Offbeat Video

By Nicolas Fernandes

Family of six has become minimalists and moved into a school bus they spent $38,000 (£27,000) converting into an English-style mini-mobile home.

Debbie Mayes, 33, and her husband Gabriel, 35, decided to get rid of their seven-bedroom house in Chicago, Illinois, USA, and moved into a converted “skoolie” with their four kids on an RV lot.


The couple was overwhelmed with expensive bills, their family being too distant from each other in a 5,000-square-foot home and their constant desire to travel to the West Coast.

When a friend of Debbie’s told her about skoolies, she thought it would be the perfect adjustment for her family.

After educating themselves on the skoolie community that purchases old buses and turns them into mobile homes, the family bought an outdated Thomas High Top and hired a company to spend six months renovating it.

The white mobile home cost a lot less than a new RV and has modern features that are usually only seen in England trailers.

The mum born in Wigan, Greater Manchester, says her family is enjoying the new home in Redding, California, and getting along better than ever.


Debbie, an internet marketing agent, said: “We were living in a 5,000-square-foot house in Chicago and were basically unhappy with everything.

“We felt so disconnected as a family, and we really wanted to be in California.

“I just felt like this was the way to shape our life into something better and make it possible for us to get to the West Coast.

“We’re so much more connected as a family. Being in a really tight space together has taught us to bond better.

“We spend so much more time together now and we love it.

“I was surprised with how cheap it was. The price of a new RV can be double that.


“My favorite thing about our new home is that it looks like us. We had it customized with a very modern style that you only see in England. You don’t see RVs like this in America.”

Despite it being quite a change in the amount of space for the family, Debbie feels like everyone has plenty of privacy.

Their four kids, who range from 18 months to ten years old, sleep on bunk beds in the same room. The next room, which is separated by a door, is where the couple sleeps.

The family is enjoying the nature of Northern California better than urban Chicago.

Debbie said: “It’s definitely been an adjustment, but surprisingly there’s so many hidden storage spots for such a small space.

“We can go in our room, close the door, and have some privacy away from the children.

“The kids actually haven’t argued much. They have their own individual space and understand when their siblings want to have some time alone.

“The weather here is amazing. This is definitely a place we’d like to stay.”


Despite their love for the house on wheels, there have been several things that have gone wrong as well as a few setbacks that come with living in a vehicle.

Debbie said: “The builders that we chose messed up a lot of things. The roof was leaking and the plumbing wasn’t hooked up correctly. We a had multiple issues.

“I would advise anyone doing a skoolie conversion to really do their research when deciding what company to go with.

“We have to do our laundry elsewhere and since it’s not temperature controlled, we often wake up freezing because the heat doesn’t automatically turn on.”

After their cheaper bills make it possible for them to get out of debt, the family plans to buy a piece of land in Northern California where they will have a small house built.

Debbie said: “Our expenses are so much less that we’re going to be able to get out of debt and have enough to get a little house built.

“We would need a little bit of an upgrade, so we’ll probably make it around 1,000 square feet.”

To learn more about Debbie and Gabriel’s skoolie, visit or follow them on Instagram @themayesteam.