Our Home on the Road

a circular white sticker with the letters PGH on it, stuck to the back of a VW Bus near the tail light


At the request of a few readers, today we’ll get out the camera and do a little Cribs: VW Bus Edition. What follows is a tour through our home on wheels, a 1978 Champagne Edition Volkswagen Bus Riviera Campwagen. Yeah, it’s a mouthful. We just call her the Bus.

a brown volkswagen bus with the camper top popped up sitting in a wooden area
Welcome to our two story home. The Bus is standing tall at the edge of a dirt hillside, top “popped” and under what shade the trees of this Georgian state park can afford.
a small campstove, a mini-fridge and a sink make up the kitchen of a volkswagen bus
You’re welcome to peak inside, everyone does. This is our fully functional kitchen. The stove is powered by a tiny 2.5 gallon propane tank that lives underneath the Bus. We cook some meals on it, but mostly use it to boil water to make coffee or clean the baby’s bottles. Behind it is our cabinetry, which houses a single cupboard, a pantry, a “junk drawer”, our mini-fridge and the sink (which can be powered via plugging directly into city water or from our small water tank which is stored underneath the closet).
a french press half full of coffee, a mug and a cup in the sink of a volkswagen bus
Welcome inside. Everything we have is very simple. No complicated automatic drip coffee makers, that would only serve one purpose. Instead we have a tiny French Press and mugs that can be used for everything from coffee to wine to soup. It’s ultra-important that we keep our possessions to a minimum, and in that vein we try and have multiple uses for each and every thing we own.
a paisley green couch with an orange pillow
Here is the heart of our home, the couch. It folds down into Renée and I’s bed. This is where our oldest son, Tristan, looks through stacks of Yugioh cards or watches the world go by as we travel. The Lady and I have spent more hours here than I can conceive to imagine counting. It’s been covered in sand, soot and dog fur. What you’re seeing isn’t the original upholstery, and it’s not even the current one…the couch gets alot of wear and tear, so we have to redo it just about every six months. It’s on its last leg as far as the mechanical parts that allow it to transform into our bed, but reupholstering it always ends up leaving behind some of the best memories we’ve had.
another view of the couch, this time with white and blue paisley upholstering and pillows all over it
Of course, the couch is rarely as clean as in the previous photo. Here’s our latest version of the decor and a view that gives you an idea of how close the couch is to the kitchen counter. We don’t mind the tight spaces so much, though. We’ve got the entire world as our backyard and we kind of love one another, so being skin to skin ends up working out.
the front passenger seat of a volkswagen bus
Before we head upstairs, lets take a quick peak into the cockpit. It’s actually very roomy up here, more so than any recently made car or mini-van. Renée and I take occasional mornings to sip coffee and plan our days out as loosely as possible, or have a few late night drinks over the atlas considering what course might prove us fruitful in seeking the next adventure. I often sit in the driver’s seat and write with an actual pen and paper, a sort of personal journal of our travels. Of course, it’s very close to the back two beds where the kids sleep, but it still feels removed enough to leave you feeling like you’ve got a little space to breathe.
the top bunk area of a volkswagen bus campervan
Welcome to the upstairs, also known as Tristan’s bedroom / storage when we’re parked. Be careful on your way up, it’s a little tricky navigating the couch to the counter to get up here. The sides all zip down to reveal screens to keep the air flowing and the bugs out. The adults have slept up here more than once, but more often than not this is where Tristan calls it a night.

Let’s head back downstairs and check out the dining room.

a picnic table and fire blaze in front of a volkswagen bus
Here we are, the dining room. Most of our meals aren’t cooked on the campstove, but over a fire. It’s incredibly satisfying to get good at making a fire in any weather, and even more so learning to cook over one. Think lots of tin foil and olive oil. We take advantage of any picnic tables we can find, too. In fact, we spend most of our time “at home” around the closest picnic table when we’re all hanging out as a family.
a blanket laid out in the grass in front of a vw bus
Of course, there’s not always a picnic table handy. Luckily, the Lady can build a front porch in about twenty seconds.
a yellow tent set up behind a picnic table with a lantern and some coffee making supplies
This is our ultra-light tent. Before this life, it was my one person on the go home when I went on bike tours like the one I did in 2007 down US 101. Since Renée and I have gotten together we’ve frozen our asses off in it atop the Saguaro mountains and have tried to get Tristan to call it his second bedroom, to no avail. These days we mostly use it for storage. On this particular occasion I had my guitar and a few of our other “valuables” stashed in there while we drove the Bus into Burlington, Vermont. Anyone could have gotten into it and stole our stuff, but to be honest, I don’t worry about that. Most people are more honest than the nightly news gives them credit, and when it comes down to it, our possessions just don’t matter that much. Sure, I’d be bummed if someone snatched my guitar, but would it be the end of the world?

Living in a little Bus like this is not for everyone, and we’re actually researching upgrade options (though I don’t consider anything an “upgrade” from a VW Bus). With our third son on the way, we’ve simply outgrown it. I’ll be utterly sad to see her go, she’s the one possession in this world I don’t think I will ever want to part with…but alas, the journey must go on.

Check out this website for more information on what it’s like to live in a Volkswagen Bus.