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So I Bought A Bus... with @our_utopian_bus

Updated: May 21

Names: Michele & Dwayne Cook IG: @our.utopian.bus Facebook: Our Utopian Bus

About us:

We’re in our mid 50’s … we grew up in a coastal town called Port Macquarie in NSW Australia, where beaches and surfing were the lifestyle. We went through High School together, went our separate ways … and found each other via social media 26 years later … we’re now married and consider ourselves the lucky ones!! Dwayne is a photographer and avid fisherman, with his own YouTube channel. Michele is a Jewelry designer, Life Coach, Meditation & Chakradance teacher. We love our bus, ‘Utopia’, and can’t wait to move into her full time, and share our adventures along the way!

What inspired/led you to buy a school bus?

Initially, Dwayne was talking about getting a little campervan to go away overnight Bass fishing. This led to YouTube research … which was our Intro to Skoolies!! Being in our mid 50’s, the idea of living a nomadic life, traveling when and where we want, is so appealing. We’re both creative people, and I’m sure there’s some gypsy blood in our souls! The thought of waking up by the beach or a stream in nature is our idea of ‘Utopia’!!

Did you have any criteria for what you were looking for in a bus?

Size was our main criterium … it had to be large enough so we could live without falling over each other; large enough for a full kitchen; had to have enough space for a creative design studio for Michele’s Jewelry design/creation business (This is a major part of our ability to produce an income on the road). It also had to have enough storage … (Dwayne didn’t want to have to cull his fishing tackle too much!) Other than these requirements, we had very open minds – the idea of a second door was a bonus for flow-through air.

Where/how did you find the bus?

We literally started looking online – we had no idea where else to look! We found a dealer who specializes in re-homing ex-government buses. The bus was located 300 miles from us, and for an extra fee, he offered to deliver it. That proved to us that it ran, and we figured that if there was a major problem, he would discover it on the way! Essentially … we bought our bus sight unseen, without an inspection. *Note: We don’t recommend buying any vehicle this way … as it turns out – we were lucky! We honestly felt it was right for us and haven’t been disappointed!

How long were you searching before you found the one you bought?

We were talking about buying a bus for about 2 months before we found ours.

Did you look at multiple buses before buying the one you did? If so, what stopped you from buying the others?

We didn’t look at any other buses before buying ‘Utopia’ … we saw the 4 photos on the website, and said, “That’s it – she’s the one!” We laugh about this now, and have warned our kids to do as we say, and not as we do!!

Did you do research on what to look for in a potential purchase beforehand? What are some good resources that you used?

We definitely watched many hundreds of hours of YouTube videos … one of our first was Navigation Nowhere! We would have loved to have bought a classic ‘Skoolie’, with the bull nose hood … but in Australia, all buses are flat nose. We also joined many groups on Facebook, and asked lots of questions. We haven’t actually watched ‘TV’ for months … it’s all YouTube videos on bus conversions and how-to’s … we’re building ‘Utopia’ entirely ourselves (Dwayne’s father was a builder – so I guess he learned a bit while watching as a young boy!).

When you first saw your bus was there anything that concerned you about it?

Nothing concerned us at all … the man who delivered it said it drove beautifully and it was happy to sit on 55miles an hour … we’re in no hurry to get anywhere! We were so excited … if anything, a little overwhelmed at how we could possibly transform this huge bus into our home!! Work started on her the next day!

Was there anything that excited you about the bus you bought when you first saw it?

We really like the curved windscreen … it’s a bit retro! We love that she has a side door half way down. We lose cabinet space but gain airflow. We initially were a little bit disappointed in having to deal with the wheel wells, BUT we’ve made them work for us … and have created an ‘upstairs’ bedroom, and ‘downstairs’ bathroom as a result!

What did you learn during the buying process? What would you do differently if you did it again?

We’ve been really lucky in our case … but if we did it again, we would maybe have driven to Sydney to inspect first!

Do you regret getting the bus that you have instead of a different one?

Absolutely not!

What was the registration process like for you in your state?

In Australia, as long as it has a bed, a stove, a seating area, and some storage, it can then be registered as a motor home and not a heavy commercial vehicle. You have to have seatbelts for the number of people the bus can sleep. In Australia, plumbing, gas fitting and electrical all have to be carried out by certified tradesmen, who must certify their workmanship. The final engineer checks these certifications before giving the OK for registration. We’re still in the ‘Construction’ phase and haven’t had any installations or certifications done as yet.

Did you drive the bus home? What was it like driving it for the first time?

We didn’t, as mentioned. Dwayne had to reverse it about 100 yards into our backyard through a very tight gate … he did a great job!

Did you need any special licenses or have to jump through any legal hoops?

We do need to get special Medium Rigid licenses to drive a bus in Australia. Funnily enough, Dwayne used to drive buses at National Airport in Washington D.C. when he lived there many years ago!

How did you insure your school bus and what was the process like?

We’re not at that stage as yet, however, we have followed this line of discussion in several forums in the Buslife community here in Australia. There are specific insurance agents for motor homes and apparently no problem!

Is there anything else you want to share for those that are in the buying process or will be in the future?

Just DO IT! We’ve dived in boots and all … aware that we’re not getting younger and while we’ve been conscious about some decisions based on this (extra steps for my dodgy knee; space around the bed so it’s easier to make etc…) we can see ourselves living the bus dream for the rest of our lives! When we’re too old to drive ‘Utopia’, we’ll park up permanently in a sustainable community of like-minded people.

If you want to hear about more bus life stories click here

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