Names: Maddie and Willie
Hi! I'm Maddie and I travel full-time with my faithful co-pilot Willie (a 2-year-old long coat chihuahua who thinks he's king of the road). We live in a short bus conversion named Elle. In 2016 after raising 3 amazing kids and watching 5 grandchildren come into this world it was time for me to go live my dreams of seeing the country. I started out in a 69' Shasta travel trailer, took to the road, and never looked back at what others consider a normal way of living. Last summer I stopped in at my mom's house and sold the Shasta to buy a short bus so that we could have more space and comfort on the road. After an extensive search, I found Elle at a little church in Illinois, brought her home, and spent the next 4 weeks building her out before getting back on the road. Since that time, Willie, Elle, and I have had the most amazing adventures together traveling from Delaware to the Florida Keys to Montana.
What is your current living situation and how did you decide to take up that lifestyle?
We live full-time in a 2001 GMC Bluebird MicroBird. It's a 23ft five-window short bus conversion named Elle. Over 4 years ago, I made the decision to live a more simplistic life full of nature and experiences rather than bills and possessions.
What was your inspiration or key motivator that led to your choice to live an alternative lifestyle?
The main motivator for me was being able to feel like I was living my life to the fullest each and every day.
Can you tell us a little bit about your home?
Elle is a 23' five-window short bus that has all the features of a small home. She has a nice big kitchen, queen size bed in the sleeping area, comfy sofa, private bathroom, full closet, a 2x4 bathtub, built-in dog crate, a rooftop deck and covered back porch.
Many people want to live an ‘off-grid’ lifestyle and find ways to become more sustainable. Can you tell us about how you power your home?
Elle has a solar power system that consists of one 305-watt solar panel, a 40-amp charge controller, two 225ah deep cycle AGM batteries, and a 1000-watt inverter. We will hopefully upgrade in the future but this power suits our needs for now. We also have 110v capabilities if we need to run the 2000-watt generator that's onboard.
What is your favorite part about your home and you could not live without, why?
My favorite part of my home is the back porch. A skoolie friend built the roof deck and back porch a few weeks ago for me and I don't know how I lived without it before. We put hooks on the porch roof so I can hang my hammock up and also have shade all day. He even crafted wings for the porch railing, what an amazing touch!
What is the one thing that you regret about your home and how would you do it differently now?
I do wish I had pulled the windows and insulated the ceiling. Have had to deal with a few leaks and it does get cold without that extra insulation plus I believe it would help with the rattling sounds during travel.
Can you take us through a typical ‘Day in the life”?
I usually wake up when the sun shines in the windows, eat a small meal, sit in the camp chair or hammock, read a book and watch/listen to whatever nature provides for the day whether it be animals, a rushing river, babbling stream, magnificent mountains, or soft raindrops tapping on the roof, I might spend some time drawing or working on a painting, then cook supper on the stove or campfire, and turn in to my comfortable bed when the sun goes down.
What is your favorite spot that you have traveled to and can't stop thinking about, why?
My favorite spot from bus life thus far has to be camping off-grid in the Custer National Forest in Montana. It had an absolutely breathtaking landscape of snow-capped mountains. The camping spot is down 8+ miles of dirt road that's a little rough but totally worth it once you find a spot to camp. There was an awesome creek with hundreds of little waterfalls that ran just beside my free campsite and lulled me to sleep each evening. I could have stayed there forever if it wasn't for the 14-day limit.
If someone was considering changing their lifestyle and living more like you.. What would be your best advice to take the first step?
Do lots of research, be ready to learn lots of new skills, be adaptable, and if it's truly what you think you desire then go for it!
Getting rid of things and going tiny can be a really difficult thing for people looking to live tiny. How did you successfully pair down your stuff and do you have any suggestions for someone struggling to go tiny?
This was a hard one, especially being a mom and grandma. I did end up having a huge yard sale and selling most of my personal belongings that weren't coming with me, but I did rent a storage shed for the personal items that I couldn't part with. I felt that taking pictures of things as memories instead of having the items helped me feel better about parting with them. All of the memories that need to stay in the family just got passed down to the next generation a little sooner than expected.
A lot of people might be concerned about their own personal safety living a mobile lifestyle. What are some of your best safety tips for someone living on the road?
Always be aware of your surroundings! Pay close attention to the places you are staying. Have a concrete safety plan A, B, and C. I have found that just chatting with the locals while picking up groceries and fuel you learn a lot about a place's current status.
Finding places to park can be a hassle when traveling full-time. Can you share some of your favorite locations, go-to spots, or methods for finding parking?
Since I've already given up my favorite spot, here are my favorite ways to find boondocking spots. My go-to has always been the iOverlander app, it is easy to use and has a lot of free spots on it. Other apps that I utilize are UltimateCG, Public Lands, Campendium, and Free Roam. Also, you can often find lots of info on the freecampsites.net website.
If you were driving from the east coast to the west coast what would you be listening to for the drive?
I keep a nice collection of cd's beside my driver's seat and Pandora is always good if you have enough cell signal. If I'm close to a town I'll scan through the radio for stations but usually, I'm in and out of town as quickly as possible and it's easier to just pop in a cd or turn on Pandora.