How Empty Nesters Converted a 1994 Bluebird Bus Into a Tiny Home

by Simplify

Pamela and Jim knew that they wanted to travel once their youngest had graduated high school. After a few months of renting out their house and tent camping on the weekends, they were ready for school bus home living.

The couple bought a 1994 Bluebird bus with a 5.9L 12-valve Cummins diesel engine with an Allison Transmission for $800 dollars. They then carried out a frugal and innovative school bus home conversion that turned their skoolie into a beautiful home, named “Sugarbear”.

Pamela and Jim lived and traveled on their 1994 Bluebird as they embarked on their adventure of converting a school bus into a home. As they visited different places, they stopped at different homeware, thrift, and secondhand stores, snatching up deals when they saw them.

They bought a used couch for $15 dollars, then Pamela taught herself how to paint the fabric by watching online videos. After 7 coats of paint, she was able to transform the outdated couch into a nice gray that complements the interior of their school bus tiny home.

The couple also bought custom-made flooring that had been returned to Lowes at a discount and donated the leftover material to a friend who was starting his own tiny home conversion process.

Yellow school bus

By raising the roof of the bus by 20 inches, Pamela and Jim acquired extra storage space that they used for their floor-to-ceiling fridge/freezer and pantry. Their focus on storage also dominated their bedroom design, so they downsized from a king-size to a queen-size bed in order to create room for a closet, which houses the ladder they use to get into their raised bed.

One of the most interesting aspects of this school bus transformed into a home is its skoolie bathroom. Jim designed the compost toilet himself; it looks like a regular toilet but was made to accommodate taller people since both Jim and Pamela are on the tall side. It has a bucket with a liner and an elongated funnel so that everything stays separate.

The urine, sink water, and shower water go into the graywater system, which Jim drains out by opening up a drain and hooking up to it using a garden spigot. The skoolie bathroom dimensions are on the large side at 4'6 x 5'2, giving it a spacious feel. The on-demand hot water heater means that they can enjoy a nice hot shower on the bus.

Pamela and Jim also have practical suggestions for how to earn money while traveling: They’ve worked serving tables and bartending, as well as remote jobs. They recommend working for Uber or DoorDash if you have a second vehicle. In order to allow them to work remotely and watch movies, Pamela and Jim have a weBoost for their Verizon cell signal and use their unlimited data to go online.

When they first considered creating their school bus home, Pamela and Jim were inspired by online tiny home tours like the one that they now give in this video:

They are extremely grateful for the friends they made along their journey who helped them with different parts of converting a school bus into a home—such as installing plumbing—and for YouTube tutorials that helped them master different renovation skills.

1994 Bluebird Bus Conversion

Through lots of hard work and determination, their 1994 Bluebird bus has become a beautiful home that can serve as an inspiration to others.

For more skoolie inspiration, read how the Davis family converted their off-grid school bus home with a toddler in tow!

To see more videos, check out the Tiny Home Tours YouTube page.

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2 of 6 comments
  • Kj peterson Kj peterson on Apr 17, 2023

    Ingenuity! Bravo! Thanks for sharing your traveling adventures…

  • Vincent Vincent on Apr 22, 2023

    The front end looks completely different. Has a Ford plate on grill. Before photo has different shape and no Ford plate. What gives?