Taking the Lowest Road: One Skoolie at a Time


The skoolie – photo by Eden Hart

Tara Smith, Editor

Having just graduated in June 2021 after a hard second half of high school due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Eden Hart was searching for a way to fulfill a long time dream of hers. Eden, their brother Alex, and his partner Winter set out to convert a bus into a living space to travel across the country to California. With little money and little experience, the three of them set out to a skoolie, the popular name for converted buses.

The cat, Achilles, enjoying the skoolie life – photo by Eden Hart

Eden said, “It’s been a dream of mine to move to California after I graduated high school ever since my freshman year.” California is a “land of opportunity” for the creative arts and theatrical performance, which all three friends want to pursue.. After looking into a bunch of different unconventional and affordable ways to live, the three friends all decided that bus life would be the best route for them. Finding money to fund this project was one of the group’s biggest challenges. Eden spoke to the budget of the bus: “Our total budget was $10,000, which needed to cover the payment of the bus, wood for building walls, furniture, household supplies, our bathroom set up, our air conditioning and water set up, and the electrical equipment such as the batteries, solar panels, the inverter, etc..” Finding the money to fund this project wasn’t the only struggle the group faced.

The bus build was a “learning experience” with the added stress of wanting to make it to California before the start of the fall semester. The group found the electrical setup and air conditioning to be the most difficult items on the to-do list. Youtube became their best friend: “We watched a lot of Youtube tutorials, which were the number one thing that helped us throughout the project,” said Eden. Additionally Eden said, “Since we were doing all of this throughout the early summer months, we also had to limit the days we would work, based on whatever the forecast showed.” They faced a lot of road blocks, but that didn’t deter them from their dreams.

Not only did the group have to transition from living in Connecticut to California, but they also had to acclimate to the nuances of living in a bus: “the space is extremely limited, the temperature is much harder to control, and the overall different way of doing things was a big adjustment.” The group utilizes their outdoor space, as it can get very congested inside the bus. Eden says, “Living with a sibling can sometimes be challenging, but overall it’s made us closer in a unique way, because not many can say that they’ve gone through this experience together.” In general, Eden believes that “Through the good and bad, the really hot and really cold days, and the unexpected mishaps, we’ve all been there for each other, and that to me is what;s most important.”

The skoolie crossing a bridge – photo by Eden Hart

Once they had completed the conversion of their skoolie and hit the road, there were s uncertainties regarding where they could safely park the bus at night to sleep. This led to the discovery of an app called Harvest Host. Eden says, “The paid subscription for the app was $100/year, and we were encouraged to buy products from each place we stayed. The app includes animal farms, museums, wineries, and breweries that the property owners host stays on for people with skoolies and RVs.” The group stayed on mostly farms and said, “Since we were all raised in urban areas of Connecticut, being exposed to the different ways of life in the Midwest was a huge learning experience for all of us.”

The skoolie bus is from 1987 and there were surprisingly and thankfully no breakdowns, but there was a lot of “unexpected turmoil.” From losing their Yeti cooler in Amish Country, Pennsylvania because of the heat of their exhaust melting the cooler to a popped bus tire in the badlands of South Dakota, there were a lot of small mishaps along the journey. As Eden recalled the incident in South Dakota they said, “our bus’s AC needs to be plugged into electricity on the outside, so it doesn’t run while we are in motion. We were relying solely on windows to keep cool.” The bus needed a specific wheel that could only be found at one shop in South Dakota and was two hours out of the way of their route. For the safety of all of them, including their cat Achilles, they checked into a motel and stayed for four nights until the heat wave broke. The bus can only go a maximum of 45 mph downhill, so unfortunately the group had to stay away from mountains. As they were traversing through Yellowstone National Park they were using the GPS to take a “non mountain route,” but before they knew it they were gaining elevation and were all experiencing elevation sickness without even knowing what it was. Thankfully they made it safely to the peak of the mountain they were travelling up and are happy to now be out of the “. . . 106 degree weather, as well as the treacherous mountains.”

Two animals at a Harvest Host farm somewhere in the Midwest – photo by Eden Hart

The group traveled directly through the Midwest and stopped in 11 states including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Indiana, Nevada, and California. Eden says, “We made sure to stop at Yellowstone and Grand Teton to see all of the natural beauty and that was, by far, my favorite part of the trip.” 

Living in a bus does not have to mean a sacrifice of personal hygiene. Eden lays out some of the ways that they have been able to take showers, “Every few days during our 20 day trip, we stayed at a campground or RV park to take showers and do laundry when necessary.” On the days they did not stay at an official campground with access to bathroom facilities, they utilized a solar shower set-up. Now that they have reached their destination of Acton, a town in Los Angeles County, they have gym memberships that they use to exercise and shower.

Eden is unsure how long they will be living in the bus, but they are planning to further their education and artistic career with the hope of one day being able to afford an apartment in California. As of right now they are “currently content in our unique way of life.” Eden says their favorite part of bus life is all the lessons they have learned, including not getting discouraged from goals because of a few setbacks, stepping out of the comfort zone, and taking intimidating tasks step by step. Eden’s advice to anyone who is thinking about converting a bus is, “remain as positive as possible throughout the process, be confident in your ability, accept change and turmoil, and to keep your goal in mind, but be sure to take in all of the sights and experiences throughout your travels!” 

Go follow Eden, Alex, Winter, Achilles, and their journey in the bus on instagram @the_lowest_road to keep up to date on their latest adventures and maybe even some misadventures as they continue to learn about bus life.