By Mark McConville
MEET the British woman who packed up her life with her American family into a stunning converted school bus and travelled around the country.
Debbie Mayes (33), from Wigan, UK, met husband Gabriel (35), from Angleton, Texas, at a ministry school in Illinois and married after two years of dating.
The couple now have four children – Gracen (10), Darby (7), Deacon (5), Jovey (almost 2) – and made the decision to buy and refurbish a school bus after becoming miserable in their 5000-square-foot house.
It cost £27k to buy and convert the bus into a liveable space fit for their family and the refurbishment took six months.
“We were living in a 5000-sq-ft house with Gabriel working multiple jobs, sometimes working until the early hours of the morning,” said Debbie.
“We have always had someone living with us since we married 12 years ago. And we very much believed that our value was based on what we did.
“Things emotionally started to fall apart. We were both miserable and disconnected so realized we needed to change everything about our life.
“I saw a YouTube video of Expedition Happiness on Facebook and instantly knew we would rock that lifestyle. Gabriel was a little sceptical but we were both knew that we were supposed to head to California so thought it would be the perfect way to reconnect as a family and head that way.”
The Mayes family have so far clocked up 3,000 miles in their bus travelling through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada before finishing their trip in California.
Debbie insists the bus life has brought the family closer together and the children love the freedom is brings.
“The best thing is how connected our family has become,” she explained.
“We used to find ourselves all spending time in different rooms of the house but now the kids read to each other in their bunks, go on biking adventures and we all curl up together on the couches and watch movies.
“Being in such a tiny space can be stressful but we have so much more opportunity to talk it through and connect. It’s completely changed us.
“The children are able to explore and travel and as a family we are so much more focused on each other. Life is so much simpler now. Stuff is not as important to us, we spend much more time outside or having fun experiences as a family.
“We are much more in tune with our emotions and the emotions of the other members of our family. We are using this time to get out of debt (almost there!) and save money so that we can build our forever home.”
While the family have enjoyed their time on the road they have fallen in love with Northern California and plan to settle there.
Debbie also had a message for anyone wishing to follow in their footsteps and hit the road in their own van or bus.
“We plan to travel in the bus over the summer either to Alaska or Mexico and we are hoping to buy some land in California so we can live on it in the bus while we build a home,” she said.
“We are always going to keep the bus either as an Airbnb or to travel in it as a family. The kids already argue about who is going to have the bus when they are an adult.
“Don’t waste time worrying about what other people will think or if everything is perfectly planned. We get so many emails from people who are miserable with their current life and want to do something similar and there is always a BUT (well paying job they can’t leave, family that disagrees etc).
“If you are unhappy with where you are at you are only ONE decision away from changing everything and you will feel so much freedom when you start living your life the way YOU feel called to live it.
“Sometimes starting can just mean minimizing what you already have, or not living beyond your means – taking any step in that direction will get your momentum going, you don’t have to make a sudden big leap like we did.”
For more information see https://www.instagram.com/themayesteam/