Tatum Meyer and Ben Sweeton became a couple at 16 and knew they would be taking life’s journey together. They also knew they needed to find a way to take that ride on a budget. So they found a skoolie and made it their first home together.
Meet the Expert
Californians Tatum and Ben Sweeton went from prom king and queen to Mr. and Mrs. in short order. Then they took to the road in a renovated bus to see where life would take them next. Follow their adventures @olathebus on Instagram.
Origin Story: Working Toward a Wedding
Ben and Tatum Sweeton started dating in high school and decided they wanted to get married young. Senior year, they decided that in order to afford getting married young, they would have to live in an RV or trailer. “After some consideration we decided that converting a school bus would be just for us,” Tatum says. “My parents saw it as an opportunity to support me while going to college and to take the place of a dorm room, since I would be married before graduating.”
In February 2020, Tatum and her dad found the school bus the couple now lives in. Over the next 6 months, the Sweetons worked on the bus day and night in between school, sports, extra activities and graduation. “We had so much support and help from family and friends, and I was able to move in that summer,” says Tatum. “We finished up the last touches, and Ben moved in after we got married in July of 2021.”
The conversion was a lot of work, she says. “But with motivation and support, it was a fun process that we will forever be proud to say we did at just 17 years old.”
Finding Room to Grow in a Small Space
As with any project, especially one you are doing for the first time, things didn’t always go as planned on the Sweetons' bus buildout. But this team didn’t let setbacks keep them down. “We have come to find things we had to figure out in a new way.” Tatum says.
“Instead of viewing things that don’t go our way as problems, we see them as opportunities to learn. In the beginning we learned a lot about handiwork, then about how to keep things (like our microwave) from flying across the bus when we drive. We learned how to keep the gross smell out from tanks and how to work together to maneuver our massive, 40-foot bus through small streets.”
Experiences, Not Excess
When you live in a tiny space, there really is nowhere to “get away.” That was not a problem for Tatum and Ben. “We have noticed that being in a small space allows us to be more adventurous as we are forced to get outside every day,” Tate says. “We have been able to prioritize making memories over having items because we have limited space.” Saving money that they would be spending on rent and using that to travel has been one of the couple’s favorite parts of their bus adventure. “I’ve enjoyed seeing how little we can live with and continue learning how little we need.”
Top Tip: Know What You Want
In most builds, whether it’s a tiny house, cabin in the woods, mansion or a bus, you factor unexpected costs into the budget. Ben and Tatum didn’t have to worry about that issue. “We didn’t have unexpected costs, because we went into it knowing every build is different and we had a wide range to work with,” says Tatum. “My parents funded the build as my college fund, which we will forever be thankful for.”
She says that when it comes to living expenses, it really comes to what you want from your life. “We wanted to have a home base near the beach for when Ben is working, so we pay monthly rent that is a fraction of the cost of an apartment,” she says. “When we travel in the bus we stay on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, so it’s free!”
Holding on to a Minimalist Mindset
One question people always seem to have for those living in small spaces is “Are you doing this forever?” The answers to that question are generally as varied as the people themselves. ”We are comfortable and content in our bus and having the freedom it offers,” Tatum says. “We have some adventures coming this year that may change our mindset on some things but I hope to be able to live tiny for a while.” (A peek at recent Instagram posts reveals that the couple is expecting their first child!)
Bus life has definitely left an impression on how the Sweetons look at the balance of things vs. moments. “I think it is good to live minimally even if you live in a giant house! We will go where the Lord leads us and if that is into a house, then so be it. As of now, we will remain in the bus until the foreseeable future.”