An Interview with Brock Butterfield
1. How did you first decide that Bus Living was for you?
I had some health issues when I was 19 and after almost kicking the bucket in the hospital I realized I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing in life. I decided to quit my 9-5 corporate IT job and chase a dream of becoming a professional snowboarder. With no income I had little to no budget to travel to competitions. Lodging was most expensive so I decided to build a sleeping platform in the cab (not bed) of my truck so I could travel and compete on a low budget. After two years of living in my truck in the winters I had reached the goal of becoming a professional snowboarder but it was rough drying gear out in a Toyota Tundra let a lone living in it during the winter.
I started thinking about how to do it a little bigger. A van came to mind but I’d have to pull a trailer for my snowmobile and there are certain mountain passes that don’t allow trailers in winter plus dealing with a blown out trailer tire in the snow in the middle of the night isn’t the greatest thing. The idea of a short school bus came into my head and I began researching. I then learned that a very limited amount of buses had 4×4. I was sold. I bought a short 4×4 school bus, chopped 4 feet off of the body which left me with 4 feet of frame to weld a snowmobile deck onto in order to carry two snowmobiles.
2. How much of the year do you plan to spend in the bus?
I’ve actually lived in the bus full time since November 2014 and have no plans to pay rent anywhere anytime soon. My rent money goes into my gas tank and I go where the bus takes me.
3. What is the story behind Bus Life Adventure and what do you hope to accomplish?
Bus Life Adventure started as just a web series based on six guys living in the 76 sq ft bus during one winter and chasing snow. The web episodes are out live now on our website. It’s also been a documentary in the making which is focused on how I ended up in a bus full time and how my quality of life has changed since doing so. The documentary will be released fall 2016.
One thing I didn’t foresee is that I would end up becoming this “expert” on bus and van conversions. I get emails everyday now from people asking where to find buses or vans, how to cut a hole in their roof for a wood stove, what kind of shower unit I use or recommend, etc. During my travels I’ve also met so many amazing people living in their vehicles full time and exploring. I’ve been writing blogs and interviews as well as filming small tours of their vehicles to show and encourage other people that you can do exactly what we’re doing. You just have to take that first leap.
My goal now with Bus Life Adventure is to create a community for people to gain ideas and inspiration for their bus or van conversions. I offer free consulting advice to those doing a conversion and have even made trips to go help people for a few days with their conversions.
4. What is your favorite part of the Bus Life?
By far the people I meet. I immediately connect with anyone that is living the same way as I am. Second would be the fact that my back yard and view changes every day. A stationary home can’t offer that!
5. What do you find most challenging about the Bus Life?
Winter is the most challenging. Crawling out of a warm sleeping bag and into below freezing temps to get the wood stove started in the morning can be a challenge. Keeping an eye on water levels in the jugs and filling them up before I run out whether winter or summer.
Another challenge I’ve found is common with “bus life” or “van life” people is keeping a relationship with family and friends. Most family members are supportive of what we’re doing but friendships are hard to keep with people you don’t see very often anymore.
6. In reading your blog, I see that you like to connect with other “bus lifers.” What do you think members in this community share as far as values, interests, or passions?
We all share the same passion for being free. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been living “bus life” for a while but you start to have a desire to roam and be on the road as opposed to being stationary. We feel off and out of balance if we are stationary or in one place for too long. Our desire to explore and be in nature and its elements is stronger than any warm bed or home cooked meal.
7. What gear helps you stay comfortable on the road?
There is a long list of different gear for different applications but for the purpose of this interview I’d like to talk about my favorite Grand Trunk gear that makes my life either more comfortable or easier.
Get-a-way Toiletry Bag is my favorite “overnight bag” to store everything I need whether shaving and showering in the bus as it has the mirror and LED lights for making sure I don’t miss a spot shaving.
Get-a-way compression luggage pack in a small space like the bus makes life so much easier. I love how I can store my dirty undies in a separate sealed compartment and the fact that I can compress it down to the height of my water bottle to fit on small spaces.
Folding camp stool has made it much more comfortable for doing repairs on the bus believe it or not. It’s just the right height to sit on while I change the brakes and rotors or replace the u-joints in the driveshaft as I was forced to recently. It’s also is my favorite chair to use when taking my snowboard boots off outside the bus after I get done riding for the day.
Another awesome small space saver are the collapsible chopsticks. Anything space saving for tiny living is a “huge” for me.
Last but not least, the most comfortable items in my arsenal of Grand Trunk Goods are my hammocks. Nothing beats throwing up a hammock after a hike and taking in the view as the wind gently rocks me back and forth. For short quick hikes I like to take my Nano 7 as it’s the lightest and I can shove it in my back pocket believe it or not. If my girlfriend and Gram the adventure cat are joining then I pack a double nylon parachute hammock.
8. When you are on the road, your home is wherever you decide to pull over and park. Where is the most beautiful place you have parked the bus recently?
This question is almost impossible to answer! I’ve had so many great sunsets and sunrises in the bus over the past year. I think one of my most memorable was just recently while in Utah. I decided to take an old BLM road that I thought I could turn around at one point. 17 miles at 10 mph later I found myself in a slot canyon with a small pullout and my tired eyes couldn’t go any longer. In the morning I awoke to a beautiful waterfall with the sun shining through the mist of the falls below. I remember sitting in my bed for at least 30 minutes just watching the sun rise and the water dance along the rays of the sun.
9. Have you encountered and issues with the Bus Life? Either mechanical, parking related, or otherwise?
Mechanical, yes. As with any vehicle there is always regular maintenance needed. I blew a serpentine belt in the Yukon and the nearest town was over 300 miles away. A little ingenuity and driving slower got us to the next town but I learned that you should always carry a spare belt, tires and gas can along with a full set of basic tools to get you out of a pinch.
Parking, no. The trick is to never park in one spot more than one night and to roll in late and get moving early. Believe it or not the best places to park are in middle class neighborhoods. Neighbors aren’t as close as they used to be back in the day and most people assume you’re visiting someone on the block.
10. What advice would you give to fans who are interested in pursuing a life on the road?
Don’t be a wantrepreneur. Be an entrepreneur. If you have that mind set and attitude towards anything in life you’ll be fine and will find ways to survive. Don’t talk yourself out of life on the road because you’re “too old” or have a family. I just met a family of seven who sold their house and are going to be living in their converted full size bus. They homeschool their kids and honestly the kids are so much further intellectually then other kids their age because of the lifestyle their parents are creating for them.
You’ll find that once you’re on the road you don’t need much and it takes less to live on. But I would like to give warning that once you do start living life on the road you’ll have a hard time going back to “normal” life.