When Whitney, 29, and her husband Andrew Chardoulias, 35, first told their relatives they planned to give up their homes and jobs to travel the country on a bus, they were told it was a terrible idea and that their kids would be kidnapped or mauled by bears.
They didn’t let that stop them.
Whitney had fallen in love with travelling ever since she started browsing Instagram feeds of families who lived in converted school buses.
When she brought up the idea with Andrew, he was immediately on board, and they quickly started working towards achieving their dream of packing up and taking their five children – plus Andrews daughters, Brenna and Bria, who live with their mother so join when they can – on an adventure around the U.S.
They got rid of a third of their belongings, stored the rest of their possessions at Whitney’s parents’ house, and moved on board a bus they found on eBay for £9,970 and renovated for £15,300 so it could serve as their perfect mobile home.
The bus, which also needed to have its engine and transmission changed for a cost of £23,000, now has a full kitchen, living room, toy room, a bathroom with a tub, a king-size bed, and three bunks, plus extra sleeping space on a sofa that opens into a double bed.
It’s 45 foot-long and eight-foot wide, giving the family 360 sq ft of space – as well as the great outdoors to play with.
When not travelling, the bus sits on land at Whitney’s parents’ farm. During the day the couple work on their dog breeding business, Cedar Bend Labradoodles, but next year they plan to start home-schooling their children so they can travel more frequently.
‘I’m a mum to four children Quincy, seven, Fletcher, four, Rowe, two and River, one,’ says Whitney. ‘ When Andrew used to be in the Air Force and our daughter, Quincy, was two we spent four and half months in Biloxi, Mississippi.
‘I grew up inland in Muscatine, Iowa, and never really saw the ocean or a beach before. Our place was right by the beach and I loved it so much and dreaded coming home.
‘I had seen other families on Instagram living in a converted bus and travelling the country and I was so envious. I remember telling Andrew I didn’t want to be old and grey and wishing we had travelled more. I told him about the busses and asked him “why not us?”
‘He bought the idea and when we told friends and family, they were against it at first. My mum was especially convinced that our kids would be kidnapped or mauled by bears. They have all come around to it now though and our friends think it’s really cool.
‘Finally on July 21, 2019 we moved onboard.’
So far the family have covered nine states and travelled over 5,000 miles. Once they fix some mechanical issues and a problem with insulation on the bus, they’ll be back on the road once more.
Their life is unconventional, but the family love every moment.
‘Our kids have been excited every step of the way and we’ve covered more than 5,000 miles now across the states of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kentucky and Indiana,’ says Whitney.
‘Sure, sometimes it’s been difficult not having a consistent schedule, and it was hard to get our two-year-old to take normal naps while travelling, and our four-year-old struggles with change.
‘We have quickly learned not to cram too much into each day. We narrowed this down to one outing in the morning and one in the afternoon. Any more than this and our kids were overtired.
‘The best thing about this journey is travelling and seeing our children experience new things. Every time we get back ‘home’ they ask us when we are leaving again. Also I love only having to clean 360 sq. feet each day, though I must admit I don’t enjoy doing the kids’ bunks.
‘For a large family it’s been very good for our budget too and I would guess that we spend only around £1,150 ($1,500) a month.’
Whitney would recommend bus life to other families, but warns of the importance of research and not rushing into massive life changes.
She says: ‘If you want to live in an RV, bus, van or tiny home, don’t buy the first one you see. Do your research and talk to people. Talk to those who have walked this road before and absolutely get a professional outside mechanic to look at the vehicle before making any final purchase.
‘I think everyone starts this process by thinking that they could never do this and that it’s just not possible for them for whatever reason. I think it’s possible for anyone who really wants to do it.
‘You just have to overcome one obstacle at a time.
‘You will hit bumps with anything you do in life all you have to do is figure out a remedy for them and move without ever giving up.
‘We consider ourselves incredibly blessed. We simply love our bus and we can’t wait to experience more adventures in it.’
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