Montclair Family Makes Their Home on a Repurposed $20K School Bus

Raven Tyler, her daughter and their two pets turn heads living and driving in their white home on wheels.

Tyler and her dog outside her white school-bus home
Tyler flew to Florida last December to purchase this converted school bus. Photo by Chris Buck

Raven Tyler has been living in a repurposed school bus for six months—and she loves it.

The 33-year-old decided to give “skoolie life”—as those who live in school buses-turned-mobile homes call it—a try after seeing videos and stories online. She already felt she was paying too much in rent for her apartment and also liked the freedom that could come from having a home on wheels.

“I was giving literally all of my money away every month,” she says. “It just didn’t make much sense.”

Raven Tyler relaxes with her cat in the bedroom of her converted school-bus home

Raven Tyler lives in her school-bus home with her daughter, dog Homi and cat MJ. Here, Tyler relaxes in the bedroom. Photo by Chris Buck

Tyler, who parks in Montclair, lives in the bus with her 5-year-old daughter Myla, a cat, a German shepherd, and, occasionally, Tyler’s mother when she visits.

So how did Tyler find her bus? Last December, she saw an ad on Facebook Marketplace for a converted school bus in Florida. She flew down, purchased it for $20,000, and drove it back to New Jersey. The bus had already been furnished by its previous owner.

Tyler reads on the futon inside her converted school-bus home

Tyler enjoying the “skoolie life.” Photo by Chris Buck

The interior of the bus, which Tyler nicknamed Nelli, is designed with practicality in mind. The entryway (which includes the stairs and the driver’s seat, and which Tyler has dubbed the cockpit) is where she leaves the pets’ bowls when the bus is stationary.

Walk back, and you’ll encounter the kitchen/living room area. On one side is a small sink with a removable cover, a stove, an oven and an L-shaped counter, and across the way is a futon. Farther back is the bathroom, with a toilet and shower, plus a pantry, small refrigerator and closet.

The entrance of Raven Tyler's school-bus home features a small kitchen and a futon

The entrance features a small kitchen and a futon. Photo courtesy of Raven Tyler

Tyler and Myla sleep in the bus’ sole bedroom, complete with a queen-size bed, cabinets and other small storage spaces.

The May 2023 cover of New Jersey Monthly

Buy our May 2023 issue here. Cover photo by Chris Buck

Behind the bedroom is Myla’s play area, where the cat, MJ, likes to hide out when the dog, Homi, is too playful. Tyler plans to swap a table in the play area for a bed for Myla when she gets older.

While she no longer has to pay rent, Tyler has sizable expenses, including diesel and maintenance. Still, she doesn’t want people to equate living in a skoolie with financial struggle.

Tyler knows that the skoolie lifestyle is unconventional, despite having been around since the 1970s. She catches people doing double-takes as she drives and others peeking through her windows. 

“It’s just a different way of living,” Tyler says. “Just because someone lives on a bus or in a van shouldn’t be a reflection of who they are as a person. There are a number of ways to live life.”

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