Some people are ready for the comforts of home after a weekend of camping in close quarters with the kids.
Not this family. Shane and Julie Good and their seven children—Isaiah, 14, Arwen, 13, Ashton, 11, Ethan, 9, Elisha, 7, Kira, five, and Seth, 2—live in a converted 72 passenger school bus, the Good News Bus. They have been living in the bus for the last 21 months straight, including the last few months at Moosomin Lake.
How did they come to live in a bus? Shane says it goes back to his childhood.
“I was born in Seattle. When I was about five years old, my parents wanted to move from Washington State to Pensacola, Florida.
“They looked into the price of a U-Haul to transport all of their belongings down there, and it was going to be astronomical. They came across this old school bus. They bought the school bus and put their belongings in the back of it and made the front makeshift bunkbeds and made a little kitchen area and we moved in that bus. As a kid, it was an adventure. I thought it was awesome. We visited Yellowstone Park and different places like that, and I never forgot that. Every time we moved, and we moved a lot, it was always an adventure. I was excited as soon as we were getting the bus ready to go.”
A few years ago, Shane decided to resurrect the bus idea with his family.
“Julie’s a native of Brandon, Manitoba. We were living in Alabama. We wanted to come up, visit Julie’s family and we were going to swing over to Washington State,” says Shane.
“We were going to move there,” adds Julie. “At that time we had five children, and we thought before we move let’s build out a bus so that when we are moving we can have a place to live while we’re building our house, and we would be comfortable. We would have a bathroom, we would have a shower, we would have a kitchen, everything we need.
“Converting the bus itself was a bit of an adventure. Shane wanted it to be perfect. He did a lot of research on everything you need, the things you shouldn’t do, that you should do.
“It was difficult to find a lot of resources on it, so he decided he was going to do a blog and blog every single day and describe step by step how to convert a bus.”
“A lot of people ask us why didn’t you just buy an RV,” says Shane. “We were able to customize it for us. I’ve got friends who bought brand new campers and after a year they’re having trouble with them. Ours is still in very good shape after six years of on and off use.”
“We were able to build it out as we had the funds and we could make it just how we wanted it,” adds Julie. “It has stone countertops, oak panelling, wood floors.”
The family took their maiden voyage in the bus in December of 2010.
“We came up here in the winter of 2010 at Christmas to spend time with my family in Brandon,” says Julie. “I think we forgot how cold cold really is because once we got here the bus was too cold to live in.
“We were in Canada for five years, and stayed in the bus for three of those years. Then we had Kira and Seth, then decided it was time to get back on the road. It seems like when we’re stationary for too long we just need to get back on the road. There’s something about the road calling you on an adventure.
“We’ve been travelling now for 21 months straight. We wintered in Florida for a while, then went to Colorado. After we leave here, we’re going to head east, then go south.”
How do they support themselves?
“Being on the road you have to diversify. You have to figure out different ways of making money,” says Shane. “When we’re in the States I do a lot of carpentry work. We have a music ministry so when we travel we will work with local churches, and we have CDs, and sell our music on iTunes, and we have our YouTube Channel which does generate some funds. We’ve got a decent following on there, at Good News Bus.”
Julie also does architectural design and makes up building plans. The family also builds and sells spec houses, such as one they built in Oak Lake.
So how did they end up at Moosomin Lake this summer?
“Julie’s sister, who lives at Oak Lake on the beach, was going to have a baby so we decided to come up here for that,” says Shane. We looked at some campgrounds closer to them, but we did some research, and found out about Moosomin Lake. It’s beautiful and there’s stuff for the kids to do—basketball courts and the lake. We chose to come here.”
The kids all say they enjoy Moosomin Lake, especially when they went fishing off the dock and caught three fish in an hour.
Living on the bus means home schooling for the kids. “Because we live on the road we have to home school,” explains Julie. “It’s not as tough as everyone thinks. Once they are comprehending and reading on their own, it’s pretty easy.”
“They can read their lessons and if there’s something they come across they don’t understand Shane or I will step in to help them. For the most part it’s the younger kids who take more work until they get their foundations. It’s been great. Some of the kids are able to move ahead in some of their subjects. They can get most of their schooling done in three to four hours, and the rest of the time, it’s free time. Isaiah, he’s working on being a filmmaker, so he actually produces his own stop motion films.”
The family say they feel like they have more time together living together on the bus.
“At one point when we were living in Virden, we had a five bedroom house, a huge basement, and even though we were home schooling we felt that we didn’t see our kids,” says Julie. “They would be off in their rooms and they weren’t even doing things with each other. We’ve definitely seen the huge contrast.
“Living in the smaller space, it does have its moments, but we’re constantly doing things together. If we start getting a bit antsy it’s ‘let’s all go for a walk and let’s get out.’ We actually do so much together.”
“A lot of people ask ‘how do you guys stand living in such a small space,’ says Shane. “When we’re on the road, the bus is a place to sleep, a place to eat, a place to travel and do school, but other than that, we’re out exploring. We’re on the beach in Florida or exploring Colorado. It offsets the small space because the world is your playground.”
“I think one thing we have learned is your happiness isn’t determined by your space,” adds Julie.
“You can be unhappy in a very large house, or you can be unhappy in a small space. You can be happy in a large house, you can be happy in a small space. It’s not your surroundings that determines that. It’s your decisions that you make. Living together in a small space, some things are tough, but those tough times make you a better person in the end, when you decide to let it mould you in a good way.”
The family has travelled much of North America.
“We found this amazing place in Colorado, these beautiful rock formations. You just have plains and then all of a sudden there’s these carved out rock formations, and they’re just every color you can imagine, the Painted Mines. We went there so many times. It was so peaceful. There was barely anyone there, just one or two people. It was like a hidden treasure out there, kind of like Moosomin.”
The family has a growing number of followers on Youtube. They post videos of their adventures and everyday activities like checking out Moosomin dam. They’re hoping to land a deal for a reality show.
They’re planning to convert a new bus later this year. It will be a coach style bus with storage underneath to accommodate more storage.
“Let’s just say we don’t have a lot of stuff,” says Julie. “It’s not like you go to a store and want something so you buy it. You have to love that item, because there’s not a lot of space. Our closets are small, so we don’t have a big wardrobe, which is great, because North Americans have a tendency to buy over their needs. You kind of reprogram your mind. You think ‘What do I need? Do I really need this item?’ You end up saving a lot of money.”
The family say the comments from their YouTube followers give them inspiration to keep going. “There was a guy over in Afghanistan when we had soldiers there who wrote us and said the only way he could get some normality in his life is every night when he came off duty he watched our videos,” says Shane.
“We had one lady who was going through cancer treatment,” says Julie. “She says ‘I was pretty much bed ridden and sitting in my bed, and when I watched you videos it brought so much joy to me.’ We think if it brings happiness to two or three people out there, it’s worth sharing it.”
Shane says he realizes being able to spend so much time together as a family is a gift. “I went through some of our old pictures the other day and I was just crying,” he says. “I realized this isn’t going to last forever. This is really temporary. Kids grow up so fast. To just enjoy our time with them when they’re young is such a gift. So many parents don’t get to do that. Often you have both parents working. I’m glad we have been able to spend time with our kids.”
“It’s not for everyone,” Julie adds, “but it’s really freeing for us.”
The family’s videos can be seen at goodnewsbus.com
August 2017Download PDF