Couple Converts School Bus Into Their Dream Home

Couple Converts School Bus Into Their Dream Home

By Iliana Guevara
PUBLISHED 4:22 AM ET Apr. 08, 2019 UPDATED 9:19 AM ET Apr. 08, 2019

LONG BEACH, CA – Richard Tilford makes morning coffee, while Elizabeth Hensley checks emails inside the Little House on the HWY. That is the name of their 34-foot-long converted 1996 Thomas International school bus, which has been their home for a few months.

Today they are in Long Beach, tomorrow they will be wherever their hearts’ desire. 

“You wake up, you brush your teeth you make coffee, you do a lot of the same things over and over again, but a lot of the times you’re in different areas - whatever is around you or outside is what you get to experience,” says Tilford as he pours boiling water into his coffee maker.

The couple realized that there is much more to life than mortgages. So one day in April 2018, for $2,500 they invested on their nomadic dream life.

It took them four months of hard labor to make it their home. They made their journey public, which not only pays some of the bills, but inspires others who want the bus life adventure. 

“We can’t have a ton of things and everything here has to have a purpose or like two purposes in order for it to be functional for our lifestyle,” says Hensley. 

They have a forty-gallon water tank under their full sized bed, a port-a-potty. They do their cooking on a Coleman stove and they shower at gyms. They have also installed solar panels to power their lights, fridge and electronics, which they use to document their life. Hensley also uses to power her computer as she is a freelance writer for various publications. 

However, sometimes there are setbacks.

“One challenge that we have living in the bus and driving to new places is sometimes finding a place to park,” says Tilford. 

Long-term parking for RV’s, busses or vans at night may not be as easy as it once was, especially in Los Angeles

But their network of "skoolies", or people who live in school bus conversions, have helped them on this journey. They have also created friendships along the way. 

“Being public is a sacrifice in order to show people that they can also do it and that there are solutions for people not having affordable housing and not able to live and make ends meet. Because we choose to live this lifestyle - some people don’t have that option,” says Hensley. 

So far, this couple has visited 25 states over the last six months. Their Future plans are to head up north to work on a farm. They will be using the money to pay for the next leg of their adventure.

“If I can sit in my house and watch other people come inside and watch them dream and know that this is possible and know that they have an option that they didn’t know was there - it’s like a really good rewarding situation,” said Hensley.

And for this couple, this road, has made all the difference.

Couple converts school bus for $2,500 into their dream home. (Spectrum News)

‘Little House On The Highway’: Couple Converts School Bus Into Home - 90.1 WABE Atlanta

‘Little House On The Highway’: Couple Converts School Bus Into Home


Elizabeth Hensley and her partner Richard Tilford are a couple on a mission.

For the past four months, they’ve traveled across 17 states in a refurbished school bus — all in the name of living life more simply and sustainably.

They call their new home their “Little House on the Highway.”

For Tilford, the process of selling his home and downsizing has been “freeing.”

“We had nice cars; we had a house full of stuff. But those material possessions started holding us back from what we wanted to do, which was explore and travel,” Tilford said.

But it’s been a long journey for the couple, even before they hit the road.

Fixing and refurbishing the bus required Hensley and Tilford to invest both time and money.

Hensley recalls spending days “scraping rust” out of the bus and mixing cement in a Home Depot parking lot.

By now, the couple believes they’ve spent $10,000 on bus repairs.

At one point, Tilford quit his job so he could dedicate time to fixing the bus.

But their hard work has paid off.

Inside, the bus has most typical home amenities, including a full-size bed and plush seating for guests or for where Tilford and Hensley can share a meal.

Small touches like paper lanterns and teal curtains make the space feel like home.

Still, the couple said it’s their memories of time spent on the road that matters to them now, not necessarily their belongings.

Through their travels, Tilford and Hensley have met a community of people living the same lifestyle, called “skoolies.”

Tilford and Hensley said the skoolies, who are active on YouTube, were instrumental in helping them learn to refurbish and care for the bus.

It’s this sense of community, and the ability to see the country, that the couple said make the hard work worth it.

There have also been low points. Hensley pointed out that they don’t have a shower — yet. Tilford also remembers the moment the bus broke down in West Virginia.

But Hensley and Tilford both agree that they could go even “tinier.”

“I could live in a smaller space. I think we have too much stuff and could organize better,” Hensley said.

Tilford added that he sees perks to downsizing as well, especially to cut down on gas mileage. Currently the couple gets 8 miles per gallon.

The couple doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon.

They want to head west next, now that Hensley has graduated with her master’s degree in American studies from Kennesaw State University.

“Most of all, we want to lead by example,” Hensley said. “We may not live like this forever … we’re very open.”

In Tilford’s words: “We’re take-the-chance kind of people.”