Charlie and Nicole Jones have spent the last year chasing the sunshine in their 2003 rear-engine Thomas school bus.
Charlie is originally from Brisbane, Australia, while Nicole is from Chicago, Illinois. The pair met on the Las Vegas strip in 2015, and a little over a year later, they were married. While they had both been living in Chicago, they were tired of city life. The problem was, they had no idea where they actually wanted to lay down roots.
So, they compromised. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Charlie and Nicole purchased a school bus for $3,500 and spent nine months turning it into a dreamy house on wheels. By March 2021, they were ready to hit the road with their 13-year-old cat. They haven’t looked back since.
After building the bus in Wisconsin’s brutally cold winter conditions, their first travel destination was always going to be somewhere warm. They’ve now found themselves chasing sunshine across the United States. Fortunately, as the pair had traveled together before, they found it easy to adjust to life on the road and be in a small space together. Within two weeks, they had found their groove, with only a few minor issues along the way.
For example, Charlie and Nicole both work remotely, which means they need the internet. While their bus has several WiFi options, they must always be in an area with a strong signal. Charlie and Nicole have also found themselves moving around a little more often than they’d like at times, and they haven’t yet found a place they’d like to call home permanently. However, for now, they are enjoying their tiny home living experience and say the pros far outweigh the cons.
Charlie and Nicole Jones purchased a 2003 rear-engine Thomas school bus for $3,500 and spent nine months renovating it during the COVID-19 pandemic. It boasts 230 square feet of space and is entirely self-contained.
They have 100 gallons of freshwater, 1,050 watts of solar power, and a fridge freezer, allowing them to live off the grid comfortably. This also means they save money as they don’t always need to pay for RV hookups at campsites.
The L-shaped layout of the school bus is Charlie and Nicole’s favorite part. This layout allows for privacy and a larger kitchen and bathroom. It also means that they aren’t in each other’s space when they hold video meetings for their jobs and require privacy.
The layout of the bus is simple, clean, and largely natural in its design, with wood countertops, white wood ceilings, and bare wood flooring. Their main living space also has a pull-out couch as a guest bed, a dinette for eating and working, and storage space. The dinette bench even has room for their elderly cat’s litter box.
The kitchen is not only one of the most loved parts of the school bus, but it’s also the part of their home that stands out the most. The beautiful deep-green cabinets complement the butcher block counter and gorgeous wood flooring.
The kitchen also boasts a side-by-side mini fridge, a Furrion stove, and a practical under-mounted sink. A Cubic mini wood-burning stove is tucked away to the side in the hallway, heating the entire bus.
The kitchen has as much space as your average apartment kitchen, with ceiling-height storage, a fridge-freezer under the sink, and a deep bench for meal prep.
On the other side of the kitchen wall is where you’ll find the bathroom, a space that Nicole and Charlie are proud of. The bathroom has everything you need for a comfortable hygiene experience, such as a shower, toilet, sink, and mirror. There is also a skylight above the shower to provide extra height.
Nicole and Charlie took their time planning the bathroom of their dreams. They used hexagon ceramic tiles, herringbone-patterned flooring and an accent wall, and a rainfall showerhead to complete that ‘natural’ feel the space exudes.
They also used flexible mortar and grout to prevent cracking in the tiles while traveling. The fully-tiled shower utilizes the Kerdi-Schulter system, which incorporates a pre-sloped shower pan that they could tile directly over. Charlie and Nicole had no previous tiling experience, but the results were spectacular.
No bathroom is complete without a toilet, and Nicole and Charlie are reasonably happy with theirs. They chose a Nature’s Head composting toilet, eliminating the need for a black tank. They said they had no complaints but noted that they would recommend plumbing the urine tank into a grey tank if you’re in the build stage of your own house on wheels.
To the rear of the bus, you’ll find two closets and Charlie and Nicole’s bedroom. One wardrobe is for their clothing, while the other hides their electric system out of sight. Their bedroom is a place of rest, but it’s also where they were able to fit a desk and washer-dryer unit.
Underneath their comfortable bed, you’ll spy a 100-gallon freshwater tank, which supplies water for the entire bus.
Nicole said entering her bedroom makes her happy. She fell in love with burnt orange, neutrals, and mustard yellows, and she was thrilled to have chosen those warm tones. Follow Nicole and Charlie´s skoolie adventures on Instagram @outbackskoolie