Where To?

By Dominika Lackova

Life: “So, what is next? Where to?”

Me: “School bus and travel!”

Life: “What?! You cannot be serious. Don’t be crazy!”

Me: “No, I am not crazy. Well, maybe a little. But it is my dream to travel around the United States and set my thoughts, heart and soul free. Yes, I am doing it!”

This conversation happened not so long ago, and if you are thinking I am making it up and I didn’t buy a school bus, just read further and you will see I am deadly serious. An exciting chapter of my life is beginning.

But let me start from the beginning. My journey started in spring 2014 when I came to the United States for the first time ever as a freshman at Youngstown State University.

I have been a part of YSU’s Women’s Tennis Team for the last four years and balanced athletic duties with school. As an athlete, I developed a crazy passion for traveling and experiencing new cultures.

After my undergraduate years, I decided to continue as a graduate student at YSU, and my passion for extraordinary travel was just growing. One night, me and my boyfriend, Lukas, were talking and scrolling through Instagram (thank God for social media!), and we both saw it at the same time. A moment of silence and wonder happened. We stumbled upon a school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels, which is called a schooly.

We always wanted to travel, and it was always our plan. We just did not know how. The moment of realization that a school bus was the way to fulfill our longtime dream was like the last puzzle piece that clicked in its place, and we saw the final picture.

Since that night, we were on the hunt for the right schooly for us. Finding the right school bus is not as easy as it seems, and it needs a lot of time. We spent hours and hours on YouTube watching videos and had a lot of patience.

Lukas’s insight came in handy with what to look for when buying the bus. His thought was that as future schooly owners, we had to consider three main factors during the purchase: condition of a bus, distance from our house to the place where the bus is located, and of course, the price. We wouldn’t even look at something with rust on structural parts so considering we live in Ohio, this was quite a pickle.

Fortunately, we found our schooly in Cincinnati, which wasn’t even that far from Dearborn Heights, our home. Schooly prices vary anywhere from $500 for rolling shells to finished conversions worth more than $20,000. We tried to keep our budget under $4,500, and thanks to my negotiating skills, we managed to pick up the bus for $4,200.”  

Lukas’s insight came in handy once again. He believed the best way to choose the right bus is to ask ourselves, “What will it be used for?” Once that’s set, we could decide on length, drivetrain options and interior accessories like an AC and heater. Also, did you know that you can title your converted bus as an RV? This will save a ton of money, and a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive it. will not be needed.

The next step for us was to go out there and start actively looking for school buses. You might ask, “OK, where the heck do you buy a school bus?” Easy answer: Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, auctions and websites designated to selling old school busses. We used Facebook marketplace and it worked out well. However, we made a couple of trips and a lot of messages before we found our dream bus.

On Oct. 8, Lukas posted this: “Dominika and I did not expect this little guy but it’s due sometime next spring. It’s over 22 feet long, 20,000 pounds and doesn’t have a name yet because all our creativity as well as money goes into conversion. Yep, plan is a fully sustainable camper conversion capable of towing my drift toys.”

The look on my face read: WE JUST BOUGHT A BUS! We bought a school bus from Cincinnati and found ourselves on the way back home driving it.

We stopped at a gas station to fill the tank and started laughing, realizing that our dream is coming true. There was no way coming back, but we were OK with it. Little did we know that this was the easy part and there was so much more hard work ahead of us.

Photos courtesy of Dominika Lackova

We parked our school bus in the yard in Dearborn Heights, and we saw one of the most hilarious scenes- we have a school bus in the yard, and it is almost the size of our house! After all the excitement and endorphins were released from our bodies, the question appeared again: “So what is next? Where to?”

Lukas and I opened our favorite YouTube channels and started our education about the actual conversion of a school bus into a tiny house on wheels. The next day after work and school, we started to tear the bus apart, taking out seats, rubber floor, roof, insulation and windows- basically everything that was ever inside. This process was so much harder than we expected, and it took us much more time that we thought.

We did this for two weeks, and every day, the exhaustion was very real, as much as our soreness and frustration. The main issue with our bus was getting rid of the roof because it has more than 400 rivets, and it just did not want to go down. The bus put up a good fight, but we were stronger and well equipped.

One thing to remember: If someone decides to ever do something like this, having the proper equipment and enough free space in your yard or garage is necessary.

And this is where we are at as of right now. Our bus is ready to be fully converted into a tiny house with a bedroom, bathroom (of course with shower and toilet), kitchen and a living space. The persistent but exciting question that life keeps asking us, “So what is next? Where to?” is again on the table.

It’s a good thing that we have an answer ready! Soon, we will be designing the floor plan and interior of our bus. When it comes to physical work, we will be laying down the floors and installing new insulation since our bus is an older gentleman born in 1992.

After the conversion of our schooly, we would like to travel around the United States, and who knows where else, enjoying the freedom of spontaneous travel with no particular and strict plans. Our dream is to wake up next to the ocean, in the middle of the desert or in a calm forest. It doesn’t really matter as long as we are happy and we know “where to” next.