Tiny Home Tours

Living Outside the Box: Turning Unconventional Dreams into Reality with Mike & Mandi

January 03, 2024 Tiny Home Tours Season 3 Episode 17
Tiny Home Tours
Living Outside the Box: Turning Unconventional Dreams into Reality with Mike & Mandi
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode Ayana sits down with Mike and Mandi, a couple who have lived full-time on the road for over two years now! They share their tiny living origin story, how they manage nomad life financially, and their unique insights into taking the leap to live tiny! Tune in to unravel the triumphs and tribulations Mike and Mandi have encountered as they transformed their unconventional living dreams into reality.

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Mike & Mandi Podcast

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Intro: Welcome back to the Tiny Home Tourist Podcast. The tiny house made me feel in my body this thing that I think I always understood, which is that there are no rules, like you're literally living in the moment. I know it's a cliches saying, but living this lifestyle consistently puts me in that mindset.

It's about keeping all of the things that matter to you and letting everything else go. I've been scared a lot of times. But I just, I jump anyways I guess. You have to jump. Join us each week as we share stories, wisdom, and practical tips from those who choose to have less and live more. 

Ayana: Hey, everyone. This is Ayana. I'm back with another episode of the Tiny Home Tours podcast. Today, I am [00:01:00] joined by Mike and Mandi. They live in a full size school bus and are going to tell us all about how they got on the road, the build, how they make it work and everything. So thank you both so much for taking the time to share your story with us today.

Mandi: Yeah, we're excited to be here. 

Mike: Thanks for having us.

Ayana: Of course. All right, so let's do it. Let's start with the two truths and a lie. Hit me with your best shot. 

Mike: Go for it. Okay, our first one is that we are both bilingual. The second one is together we have seven rental units. And the third one is that we have both lived abroad.

Ayana: Ooh, these are good ones. I feel like I say that every time, but these are really good ones and I'm not sure. I think the lie is that you're both bilingual. Are you both bilingual? 

Mike: Daaaang! You got it! Yes! Good job. 

Ayana: Okay, neither one of you are bilingual.

Mandi: No. Currently doing Duolingo.

Mike: [00:02:00] Yeah, we're practicing our Spanish for Baja. 

Ayana: Nice. . Okay, so seven rental properties between the two of you. That's so cool. 

Mike: Seven. I say seven units because it sounds cooler. There's the number is higher, but we have, so we have like four buildings and they have multiple units inside.

So most of them do. So yeah. I have. Two duplexes and a single family home that Mandi and I lived in together and then Mandi has a duplex also in the same town.

Ayana: Incredible. I'm sure we'll get like more into that also in your story and kind of how you all have made that work financially. But that's incredible.

So yeah, tell us, . How did you get started living in the bus? What's your kind of origin story? 

Mike: Yeah. So I think it was always something that I was, I was always interested in alternative ways of living. Right. And throughout many different. Parts of my life. It's always been different things like for a while It was an off grid Earth ship and then it was shipping container build and then [00:03:00] it you know And then I started seeing buses and getting really into that sailboat living, you know living full time overseas kind of all over the place for me and After being together with Mandi for a while.

It was like It had always been kind of a cause of contention in, you know, in other relationships. And so it was like, all right, I'm going to have the conversation about the fact that I'm weird, and I want to do something weird. And Mandi was like pretty receptive to it. Like, that's cool. I could totally do that.

You know, and so I was really doing a lot of research before that and watching all the YouTube videos and like going over, like what the layout would look like and stuff like that. Yeah, and I 

Mandi: actually like before I met Mike I had no idea people lived in anything other than a house Like I had never been I was on a big YouTube person I had no idea but people have been vans and rigs like and So he was when we met he was big into sail like watching sailboat families and talked about like living on a sailboat and I was like I love this so much, but [00:04:00] I was a brick and mortar teacher for 15 years.

So my mind automatically like would shut down because I'm like, how can I support myself on the road? Like I can't go virtual like virtual teaching wasn't really a thing. So it kind of was a little bit of a, we had a few months for like, I was like verbally saying that was cool, but I wasn't like showing that I was like truly interested.

Like I was doing the words, but like he didn't feel like. I was like truly committed, committed to it. So I finally had to have a talk and figure it out. And then actually COVID happened, which was horrendous, but also it opened up doors for me to teach virtually or do something virtually. So that's kind of when we started to take it seriously and start looking at what kind of rigs we wanted and stuff.

But yeah, I had no idea this whole world existed until. What, two or three years ago, so that was, yeah, it was kind of a cool, awesome world to find, but yeah, yeah, I had no idea. 

Mike: So then we, you know, we started talking about like, what kind of rig do we [00:05:00] want? Short bus, like, full size bus, you know, and we tried to buy a couple, looking on all the auction sites, and we were, we were trying to buy this bus that was like a 30 foot Bluebird, I think.

And it had already been lifted, and the guy had all the, like it was gutted and lifted, but nothing was done on the inside, and it was full, he had like a composting toilet, and like a bunch of the stuff that you need to put into a bus, kitchen stuff, cabinets. But it wasn't installed and he was getting rid of it.

And so we were trying to get that and then the deal fell through. Somebody else had kind of jumped the line or was in front of us. I don't remember, but they got it. So we were pretty disappointed. And, you know, I have been following from the beginning of my bus life, you know, journey Justin and his wife, Val from Gilligan Phantom.

So I knew about Gillig buses and I just loved them. We talked about it and it was like. We don't want a 40 foot school bus, unless it's a Gillig like that's the only one that we will buy if it's 40 feet because that's how that they only are 40 feet, right? They don't make [00:06:00] shorties. So the day after that bus sale fell through from Georgia, this one popped up on, on Facebook marketplace.

And I was like, we're, we're going for it. And so we had talked ahead of time, like, Hey, if we was It's kind of like your celebrity crush. Like, Hey, if, if the Gillig comes on Facebook marketplace, like we, we're, we're okay to like make decision about going for the Gillig you know? And so, yeah, it came up on Facebook marketplace.

Some guy in California was selling it. I jumped on it, like gave him a deposit like that day. 

Mandi: Yeah. He was texting me at work and he's like, do we do it? I don't know. Really quick. He's like, ton of people are messaging me right now. So like, I gotta like give them and I was like, do it. So he literally gave him deposit and I was like.

Like, holy shit, we bought a bus, it was like not, you know, kind of like a very quick decision that day. 

Mike: Yeah. But it turned out for the best. I mean, and then I flew out there like a week later and I was supposed to have a friend come do the, the road trip back with me who lived in California and he had something come up [00:07:00] last minute.

And I was really not comfortable driving the bus by myself like for the first time across the country solo and thankfully Mandi was fully remote at the time. And she was like, well, I'll come with you. And so she bought a ticket out like that day and we met up and drove across the country together for 

Mandi: the first time.

LA to Michigan. First time I was driving a school bus. We hit the five o'clock LA traffic. The school bus and the Gillick and we I mean, he was like driving and his, you know, like I could see like clenched fist on the steering wheel and like hunched over and then I was panicking because he kept like drifting into the right lane because you were like, We have a rear engine, so you're like on top of the road.

And I mean, I probably cut off a few people off, but I was like, you're too close. You're on the other lane. And he's like, it was like, it was a bit of an adventure to get out of LA. Our first time driving a bus. And I can't believe they just let you do that too. Like, here you go. Here's a [00:08:00] 40 foot school bus.

Mike: Well, the mechanic mechanic gave me the once over for about a half an hour to 45 minutes and Mandi was still flying. So I had a bunch of time that day. And then the guy, it was a fleet place. So he rented, he bought buses and rented them back to schools. And so he had his driver come in and show me like how to drive the bus.

You know, what are the things to look for when you start it up? What do you do to check everything? Which was really cool. and then the driver's like, all right, we need, let's go get, get, you know, fuel. So he drew, the driver drove the bus around the corner of the fuel state at the gas station. We got diesel.

And then he was like, well, you drive, you drive it back now, you know? And so I was like, Oh, it's started to get real. So I drove it back and he had me turn around, do like three point turn in the yard and like, to help me understand, like, okay, we'll wait for the curb to show up in this mirror at this point.

Then, you know, you can, you know, all that stuff, which was cool. But then they were like, all right, you know, here you go. I signed the paperwork and. We're driving in LA and for some reason, Apple maps wasn't working. And [00:09:00] it took us through this like neighborhood in Compton like, you know, 4 30 PM and we're driving around and we hit this like teeny tiny, like 10 foot roundabout.

And I'm like, what am I going to do? in this 40 foot school bus. And I pretty much went over half of it with, you know, like I just did the best I could. Right. And and then we got on the expressway and it was like, yeah, rush hour traffic. And the goal was like, okay, three days to get across the country.

Right. Cause I'm thinking like You know, it takes, you can do it in three, maybe four days. It took us like six days. And the first day, like I was so stressed out. We got to like Barstow, California. We're supposed to get to Phoenix or something stupid like that. We got to Barstow and we're like, Nope, we're done.

We're, you know, this is all we can take. And at the time, because we were kind of, Mandi was like getting ready for this journey. She was teaching English as a second language to kids in China. So she was waking up at like. Well, she was waking up in Michigan at like 3 or 4 a. m. to do this during their like evening hours.

And so we were in, on California time. So she was waking up at like 1 and 2 in the [00:10:00] morning in like seedy hotel rooms and like going into the bathroom. 

Mandi: On the toilet with my computer. So I was like, wouldn't like, I wanted Mike to sleep because he was driving a lot. So I was like, in the bathroom, I had the, my laptop on the computer.

I would be sitting, or on the toilet. I'd be sitting on the floor like. In my little headphone, try not to be too loud.

Yeah, it was quite an adventure. We also had to learn like Driving and parking so we were finding hotels to spend the night and and the first night I didn't know how to operate google satellite. So he's like find a hotel or motel that can fit like an rv so I found one. I was like, oh, yeah, it says rv parking like Sweet, we'll be good.

What we pull in is like this little U turn, and there's like no way we're turning around and we pull in, so it's like, I don't know, 11, 12 at night, we're like backing into the middle of four way traffic because we can't get out. 

Mike: Because we couldn't fit. We had to like, we pulled in and we're like, oh no, there's no way.

So we had to back out into the road again and come in the [00:11:00] other exit. And then when we left at four in the morning, we couldn't turn around. So we had to reverse. And so it's just like the reverse beep, you know, past all the hotel rooms at four AM, we're like, sorry, everybody.

Mandi: So, literally drive from LA to Michigan.

Mike: Yep, we got, the bus got tagged in Albuquerque. We parked a little too close to the sidewalk and somebody like gang tagged the back of it with a giant sharpie marker. And then Mandi started the, the demolition on the way home. She got a little bit bored and you know, we have, the way that this bus was set up, we didn't have to go underneath the bus to take the seats off.

It was all secured only from the top, which was awesome. But she took like 10 or 12 seats out, you know, when we were, as we're driving down the expressway, she's walking around with the impact driver, taking seats out, you know? So that started right there. Very unsafe. 

Ayana: It sounds like such a huge learning curve in [00:12:00] the span of like 10 days and your whole life changing.

Mike: It was. Little 

Mandi: didn't know what we were getting into really. 

Ayana: Yeah. Yeah. In terms of the build, I mean, I know you said you were kind of interested in container homes and those sorts of things. Did you all have build experience before the bus came along or was that going to be like a whole new set of, of learnings as well?

Mike: I've always been like, I've grown up always doing stuff with my father and like working on things and you know, whether it be like. Pointing the flashlight as a little kid and hoping to point it in the right direction and not get yelled at to like you know, building a cabin. Like we had a cabin, the shell was built and then we'd spent two years doing everything else.

So like, I got a lot of appreciation for doing that stuff. And then, you know, I had bought a house a while ago and I had, had two rental properties at the time. So I always did a lot, I did the work myself, so I had had some like. Building in a house type thing. You know, I've done electrical in the house.

I've done plumbing, but [00:13:00] this was all like brand new. And I think Mandi hadn't really had that. 

Mandi: Yeah, I had zero. So that was quite a, it was an awesome experience and it was quite a learning curve for both of us. Like working together to. Learn how to communicate better to each other. And I had to learn a lot.

So he kind of had to learn how to communicate best to me to help me understand. So like his way of communicating of how he understands something is now how I can interpret it. And I had to learn how to explain to him how to best help me out. So there was I mean, I would say anybody, like, if you really want to test your relationship, and you could probably attest to this, like, build a house together, build a rig, build anything together, like, you will, if you get through that, you will learn so much about each other.

I mean, there were a lot of tears. We were also both working full time. During the build, we were doing we had decided to do embryo, freeze embryo. So do embryo transfers. So that [00:14:00] was also like taxing like physically and mentally on me and both of us. So that was like the whole year of our build. We were kind of going through a lot and then just learning how to navigate that whole system.

So, you know, it was an awesome experience. It was also a very, trying and hard experience. But, 

Mike: And we weren't ready when we got back to Michigan, like we were not ready to start the build yet. We knew like we wanted the bus, but like we got to do the floor plan. We got to start like figuring everything out and we hadn't done that yet.

So we parked it for the winter at a friend's house. You know, we gutted it, did all of that and then just parked it for the winter and then did all the design work. So we kind of knew going into it, like what did we want it to look like? But then the reality of actually doing it all and then like the partnership of it, you know.

Was the, was where the challenges came in. So like we were working, we were both working full time. Mandi was, we were going through the fertility thing. So that was, that as like an additional stressor. And then [00:15:00] yeah, building on nights and weekends. And in my head it was like, oh yeah, we're going to get this done in six months.

You know, I was like, we can do it in six 

Mandi: months. I'm pretty sure you said three months. Okay. Pretty sure we started at three months and I was like, three months. He was like, stop being so negative. I'm like. I'm pretty sure I'm just being real realistic, like a 40 foot bus in three months working full time.

It's like, no, three months for sure, three months. So how many months later, Mike? Yeah, it took us 16 months. Okay. 

Ayana: Yeah, I think the going advice is like double the time and at least plus 50 percent of your budget. 

Mike: Yeah. Absolutely. That's true. Yeah. And, and building through the winter was terrible. I would not wish that on anybody.

I was up on the roof like building the deck in the snow, you know, so yeah, not fun. But yeah, I mean, it was like, you get to a point where like. I don't feel like I'm a great, like [00:16:00] builder, but I know enough to make my mistakes not look like mistakes, you know, like I, so I think that's what has been helpful for us, but it was a great experience.

And I think now we're in, like, we're in, we're past the part where we remember how bad it was during the build. So I very, very much still feel like I'm ready to do another one. You know, we're not ready to be out of this bus, but I would love to build another 

Mandi: bus. And there's so much information out there, like if someone were to go build, like, I mean, YouTube, and there's awesome people out there, like, even if you dive into the community, without even being in the community yet, like, everyone is so willing to help out and just give any advice, so that was, that helped us a lot, I mean, what do you call it, like YouTube University, right?

Like, there's so much out there That is, was a huge help getting, even just like figuring out a layout and the simple stuff that you weren't sure what would be the most functional and you could, you know, easily find it out, out in the universe. So it's, can seem intimidating, [00:17:00] but there is a lot of help out there.

And yeah, it's easy to find someone to. Jump in and help out when needed. Mm hmm. 

Ayana: So how long have you all been in the bus now? Like, what was the timeline of when you finished it, hit the road, and how long you all 

Mike: have been on the road? So we, in March of 2022, we were not a hundred percent done, but we were done enough to where the bus was livable.

Nice. And there's this like period in Michigan called Fool Spring, where like you have like a couple of warm days and everybody brings their shorts and sandals out and then like, you just get pounded with really terrible weather and it's like kind of soul crushing, right? Mm-Hmm. . So we were like, that happened and, and it got cold again.

And we were like, we're done. We're done with this. We gotta get outta here. And so we found. Some places we had known of some places that were like communities for people that are building out rigs. It's like a campground, but they have crazy, awesome [00:18:00] workshops and tools and everything.

And so we found a community like that in Southern Georgia called the Schooly Homestead community. And we were like, this is perfect. bathroom's not done a couple other things aren't done, but. The nice part about that place is it's a big piece of property in the woods of Southern Georgia. There's a house on the property, but nobody lives in the house.

It's like a communal space. So there's there's a kitchen, there's a couple laundry machines, there's a couple bathrooms, there's like a living room with a TV, and they have internet, and they have a pool and then you're parked at a campground, and then there's a huge workspace, like it's like a big outbuilding that has all these tools, and so you basically just pay for a spot, and then everybody's converting rigs.

So not only do you Get to use the tools and stuff like that, but you have other people that you can bounce ideas off of. And so we left in March and went down there. And then we've like hit the road, hit the road in June of 2022. 

Mandi: First week of June. 

Mike: So yeah, we've been living in the bus almost two years now.

Mandi: Yeah, and we took off, we [00:19:00] literally drove from Georgia to the grand canyon, like we just like hauled. So we probably wouldn't do that again. We probably take our time, but we were meeting his family for our first like little trip and stuff. So we had to get there. We had like a timeline, but, 

Mike: and we went to the grand canyon in June and Sedona and Vegas in July.

So we had a couple of like bumpy, you know, learning of like, don't commit to driving across the country in less than a week don't go to hot places in the dead of summer. yoU know, those kinds of things,

Ayana: things you don't know until you know them, . 

Cool. So it's called the Skoolie Homestead Community.

Is that what you said? 

Mike: Yeah. It's in Jessup, Georgia. It's run by a really cool couple and they live there in their bus also so it's really cool. They have a lot of, like they foster dogs a lot. So there's all kinds of cool pooches running around too. So that's, 

Mandi: and he's like converted buses as somewhat of a career later in life.

So his knowledge is just. Really good. Really good. So, even he would come out, you know, like Mike asked [00:20:00] him to come check the electrical, just be like, Hey, can you put a second eyes on this? Just make sure everything's great. And he came over and he is just so knowledgeable. So it's just a comfort for some of those bigger stuff that you can do, but you would love like a second opinion or just someone to talk it out with.

So it was a really, really good experience. Like we kind of, you know, I mean, it would be a great for a first build. It would have been awesome to be there the whole time from start to finish. I think we maybe it would have changed some things or but yeah, it was awesome. So I'd highly, you know, for our first time builders, that would have been, it's a really, really good spot.

Ayana: Yeah, we'll make sure we drop their information in the show notes. 'cause I'm sure that's like such an incredible resource for anybody who's maybe a little bit too intimidated to take on the project by themselves. So just have that community support makes such a big difference. 

Mandi: And everyone's at a different level in their build, which was kind of fun.

Like there was people living in a cabin because they literally were just gutting their bus. while there was like people that were just doing finishing [00:21:00] touches and then everyone in between. So it was kind of fun because everyone has like their own level and own frustrations and you might have already been there, you know, and you can help them out where, you know, or like some people were ahead of us.

So it was just a cool experience of like, everyone was on the same pain level, maybe a different area, but you just like understood.

Ayana: So two years on the road now, how has it been? What are like the highs, lows, growing edges? 

Mandi: It, it's been a whirlwind. So it has been like the highest of highs for me and also the lowest of lows. So I quit my teaching job and I kind of dabbled in some side businesses. cause I kind of wanted to, you know, do something besides teaching.

And I hadn't quite dove into virtual teaching yet. And then on top of doing, I had saved up a lot of money [00:22:00] knowing like I was going to sacrifice my current job and kind of figure out my next career move. Well, a lot of that money went to fertility treatments. So as we got on the road, my savings had dwindled really low and I was trying to kind of start up these side businesses.

And so the stress of that and having No income and also like depleting my savings for that first six months. For me, it was pretty, it was a very mixed emotions. Cause we were visiting all these cool places and newly on the road. So it's like, this is so amazing, but also like the stress of like that financial piece was really tough on me.

So I, it was like six to eight months of like, this very weird emotions of trying to find what I was going to do on the road to support myself while also, living this amazing life and seeing all these amazing things and meeting all these amazing people. It was like so much stress and so much just highs too.

So it was a very like interesting [00:23:00] mix of emotions for me. And now I'm definitely a place where like I found a job that works for me. I really enjoy kind of like settled in. But it was a very interesting first six months on the road for me of like, just figuring out personal life, but also like enjoying bus life.

Like I loved it, but also added. stress to me. And we kind of went in knowing that, like I was kind of the one like sacrificing a little more in this lifestyle. But so it took a little bit of time to figure that out. And I, I think a lot of people can probably feel that too. It's not normal, but or it is normal, but yeah, so that was kind of my experience to start bus life was very stressful and amazing at the same time.

Mike: Yeah, , I think the statement of like, everything is , turned up to 11, the, like the amazingness is, is, is at an 11 and the suck is also at an 11. So like when you, when things go wrongly or go bad for you, like it just feels. It can [00:24:00] be so much worse, it feels like, and I don't know if that's objectively true, but I love it.

I, I don't, for us, foresee like a permanent end to this. There's no reason for us to stop anytime soon, and I think the best. Like the glue that holds all of this together is really the people like when we fantasized about what this would be like, it was always about the destinations.

You know, it was like, wake up on a, on a, you know, the edge of a big, huge Mesa and step out and see this, all this natural beauty and being outside and hiking and like, that's there for sure. But with like, the people are what I've come to realize and appreciate of like what it's all about. You know, I. I love being in beautiful places.

We've had some awesome times just like going around by ourselves in solitude, but. I so much more look forward to like being with people that are like minded. And I can't imagine, because we, we kind of bumped into the community shortly after like leaving Vegas and, and we were supposed to do this whole Pacific [00:25:00] Northwest loop for this, our first summer.

And we heard about the first Descend on Bend event and we're like, Oh, well, maybe we'll, you know, maybe we'll go there and check it out. That would be fun. And like, I feel like we, it just like took a turn for the better from that point on, because now we have this community. Whereas. I can't even imagine what that year would have been like.

I'm sure it would have been great, but like not having met all of these people it would have been totally different. So I think that people like are something that really makes it, you know, even when it sucks, there's other people that understand how and why it sucks and can commiserate with that. So you don't feel so alone.

And then you get to share the amazing parts like with other people. So I think that's, that's the best for me.

Ayana: Yeah, I think to be around other people who have made similar choices for similar reasons. It's like we all want to live alternatively. We're all searching for that something more that life has to offer.

And I think it's a really cool and inspiring group of people to just exist around. [00:26:00] 

Mike: Yeah, and I think When I lived overseas, like I also recognized a little bit of that in like the expat community and that was the first time I felt like oh, this is like my tribe kind of, you know, and I had not had that since I came back, you know, it felt like a little bit on the outside and I didn't expect to have it in this lifestyle and when I did and realized that it was there, it was amazing.

Also, like I feel like these people are my tribe. Yeah, that's cool. 

Mandi: I agree.

Ayana: Yeah, that's a really cool distinction, like, I think it's totally true. It was initially about the destinations for us and has shifted so much away from that. 

Mandi: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, we'll definitely alter plans if like, I mean, we have some plans that we want to do, but if there's people going somewhere and like, we'll definitely like, okay, let's do it.

Yeah. And I think to naturally kind of being some introverts, The one thing that I think I was a little apprehensive about is always having to be social because like, you kind of like, you know, camp together and stuff, but the [00:27:00] best thing about this community is no one If you're inside all day, like people just respect it because you probably need a break or if you don't come out at night you know, around the fire, like no one's like, Oh, you know, where's Mandi or here?

Why doesn't she want to come out? Or you want to go get, you know, it's like everyone just like you do your thing. Everyone's very respectful. If you want to go drive and park outside the circle for a little bit, like you do you no one's gonna think like, Oh my God, what did we do? Are you okay? And that's just been like a relief of like, yeah.

A little social anxiety or, like everyone just gives you your space. There's no pressure to be like uber social or, you know, there's no judgment or anything. It's like you do you, that's your house. And I think, you know, outside people don't quite get it. Like we were just traveling. home.

We went home to Michigan for a few months and we were a driveway living. So we're hopping from any family members had a long enough driveway to fit us, which is not a lot. And they'd be like, well, are you going to come? Like, do you need me to make up the guest bedroom and all this stuff? And I'm like, well, no, [00:28:00] no.

Like we're going to live in our house, our house, our bus. And they were like, and like, even, you know, they were kind of like, are you, sure. I, it's like, okay. I was like, no. We live in this full time, like, this is our comfort, we'll sleep in our own bed at night and come join you for dinner and stuff, but yeah.

Mike: And by the time we left too, it was, we heard a lot of like, Oh, this is awesome. You guys are the best house guests because like, you don't have to clean up the house. You don't have to clean up the bed. Like we do our own thing. Like we'll come over in the evening and like hang out and like have maybe have a meal or like watch the football game or something.

And then we go away and you guys can have your own, do your own thing and we can do our own thing. So. Cool. 

Mandi: The best part was parked at his parents house, and his mom would come out almost every morning and knock on our door, and she'd be like, what, it was like blueberry, hot blueberry muffins one day, and then like, I don't know, cinnamon roll, yeah, quiche one morning, and I was like, Man, I could get used to this.

Like, we're living in our own home in their driveway, so we're like, have our separate living, but we're getting fed breakfast, hot breakfast every morning. And I [00:29:00] was like, I don't 

Mike: know if we're gonna leave. 

Ayana: That's amazing. Yeah, PSA to everyone, whoever hosts, anybody who lives in a bus, don't make up the guest bedroom. We're all set up. Just let us sleep in the driveway. We're very happy there. 

Mike: You can show your love by making breakfast instead. 

Mandi: Yeah, exactly. And maybe letting us plug in. 

Mike: Maybe letting us, yeah, maybe letting us plug in. 

Ayana: Yeah, definitely. So we've touched a little bit on Jobs and kind of shifting to remote work and all of that.

People are always curious about how folks make it work on the road financially. So tell us a little bit about that for each of you.

Mandi: So I, it was a teacher special ed for 15, 16 years when I got on the road. And I loved it, brick and mortar. I worked with kids with autism. And so jumping onto the road was a little bit scary for me giving something up that I loved.

I absolutely loved it and kind of like the only thing I knew. [00:30:00] So that transition was a little rough. But I do teach virtually now for a virtual school. It's called High Point Virtual Academy. It'll be a year in February now. So I had done another teaching gig for another virtual company.

So I'm able to do that from home. I fly home. They have like once or twice a year. They kind of ask us to go home if we can. It's a Michigan based company. We're, like, we are originally from. So they usually just hire people within Michigan. So I'll go home maybe once or twice a year. But other than that, it's fully remote.

The pay is less than what a teacher would make. Like in brick and mortar. So It's not the best pay, but it fits. It works for me now. I have insurance under it. But yeah, that's how I was able to Kind of transition into the virtual work life 

Mike: Yeah, I work for, I work in technology for a direct selling company that's based in Michigan global, global company.

And my team is all over the place. So I've got a couple of [00:31:00] people in Korea, a couple of people in India, a couple of people in the Netherlands in Poland, and then people kind of all throughout the U S so like most of my work is remote anyways, regardless of where I'm physically located. So I was able to just continue doing the same job.

I didn't have to change anything which was really nice. And I had always kind of, I've always been interested in personal finances, like pretty much ever since I got out of college and was really into like passive income and early retirement. And I kind of went down a rabbit hole in addition to this alternative living lifestyle to like.

You know, misty money mustache and all these other guys that are like personal finance, you know, retire, it's called fire financial independence, retire early community. So I had always kind of been planning on this being the catalyst for me, like leaving work and kind of maybe. Part time, you know, like doing a part time job or whatever.

So I was kind of, had come to terms with that, but thankfully my, you [00:32:00] know, my leadership and my company were like, that's okay if you can work wherever you want. So I didn't have to, so I just kind of kept the same job, which is great. It's a little bit challenging. Sometimes there's time zone issues and you know, when we're in California and I have to wake up for a 7 a.

m. meeting in Michigan, like that's kind of tough but it's just something you deal with. And it also means that I'm done earlier. So like two, two o'clock or three o'clock, I'm done usually most days. So yeah, that's what I do in I still enjoy it. You know, I think one thing is it's the one thing I loved about the job before was the travel that I got to do.

You know, I've lived overseas for four years. I traveled pretty consistently for all of these places that we have warehouses in. And. Some of the challenges that come with it though are like the logistics of the travel like I used to travel a lot They sent me over over to Asia for like four years to live over there And then I would also travel because I I do like supply chain systems related to like warehouses warehousing logistics and all those things my team supports all of [00:33:00] those Applications and so I was doing the traveling and doing the doing all the work overseas for a long time and I loved it but now I find that I don't really have the motivation to travel anymore because I'm already doing it.

You know, when you're in the same place and you're stationary, it's nice to have a getaway, you know, and I find now, like I'm always having a getaway, even though I'm working, like I'm always in some cool spot. And so not only is it a little bit more logistically challenging to go, All right. Well, if I'm going to like Korea next, you know, in two months, I've got to figure out where we're going to park.

What airport am I going to fly out of? And like all of those things become kind of more of a stressor than, than a benefit. So it's been interesting to transition to be like, yeah, I'm not really so much excited about the work travel anymore So that's changed a little bit, but I still appreciate what I do and I'm glad I can do it remotely.

And I think almost every other meeting I'm in, it's like, Hey, where are you at now, Mike? You know, it's like the constant yeah, well, I'm here, we're staying here and then we're going here, you know? So it's cool that other people can [00:34:00] get excited about what I'm doing too, and not just think it's weird.


Mandi: So we also have some rental property. So I have a duplex that has two. Clearly two doors. And then Mike has three houses and five doors, kind of how we talked about in the beginning. And so that's a great kind of passive income. We kind of have a funny story with that. I Mike and I met kind of through our gym.

We were at a CrossFit gym and we had been talking via Bumble. And he ended up ghosting me in the fall. And And I was kind of bummed. I was like, really? I don't know. I just had a feeling about him and I ended up feeling okay. I Ended up dating somebody in between and then that was in the fall and then in the spring I was single again, and I was out and was talking to a Realtor I was working with and he had been working with Mike and he I don't know how he got talking about it, but he [00:35:00] mentioned Mike's name and how he just had bought this property and he mentioned where the property was, and it was literally like a block away from where I was currently living.

So I had messaged him on Facebook and was like, Hey, like, so and so had. said you bought a property, like, so cool. I'd love to come check it out. And I think I mentioned, I was looking for a duplex at that time. So he was like, yeah, come on over. So I walked on over and this was kind of my way of trying to weasel myself in this, if there was any interest there.

And so I ended up walking over and he was working on it and I got. stuck pulling wallpaper for an hour the first time we've ever hung out. So I stuck around, I guess, I guess he was worth it. But so I ended up buying, that's kind of how our relation kind of started. I actually, our first date was the day I closed on my duplex.

He ended up taking me out to like celebrate, to celebrate my closing on the duplex. And that was kind of the start of our relationship. So kind of rental property or something we've had. [00:36:00] In common and kind of was like a catalyst of connecting us. 

Mike: Yeah, and I think like. Being interested in personal finance.

It's super cool. Like it's cool to see all the different ways that people make this work. And like I would love to get to a point where I don't need to have like W2 wages anymore. And so the rental properties are like kind of a way to do that. There was never anything that like jumped out as like, Oh, I really want, I would like to do this.

You know, I just enjoy doing my job. I don't mind. So like having the time and the freedom to be like, I don't need to, I have like passive income coming in, you know, so I've got a couple of months to figure that out. And I really envy the people that I've met in this community that like, and watching them go through to the point where they're like, just starting out and figuring out and maybe struggling or have like a, like a good cushion to start with.

And then they start like succeeding and making things work. And like the side hustles turn into like full time gigs and then things come up. Like, it's really encouraging to see that and feel like, Oh, that's something [00:37:00] that I can do too. So that's kind of like for us, I think what the rental properties.

It's like our symbol for, for us in the future. So, 

Ayana: yeah, totally. And I think that all of that paired with the ability to just live life more cheaply, like a little more frugally, you know, not paying rent, not having those bills that come in every month and just kind of suck you dry a little bit is such a huge, a huge benefit to being able to make different things work in this lifestyle.

Mandi: And I think you can actually, and you can make it what you want. Like you can live extremely inexpensive. Like you could park on some land and not move for a month or two. You can have a smaller rig with less, you know less expensive of a build and just like less overhead expenses. Or you can, I mean, we have a hundred gallon gas tank that gets five miles per gallon.

So like, you know, that's not cheap, but you know, so if we need to cut back on [00:38:00] expenses, we park somewhere longer, you know, right now we both have full time jobs and we can afford to travel more. So like we can afford the gas. So this lifestyle does cater to what To what you can afford and what you can do.

Like you make it what you want. Like you can live this lifestyle and work minimally and just make enough to get by and that's amazing. Or you can, you know, go all out and have all the bells and whistles in your bus and travel a lot and all this money. So it's like, it just, that flexibility of what it can give you is amazing.

So if you want to hunker down and not spend a lot of money and save so you can buy some property or whatever, you can do that in this lifestyle. If you don't care and you're just living it to go travel and see sites and money's not an issue, like, That's there for you too. 

Ayana: Yeah, it's a choose your own adventure kind of thing. You know, every aspect of this lifestyle is that. So yeah, yeah, that's a really good point. Yeah, okay. Coming to kind of [00:39:00] The end of our time together, we always like to ask folks what advice they have for people. A lot of the audience is folks who are maybe interested in getting on the road or curious about the lifestyle.

So yeah, what advice do you have for those folks? 

Mandi: Do it scared. It's scary, but still and I think like you got to know your personality and how you would function best like for us Just going full force and not having a plan doesn't work for us Like we had to do lists and we planned and like I saved up money and like we kind of knew we couldn't just go And just jump in full force and do it.

Like I think that would not have gone well and And we, I don't know if we would have succeeded or not, or if it would have been, you know, as enjoyable. So I think kind of knowing, understanding yourself, like some people I see and they just like, they'll figure it out, right? A job, they'll figure it out.

Like, you know, they just get on the road and figure it out and that's awesome. [00:40:00] But like that works for them. So I think also just knowing who you are and like, You know, if it's going to take you a year, like cool, like that's okay. Like, you know, take a year to like do a slow build or save up your money or, you know, I think just figuring it out, how you operate best, if you want to do it and cater to that, don't do it because someone did it, you know, this way or this way or whatever.

But for us, it was more slow and like methodical and plans and to do list. And we, we did like a little activity. Yeah. 

Mike: Yeah. It's called like fear setting. So it's like, and in the beginning when we were talking about this, that was part of the transition that was hard, especially for Mandi was like, how do I even envision myself doing this and stepping away from my job?

Like admittedly, she took a big significant amount of the risk on her shoulders to do this. And I had, I know, had known about this. Practice called fear setting that Tim Ferriss talks about. And it's, I don't think it's his thing, but he went, he'd had a podcast about it. And you just kind of talk about all of the things that could, [00:41:00] you start off saying, what's everything that could go wrong?

Like what's the worst case scenario that could happen doing this thing. And then you go through and you say, well, if those, you know, 10 or 11 things that you just ideated on come to fruition, like what would you do to resolve those things? You know, and how hard would it be? And, you know, and so then after you go through that, you kind of identify like.

Okay, well, what are the good things that are gonna potentially come from this experience that you're thinking about best case scenarios, right? And then it really helps you understand that like no matter what happens like you always as long as you can solve for those things You always have a way out.

You know, it was like hey if we don't like this We're gonna get rid of the bus and we're gonna come back home like You know we have family, we have the house that, you know, wasn't rented yet. And so we made sure that we went through the process of thinking about intentionally, like, what do we want this life to be and what is this process going to be like for us?

And I think the biggest advice I would. Give people's like, just start, but that doesn't mean go buy a rig and then figure it out. Right. [00:42:00] There's so many ways now that I am living this lifestyle that to like experience it without having to sink all the money into it. Right. Go rent an RV for a little bit, rent a van for a little bit, like go around.

Like we saw a lot of people coming to these events that were like, yeah, we're going to build our bus next year. And I was like, that's amazing. What a good idea to go walk through people's buses and see that. Right. Go out for a week and go. Check it out like but at least start moving towards whatever that thing is and I think Be intentional about it, and then, like Mandi said, personalize it for yourself.

Like, who are you, and what do you need? And I think, it's amazing how many resources exist out there for people, like the Skoolie Homestead community, there's a bunch more of them nowadays. Like that, where like, you can get help, and if you haven't done a lot, don't have a lot of build experience, like, find that, and figure out what's your plan to make that work.

So I would say, like, just get started as soon as you can. If that's something that you want to do, get started experiencing it, or get started planning for it. And the time between when you make the decision to make this real, [00:43:00] between when it actually is real, so many things are going to change anyways.

So don't wait, just, you know, just get started. 

Ayana: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. It's a little more helpful than the advice that always comes to my mind, which is like, just do it. 

Mandi: It's a way more helpful. 

Mike: That's the thing, but you, you know, like doing it looks different to everybody. So, 

Ayana: you know, totally. And yeah, taking those steps to move the needle just a little bit in that direction is all that it takes.

Mike: Like have the grace to be like. Open with yourself if you feel like it's not working, right?

Because you can start down that road and then be like, yeah, maybe not. Maybe it's something else. Like I was, I for sure thought we were going to be living in a sailboat in two years when I first had this conversation with Mandi. And then it was like, oh, it's a bus. Okay. Like maybe the sailboat thing is there, but like it's a bus for now.

So like, you know, just be open to whatever's going on with yourself. 

Mandi: And I also think, too, like, you can go smaller than what you think in a rig. Cause I think our fear, too, I mean, we were looking for a little bit [00:44:00] smaller, but like, we were in a, what, 1200, 1300 square foot house, bigger than that?

The Carlton 2000, like 2000 square foot house. So like, you're kind of like going from that to like a, 200 square foot space. It's like, are we going to kill each other? Like, I mean, we like our own space. Like, how is this going to work? Like it was a lot and that was the easiest part. Like downgrading to a smaller like that's the easiest part and we could easily gone a lot smaller so I think be willing to explore and be open and like To me that was that literally moving into this bus like everyone's like, oh my gosh, how hard I was like easy I could go 10 feet smaller like that wasn't that's not like so if that's a fear, you really figure it out because you have a second living space, which is outside, right?

Like, yeah. So, I think you could always go a little smaller if that's a fear too. 

Ayana: Nice. Yeah. Nice. Tell us where people can find you all online if they want to follow along with your journey [00:45:00] and everything that's to come for you all. 

Mike: We are mostly on Instagram. We do cross post to Facebook. I think we have an account on TikTok and YouTube, but we don't really post to either of them.

The, the, the hope is someday we will, but for now we're just really on Instagram and Facebook and our handle is at the. going. home. 

Ayana: Cool. Yeah, well, we'll link that below so everyone can find you and we'll also link the tour to your bus so people can check out your home on wheels. Oh, awesome. And yeah, just wanna thank you guys again for taking the time and energy to share your story and wisdom with us.

I know it will be very valuable for our audience. Yeah, thank you for having us. It was fun. We'll see you next week. Bye-Bye. Bye. 

Outro: This is a Tiny Home Tours production. Thank you so much for listening. Please don't forget to rate, review, and subscribe for all future episodes. We'll see you next week.[00:46:00]