In January 2020, Aussie mum Jo Pascoe, her husband Gary and their five young kids packed up their lives in WA and hit the open road in a bright orange school bus.
The family of seven had always wanted to travel the country but had never taken the leap — until they were faced with a huge challenge.
One of their sons was born with Craniosynostosis, a condition that sees the infant’s skull fuse together before the brain is fully formed, meaning their little one required skull reconstruction surgery just eight short days after his first birthday.
“We realised life is short and anything can happen at any time so we decided it’s now or never,” Jo tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Wheels in motion
Toward the end of 2019, the Pascoes made up their minds to leave their ‘crazy-busy’ life in Australind, located less than two hours drive south of Perth, where both Jo and Gary worked (Jo made personalised gifts from home while Gary worked as a freight truck driver) and their two eldest children were in school.
To make their dreams a reality, they first needed a vehicle so Jo and Gary purchased a 1996 model school bus from Perth at the end of 2019 and began transforming it into a home on wheels.
One of the first jobs was to remove most of the blue patterned seats, leaving a handful leftover for mum, dad and the younger kids’ car seats.
Once gutted, the reno was full steam ahead and one of the family’s first ports of call was everyone’s favourite DIY megastore, Bunnings.
“Literally 95 per cent of the inside build is from Bunnings,” she says.
A Bunnings bus makeover
Jo shared part of her Bunnings shopping list with Yahoo Lifestyle which included the Senso Rustic vinyl plank laminate flooring, an affordable, durable and easy to install flooring option.
For the kitchen, they chose a Kaboodle modular laminate benchtop in vanilla cream for its sleek marble-look finish and a round, stainless steel sink from Bunnings’s Mondella range.
The wood and materials used to build Jo and Gary’s bed, the kids’ bunk beds, the shower and toilet stalls and the couch were also picked up at Bunnings.
The kitchen cupboards and the compact, triangle-shaped gas hob, however, were sourced from IKEA and Caravan RV Camping respectively.
All-in-all, the transformation from 54-seater school bus to comfortable and self-sufficient mobile accommodation for seven people took about three months of hard work.
“It took a lot of effort, a little bit of swearing and tears as some things didn’t work out as planned but we worked around it,” Jo says.
“Honestly, we couldn’t tell you the total amount spent as we actually decided not to keep an exact tally of everything,” she laughs.
If she had to put a figure on it, Jo estimates the fit-out, appliances and the original price of the bus came in at about $65,000.
“Definitely cheaper than buying a home!” she says.
The Pascoes are living off savings for now, with Jo making and selling her personalised gifts ‘off and on’.
Running costs are relatively low because the bus is 100 per cent off-grid thanks to 2.4kw of solar panels on the roof and 10 batteries.
Coping amid Covid
The Pascoe clan had explored a lot of WA’s Southwest and were heading toward Albany when the COVID-19 crisis and the government’s subsequent border closures and travel restrictions forced them to hit the brakes.
“[When the state government] locked the regions... we couldn’t go ‘home’ as we didn’t have one to go to, so we ended up at Mandalay Holiday Resort in Busselton,” she explains.
The family ended up calling the ‘amazing’ caravan park home for a whopping seven weeks until the restrictions began to ease in late May allowing them to continue their adventures.
Throughout their extended coronavirus stopover, Jo says that the kids — two sons aged 9 and 2, a six-year-old daughter and four-year-old twin girls — were ‘actually really good’.
“They made an amazing friendship with a couple of the other kids at the caravan park as well which I think made it easier for them,” she says.
When schools were temporarily closed due to the virus — leaving many terrified parents in charge of homeschooling their little ones — the Pascoes kept calm and carried on with the School of the Air distance education they’d begun earlier in the year.
Despite a few bumps in the road, Jo reveals the family never once regretted throwing their old life out the window and embarking on their bus adventure.
“The best thing about bus life is how close we have become as a family, spending time together and not missing anything,” she says.
“My life right now is amazing, full of so much fun, love and of course some craziness,” she says.
In terms of the future, the Pascoe clan is content to simply go with the flow.
“The long term plan is to just go for as long as we possibly can. We don’t actually have a plan. We’re just going where the road takes us”.
You can follow the family’s adventures on Facebook.
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