In August 2011, we gave away all of our possession and bought a 1984 MCI-9 Motorcoach (bus). Over the course of two months we would begin the conversion process with the help of many friends, neighbors and family. We departed Green Bay, WI in our bus on Oct 13, 2011, with the exterior walls, couch, dinette and master bed in tact. The rest of the bus was a container. We set off for our first stop in Sister, OR where another handful of friends and family helped us build out the kitchen cabinets, framing bedrooms and installing the electrical system. We left Oregon and as we traveled we built out what we could, when we had the resources and time. Over the course of the next three years we installed the plumbing system and finished off the bathroom complete with a shower and hot water. We have traveled over 60,000 miles, through 36 states. We are peace pilgrims, folk revivalists, and merrymakers. And, this is our home today.
PS. Video was filmed on an I-Phone 4 and we realize the quality isn’t ideal but hopefully you get a good glimpse for now. Also, here is the first design floor plan drawn by our friend, Marc Brummel. We adapted it as we built, moving the shower, sink and toilet but the basic design is the same.
We spent three nights at one of our favorite camp grounds in the US, Fontainebleau State Park. The park costs $18 a night for a paved drive, Elect/Water hook ups and sits on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s about a 40 minute drive from the park to downtown New Orleans. Perfect for a day trip in to the French Quarter for Beignets and music and back out to the quiet of the beach.
Click the link below for musings about our time in New Orleans from our Daughter’s perspective.
We have two seating areas on our bus. One long couch and a dinette with two benches. We can seat seven people comfortably but have had up to 10 in our living area. It’s pure bliss to have kinfolk join us on board and over the past two years and ten months we have had so many guests we’ve lost count. The only down side is it ends up being a lot of wear and tear on our little cushions and we were in desperate need of an upgrade. But how to find the supplies with our modest budget?
I’m a self-proclaimed treasure hunter and decided to start at the local thrift stores. I ended up finding exactly what I needed at St. Vincent DePaul thrift store in Green Bay WI. The choices were limited but the fabrics were sturdy. Next I asked around for a good place to find foam for our dinette. We decided to make due with the couch cushion and just recovered it with the staple gun method. For the dinette however, we wanted the cushions covered individually with zippers which would allow for washing access and for ease when converting the dinette into the spare bed for guests. I picked up a high quality grade cushion at Al’s upholstery on Main St and then found Wendy’s upholstery in Shawano, WI to do the handy work. She did a fantastic job and came in just at budget. All up our project cost just under $200.00
It may not be as flashy as our original blues and patterns but the fabrics and cushions are sturdy and hopefully will wear better, offering many more years of sharing life with kinfolk and hosting fellow travelers.
Meet Greg and Jeffery. They will be riding along with us over the next eight weeks, as we make our way from Phoenix, AZ to Dubuque, IA.
Greg is a recent History graduate from St. Norberts College in Green Bay, WI. We met Greg about five years ago through mutual friends and have watched him grow into a fine musician and man. His project, Yosemite has opened for us several times in the North East Wisconsin area and when he requested to ride the bus we were stoked.
Jeffery is a professional musician, aviator, and nature lover from my home town, Grand Rapids, MI. We met Jeffery last summer while working at the Small Wonders Farm just north of Grand Rapids. We extended an invitation and conversations lead to his commitment to serve alongside us during this leg of our journey.
They both arrived in PHX a week ago to 101 degree temps and the harsh reality of 300 square feet with no air conditioning. They are troopers however, and both found ways to jump into community with us, connecting with our hosts, helping with building projects and sharing in late night jams. We’ll be traveling over 3000 miles these next few weeks, working alongside organizations doing some amazing things to care for and promote community. Our music touring schedule will be light but we don’t doubt there will be plenty of time and kinfolk to play a song or two with.
Our hope for Jeffery and Greg is that they will be encouraged by our families commitment to learning, community, and the ministry of reconciliation. We hope they will walk away inspired to live in the moment, to swim upstream, and to see on a very personal level the interconnectedness of humanity to a faithful God.
Our routing takes us to: Albuquerque, NM, Santa Fe, NM, Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, Hot Springs, AR, Nashville, TN, Bowling Green, KY, and on up to Dubuque, IA (with a few stops in-between)
Jana from The Hollands kindly offered to do an interview with me! They travel the world singing and bringing joy to people everywhere. Enjoy it and let us know what you think!
What inspired to you to hit the road and do full time RVing…or I guess “Busing” in your case!
At the end of 2010 we, The Hollands! (Americana Folk Band and family) recognized a huge disconnect in our marriage, family, spirituality, global footprint and finances. Typical to most middle American families, we were working full time, pursuing our musical passion, school committee’s, organizing neighborhood gatherings and with what energy we had left, dreaming about a slower more deliberate pace. A pace that included deeper connectivity, reconciliation and purpose. Thus began the process to align all of those areas in our lives.
We started by casting a dream/vision for a life that was simpler, less fragmented and community driven. We released our possessions, bought a bus and began a journey converting it into a home on wheels, learning to home school, connecting with communities across the US and Australia and making music.
How has this decision affected your life? Your Family? Your lifestyle? Your values?
A paradigm shift has taken place in our ideology about most things in our life, especially “wants” verses “needs.” The effect has been more than noticeable. Downsizing from 2000 sq ft home to 300 sq ft bus has been quite the process. I would say especially for our children, ages 17 and 12. (girl and a boy) They share a 7 x 71/2 bunk room and each have 4 drawers and shared closet. We left in a bus that was unfinished and have been building it on the road. The first year we had no plumbing, but somehow found plenty of toilets to use. I will say, however, that when the plumbing was finally installed we celebrated.
Through this process our family has grown tremendously closer. We live in a small space and the four of us are together 24/7 so it’s obvious when the harmony is off. We respect each others space and process but the commitment to finding that harmony again moves much quicker than when we used to live in a large home, all going our different directions.
We’ve also found a deeper connection with our music, performing over 90 shows a year, writing new material, and having other musicians travel/tour with us. It’s proving to be a very good education for us all.
I’m not sure our pace is much slower than our former lifestyle, but it is much more purposeful. Over the past two years we have traveled to 32 states and all but a handful of nights were spent parked with “host” families. We’ve connected with most, if not all of the ‘host” families through our social media networks or from referrals from friends. Those times when we did not find a host family or needed time to ourselves we stayed at State Parks or RV Parks.
Our greatest joy on this journey has been being invited into the lives of so many families, to share in community and see all sorts of different ways to do life, from carnivores to vegans, Republicans, Democrats, Anarchists and everything in-between, a plethora of religious ideals to those who claim no faith. We’ve had the opportunity to try all sorts of foods, music, sports, outdoors activities, etc… We’ve been invited to share sacred space, learn new customs and rituals, and have heard stories of trials, pain, betrayal, hope, joy and faith.
What does a normal day look like for you?
It looks different every single day. There is no normal.
What advice would you give to the beginner full time traveler or RVer?
If you are a family, the most important thing we could advise is to move forward with purpose. Discuss as a family what your hope is in traveling, are you looking for the crux to be educational, service, rest, exploration, tourist, or a combination of those. Revisit that conversation regularly. Dialog about your strengths and weakness as individuals and as a family whole, decide to use those strengths for the greater good, lift each other up in your weakness and be open to the entering the unknown. Be open to moving upstream.
Craig is member of the busconversion.com forum and uses it regularly to learn how others convert their buses, understand the mechanics on our MCI-9 and share stories. At the same time, I have an Instagram (thehollands) that I use as a photo log of our journey and to connect with other bus nomads.
Through these networks we found two families that we were going to be in the same area that we were traveling through. And so, we decided to all meet up and share a meal, bon fire, songs and our stories of nomadic life.
It was a joy to meet the Shank family aka. Herd of Turtles and Scott and Heather Bennett. The Herd of Turtles have been two years in the making and just launched this summer. The Bennett’s have been traveling for a while and Scott is a gifted singer/songwriter. We can’t wait to see these fast friends again down the line!
Hospitality is in our makeup and we are always looking for ways to engage that gift. Recently we began dreaming about hosting kinfolk on our bus, inviting friends and muso’s to travel with us. When we would put out the offer, most people would smile, saying that it would be amazing, but not take it any further.
And then we met Chaz Jones. A twenty year old student from Lafayette, LA. We met him in 2012 at Cornerstone Music Festival in Bushnell, IL. He stayed in touch with us, sending us little notes of encouragement and even financial support to help keep us on our way. Then in March of this year he invited us to his community in Louisiana and we accepted his offer. We shared in song, story and meals. We met his mentors and other students, we mentioned our longing for others to travel with us and he said he was interested. He continued to declare his desire and we began conversations on the road to making our vision and his commitment a reality.
Some of the questions we explored were, “What would bus life look like? Expectations from our end and expectations from his end. Specifically regarding finances, roles and boundaries.”
We let him know that there was no expectations for compensation to or from travelers. If a fellow traveler felt so inclined to give a monetary gift, we would graciously accept but it was not expected. Likewise, we don’t have a budget to pay folks to join us but hope that the experience, as well as, covering the costs of room/board/fuel would suffice. The only concession would be if a person had really strict dietary issues that require expensive foods, they would have to bring funds to cover those needs. But, if we have the ingredients on board, it would be available to all. We did however, suggest having spending money, for shops, thrifting, movies or special attractions, etc…
And as for roles and boundaries. Our hope would be that travelers would participate, on what ever level they can, within the daily life on board, offering a helping hand, finding ways to be involved either in the music, bus logistics, or sharing of other gifts and talents.
We let him know that its real life out here, we are in a small space (300 sq feet), we are working out family dynamics, we don’t have hot running water or air conditioning, we all have our own personal junk but we are committed to finding harmony. The only other relational request would be for patience and openness to communicate desires, observations, and to see this experience as an opportunity to see God’s faithfulness in the daily restoration “the body.”
In late July, Chaz took a greyhound bus from Lafayette, LA to Lansing, Michigan and met us at a performance we shared with our good friends, The Illalogical Spoon. He’ll be riding with us until mid-September. Chaz plays Banjo and has been a welcome addition to The Hollands! as well as to our family. Glad to have you on board Chaz!