what they felt they’d need on the road.
“We were concerned about it feeling too cramped, so we decided that doing a straight line layout (one straight walkway down the middle) would allow us to build large spaces on either side of the entire length of the bus,” explains Laura.
They customized their shelves to house all of their personal items and added a wood stove for warmth and aesthetics. As a dual purpose item, they added a convertible sofa bed to their build for lounging and guests. Underneath houses their electrical components. The pantry also serves two purposes of holding food, looking aesthetically appealing and visually dividing the living and kitchen area from the office, bathroom and bedroom areas.
However, their favorite part of their tiny home is their work space. They both work full time for a Texas-based outdoor living company. Cody makes pre-sales Zoom calls with prospective clients, and Laura does 3D graphic renderings to help clients envision their future outdoor space.
“Since we both work, having a large, six-foot desk has been a life saver,” Cody says. “We can sit comfortably side-by-side all day while enjoying the view of wherever we're parked out the huge windows in front of us.”
Deeper Relationships and Financial Freedom
Since moving into the bus, Cody and Laura have found that they have cultivated stronger friendships quicker than they ever had before.
“There is a common string that connects all nomads, and conversations are often more intentional, deep and authentic.” Laura notes. “We have had the opportunity to watch countless ‘Instagram friends’ become some of our closest ‘real-life’ friends, and we owe that all to this lifestyle.”
Bus life has also affected their finances.
“Once we moved onto the bus and no longer paid rent, renter's insurance, two car payments and the accompanying insurance, we are proud to say that after about a year, we are officially debt free! Something we thought would take years and years to achieve,” says Laura.
Advice for Aspiring Bus Life Nomads
Cody and Laura documented their build on YouTube and Instagram and have grown a following of current and aspiring nomads. Their advice to anyone interested in bus life is to have a clear vision of what they want bus life to provide that is lacking from their current lifestyle, then build the bus and travel plans to best meet those needs.
“Someone told us early on that moving into a bus doesn't automatically change who you are or what your hobbies are,” says Laura. “If all you do in your ‘normal’ lifestyle is work and watch TV, moving into a bus won't change that. You need to put a solid effort into making the changes you want to see in yourself.”
They also want people to understand that while bus life is rewarding, the lifestyle is a lot of work. For the Smiths, they both work full time, create content for social media, travel the country, plus enjoy time with friends and family, all while figuring out where they're going to sleep each night, fill up on fresh water and dump their garbage.
“This is a very hands-on lifestyle that requires both flexibility and organization often at the same time,” explains Laura. “The freedom and experiences that come with travel are an invaluable piece of this journey and we think if you're up to it, this is a life-changing way to live.”
What’s Next: More Travel For Now
The Smiths committed to one full year of bus life when they first moved into their tiny house. They hit their one-year anniversary in January 2022 and say they have no specific plans for stopping anytime soon.
“One day, we would love to plant some roots with land of our own and build a more traditional home to enjoy—mainly just one that doesn't move,” says Cody. “This experience is revealing to us what is important in our lives and will ultimately help us decide what that next home might look like and where it might be.”