Coffee Time with @kristieaustin
Name: Kristie Austin
My name is Kristie Austin I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona and the surrounding suburbs. I currently live on the road, where ever my wheels take me. I spent the last 4 years converting a greyhound bus into a tiny home on wheels to allow me to have adventures and freedom to explore this great country of ours.
Tell us about your favorite beverage and why?
My favorite beverage is a good ole Moscow Mule. I first experienced this drink at dinner at the Asylum in Jerome, AZ while being haunted by some of the resident ghosts.
What is your current living situation and how did you decide to take up that lifestyle?
I currently live full time in a 1996 MCI former Greyhound bus that I converted into my dream home on wheels. I chose to live this way to keep my bills down and not have a roommate while I pursue a career in filmmaking.
What was your inspiration or key motivator that led to your choice to live an alternative lifestyle?
The cost of living has driven me to this lifestyle. I want to travel and see the world and our current economic environment is not set up to allow people to do that and maintain a nice home. I also hate packing and moving so this makes it easy! I lock up a few things, start the engine, and am able to move without ever lifting a box.
Can you tell us a little bit about your home?
Tracy is a 40’ MCI 12, with the way I did the build-out she gives me 296 square feet of livable space. I spent a few years searching out the perfect bus which allowed me to really take note of my day to day needs so when I designed her layout I made sure it would work for me. I love the entire bus as she becomes more and more complete. Incorporating real reclaimed 100-year-old barn wood from Kansas on the walls and in my bedroom gives her a great piece of history. My absolute favorite piece is my desk. My grandfather and I did an epoxy glaze on a piece of wood from the forest surrounding my family’s cabin I spent every summer at as a kid. This will be a cherished heirloom that I look forward to enjoying for a long time.
Many people want to live an ‘off-grid’ lifestyle and find ways to become more sustainable. Can you tell us about how you power your home?
As with many projects (especially this one) you find out things cost more and take more doing than you think. Currently, I have to be plugged in to operate, but will eventually have more than an emergency generator and have a complete solar system. For now, it’s the cord life for me.
What is your favorite part about your home and you could not live without, why?
I love the whole thing, I love how my vision has come to life and turned into a real home. I have space to do everything I need or want to do and the ability to go anywhere is the cherry on top.
What is the one thing that you regret about your home and how would you do it differently now?
The only thing I regret is not doing this sooner.
How do you support yourself financially on the road?
I work freelance TV production so when I am working I am able to be parked in Los Angeles and because I have kept my bills to a minimum and have no debt. I can stretch a dollar a long way.
Living a mobile lifestyle, How do you deal with water, food, laundry, internet, mail, or etc.?
Living on the road has some challenges, but with Google, you can usually find everything you need. I am going to be installing an all in one washer/dryer combo soon, but most RV parks I stay at have laundry facilities, I have mobile hotspots and have a PO Box in both AZ and CA. If I need to get mail in a different location I have mail forwarding and depending on the park I am able to receive mail and packages.
Can you take us through a typical ‘Day in the life”?
My typical day starts with a small dog needing to go for a walk and have breakfast, he loves to take his time and sniff the flowers as we walk which is always a great reminder to do so. From there the day depends on the adventure. I love to kayak so if there is a body of water nearby I will head out and explore.
What is one of the biggest lifestyle challenges that you did not expect and how did you overcome it?
The biggest lifestyle change has just been the challenge of the bus being accepted. Not all locations can see past what she used to be. As in life, people would do better if they didn’t judge by the exterior because it is what’s inside that counts.
While we are all drinking some coffee reading this post, can you tell us a story or event that happened to you while living your current lifestyle?
Probably one of the coolest things that happened to me is when I was hanging at home I had a guy come to my door and ask for a ride to the Wiltern Theater in downtown LA. He and a friend had just driven to town in an RV to go see Dido in concert. Dido has been one of my favorite artists since the early 2000’s and they just so happened to have an extra ticket. Not only did I get paid to take them to the concert, I got to attend and meet Dido at the end. It only happened because I was in the right RV park at the right time.
What is your favorite spot that you have traveled to and can't stop thinking about, why?
I’m currently on an adventure to see Oregon and Washington where I will be kayaking with orcas, you’ll have to check out my instagram to see if it happens!
If someone was considering changing their lifestyle and living more like you, what would be your best advice to take the first step?
The best piece of advice I can give you is it’s not always roses, it’s going to cost twice as much and take four times as long as you think it will, but do it right, take your time and don’t quit, it isn’t easy and isn’t for the faint of heart. You have to be resourceful and quick-thinking sometimes, but everything will work out. Oh, and sign up for AAA RV premier right away.
Getting rid of things and going tiny can be a really difficult thing for people looking to live tiny. How did you successfully pair down your stuff and do you have any suggestions for someone struggling to go tiny?
I built in an inordinate amount of storage so I didn’t have to purge a lot, but I did it over time. Before I bought the bus I downsized from a house to a 420 square foot studio apartment. From there I knew what I needed and didn’t and was able to eliminate things that didn’t serve multiple purposes.
A lot of people might be concerned about their own personal safety living a mobile lifestyle. What are some of your best safety tips for someone living on the road?
Install a good lock, invest in good chains and locks for items left outside, even the nicest areas have seen things walk away. I park in nice, well maintained RV parks that come with a level of security. My dog, Edison, makes a great security alarm as well.
Finding places to park can be a hassle when traveling full-time. Can you share some of your favorite locations, go-to spots, or methods for finding parking?
I was lucky and discovered Thousand Trails RV parks and I became an elite member that gives me 81 parks nationwide to park at for 21 days at a time. It has been difficult with the bus since I did the conversion but was thankfully able to get an RVIA exception on file. If you go this route with a custom build, make sure you have paperwork showing your electrical was done (or inspected) by a professional.
If you were driving from the east coast to the west coast what would you be listening to for the drive?
I have a varied genre of music I enjoy from country to house music. I am proud to be a murderino and listen to a lot of My Favorite Murder, Brene Brown Unlocking Us, Tara Brach meditations, and any good true crime podcast.
What is one thing that transitioning to a simplified lifestyle has taught you, good or bad?
I’ve learned how tough I really am and that choosing this lifestyle, while not for everyone was the best thing I have ever done.
Is it hard to drive the bus?
As Sandra Bullock said in speed “It’s just like driving a really big pinto”.