The Realities of Living in a VW Bus

The ups, downs and all arounds of the realities of living in a 5x7 foot home.

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When I first decided that I would like no home more than a Volkswagen bay window bus, I was told that it was a somewhat unrealistic desire. I was warned that there would be much repair work, little space, lots and lots of time spent “fixing”. My reply, “Then I’ll fix it.”

No truer a statement would reveal itself as reality.

From my three months experience with living in one of these little tin sardine cans, I can safely say that they are not for anyone who’s afraid to have greasy fingernails, busted up hands and a thinned out pocketbook. Some truths:

Breakdowns

This is simply something that will be on your plate at all times. Our bus has a rebuilt engine and runs pretty well, when it’s running. But there have been many a morning when I’ve had to get into the engine and tinker, I’ve lost as much blood busting my hand open trying to reach into that small motor compartment as the bus leaks oil, and our local VeeW Unlimited repair folks find the old girl parked in their lot when they arrive in the morning enough to know her by name. The good news on this front is that there are plenty of parts still around for these old girls, in my experience, and if you’ve got even a sliver of engine inginuity in you (I had absolutely none when I first bought her), you’ll be able to do alot of the work yourself. Just find yourself a copy of the How to Keep Your Volkwagen Alive book and read, read, read yourself to sleep.

Cooking, Cleaning and Food Storage

If you like to cook lavish meals with loads of ingredients and all chopped up veggies, tasty sauces, and elegant layouts, forget it. There’s about as much counterspace as an escape pod sent from Krypton and given that you’ll likely have two burners maximum on what is essentially a camping stove, grilled cheese sandwiches and hot soup are about as fancy as it gets. We’ve learned to eat raw: fruit and veggies, some good bread and cheese can make for excellent meals and an incredibly healthy lifestyle. Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate. Lots of chocolate. And beer. And wine. And coffee. Coffee with Jameson in it. And just Jameson. Cigarettes help, too.

There’s also not a whole load of storage, so you’ll probably need to decide between having boxes of pasta around or underwear.

And the clean up is a pain. When I’m riding alone, I can keep her somewhat spic and slightly span, but add the boy or the lady, or both, and you’ve got a recipe for muddy floors, cluttered cabin space and all around messy. I like to live in the mess that my loved ones make though, and don’t mind a quick sorting every couple of days.

Exploration

How about some good news, you ask? Well I’ve got plenty of it. As far as mobile living goes, you can’t really beat a bus. Not even a Class B RV can fit as easily into a parallel parking spot as the bus, and so we are basically unlimited as to where we can go. If you can get there by car, you can get there by bus.

Gas Mileage

My house gets 26mpg. The end.

Social Butterflighting

Open the side door, sit there with a hippy girl or a cute little blue eyed 8 year old and you’ll have every interesting person in a quarter mile squared radius coming up to you. “Ah man, I always wanted to do that.” “Reminds me of my younger days!” “What?! You live in that?” Good times.

The Lifestyle

Living in a bus is not like living in a home. It is best suited, in my opinion, for those who prefer to be outside rather than in. In fact, you really can’t live in the bus if you’re going to be a tribe (as opposed to a loner type). You’ll want to get out around the fire, wander the beaches, hike up a trail or relax in a coffee shop.

Simply “the Feeling”

When another bus owner drives by, you both wave. Every.single.time. Hasn’t failed yet and that’s a great feeling. The way people look at you, teenage kids motioning for you to honk the horn, old hippy types smiling as you go by, it just makes you happy to be living this sort of life. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a decade now and whether it lasts another week or another much, much longer period, I am incredibly thankful for the experience.

And that’s what it’s all about, experiencing what you want to grab ahold of in life.

Any other questions? Feel free to ask in the comments ’cause this is certainly a conversation I love having.