A mum has shared how she and her husband transformed their son’s old school bus into a holiday home-on-wheels for the family.
The parents spent just £4,000 on the project and did the work themselves, with the help of YouTube videos.
Tracy Walker, 39, and husband Jamie, 43, decided to pursue their dream of travelling with their two children, Archie, seven, and Isaac, four, when Archie’s school put the old bus for sale in September 2020.
The couple, who live in Bristol, bought the vehicle for just £1,000. Even better, the 17-seater bus had only 34,000 miles on the clock.
‘It was a bit of an impulse buy to be honest, but a bargain not to be missed,’ Tracy said.
‘I always had the bug for travelling and seeing the world – more so now I have kids – and I want them to see and learn about different cultures and ways of living.’
Naming the bus Betty, the pair began the transformation journey by ripping out everything from seats and carpets to rubber flooring.
However, to their shock, rust patches were discovered and needed to be fixed immediately.
They took the windscreen out and sealed every crack they could see.
They also learned the van was prone to leaking, so Jamie drilled a hole in the floor as a temporary solution.
Furthermore, the couple replaced front discs, pads and callipers, and fitted the bus with a new battery.
Tracy said: ‘We ripped everything back to its shell, sealed everything and started with the insulation.
‘There was so much conflicting information online with what to do and how to use it.
‘We used Celotex and expanding foam to hold in place and make sure there were no air holes. In the gutter and doors where we couldn’t use Celotex, we used recycled bottle insulation wool. We then vapour barriered it all – that made our van look like a space ship.
‘With the flooring we did the same but we cut out all the grooves as we didn’t want to lose the head space.’
The next step in the restoration was cladding the ceiling and inserting electrical wiring and putting plywood on the walls.
To aid them, the couple used YouTube videos to learn how to do everything and had help from an electrician friend, Justin, who assisted with electrics and welding.
‘There was nothing we didn’t do apart from the electrics and welding,’ Tracy explained.
‘We drilled holes in the delicate fibre glass roof, side panel and floor for things like solar, vent, fan, and electric hook-up – that was scary as a wrong measurement means you have a hole in your vehicle.
‘We learnt as we went along and made so many errors, but just had to adapt and make it as a feature or live with it. I would lie if I didn’t say we nearly divorced a hundred times – and lost count of how many times we said ‘never again’.
‘We did all the work outside our home on the road too; often we would rotate so someone could be with the kids or we got them to help us.’
As space is limited, to maximise it the dining table is also a pull out bed for the family to sleep on. While overhead cupboards and compartments were added to minimise clutter.
When it came to interiors, the family decided on bohemian neutral tones and left the exterior in its original form.
Archie’s school motto ‘learning today for life tomorrow’ remains painted on.
In total, they have spent £4,000 on the renovations, which were completed in August 2021.
Tracy has documented their journey on Instagram (@never_stop_exploring_vanlife), where she shares snaps of the family’s travels.
Their most recent road trip was to Wales where they visited castles and beaches.
Next, they hope to tour Europe in the van. Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Romania are destinations at the top of their list.
‘I don’t think there is anywhere we don’t want to go,’ Tracy said.
‘We would love to take a year out while the kids are young but financially we don’t know if that will be possible.
‘But we have so many places in the UK that need exploring. Archie is so excited that we have the school bus and has to tell everyone that it’s his.
‘We are so blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity.’
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