Derek Cobia, 33, and his wife Amy, 32, say their lives once revolved around mortgage payments and filling their four-bedroom home with things they didn’t need. Now their days are spent on the open road with their three-year-old daughter Payson - visiting 33 US states in the last 18 months.
Derek said: "Most of America is so glued to their phones, they don’t spend quality family time together."
"I never want to go back to our old lifestyle," added Amy. "It’s the greatest thing we have ever done in our relationship."
The couple have invested $15,000 to renovate their bus with solar panels, a composting toilet and a bath tub big enough for two people.
The 28ft x 8ft interior also contains a working kitchen, a wood-burning stove and fold up beds. Their journey began in 2015 when they sold their house in Atlanta, Georgia, and moved to a local campsite with Payson, where they lived in a $65,000 RV for a year.
During their time at the campsite, Derek, a financial adviser, and Amy, a teacher, became inspired by the full-time travelling families that passed through. The parents decided to trade their problematic RV for a 2003 school bus, which they purchased on eBay for $3,000.
“School buses are so highly regulated in order to protect children, they’re usually in really good condition," said Derek. "They are steel-framed so they are so sturdy and safe. We bought ours on eBay that February from a guy in Atlanta"
“The whole renovation cost us about $15,000,” he added.
Since hitting the road, the family, along with their American bulldog Britches, age 10, have visited 33 states and travel as part of a community committed to “tiny homes”.
Derek, who runs his own financial services company, said: “When we moved onto the campsite we really grew to love the lifestyle. It was here we began to connect with the tiny living community.
“We would meet families who were just passing through too, which is when we first started to think about it. At the time our RV was causing us a lot of trouble. It was poorly built and there were a lot of issues that were costing us a lot of money,” he continued. "We noticed another bus in our campsite and we thought it was so cool. We began to look up pictures on Pinterest and started wrapping our head around the idea."
"Our biggest goal was to reduce our costs and increase our sustainability. We wanted to be as eco-friendly as possible,” the dad said. “We wanted to put in solar panels so we could have electricity when we were off the grid and a composting toilet.”
The renovation also focused on utilizing the bus’s available space, with fold up beds, which conceal additional storage space.
Amy said: “When we were renovating the bus, a bathtub was the number one priority for me. I am a bath person and I told him once I have a bathtub and a comfortable bed, I will be okay. I can live without a couch.”
Derek added: "We ended up buying a livestock trough for $80 and converting it into a tub. The bathtub has a removable shower head so we can use it in the kitchen. We have a deep freezer built-in to provide counter space and a fridge of course.”
"Our queen bed folds up, and behind it there is closet space and storage. The same goes for Payson’s little toddler bed."
The couple, who live on Derek’s income as a freelance financial adviser and Amy’s remote part-time administration work, feel that their lifestyle has shaped their toddler Payson.
Derek said: "She’s not afraid of anything and she is so social. She’ll just walk up to anyone and start talking. She has a confidence that I don’t think she would have had otherwise."
Amy added: "I think this lifestyle has made Payson a really well-rounded little person.
"She knows the difference between a mountain and a volcano, a river and a lake. She’s more aware of her surroundings. We've been so lucky to see some of the country's most beautiful national parks,” she said.
"My favorite state has to be Oregon. It’s so beautiful, the coast is amazing. We just spent Christmas in Joshua Tree and luckily Santa Claus found Payson there."
Mom Amy said it was difficult to give up some of her old luxuries like constant access to running water and Wi-Fi.
"At first it was hard, I’m a clean person and was used to showering at least once a day. It used to stress me out when Payson got dirty but she doesn’t need to have a bath every single day,” Amy revealed. “She's perfectly healthy and if she is dirty I just wash her down with a warm soapy cloth at night if we aren't hooked up to water.”
“It’s hard sometimes not to have service everywhere we go. I need to be connected to WIFI for the part time work I do, and if there’s no service it can be really tough,” she continued.
Derek added: "But it’s nice to be switched off too."
Derek and Amy plan to home school Payson in the coming years, but eventually hope to settle down in Wyoming or Oregon, their favorite states.
But the pair said they will always be committed to living minimally after their experience.
"Our old lifestyle was so money driven and we always had a fear of losing that income. It was always about our jobs. We never want to go back to that,” Derek said. "We have thought about buying a piece of property and building a small cabin, kind of becoming self-sustainable.
This story was originally published by SWNS.