Real Life Minimalists: Dana

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, I’m delighted to feature Dana. She and her family are embracing minimalism so they can take a big, wonderful bus adventure! Visit her blog to see how they’re preparing for their journey.

Dana writes:



My husband and I had planned on one day living in a tiny house after our three boys were grown and out on their own. We thought we’d maybe take a year to travel when they were older, too. It was all the stuff that “someday” dreams are made of and we never gave any of it too much thought.

But then…Captain Fantastic happened.

(If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a dad who takes homeschooling to an extreme…and then travels cross county with his 6 kids in a converted school bus.)

At the end of the movie, I turned to my husband and said, “We should do that.” He agreed.

3 weeks later, we won the bid for a retired school bus. Now here we are 3 months later and our tiny house on wheels conversion is well underway. As a homeschooling family, we consider this to be another opportunity to learn together. As a family who has always leaned towards very little clutter, we are now learning what it will really take to be minimalist enough to go from 3000 square feet to 230 square feet.

Our plan is to take the next year to finish the bus and then embark on an epic journey to see all 50 states (the bus will have to stay on the mainland when we visit Hawaii!). In the meantime, we’re examining every single object in our lives with one question in mind – Is this busworthy?

Sometimes the answer is obvious and easy. Sometimes it takes a lot of soul searching to get to an answer. Regardless, we’re learning and stretching and getting out of our comfort zone while figuring out what’s important to us and what’s holding us back. Choosing to live a life that’s low on stuff (but high on adventure!) has challenged us as a family, as a couple, and individually to really get brave and to stop saying “someday” and start saying “we can do this today”.

You can follow along with our march towards minimalism and the bus build on both Instagram ( and our blog (

Thanks for reading!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

19 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Dana

  • Dana, what an exciting adventure your family is going on! I took a look at your bus photos. It’s going to be wonderful when it’s completed!

  • Heather

    OH I love this! I love when we get to meet real life people doing this. Have a Fantastic ;) time!

    • Thanks, Heather! I love this Real Life Minimalist series, too! I never thought I’d actually be one! Reading others’ stories has been so motivating and inspiring. I hope my story will do the same!

  • I’m curious who finds minimizing easier, you and your husband or the boys? I also have three kids, and their personalities are so different when it comes to stuff. It sounds like a great adventure! Heading over to instagram to follow it now.

    • Me. Totally me. I could pack a bag and kiss the rest of it goodbye and never look back. My husband is a “We might need this one day!” kinda guy, but he sees the benefits of less and is as eager for this adventure as I am.

      All 3 boys together probably have less toys than one average child, but that still feels like a huge mess at the end of the day. We do a monthly toy rotation, but it’s always the same stuff that gets played with all the time…LEGOS, art supplies, and Matchbox cars. Everything else just gets tossed around. Luckily, I can fit all their favorites on the bus and there will be plenty of the other thing that occupies the majority of their time…outside! Bikes will go on the front of the bus and a few buckets, shovels, and balls will go in the underbelly!

      Thanks for following along!

  • Whitney

    Did anyone else actually see that movie? It’s about much more than “a dad who takes homeschooling to an extreme…and then travels cross county with his 6 kids in a converted school bus”
    In fact, one subplot is how everyone around this family believe the father to have irreparably damaged his children by removing them from society and raising them like wild animals. (Entirely ignoring the fact that everyone also blamed him for the death of his wife who refused treatment for terminal illness). The children are acutely aware of what they are missing (like teen love interests and technology and creature comforts). In the end they forsake the rustic lifestyle and the children go to a conventional school.

    I’m not saying that doing this for a limited time is a bad idea, and I’m certainly not against home schooling, but the movie itself was a cautionary tale! It’s beautiful and romantic and tragic (kinda like life), but I’m shocked anyone might take it as inspiration.

    That said, travelling your own country will probably teach kids much more than they can learn in a year of schooling, and good for you for instilling the values of adventure and openmindedness in the process.

    • Hi Whitney! Yes, thanks for further details on the movie. I consider the movie reference to be the least compelling part of our story, so I didn’t feel the need to devote much of my 750 word limit to it, but since you would like to look deeper at it, I’m happy to as well.

      Our inspiration came from several things. First, as a homeschooling family, we absolutely agree with life learning, deep immersive study, and using nature as a tool to educate…all showcased in an impossible to achieve kind of romantic movie way, but still…impressive, if not completely impractical. Second, that Bill of Rights scene is every homeschooler’s #homeschoolgoals. We all hope to be able to teach our kids in such a way that they don’t just memorize the material, but can actually extrapolate what they have learned far beyond the lesson. Third, we’d never seen anyone transform a bus into something livable and we were struck with what an excellent solution it was to our own need for something tiny and want for the ability to travel. (Spoiler alert…that’s the most important inspiration point here.)

      What you’ve missed from my 362 words is that we aren’t planning on taking the children to a remote location and teaching them guerrilla warfare techniques until they are angry, confused teenagers. We just want to live on a bus. See lots of things. Not have a lot of stuff. Thanks to Captain Fantastic, we found out that this was a possibility and it opened the door to a much larger community than we ever would have guessed. We’re looking forward to joining the thousands of other families who live and travel full time…both in buses and RV’s.

      So don’t be shocked, Whitney! There’s lots of ways to be inspired without turning into an extremist.

  • Hello Dana,
    A classic story with ups and downs but ultimately the family is the most important and must be made any kind of sacrifice, especially for children!
    Best Regards, John!

  • So inspiring! I’m excited to hear that you are creating the life you want to live right now rather than waiting for some day. Your story shows other parents what is possible. I’m looking forward to following your adventures on your blog.

  • Hi Dana, nice post.

    I know exactly what you mean about the Captain Fantastic film, it was excellent, and like all good things it gave us a lot to think about too.
    If it inspires anyone to get up and out and doing something, then it has to be a good thing.
    I’m in the UK and have finished my travels in a bus with my family now, it was all truly wonderful – except the bits that were truly awful – there was never anything in between!

    Our bus was properly converted to a family home, bedrooms, bathroom, living room and ‘full size’ kitchen, no compromises. I didn’t want anyone to have to suffer because of the choices we made. I’ll get some pictures up on the website one day, there aren’t many though, photos weren’t as easy to gather as they are these days.
    All the very best of luck to you all.

    • Thanks so much, Mike! Glad to see that I’m in good company both in films and in skoolie life!

      I fully expect there to be awful parts..I can only hope that the really amazing stuff more than makes up for it. Gotta take a chance to make big things happen!

  • trina

    I haven’t seen the movie, but I did see the Bill of Rights clip … so true that it’s every homeschool parent’s goal to have their kids be able to do that! I’ve fantasized for years about selling our house and living in an RV to travel to all 50 states, all across Canada, and maybe even down into Central America. But mental health issues in our family make it impossible for us to travel for more than 10 days at a time. Good luck in your cross-country adventure! Wish I could join you!

    • Thanks Trina! While a lot of families travel near daily, there are plenty of others who are stationary for the majority of the year and then only travel for a big trip before returning to their stationary spot. After the whirlwind of the last few months, I’m willing to say that most things have a work around. I hope you get to live out your dream one day!

  • […] family is choosing a life that’s ‘low on stuff and high on adventure‘ and they’re using a school bus (!!) to do […]

  • Tina

    I like the idea of small space living. We used to take the kids on long cross country road trips when they were young. Since we live near Chicago, seeing the vastness of the west or Civil War battlefields was eye-opening. We also saw the Soo locks and the rural poverty of Appalachia. Enjoy your adventures.

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