Jessie Lipskin was feeling stuck in the ebb and flow of pricey and cramped city life in Manhattan, and wanted to design a lifestyle for herself that would allow her far more freedom: financially, holistically, and sustainably. That’s when she poked around on eBay — and ended up making the purchase of a lifetime.
Jessie had a wild idea: taking an old derelict bus and making it into her very own state-of-the-art mobile home. With her converted bus, she could finally feel free. But as it turns out, finding the right vehicle was going to be the least of her problems.
1. Breaking With The Norm
At 27 years old, Jessie Lipskin had spent the vast majority of her life in the hustle and bustle of New York City, with only a brief interlude upstate for college. Yet for all the glamor that the Big Apple had to offer, it was admittedly a difficult place to live in.
All around her, Jessie saw people struggling to accommodate the needs of their everyday lives, working hard just to afford to live in a tiny space. She wanted to find a way out — and then she came across a wild idea. What if she could pack up her life and take it on the road? It seemed tempting, and she had no idea at the time that her vision would render the DIY project of a lifetime.
2. Where Modernity And Mother Nature Meet
Something was sorely lacking in Manhattan. When Jessie had been a student at Binghamton College, she developed a true love for being able to have nature right at her own doorstep, as the campus had its own nature reserve right nearby. She wished she could be in that kind of environment on a regular basis.
Jessie wanted to have the kind of freedom that would allow her to constantly be surrounded by nature, while still enjoying the comforts of a modern home. No one she knew had ever tried something like this before. In 2015, she began to research the idea on the Internet — and ended up securing the purchase of a lifetime.
3. ‘Garbage Warrior’ Inspiration
Jessie had a strong desire to travel, and so she alighted upon the idea of building her own mobile home from scratch. First things first: she needed to figure out what kind of mobile home she wanted to create. For inspiration, she looked to a documentary film called Garbage Warrior.
The documentary explores alternatives for sustainable living. And Jessie wanted to adapt the filmmaker’s model of being an eco-architect, utilizing recycled materials to make a home. Now she had to set out to find the right vehicle. But what she eventually settled on was far bigger than she had initially imagined.
4. Dreams Of Pimping Her Ride
Jessie had several options to start with in order to achieve her mobile home dream, but the classic design of an RV didn’t appeal to her. It simply lacked the aesthetic she was looking for. Instead, she decided she would take a vintage bus and spruce it up to her liking.
With a converted bus she would be able to actualize her dream. So she scoured the Internet for the right vehicle. On eBay, she at last landed upon the one she wanted — and shelled out $7,000. Now that she had procured the bus, it was time to get to work. But there were some hefty obstacles she’d have to deal with first.
5. The 1966 Greyhound Bus
The place where Jessie would make her new home was inside a 1966 Greyhound. Oddly enough, it was the same bus model that Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock have to save in the film Speed. Within the bus was contained 400 square feet of possibility. But delivering the vintage bus to her was easier said than done.
The bus was in California, and she was in New York. It would need to be driven cross-country to her home base where she could begin the process of making into a converted bus home. But that was to be the least of her worries. She had a bigger problem to tackle.
6. The Ultimate DIY Project
Jessie’s DIY project would be all the more incredible given that she herself couldn’t drive! Growing up relying on Manhattan’s public transit, she didn’t have a driver’s license. What’s more, she would need to not only get a license, but also learn how to drive stick-shift in order to be able to maneuver the converted bus.
While Jessie completed her driving tests, friends of hers drove the bus all the way from Perris, California to the East Coast. At first, Jessie rented a spot in Upstate New York where she could create a base, hunker down, and get to work. But then she took the old bus to professionals in New Jersey — and the remodeling project began.
7. A Clean Slate
In order to map out the space they were about to create inside the bus, Jessie and her friends first had to totally gut it. To start the renovation project, they stripped out all the seats that it had come with, and sold them to a restaurant. Now they had an empty hull to rebuild to their heart’s content.
They gave the outside of the bus a fresh new coat of metallic white paint to cover its grime. But in order to further the course of the endeavor, Jessie needed more help. Removing old furniture and painting was the easy part. Building an actual home would mean bringing in the experts.
8. Needing A Pro Touch
Despite her passion for DIY projects and her strong vision, Jessie didn’t have enough construction experience to convert this bus into a proper mobile home with all the right amenities and appliances. At bare minimum, the converted bus would need its own self-powered air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems.
Moreover, making the space actually feel livable, inviting, and comfortable would mean a complete reform of the bus interior. Jessie had to decide the layout of the different rooms, and creating them would require skilled carpenters. So Jessie assembled her friends into a work team, and together, they brainstormed how the converted bus should look.
9. Mapping Out Custom Configurations
Setting up the various rooms inside the converted bus was far more than just deciding what would be where, and starting the building process. A key challenge in constructing the home inside the bus was the calculations needed to make it work. Whatever was built had to remain sturdy while the bus was in motion.
The proper angles for each structure had to be figured out with the utmost precision. That way, doors would open or close as they ought to, even if the parking angle was slightly off-kilter. This added extra time to the woodworking, and the project overall. But bit by bit, Jessie’s fantasy home began to take shape.
10. Sustainable Infrastructure
The bathroom inside the converted bus would have to be sustainable, in line with the philosophy that had guided Jessie’s decision-making from the get-go. Thanks to the high ceilings of the bus, they were able to construct a fully-functional standing shower. Beside it was a slotted floor, made of mahogany wood, for the bather to stand on to dry off.
The concept of the slotted floor was that the shower water could drip down through the boards. Then, underneath the converted bus, the water would be channeled into a gray water tank mounted on the vehicle’s underside. This was the best way to recycle what resources Jessie’s home had. But what about a space for her belongings?
11. Optimizing Compact Spacing
As it would happen, the space that the interior of the converted bus afforded would allow for was far more than one might think at first glance. Not only were Jessie and her friends able to install a closet for her to hang her clothes — the bus would ultimately have three closets in total!
Outside of the bathroom, the flooring of the converted bus was covered with a layer of polished hardwood. Then, they gave it a real sense of flair by installing a LED lighting system. The lights were set with dimmers, so the person sleeping in the vehicle could create their own ambience. Now the basics were finished. It was time for the heavy lifting.
12. Electric Ladyland
The electric system for the converted bus had been successfully installed by the team of workers. But although the LED system was nice to have, the bus had to be able to support the different appliances that needed to be installed. One by one, Jessie purchased a refrigerator, a washing machine, a spin dryer, a hot water heater, and a propane tank.
No decision was made without research. Importantly, all of the household appliances for Jessie’s tiny home were carefully chosen so as to fall in line with her initial vision of being energy-efficient and Earth-conscious. Her friends helped her to lug and install the appliances — and one feature in particular was especially delightful.
13. Cook With A View
Having a bus lined with windows had a great advantage when it came to creating a space for Jessie’s kitchen. She could now cook while enjoying the scenery around her, right in front of her face. As she learned the ins and outs of construction, Jessie herself took part in building the kitchen’s wooden countertops.
The kitchen in the converted bus was fully equipped, perhaps even better than many of the Manhattan apartments Jessie and her friends were familiar with. The upgraded bus was equipped with a fully functional, state-of-the-art stovetop, and even had a corner for its own oven. They had created a space for Jessie to make whatever she wanted. And she and her team of experts weren’t the only ones contributing to the overall vision.
14. Compare And Contrast
As Jessie and her team of helpers refurbished the converted bus and turned it into a tiny home, they couldn’t go into their work haphazardly. Jessie had a dream of how her new mobile home would look overall, but she was open to learning from the design example of others.
She found inspiration from other people who were constructing tiny homes in a similar fashion, and posting their results to Instagram. Stage by stage, as she and the experts enacted their interior design magic, she documented their own work process too. And she had a great idea for the bedroom.
15. Dreams On Wheels
Perhaps the most important space of all was a comfortable corner where Jessie could rest her head. Once she had completed the bedroom, complete with cozy velvet curtains, she set up a table at the back of the room. Then she piled her book collection onto it, so that it could serve as the bus’s own miniature library.
The best part about her literary corner was that it was just within arm’s reach, so she wouldn’t even have to get out of bed to grab a good book. Now that the most crucial parts of the converted bus home had been completed, she could at last examine the more minute details.
16. A Work Of Art
After three years of work, the converted bus was finally complete! It truly a marvel to behold. The chic mobile home was a fully-functional, furnished and equipped home that some apartment owners would doubtlessly be jealous of. The decked out bus boasted two separate air conditioning units, three different walk-in closets, and its entire electricity and water system was environmentally sustainable.
Jessie had gone from a dream of escaping the issues she found with life in Manhattan, to being the owner of her very own mobile home that could take her where her heart desired. Now, before setting out on the converted bus’ maiden voyage, it was time to add a touch of personal magic.
17. Be Here Now
As well-equipped as it may have been, Jessie’s tiny home inside her Greyhound did not have all the creature comforts that a typical everyday person’s home might have. There was no television to be found, for example, but she didn’t see that as a down point. In fact, she loved not having one.
She specifically opted not to bring a television onboard. The nature she could surround herself with mobile home would be her source of entertainment, and she could find joy in simple things like waking up to birds chirping outside her windows. Instead of material items, she furnished her portable abode with items that meant something to her — something of far greater value.
18. Final Touches
The tiny home was visually stunning, but it needed a touch of color to spruce it up. Still, Jessie had to stay thrifty, and be resourceful. At a Goodwill sale, she snagged an oil painting with gentle tones, and hung it up in the central hallway of the converted bus.
Any space could be lived in, but after three years of work, she had to make her space feel personalized. It’s the little details of design that Jessie thought made her converted bus feel that much more like a home. And one item in particular, of absolutely priceless value, made its way onboard.
19. Precious Plates
As Jessie claimed the converted bus as her own personal sanctuary, she brought with her as a decoration an object of immense importance: a set of dishes with its own special history. This was no mere decoration, but rather a family heirloom, a way for her to carry her past wherever the road might take her.
Jessie’s great-grandmother had lived in the poor immigrant tenement buildings on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. She had managed to buy a set of fine china dishes, no doubt a sign of prestige given her surroundings. Passed down through the generations, they now graced the table in Jessie’s tiny home. But it wasn’t just this heirloom that set her converted bus apart from others.
20. Expert Organizer
Jessie had a special advantage when she set out on her DIY project. Although she had lacked the technical experience for building, she had her own skill set that she was able to apply to the project: her natural propensity for being organized. She was able to maximize utility of the space allotted within the confines of the converted bus.
Jessie was very good at tossing out any item she felt she had no need for — that practice originated in trying to maximize her personal space in a tiny, expensive Manhattan apartment. But as she reflected back on the three years of work to convert the old bus into a luxury mobile home, she felt the project had some big drawbacks for her.
21. Looking Back
Jessie could be proud that she had learned new trades, like the construction skills that had helped her build the countertops in the kitchen on her own. Yet although she had made a final product that was absolutely spectacular, Jessie found she had several gnawing regrets about the project that been her brainchild.
In particular, Jessie realized that she had been so busy and focused on completing her project that she wasn’t able to read as much as she would have liked. And eventually, though she was satisfied with the home that she had created, she would again repurpose the converted bus.
22. Parting Ways
After having carried out the project of a lifetime, Jessie had plenty of time to reap its benefits and enjoy the great outdoors. But despite the years of effort she had placed into making her dream a reality, Jessie Lipskin eventually decided that she had to sell her converted bus.
The bus was put up for sale on Craigslist, listed at $149,000, with 100,000 miles on it. For Jessie, the dream had run its course; she felt that even this tiny home was simply too much for her. But thanks to the cozy and luxurious space she had created, the converted bus was about to enter a new chapter in its life.
23. Bus Bed And Breakfast
From its place of purchase in California, to the site of its rebirth in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Jessie Lipskin’s converted bus has had its fair share of adventures. Now, it has found a new place to reside: nestled in the gorgeous desert scenery of Joshua Tree National Park in eastern California.
The tiny home has returned to where its journey began, running full circle. It is being rented out as an Airbnb for desert travelers, and guests are raving about it. Thanks to Jessie’s ingenuity, the space can sleep up to four people, making for the perfect desert getaway. But despite its obvious charm, not everyone is a fan.
24. Everyone’s A Critic
When Jessie Lipskin set out to convert a used 1966 Greyhound bus into a viable mobile home, without construction experience let alone a driver’s license, it was a daring idea. Not surprisingly, when she first spoke to others about the idea, not everyone saw eye to eye with her vision.
Quite a few people Jessie talked to were not exactly wild about her idea, particularly her mother. In an interview with ABC News, Jessie remarked, “My mom thought I was crazy. She would tell all the people in her apartment building: ‘My daughter is buying a bus to live in.'” But now that she has moved on from her pet project, where is Jessie?
25. On The Road
Although the concept of creating a mobile home had initially appealed to Jessie Lipskin because it would afford the possibility of not feeling weighed down by city life, she is opting to take that lifestyle a step further. She currently is employed in a job that allows her to work remotely, and she intends to take full advantage of that opportunity.
At 30, she’s looking to go abroad for a little while and work as she travels. Because she has the ability to work remotely, she doesn’t want to feel tied down by the responsibility of tending to the bus, and wants the freedom to travel and explore. It’s the same principle that guided her while building her tiny home: utilizing her freedom to the max.
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