Young couple living ‘off-grid and rent-free’ in school bus after struggling to find work

A British couple are living their dream lives off the grid aboard a converted school bus in the US.

Harri Cook, 23, and Nicky Horsley, 22, previously toured Europe inside a Ford Transit minibus before taking jobs in the UK to save up for one of the iconic yellow vehicles.

Now the couple are currently living a nomadic life, travelling up and down the West Coast living rent free aboard the bus, with their monthly bills coming to just £820 on food and fuel.

It’s a big change from their life a few years ago when they both struggled to find work in a tough job market after graduating.

Nicky said: “We saved up from selling the Boxer and having part-time jobs and used that to buy the bus which cost $10,000 all in including taxes.

“It’s from 2012 with 96,000 miles and was well looked after.

“We spent $5,000 on the conversion making it $15,000 all in – and we’re hoping to sell it for $30,000 to $35,000 when we’re done travelling.

“We’re living rent free with no money on park-ups and we’re totally off-grid so don’t need to plug into a supply.

“We spend about $250 a week on food and fuel so spend about $1,000 a month.

“We get negative comments from people saying it was funded by the bank of mum and dad – it gets under our skin because people always think our parents pay for it but they don’t pay for anything.”

The pair met in 2015 when they were both 16 before studying at University of Southampton together and graduated in the middle of 2020.

They decided to buy a van while living with Harri’s family and working part-time jobs and purchased a Ford Transit minibus in November 2020.

Despite having no DIY experience, they followed guidance from other van build videos and created the home on wheels in Harri’s parents back garden in Ascot, Berks.

They documented the conversion on their YouTube channel to teach other people how to follow their vanlife dream and began to earn commission on the affiliated links.

Inspired by their travels, they knew they wanted to continue their adventures and to save up extra funds, Nicky took on a job at Starbucks while Harri worked pulling pints at their local pub.

Nicky added: “We watched all these people online with their skoolies which looked awesome – they were so big with so much space, being wider and more homely, so we thought let’s go to America and try to convert one ourselves.

“It was a bit scary because there’s very little research you can do when it comes to buying a vehicle on a tourist visa in America as well as insurance.

Harri added: “When we actually got here it all fell perfectly, we found the perfect car dealer south of San Diego and two days after we had flown out we had this school bus.

“For the first month we stayed at an Airbnb just outside of San Diego owned by this ex-military guy called Nelson who said we could convert our bus on his driveway so we lived with him for a month and converted the school bus in four weeks.

“We got the bus done and up to scratch then started travelling a little bit up the West and have fallen in love with the coastline between San Diego and Los Angeles.

“Now we’re taking every day as it comes and spending every day on the beach – we wake up at about 7am normally, neaten up the van, get changed and go to a local café.

“If it’s sunny we head to the beach as I’m currently learning to surf or go to the local basketball courts before making a cheap lunch in the bus and finding a nice spot to park in the evening.”