We have been living on the bus for just over a month now. We are parked on our friends' property about a mile away from our old house and enjoying the quiet of their property and the thousands of dragonflies that surround the bus every night. The past few weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of learning the bus's systems and adjusting to bus life but I feel like we are doing really well now. But to be honest, the first weekend was rough.
Since the last blog post everything to make the bus livable inside has been completed. Our friend Travis really came through and got all of our electrical dialed in before we had to live on the bus. The electrical and solar is finished although we have decided to add a battery and change out some of the cables as per our new friend Neil from Diversified Vehicle Services suggestion. He has already come by our new home to check out what we have going on. The electrical was the last big thing before we could live on the bus. There is a lot to do on the outside, like of course, finishing painting the bus, installing a cargo bay and awning, and maybe adding a solar panel or two but we have about a month before we leave Jersey and feel really great that we have more than enough time to do all that and still say goodbye to all the important people in our lives.
We sold or gave away almost everything we owned which was both liberating and scary. I had a huge yard sale and sold a lot of other stuff on Facebook Marketplace. Goodwill also got a huge chunk of stuff and we are so lucky that there is a drop-off right up the street. My sister is storing some things for us that we did not want to part with like holiday decorations and the kids' mementos and everything else is on the bus with us. We were all packed up with just a few things to take care of the morning of the sale of our house.
On the morning of our house's closing we were going to drop off the kids at the Robertson's house for the day and finish a few odds and ends before moving the bus to our friends', the Madison's property. Nick came back from dropping the kids off and went to start up the bus and it didn't start. We just stared at each other. He tried again, nope. This wasn't suppose to happen, we have a battery thingy in place so this will never happen. We were not supposed to have a dead battery, EVER. We called Neil, we called Good Sam, I texted my friend LA, not that she could start the bus but because I needed to have her feel me. The home inspection was in less than an hour! Roadside assistance came at the same time the new homeowners and our realtor came to do the home inspection. Luckily we know the new homeowners so it was not a big deal to have a 40' school bus still in the driveway. Roadside assistance didn't tell the man who arrived that he would be jumping a school bus. He got out of his car and looked a bit surprised. He had a very small battery charger in his hand about the size of a wallet. Yeah, I was pretty sure this was not going to work but to my surprise, on the second try, it did! We breathed the deepest sigh of relief and Nick climbed behind the wheel to drive the bus for the very first time. Yeah, I know! We had intended to take him out on some joy rides but it just never happened so on this very emotionally charged day, Nick drove the bus for the first time. I followed him in the van and we were on speakerphone the whole time. He did so great! We pulled in and our friend was there to greet us, and then we need to hop in the van and go to the closing and sell our house.
Closing took longer than expected and we were physically and emotionally drained sitting there signing our names a million times. It was a surreal experience because I could remember sitting in that very same room, on the other side of the table, about 5 years ago buying the house of my dreams and now we were selling it. Our dreams had changed, we had changed and it seemed like a different life ago that we bought the house. Once we signed the last signature and handed over the keys we were house-less, but not homeless. Our new home is mobile and our new backyard is the millions of acres of America and we don't have to mow any of it!
The first weekend was a bit tough, we weren't parked in the best spot. We knew we were going to move to the back of the property but some tree limbs needed to be trimmed first so we spend a couple days in a shady spot which meant we weren't generating enough power to keep our batteries charged. We also didn't have our toilet fully set up to go number two and we didn't have a shower curtain up yet as I needed to hem it, everything about bus life is custom. Also, Nick had to work right after closing and the entire weekend and it just felt like home was on hold because he wasn't there to share it with us. Our friends welcomed us in and fed us and let us overflow their toilet, and shower that first weekend which was so wonderful. I hope that everyone who goes through any serious transition in life has friends like ours.
In a couple of days we moved the bus but not without getting stuck in some soft ground and needing the biggest tow truck I'd ever seen come to pull us out. Thank you Good Sam! After almost two hours we were out and driving down the driveway to the back of the property. Cue the cheering! We are now in a super sunny spot in a beautiful field next to a farm with deer and nightly visits from tons of dragonflies. The kids can play in the yard with use of a awesome swing-set and trampoline. We have beers by the fire and enjoy lots of great conversation. So we are here, bus life, and it has its challenges but so did life in a house. We are very busy getting ready for our adventure and can't wait to share with you. We are so grateful for the time here to figure out all of our systems and spend time with great friends. We will miss this time and remember it always but can't wait to get this adventure going!
The last update was in February and then I kinda fell off the blog-wagon for a while as I was/am overwhelmed with all we have going on. The bus has changed so much and so has everything else. When you last heard from the Nomadic Doula and family we were busy getting a lot of interior things done on the bus. Walls were getting covered in pallet wood. The kitchen counters had been installed and all the windows had been trimmed. The bathroom door had been painted a jazzy yellow and we put some finished wood up in the bathroom and kids' bunks. Many of the bus's systems were unstarted or unfinshed and we hadn't gotten around to listing our house for sale yet.
So, so, so much has been done and is happening, let me fill you in.
THE SOLAR PANELS HAVE BEEN INSTALLED! I had to yell that because it it so exciting to be generating power from the sun! We put 800 watts of solar on the roof or 8, 100 watt panels. We purchased a whole package deal from Renogy and are happy with its proformance so far. We were advised by Renogy to buy an inverter that ended up not being what we needed. So more money later we bought the right one and sold the old one. There are three, 12 volt, 200ah batteries in our battery bank and some other components like a charger, breaker box, fuse block. We still have a bit of work to do with wiring and getting the AC & DC to play nice together. We have some great help from our friend Travis though and our new friend Neil who owns a company called Diversified Vehicle Services and guess what they do? Specialty vehicle conversions! He has given us a ton of great info and some great deals on some stuff for our eletrical system, including the new inverter. Travis came over last week to layout the system and tell me what I needed to still buy and he's coming back to help us get it all going. I'm so excited because the electrical system is the only system not installed. Once that is in we can live on the bus!
Over the past month I installed both the propane system, the grey tanks and drain system. I spent many days under the bus getting that all sussed out and now it is done! We installed a 12.2 gallon horizontal RV propane tank under the bus and it fit so perfectly bolted to the frame. I couldn't have asked for a better fit. We also installed a door in the skirt of the bus to access everything. It looks pretty sweet. We also installed two grey tanks for a total of 92 gallons under the bus, we used the Super Strut system and it worked great! I found out about this way of mounting from a YouTuber named DIYSkoolie and his video made sense to me so I went with it and was really happy how it turned out. I installed the dump valve and the inlets with the use of Uniseals and was pretty impressed with them. It's really great to get that all in and gets us one step closer to living on the bus.
Speaking of living on the bus, our house is under contract so we need to get moving on finishing the bus. We close on the house at the end of June so thats less than two months to get everything else done but we are pretty close. At this point it is easier to tell you what we haven't done which is amazing. The ceiling insulation and tongue and groove finish material needs to go in after all the wiring is complete. The flooring needs to go in, which I image will go pretty quickly because there isn't much floor space. We are going to go with a wood-look vinyl plank flooring in a grey-ish, driftwood color. When that floor goes in you know we are going to be pulling out of this driveway soon! I have to make screens and curtains for all the windows but that will probably happen this summer before we leave Jersey while we are parked on our friend's land. We also have to paint the bus which can also wait until summer too. Our priority is getting the bus livable.
We are so excited for the progress. The kitchen cabinets came out amazing and the work in the drivers area worked out better than expected. The bathroom is definitely on of the best things on the bus so far. I had a vision and it came out so much better than I could have dreamed. The wallpaper was so much fun to do and it adds so much color! I just love it! The wall paper in the kid's bunks is so fun and I finished off the bookshelf in Edie's bunk with cute little doors so she can hide her stuff from her brother and sister. I'm working on a big canvas book holder to hang in Ida's bunk for her books as well. We also have ordered custom cushions for our couch and they are on their way. It's all falling into place!
We are continuing to meet people and tell our story and almost everyone is so excited for us. We keep getting invited to stay on people's land and farms and that is so great! We love making these connections. The universe and Paulie are pointing us in the right direction and letting us know that we are doing exactly what we should be doing right now. I love this journey and look forward to what comes next.
To see many more pictures of our progress follow us on Instagram @nomadicdoula and @livetowanderbus
This blog post was originally posted on Two Hands Birth Services' blog in the fall of 2018. It is being reposted here as it is information that bares repeating.
A doula's job is to provide education, guidance and support for families during throughout pregnancy, in childbirth and during the postpartum period. DONA International, my certifying organization states, "What is a Doula? A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible." Nowhere in that description does it state that a doula is a magician. I love what I do but I can not tell anyone their birth outcome before it happens. I do not have a crystal ball. Doulas can not promise a pain-free birth. Hiring a doula does not mean you won't have a Cesarean birth. A doula attended birth may still include pain medication. A doula is also not a bouncer and can not force people from your hospital room or protect you from the one doctor at the practice you don't like.
Eleven years ago this week I became a mother. There is a lot of celebration around the birth of a child but as a doula I want to acknowledge the birth of the parents. As soon as you find out your are pregnant you start preparing in every way you can think of. You buy the gear, read the books, decorate the nursery, take childbirth classes but none of that truly prepares you for the emotional change you go through once baby is placed in your arms and suddenly you are a parent. One of my favorite things, as a doula, is watching a couple become parents right before my eyes as their baby comes Earthside. It is magical, every-single-time and I am so honored to be chosen to be part of it.
For me, I felt so emotional as my first child was born. Nothing in my pregnancy or her birth went "as planned" and I was beyond exhausted as she entered my atmosphere. The sight of her was like an injection of energy and I felt like part of my heart was now outside my body. The love you experience when you have a child is like no other. I was born that day as a mother and as a different woman entirely. The birth of each of my children makes a indelible mark on the timeline that is my journey on this planet. I learned so much about myself with each birth experience and came out very changed. The birth of my first child was the beginning of my life in a way, I was born again.
One year ago we became bus owners and the conversion began. There had been months of planning and research to figure out what we needed and wanted and last March we bought a bus. The whole process of shopping and finally buying a bus was rather surreal. We giggled for days, weeks even, every time we looked out to the driveway and saw a bus sitting there. Over the course of this past year we have had a buffet of emotions about the bus, our travels, and the changes that our lives will take but we do not regret buying the bus and changing our lives at all. We acknowledge that it won't always be easy but nothing worth it ever is. I wanted to take a minute or two to reintroduce ourselves, talk about how our vision of our travels and lives have changed, and give an update on where we are and when we might be leaving New Jersey.
Abby and I became friends when she contacted me a few years ago after she moved to southern New Jersey from San Diego. Abby had just completed her DONA training in January 2016 before she relocated and was anxious to get doula-ing. After meeting for coffee I just loved her and soon I asked her to be, what was the beginning of Two Hands Birth Doula Co-op. Abby and I asked four more birth workers to join THBS and that is where we are today. I couldn't have taken Two Hands Birth Services as far as it has come without Abby. I lovingly refer to her as my moral compass at times because she is such a just and honest person. Abby was drawn to birth work after reading a book on midwifery based in the 1960's and 70's. She was appalled at some of the stories the midwife told about her time as a student nurse working L&D (Labor and Delivery). Women were tied down and drugged against their will or they just went along with it "because that's what you do". She got fired up about women's rights and considered becoming a midwife to protect these women. After a little more research and thought Abby found out about doulas and something clicked. Abby loves being part of these intimate moments in expectant family's lives, providing information and education, all in the hopes that she can empower them to make the best choices for them and their family.
Before Abby found her calling in birth work she was a college student and bounced around with many career ideas. She was an agricultural education major, animal science, art education, and finally Abby finished with a Bachelors in Art with an emphasis in drawing. Abby has done a lot of babysitting, milked cows, was a bartender, and even bagged groceries. Abby currently lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey with her husband, Eric and wonderful 8-month old son Henry (Hank).
So last week came and went and I didn't get a blog fully written or posted because I had one sick kid and a ton of non-bus stuff going on. Then, as if I wasn't feeling behind enough the flu hit me like a ton of bricks and kept me in bed for three days. Since the baby and I are like Siamese twins the flu started to attack her and just as I was able to remain vertical for more than five seconds Nick was down. Taking care of the fam and my business in addition to writing a new curriculum for a childbirth education series my doula friend Abby and I are teaching together in April took precedent over the bus. So this post is very late, I'm sure no one but me really is upset about it but it feels better if I say sorry. I will be out there tomorrow putting up the rest of the window trim. As for the update, here goes it.
We scored some awesome, large, wood tables from a church for $10. each. I bought two because the old wood was too cool to pass up. I made the other side of the kitchen counter with it. I made my own stain so it looked aged, and kinda driftwoody. I'm really happy with how it came out. We contemplated doing both sides the same but in the end decided to keep the butcher block on the sink side. We also decided to make our own cabinet doors instead of refinishing the ones that came with the boxes. I started on that and made two of the smaller cabinet doors out of pallet wood. We think its going to look super cool with the jazzy yellow paint that will be on the cabinet boxes. We plan to use black handles on the doors and have already painted the hinges that came with the cabinets black so I hope that we will still be able to use them with the new cabinet doors
There have been bus update blogs, Instagram photos, and Facebook posts about the bus and the traveling we will do but there is so much more to get ready for a mobile life. We have not been posting about some of the less interesting yet super important things that we are doing behind the scenes. Since these are things that I am knee deep into right now I wanted to post about what I'm working on that is not bus related but essential to getting us on the road.
Passports. We are all getting our passports! It is no small feat to fill out applications and copy all the required documents for 2 adults and 3 kids to get passports. We are not sure when we are going to leave the country in our travels but we want to be ready. It is also great to have one more means of identification for all of us. We know we are going to visit Canada and Mexico but who know what the Universe has in store and we do have several friends in other countries. If the opportunity presents itself to go to France we want to be able to hop on that (I'm looking at you Bridge!) We are going to the passport office in a couple weeks to get our photos done and hand it all in. We have to go in person because it has been a long time since Nick and I have had valid passports and you always have to go in person for kids. Bonus! The passport office is right behind one of our favorite breweries so we will get a treat if we make it out of there alive.
Jen Silvera is a doula, a nurse and mother to five littles. Jen has the unique perspective that comes with have many different kinds of births and knowing how to advocate for herself and educate herself in a variety of different pregnancy and childbirth situations personally. This only not makes her a stronger and more compassionate birth worker but very exciting to chat with. Jen has always been interested in pregnancy and labor/delivery, and her goal when she was younger was to become an obstetrician but life had other plans in the way of kids, a couple of them. So she went into nursing, with her heart set on working in the Labor & Delivery, Mother/Baby, and NICU departments. Jen had a couple more kids as she was trying to gain her RN, and that's what lead her to researching doulas. She had heard of about doulas as far back as 2009 but had no clue how to pursue it. Eventually after having a doula attend one of her children's births, it solidified her decision to pursue a career as a doula.
Jen trained with Birth Arts International when her youngest daughter was only 3 1/2 months old, and she came to the training with her. She chose them because their philosophy and closeness really spoke to her. Jen also had personal experience with one of their doulas, so she saw firsthand what the education resulted in. Jen has been a doula for 3 years now but before she was a doula she did a lot of other things! As mentioned, Jen is also nurse, and worked in pediatric home-care. She drove for Uber sometimes, shopped for Instacart, worked for a tax company once upon a time, and has also worked as a daycare teacher. Jen is also a super mom since 2007!
Jen is extremely passionate about motherhood and birth work. All her personal experience and professional experience has made her one extremely capable birth worker. Jen wants to encourage families to become knowledgeable, she loves to educate and empower her clients above all else. She wants them to love having a doula of course, but her priority is supporting them in whatever way they need and helping them to realize that they hold the power.
We get lots of questions once we tell people that we are converting a school bus into a tiny home to travel the country with our three kids. It's not something that everyone is doing and we understand that people are curious. We were super curious about skoolie and traveling families when we were dreaming of bus life and are still looking to people who have been doing it to offer advice and answer questions. We are lucky to be involved in some groups on the internet to answer our questions about bus life logistics but we would like to give you some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Let get into it!
How long are you going to travel?
We are saying at least a year but it could be more or maybe less. We aren't going to stress ourselves out by forcing 365 days on the road and if we are having a ball we may stay on the road longer than a year. We are deliberately not setting any time limits on any locations so we can stay as long as we want and so yeah, we will be on the road approximately a year.
Where are you going?
We are not really sure. We have ideas and a map on the wall with potential destinations but we are really open to where ever. I wrote a blog all about this exact question if you are interested to check it out.
Are you selling your house?
Yes. We want to reduce our overall possessions and the house is a biggie. We are no longer interested being strapped to one location by a financial obligation. When we sell our house will will drastically reduce our overhead, pun intended.