5 Ways to Travel Smart From a Guy Who Turned a Bus Into a Mobile Living Space

Hank drove across the country in a an old school bus he had refurbished into a tiny living space as his thesis project for his his Master’s in Architecture degree. Here’s what he learned.

all photos by Justin Evidon

Hi! My name’s Hank, and I bought a bus.

As someone who regularly experiences wanderlust, I’ve always enjoyed the excitement of not knowing what happens next, and believe a healthy dose of spontaneity helps keep things fresh. There’s something exhilarating and liberating about making impulsive decisions when opportunities present themselves, and seeing where life can take you. It was exactly this mindset that compelled me to do something different for my Master’s in Architecture thesis project.


Rather than draw hypothetical buildings on paper, I made the decision to take a major risk and build an architectural space in the real world. As my time and finances were very limited (15 weeks, and $12,000 that was supposed to be for tuition…) I had to think small.

And mobile.

One week after the semester began, I took $3,000 in cash and bought a used school bus. My goal was to turn it into a cabin that could be used by friends and family on wooded property, owned by my grandfather. Over the course of the next 14 weeks, I faced many challenges, both conceptual and practical. But with the help of my brother Vince, I converted the old bus into a tiny living space.

While the final review was a success, at the end of the semester it was clear there was an opportunity to take the project further. I set a route for a cross-country road trip and invited my friend Justin, a professional photographer, along for the ride. We planned to document the journey through writing and photography, hoping to expand the discussion about tiny living and inspire others to pursue ambitious projects.


Our route took us 5,000 miles, from Minneapolis out to Seattle through Yellowstone, down to San Francisco through Redwood National Forest, to Vegas through Yosemite, Kansas City through the canyon lands, and back home.

aloneIn every major city, we were visiting close friends who had dispersed after college, and in between we were going to experience some of the nation’s greatest national parks.

The plans were loose; the only specifics were our arrival dates in four cities. This flexibility let us travel at our own pace, and explore unanticipated opportunities. We wanted to be open to whatever life presented us.

The resulting journey was life-changing; we experienced travel from a new perspective. We slowed down enough to savor the countryside. We made new friends at every stop. We learned to coexist in an intimate space. And we’ve been lucky enough to share our experiences with readers around the world.

Looking back on what made our journey the trip of a lifetime, here are five suggestions for planning a grand trip of your own:

1. Alone Time


Regardless of how much you love your friends, it’s important to take some time for yourself. Explore the city, find a coffee shop, or stay behind and read a book. Just a few hours solo can refresh you for days of interaction.

2. Embrace the Unexpected


No matter how much you plan, for better or worse, something unexpected will happen. How you handle it can make or break a trip. Embrace the unexpected, and be open to the new opportunities that present themselves!

3. Sampling


Travel is all about experiencing what new places have to offer, and when I’m on the road I want to try all the local food and drink. I split dishes with friends, order sample platters, and get to try a little bit of everything!

4. Balance


Contrast helps put experiences is in context, and enriches the journey. Spend time in the city, and in nature. Visit old friends, and make new ones. Spend time relaxing, and party like it’s 1999!

5. Reflect


Travel helps you see things from a new perspective, and offers a chance to reflect on your daily life with fresh eyes. Take advantage of this opportunity to consider what you value most, and how you can honor those values on a daily basis.

To learn more about Hank’s bus and see Justin’s photos, visit hankboughtabus.com.

biojustinhankHank (left) is a freelance designer and fabricator with a Master of Architecture degree. He has a passion for working with his hands, and has opted to forego the traditional post-graduate job hunt in order to start his own shop. Justin (right) is a freelance photographer who specializes in travel and adventure photography. When he’s not getting paid to adventure, he’s doing it on his own, rock-climbing, going backcountry camping, and doing yoga on the beach.