As a native to Red Hook, New York, it made sense for Jonathan Von Reusner to continue living at home during his freshman year while attending the local university, Bard College. But by the time sophomore year hit he got the itch to find his own place and searched for an affordable way to move out of his parents’ house. What he found was a “clean slate” which he could literally build on, in the form of a small, navy blue bus.
It took him only 8 days and $5,600 to buy the bus, strip down the seats, install a hardwood floor, and build a complete living space. The portable apartment is 90 square feet, completely off the grid, and, according to Reussner, “absolutely enough to live in.”
The bus came with four solar panels attached to the top, which now provide Reusner with 400 watts of energy, about enough electricity to power a laptop for eight hours. A battery stores energy for darker days. The kitchen consists of a water cooler, small fridge, electric kettle, and propane stove. There’s no bathroom on board, but as a student Reusner has access to shower facilities on Bard’s campus.
The most important feature of the entire space seems to be his desk, the “base” where schoolwork gets done. As a current undergraduate planning to go on to medical school, having a comfortable studying space is one of his top priorities. “It’s something I’ll be able to live in for quite a while,” Reusner says about his situation.
A similar move to an off the grid lifestyle was made by a California couple a few years ago. Richard Lane, an IT professional and his wife Rachel, a therapist, renovated an old school bus and turned it into their new home. Envisioning a sustainable and nomadic lifestyle, they now survive comfortably on about $100 a month, allowing them both to work part time and pursue other passions.
Though the bus may not Reusner’s home forever, like it is for the Lanes, the three 21st century nomads are pioneering an alternative type of housing that meets this generation’s increasing demands for affordability, sustainability, and individuality. Reusner has discovered, counter-intuitively, that a smaller space gives him more room to breathe. For Reusner, when you have to pick and choose only the things you need in order live, everything feels less cluttered.
Similarly, the Lanes have found freedom in being able to create their home from scratch. “The shell conformed to our lives versus us conforming to it,” they say.
Rachel Lane says her mother’s reaction to their situation was, “this isn’t the 60s.” Perhaps not, but, as the Lanes and Reusners have shown us, building on top of something old can take you down new roads. We might not all end up living on wheels, but living on less may gratify us more than we realize.
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