Living Cheaply: Converting a School Bus to a Camper

Learn how living cheaply while traveling in a converted camper works well for this family.
By Bill Lulay
March/April 1971
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Converted campers are just one ways that people are living to save money.

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We have been living cheap in our school bus-converted-to-camper for six months now and doing very well. After I left Xerox, I took a job for three weeks with the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in Bethal, N.Y. We are actually trying to find a commune to live in but, even if we do, we'll probably remain fairly mobile.

We have lately been turned on to eating wild plants that grow all over the country and which are there for the picking. Over half a meal can be prepared from eating these wild plants. Meat is getting so expensive that it has become fairly scarce on our table. Oatmeal is a good, cheap, basic food which can be fixed with a variety of additives (honey, sugar, maple sugar, raisins, molasses, fruit, leftovers . . . you name it.)

Since leaving Xerox, we've gotten really good at living cheaply. We just bought an armful of heavy used clothing and used the material to make winter clothes for our 2-1/2-year-old daughter. We saved money making winter clothes since the cost was only a couple of bucks, plus the time spent sewing.

Our school bus gets about 6 or 7 miles to the gallon and we both have bikes (bicycles, not motor bikes which cost money in repairs, service and fuel) on which we travel away from the bus.

On a recent trip to Canada, we stopped overnight at highway rest areas. Although this is illegal (and one of them had a notice saying so) we were never hassled by the cops. If we weren't in a hurry, we'd stay until afternoon from the previous night's stop to save money, then do just an hour or less driving before pulling into another spot to eat supper and spend the night. Prices of everything varied considerably from the southern to the northern part of New York State. Food generally got cheaper as we went north and gas became more expensive. Oh well . . . just some handy dandy tips, folks, for living cheap and with as little expenditure as possible.

We found it necessary, on trying to enter Canada, to fabricate a job and story about being on vacation in order to satisfy the uptight 40-hour-per-week immigration shlub who feared we were trying to sneak into the country to live permanently. Apparently it looked to him like we had all our worldly possessions with us (which, of course, we did). I now have a friend who will verify that I am working for him and that we live in an apartment in the back of his shop. Many straight people, especially those in authority, get very upset if it appears that you not only don't have a job and no permanent residence . . . but that you live in a vehicle, enjoy it immensely and don't WANT a job or permanent residence.

The main barriers to this form of self-liberation are psychologic. People who think nothing of living for two weeks in a camping vehicle will come up with fifty million objections for extending that two weeks to forever. They'll tell you it's IMPOSSIBLE to live in a vehicle. I suspect the insecurity of having no place (piece of ground) to call home upsets them. This lack of security can't be dismissed too lightly.

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