Interview: Bus Life with Patsy & Geoff - Travelling K

Interview: Bus Life with Patsy & Geoff

Freedom Camping in Caravan & Exploring Cape Kidnappers | Hawkes Bay
November 28, 2017
A Series of Unfortunate Caravan Accidents
January 9, 2018

I met Geoff & Patsy while staying in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

They have lived in a modified school bus for over 8 years and have so many stories to share. I knew I wanted in interview them as soon as we met.

Why did you decide on this lifestyle?

I think to get away from the stress of modern life. To get away from the 9-5 job.

We figured that we wanted to retire early. If our health was fine, then we get those extra years, if our health wasn't fine, then we get it now.


When did you start?

We bought the bus in 2005 and took 3.5 years to convert it. Then we went away in 2008 for 10.5 weeks. At the end of 2009 we left work full time and headed off in the bus. I remember getting back from that 10 week stint and thinking - yep, we can do this.

We just put plans into action. Finalised our jobs. Packed the house up. Got some really good tenants for the house and took off.

Why a bus? What lead you to deciding on a bus?

I think we just fancied the idea of a bus.

We liked the idea of just being able to drive away if we needed to. Not that we've ever needed to. I think a bus might be a little more roomy. It's a little bit different. We like old things - so an old bus. You can also carry water and waste water easier in a bus.

We've never looked back with a bus. It's never been an issue. We've been able to park it. If you go to the supermarket, you just need to walk a bit further, which is not a bad thing anyway. It works for us.

I think as long as you have wheels, it doesn't really matter, as long as you get out there and do it.


What did the bus look like when you first bought it?

It was a school bus. On the Friday it did the school run and on the Saturday we came and picked it up and bought it home. So it was definitely Gus the old school bus, right from the beginning.


And you renovated it just yourself?

Yeah, and I think the good thing is, we did it on our own, in a field away from everyone. We didn’t copy anyone else because we didn’t know what they were doing, so we just did it how we wanted. There was no interference by other people, which is good, we just did it.


Any parts you struggled with?

The hot water cylinder! I normally don’t study the manual, but I studied it several times. Because I just couldn’t get my head around how it was suppose to go in. But I got it. And it’s worked fine every since.


You’re a tool maker by trade. Was that helpful?

Yeah, having the practical mind. I was still on the tool room at that time, so I was able to use some of their gear to do some welding or cutting or make parts up.


What tips would you give people renovating a bus?

First thing is to figure out a layout you prefer yourself. We didn’t really work it out. We just started at that end of the bus, put the bed in and worked our way forward.

I wanted to have the two couches aligned with each other, which they’re not, but it seems to have worked fine anyway.

You want a large shower and quite a large area to get changed and to get in and out of the shower. One of the things I would have changed had I built it again – I would have built the shower with much more drain towards the drain hole. When you park your bus, it’s never flat, so that helps your shower drain. I think that’s very important.

We used a queen sided bed and we’re very happy with that.

We got the biggest fridge you could buy. And that’s fine, it has a good freezer apartment which helps you last a little bit longer. We’ve gone from shops for four weeks at a time and it’s been fine.


How much waste water and fresh water do you have?

Up until recently we've only had 200L of fresh water which gives us six days - shower every day.

We've just put in another 90L tank. So that gives us 290L of fresh water, which should give us 9 days which would be nice.

What we find is when you're away, if you're away from civilisation, you can usually find a stream, or catch rainwater off the bus. If we're using stream water, we just have it in a bucket beside the sink. Everything but cooking and drinking, we use the river water, for washing and rinsing. That makes water last a long time.


What is your power set-up with the solar panel and the battery?

Ours is very old. We've had it nearly 10 years. We've got two 80W panels on the roof.

I want to go more but I'd need a bigger controller and I don't really want to invest in that now. Seems to work fine, and we've got four deep cycle batteries. I think they're 200 amp hours each.

We chatted to a man up in Gulf Harbour who was a specialist in batteries for boats. He had not much to do one Monday morning and I went and chatted to him. He told me all about deep cycle batteries. He said Trojan, which we bought and I've been very happy with them.

In the middle of winter there is not a lot of sun so that helps immensely having good batteries.

We plug in the battery charger if we have to and we're in a campground.


Do you have a generator?

No we don't, we've been meaning to buy one, but we don't have a generator.

With the sun shining now, we've got more power than we even need.

You do learn to be conservative tho. If we're running low on power, we won't watch TV that night. Radio doesn't use much power or we read books.

You learn to be conservative of water too. When there's lots of water, you don't really care, but when there's not much water you're very conservative. You stop and start the shower. Make sure you get a shower that you can stop and start - that certainly saves water.

When you go travelling, do you leave your car and motorbike behind?

No, the motorbike can go on the back of the bus.

The car – we just bought it for a length of time. Normally if we’re in a place we just buy a cheap car. But for some reason this car has stayed with us. We’ve had it about 2.5 years. Someone’s always wanted it while we’re away. We’ve just kept using it and it’s been a particularly reliable car. But normally we’d just sell it, which we’ll probably do at the end of this stint and use the motorbike as an emergency vehicle.

The motorbike on the back of the bus, don’t bother doing it – you never use it! Wait, we have used it in an emergency. We had a broken fuel line and we were in the middle of nowhere. Once. I am going to work on the motorbike at the moment. It is nice to have that second vehicle.

Apart from push bikes of course. They’re good.


So you’ve got some push bikes as well?

Yeah, a couple of push bikes and a kayak on the roof. So we’ve got all bases covered!


How do you afford this lifestyle? What tips to save money?

Living in the bus on the road is not that expensive

You’ve got your normal grocery bills.

$350 a week with fuel?

We don’t normally pay campground fees, we’re usually freedom camping. Or get the DoC pass which is $175 a year and then off you go to most DoC camps with no more expense.

I thinking being here is actually costing us more because we’re got access to shops and things like that. When you’re close to a shop you spend money. When we’re on the road we don’t do that. We don’t spend near the same amount of money as what we are being stationary here. There’s no nice cafe’s just down the road, you have a coffee in the bus instead.

It’s actually cheaper for us to be on the road. We’ve shopped for a month at times and yes, you might spend $400-$500 on a shop for a month, but that’s cheap over a month. You don’t go to another shop again for a whole month after that and bulk buying as well. At the end of the month you have some pretty funny meals, but you’re still eating.

When you go travelling, do you leave your car and motorbike behind?

No, the motorbike can go on the back of the bus.

The car – we just bought it for a length of time. Normally if we’re in a place we just buy a cheap car. But for some reason this car has stayed with us. We’ve had it about 2.5 years. Someone’s always wanted it while we’re away. We’ve just kept using it and it’s been a particularly reliable car. But normally we’d just sell it, which we’ll probably do at the end of this stint and use the motorbike as an emergency vehicle.

The motorbike on the back of the bus, don’t bother doing it – you never use it! Wait, we have used it in an emergency. We had a broken fuel line and we were in the middle of nowhere. Once. I am going to work on the motorbike at the moment. It is nice to have that second vehicle.

Apart from push bikes of course. They’re good.


So you’ve got some push bikes as well?

Yeah, a couple of push bikes and a kayak on the roof. So we’ve got all bases covered!


How do you afford this lifestyle? What tips to save money?

Living in the bus on the road is not that expensive

You’ve got your normal grocery bills.

$350 a week with fuel?

We don’t normally pay campground fees, we’re usually freedom camping. Or get the DoC pass which is $175 a year and then off you go to most DoC camps with no more expense.

I thinking being here is actually costing us more because we’re got access to shops and things like that. When you’re close to a shop you spend money. When we’re on the road we don’t do that. We don’t spend near the same amount of money as what we are being stationary here. There’s no nice cafe’s just down the road, you have a coffee in the bus instead.

It’s actually cheaper for us to be on the road. We’ve shopped for a month at times and yes, you might spend $400-$500 on a shop for a month, but that’s cheap over a month. You don’t go to another shop again for a whole month after that and bulk buying as well. At the end of the month you have some pretty funny meals, but you’re still eating.

And you’re meeting people all the time?

All the time and the kids are only a phone call away – they’re not far. New Zealand’s a small place really. We can be with them within hours.


So it’s freed up more time and simplified your life?

Simplified like you wouldn’t believe. And you’re far more relaxed as a person – far more relaxed.

You don’t realise how much you give to a job.

A nice feeling is driving away in the bus. Starting a new adventure each day. Everything you have is in the bus and off it goes – heading down that road. We say, next adventure, next chapter in the book.

I really enjoyed interviewing Patsy & Geoff – their positive outlook on life.

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask them? They’re happy to answer.

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