In this edition of Gnomad Homies, meet Luke, Rachel, and precious little Charlotte Davis of @midwestwanderers. This awesome family of three (soon to be four) inspires us in so many ways. Not only are they fellow midwesterners (they hail from Oswego, IL), they also helped us see that life on the road with kids – which is something we’re planning on in the future – is entirely possibe!
Luke, Rachel, and Charlotte have been traveling the country in their badass self-converted skoolie (seriously, their build is IMPRESSIVE). When we talked with them they were in southern Utah, but they’re about to make a permanent move to North Carolina (still living in the bus though)! We hope you enjoy reading their story as much as we enjoyed talking with them!
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So tell us a bit more about your living situation.
We live and travel in our skoolie (i.e. school bus converted into a tiny house). We spent the better part of 18 months converting it ourselves.
How long have you been living in this? Do you live in it full time or part time?
We have been living in it full time for just over a year!
What made you want to choose this lifestyle? What was that transition like?
The idea of spending every day together as a family while seeing and experiencing new places along the way was incredibly appealing to us. We love not having a mortgage or as many bills to think about! The transition was relatively smooth. It took a few weeks for everyone to get the hang of the space (or lack thereof) but because of the fact that we had built it ourselves it already felt like home when we moved in.
What’s your favorite part about living a nomadic lifestyle?
One of our favorite parts is being able to see so much of what this country has to offer that we wouldn’t have otherwise seen! Different areas of the country vary so drastically, I can’t imagine not seeing all that America has to offer!
And our second favorite thing is the people! We have met some truly amazing friends on our journey so far.
What’s your least favorite part?
There’s a fine line between traveling and over-traveling. So there are definitely days when physically moving the bus is not something we want to do.
What were you doing in life before you decided to do this?
Before the bus, Luke was a pipefitter/welder in the Chicago Pipefitters Union, and Rachel ran a bakery out of our home.
What are your favorite features of your bus? Anything specifically unique?
Our ability to be off-grid and self sustainable is probably one of the best features about living in the bus. We love that we don’t have to go from campground to campground in order to make this lifestyle work.
What do you do for income on the road?
Not a whole lot! We mostly run on blessings and a bit of savings. The plan was for Luke to pick up small jobs here and there but we aren’t usually stationary for any length of time which makes picking up work a bit difficult.
What have been your favorite locations thus far, and why?
Our favorite locations so far are Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado (but really any part of the Rockies are quite breathtaking!), Charleston, SC, Maine, and Glacier National Park in Montana. Each has something so unique to offer but magical in its own way.
What are some things you brought with you that you use nearly everyday? How about things you ended up never or rarely using?
Toothbrushes, clothes, toilet paper, and silverware are all things we use nearly everyday. But seriously, items that have proven to be useful would be a decent set of hand tools, a good (thorough) atlas, things to occupy our time that aren’t technology, and our hammock and bag chairs to lounge in.
When we first moved in we had so much extra stuff that we thought we had to have: espresso machine, drip coffee maker, decorations, off season clothes, some tools that didn’t prove to be useful to the bus, Rachel’s tea collection, etc etc. Every month or so we find items that are no longer worthy of the precious space we have available.
Is there anything you miss from your former lifestyle?
The thing we miss the most is being close to our family and friends. We’ve always lived close to everyone so it was a difficult adjustment at first to not be able to see them whenever we wanted. However, there is nothing we miss about homeownership, debt, bills, or yard work!
What do you do in your free time? What are your favorite activities?
What we do depends on where we are. When we’re in a city setting our free time activities vary from when we’re in a National Park/nature setting. No matter where we are though our free time is always spent together as a family and that is what we wanted!
What advice would you give someone considering traveling full time in a van?
Don’t tell yourself you can’t do it. If you have the desire in your heart, take that leap of faith, it is possible! Don’t let the nay-sayers get you down.
What’s your favorite meal to make in the bus?
We love having homemade pizza nights! We make dough from scratch and pick out whatever toppings we’re in the mood for. Plus Charlotte gets to put together her own mini pizza, she loves it.