By Lucy Notarantonio
This couple has quit the rat race and transformed a yellow school bus into a quirky home.
Hunter Helmstaedter, 32, and Ming Min Luftig, 28, were spending £1,300 [$1800 USD] on rent and utilities whilst living in New York, US.
They decided to hit the road during the pandemic last year and bought a yellow school bus to live in for £3,600 [$5k].
The couple spent £14,500 [$20k] in nine months on materials such as solar panels, air conditioning and interior.
From the outside, the bus looks like a regular American school bus but inside is filled with pastel furs, chessboard flooring, flamingos and even pink astroturf.
Ming quit her job as a cosmetologist and Hunter, who is a photographer, continues to work whilst they travel.
Ming said: “We were both furloughed at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
“We were paying almost two grand to sit in the flat so we decided to follow our dreams and live a nomadic lifestyle.
“We used to work 60 hours a week and it was difficult to see each other as we rarely had the same day off.
“We weren’t allowed to decorate before which was frustrating as we are both very creative.
“So this is the first home we have ever decorated.
“We swayed away from the generic oatmeal and bohemian theme for bus conversations as it’s not my style.
“I wanted to put my own stamp on the bus as I am a lover of all things fluffy, girly and pink.”
The inside of the bus has been painted pink, purple, yellow and blue.
It has plenty of cosy fluffy pillows and blankets along with a kitchen that somewhat resembles an American diner.
Hunter said: “I am an electrician by trade and have carpenter friends who gave me advice on how to convert it.
“I stripped all the seats, added electrical, plumbing, insulation and solar panels.
“We were interested in the outside and inside contrast – there are a few clues from the outside such as air-conditioning, chimney for our fireplace, and storage boxes on the side.
“But most people probably drive past and think it’s a school bus.”
Hunter has a unique style of capturing images known as ‘wet plate photography’ which involves developing the photos.
The camera alone generates a lot of attention from members of the public – some of whom pay for a self-portrait.
He said: “I take two portraits a week of strangers which keep us afloat.
“I charge £100 [$150] per image.”
The couples monthly outgoings have been slashed in half to £650 [$900] per month.
Their bus has a wagon attached which is a dark room for the photos to develop.
He adds: “We have created currency straight out of the camera.
“We have used photos as substitute cash as I have been commissioned by landowners who have let us park up for free.
“It is very effective.
“We have to make enough to keep the fridge full and diesel in the bus.”
Their fuel bill is approximately £72 [$100] per month as they tend to explore one spot for a few days at a time.
But their outgoings are soon to increase as they are expecting their first child.
Ming, who is 22 weeks pregnant, said: “Any new parent would be nervous about having a kid on a bus, but it is a solid and steel box.
“It is safe and we intend on baby proofing the corners.
“It is going to be an adventure.
“He or she will see the country more than half of their family members.
“We prefer the term roam-school rather than home school.
“Our child won’t just have to read about something in a book as we can just drive there to see it.
“We won’t ever have to worry about forgetting something at home because this is our home.”
MONTHLY OUTGOINGS BREAK DOWN
Accomodation – $250