By Scott Thompson
FAMILY-OF-EIGHT ditched their belongings to move on to a bus they bought on eBay for TEN-THOUSAND-POUNDS – even though family warned their kids would be KIDNAPPED or MAULED BY BEARS.
Owners of Cedar Bend Labradoodles, Whitney (29) and her husband Andrew Chardoulias (35) from Muscatine, Iowa, USA, moved to the beach in South Mississippi in September 2014 when Whitney fell in love with the idea of travelling.
Taking care of five children, she spent pockets of time browsing through Instagram feeds where she was totally inspired by families who had converted school busses and travelled the country. When she brought her desires up with her husband, Andrew quickly bought into the idea and they started working towards achieving their dream.
When they first told everyone, others were not in favour and even her own mother was certain that great harm would come to her and her family, but determined to prove them wrong, they rid themselves of a third of their belongings, stored the rest at her parents’ house and moved on board their £48,300 ($63,000) home on wheels in July 2019.
When not travelling, the bus sits on land at Whitney’s parents’ farm. During the day the couple work on their dog breeding business while the children attend school, but next year the couple are hoping to start home schooling so that they can travel more frequently.
Due to cold nights the family are now temporarily all sleeping in the farmhouse at night while sorting out the insulation on their bus, but as soon as that is fixed they intend to get back on the bus full time.
“I’m a mum to four children Quincy, seven, Fletcher, four, Rowe, two and River, one. When Andrew used to be in the Air Force and our daughter, Quincy was two we spent four and half months in Biloxi, Mississippi. I grew up inland in Muscatine, Iowa, and never really saw the ocean or a beach before. Our place was right by the beach and I loved it so much and dreaded coming home,” Whitney said.
“I had seen other families on Instagram living in a converted bus and travelling the country and I was so envious. I remember telling Andrew I didn’t want to be old and grey and wishing we had travelled more. I told him about the busses and asked him ‘why not us?’
“He bought the idea and when we told friends and family, they were against it at first. My mum was especially convinced that our kids would be kidnapped or mauled by bears. They have all come around to it now though and our friends think it’s really cool.
“We bought our bus on eBay for £9,970 ($13,000). Renovations cost £15,300 ($20,000) but we also needed to change the engine and transmission which cost £23,000 ($30,000). The bus is 45-foot-long and eight foot wide. It includes a full kitchen, living room, toy room, bathroom with a tub, king size bed and three bunks. We have extra sleeping space on a sofa that opens into a double bed.
“Finally on July 21, 2019 we moved onboard. My husband has two other children Brenna, 15, and Bria, 10, who live with their mum so they don’t get to travel with us as much but we love it when they can.
“The kids are at school during the daytime and me and Andrew both work on our dog raising business and helping maintain the farm.
“As days and nights got colder, we quickly learned that our insulation wasn’t enough. We sprayed foam in our ceilings, but we are going to need to take down our walls and add extra insulation. The floors are particularly cold so unfortunately until this is sorted, we are sleeping in my parents’ house as the nights are just too cold.
“We found an efficient way of storing the heat from the roof so that it acts as a radiator inside the bus through the night. This is known as engine heat projection and as soon as this is done, we will be back on the bus.”
The family have covered nine states and over 5,000 miles since they started their journey just a few short months ago. Despite lacking a schedule and the mechanical issues they’ve experienced so far the family love travelling to new places.
“Our kids have been excited every step of the way and we’ve covered more than 5,000 miles now across the states of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky and Indiana,” Whitney continued.
“Sure, sometimes it’s been difficult not having a consistent schedule, and it was hard to get our two-year-old to take normal naps while travelling, and our four-year-old struggles with change. We have quickly learned not to cram too much into each day. We narrowed this down to one outing in the morning and one in the afternoon. Any more than this and our kids were overtired.
“The best thing about this journey is travelling and seeing our children experience new things. Every time we get back ‘home’ they ask us when we are leaving again. Also I love only having to clean 360 sq. feet each day, though I must admit I don’t enjoy doing the kids bunks.
“For a large family it’s been very good for our budget too and I would guess that we spend only around £1,150 ($1,500) a month.
“If you want to live in an RV, bus, van or tiny home, don’t buy the first one you see. Do your research and talk to people. Talk to those who have walked this road before and absolutely get a professional outside mechanic to look at the vehicle before making any final purchase.
“I think everyone starts this process by thinking that they could never do this and that it’s just not possible for them for whatever reason. I think it’s possible for anyone who really wants to do it. You just have to overcome one obstacle at a time.
“You will hit bumps with anything you do in life all you have to do is figure out a remedy for them and move without ever giving up.
“We consider ourselves incredibly blessed. We simply love our bus and we can’t wait to experience more adventures in it.”
You can follow the families journey on Instagram