A couple turned an old school bus into a gorgeous tiny home, and now they live in the 185-square-foot space full-time

Tyler Hjorting, 30, and Lexi O'Brien, 28, in front of their bus.One Wild Ride Bus
  • Tyler Hjorting, 30, and Lexi O'Brien, 28, were bartenders in Los Angeles, California, who felt that they were spending too much money on rent for their tiny one-bedroom apartment.
  • They started looking into alternative ways of living and stumbled across "bus life," in which people convert buses into tiny homes on wheels.
  • They turned an old school bus into a wood-paneled, airy, and plant-filled space they call "One Wild Ride."
  • After 1.5 years on the road, they recently settled in Texas, where they plan to open a tiny-home community.

You've probably heard of the tiny home movement and van life, but did you know that "bus life" is also a thing?

Instead of converting vans into tiny homes on wheels, bus lifers turn buses into moveable abodes. Often, these are former school buses, which are affectionately known as "skoolies."

Tyler Hjorting, 30, and Lexi O'Brien, 28, did just that, turning an old school bus into a bright and airy, plant-filled home they call "One Wild Ride."Advertisement

The two met through mutual friends in Los Angeles, California, where Hjorting was bartending and O'Brien did makeup for photo shoots, before starting to bartend with Tyler.

Tyler Hjorting and Lexi O'Brien said they were spending too much money on renting their small LA apartment, so they researched 'alternative ways of living' and wound up buying a bus

They came across renovated buses after researching alternative ways of living.One Wild Ride Bus

That's when they "stumbled across the whole van life thing," Hjorting told Insider.

When Hjorting remembered seeing a converted school bus out camping, they started looking into bus conversions. Turns out, these were "blowing up all over YouTube and Instagram" Hjorting said. "We didn't realize that there was such a huge movement with it, and we just kind of decided to start going that route."

They bought the former school bus off Craigslist.One Wild Ride Bus
In 2017, after over a year of researching the idea and saving up money, they said they bought a bus off Craigslist for $10,000. While they say that's on the steep end for old school buses, they added that they bought it from someone who had already started converting the bus by putting in a new motor, getting new tires, and painting the exterior, so they don't regret it.Advertisement

They then spent 8 months renovating the bus on weekends and after work, doing most of it themselves, save for the electrical and plumbing

The turned the school bus into a bright and airy home.One Wild Ride Bus

"It was just a huge learning process. It was a lot of YouTube and asking other Instagram pages how they did certain stuff, a lot of trial and error," Hjorting said, adding that they frequently started a project before tearing it out and starting fresh.

They ended up spending another $25,000 to renovate and decorate their dream home on wheels.Advertisement

"We wanted to try to have all the amenities that our apartment had, which wasn't really much bigger than this at the time," Hjorting said. "We wanted to have a little eating area and a shower, definitely room for at least a queen-sized bed, and a stove."

Wood paneling gives the place a homey vibe.One Wild Ride Bus

They played around with the layout, taping off the floor to see where things would fit and where they would make the most sense.Advertisement

"We're pretty happy with the layout still. I don't think we would have changed anything," he said.

They fit a lot into approximately 185 square feet of space

They have a full-sized fridge, a three-top stove, and an oven.One Wild Ride Bus

In fact, the two said that three months into their travels, they realized they could have gone with a smaller bus or even a van.Advertisement

One Wild Ride has a dinette eating area, a three-top stove, an oven, a regular-sized fridge, a compost toilet, a shower, a queen-sized bed, a seven-foot couch, a "decent-size closet," and a dresser. Storage is also cleverly hidden under the couch and bed.

They say that building the dinette and opting for an oven and three-top stove (as opposed to a two-top or hot plate, which many van and bus-lifers opt for) were some of the best decisions they made, as they cook often and spend a lot of time in the dinette area, both eating and working.
The dinette is their favorite part of the bus.One Wild Ride Bus

Before hitting the road, the two said they sold everything they had, from their car to their furniture, and spent three months living with Hjorting's sister to save on rent. They also budgeted out a year of expenses so that they could travel comfortably without having to work or stress about money.

"A lot of things that we were reading from other nomad people was about trying to find part-time gigs or jobs, or to have some sort of online income, and that it can be really tough. So we wanted to at least give ourselves 12 months of time to make sure we can go out and enjoy it and not be super stressed," Hjorting said.

A year later, O'Brien started doing online marketing to supplement their income, while Hjorting began working odd jobs he found on Craigslist. By then, however, they had grown a big enough following on Instagram to start getting paid for posts, which helped them get by for the most part.Advertisement

After spending a year-and-half traveling to 22 states, the couple settled in Texas, living in their renovated bus

They spent 1.5 years on the road.One Wild Ride Bus

"We kept ending up in Texas," Hjorting said. "That's why we chose to stay here. We did Texas three separate times through that year-and-a-half. And every time it was in the middle of the summer, so it was really hot. And we were like, 'well, if we love it while it's 105 degrees and humid, then we're going to like it for the rest of the year.'"

O'Brien's mother, who runs a wedding venue in LA, had been planning to expand the company in the east for a while. When she learned that the two wanted to move to Texas, and an opportunity for a venue there cropped up, she took it, launching The Ice Plant Bldg.Advertisement

That's how Hjorting and O'Brien ended up around an hour outside of Austin, in La Grange, which they fell in love with immediately. They bought 25 acres of land near the venue, and have been living on it in their parked bus since.

Currently, they're helping O'Brien's mother run the venue, are building a house for themselves, and have plans to create The Pond Collective, a tiny-home community, which they say will eventually have tiny homes, yurts, and their bus for rent.

The one thing they miss about being on the road is the people
They visited 22 states during their bus travels.One Wild Ride Bus

While they don't miss sleeping in Walmart parking lots, conserving water and electricity while on the road for fear of running out, and the stress of driving a huge, loud bus with a tendency to overheat, they do miss the people they met while traveling.Advertisement

"It's the community of people that are doing the same thing. We've met some lifelong friends that changed our lives," Hjorting said. "Everyone's so like-minded. Everyone wanted to get out of their normal grind and get rid of all their stuff and things like that. So you tend to bond with those people pretty easily."

They miss the community of people they met while on the road.One Wild Ride Bus
Their main advice to people considering the lifestyle? "Just get on and do it," Hjorting said.Advertisement

"Just go for it. Stop thinking about it, because it's awesome," he continued. "I love the bus life. Like, I'm probably going to be sad to move into the house once we finally get to."