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‘Little House On The Highway’: Couple Converts School Bus Into Home

For the past four months, Elizabeth Hensley and Richard Tilford have traveled across 17 states in a refurbished school bus. Their goal is to live more simply and sustainably.
For the past four months, Elizabeth Hensley and Richard Tilford have traveled across 17 states in a refurbished school bus. Their goal is to live more simply and sustainably.
Credit Emilia Brock / WABE
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Elizabeth Hensley and her partner Richard Tilford are a couple on a mission.

For the past four months, they’ve traveled across 17 states in a refurbished school bus — all in the name of living life more simply and sustainably.

They call their new home their “Little House on the Highway.”

For Tilford, the process of selling his home and downsizing has been “freeing.”

“We had nice cars; we had a house full of stuff. But those material possessions started holding us back from what we wanted to do, which was explore and travel,” Tilford said.

But it’s been a long journey for the couple, even before they hit the road.

Fixing and refurbishing the bus required Hensley and Tilford to invest both time and money.

Hensley recalls spending days “scraping rust” out of the bus and mixing cement in a Home Depot parking lot.

By now, the couple believes they’ve spent $10,000 on bus repairs.

At one point, Tilford quit his job so he could dedicate time to fixing the bus.

But their hard work has paid off.

Inside, the bus has most typical home amenities, including a full-size bed and plush seating for guests or for where Tilford and Hensley can share a meal.

Small touches like paper lanterns and teal curtains make the space feel like home.

Still, the couple said it’s their memories of time spent on the road that matters to them now, not necessarily their belongings.

Through their travels, Tilford and Hensley have met a community of people living the same lifestyle, called “skoolies.”

Tilford and Hensley said the skoolies, who are active on YouTube, were instrumental in helping them learn to refurbish and care for the bus.

It’s this sense of community, and the ability to see the country, that the couple said make the hard work worth it.

There have also been low points. Hensley pointed out that they don’t have a shower — yet. Tilford also remembers the moment the bus broke down in West Virginia.

But Hensley and Tilford both agree that they could go even “tinier.”

“I could live in a smaller space. I think we have too much stuff and could organize better,” Hensley said.

Tilford added that he sees perks to downsizing as well, especially to cut down on gas mileage. Currently the couple gets 8 miles per gallon.

The couple doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon.

They want to head west next, now that Hensley has graduated with her master’s degree in American studies from Kennesaw State University.

“Most of all, we want to lead by example,” Hensley said. “We may not live like this forever … we’re very open.”

In Tilford’s words: “We’re take-the-chance kind of people.”