Nomadic Story: Blue Jean Bus

April 16, 2019 · 12 minute read

This week in our Nomadic story series, we are featuring Kristie & David from @bluejeanbus. They are couple traveling with their dog, Shady Lad and living out of their customized bus. Even though there are some sacrifices one makes to live this kind of lifestyle, they are making the most of it and enjoying the process along the way.

Follow the Blue Jean Bus's journey: @bluejeanbus

To start, tell us a little about yourselves! Who are you & what is your background?

We are Kristie and David, newlyweds and Denver, CO transplants from the Northeast. I, Kristie, am a dietitian specializing in eating disorders and David is a Physical Therapist. We started our trip by getting married in Cape Cod, MA! We are traveling with our goofy, 6-year-old pup, Shady Lady. We love anything that allows us to play outdoors and get acclimated to the local culture.

What do you do for a living now? Did you have to change careers to make the transition?

I am currently working 10-12 hours/wk providing virtual dietary counseling. David is looking into doing travel PT for a 3-month stint once we are ready to slow down and stay in one place for longer. We are also looking into getting temporary jobs through workamper.com, however, we saved for a while before leaving on this trip with the intent of limiting how much we need to work in order to maximize our freedom to do what we want when we want! So who knows :)

The blue jean bus family in their bus.
Kristie, David & their pup Shady Lady!

How did you get turned on to the digital nomadic lifestyle? Was it someone you knew personally, social media, a book you read, etc.? 

I backpacked Europe for 9 weeks with some of my best girlfriends after college and that was my first taste of extended travel. I started looking into ways to live more nomadically and ever since then I’ve known taking at least a year to travel with no set itinerary was a must! David is always open for adventure so he was a very easy sell!

Why did you decide to take the leap towards becoming nomadic?

The freedom!! As much as I am a planner, I am a dreamer. We love the feeling of living in the moment and asking ourselves what we want to make of each day. The opportunity to see so much of this beautiful world on our terms and at our speed is the most magnificent reality!

How long have you been nomadic? 

We set off on our full-time bus journey at the beginning of July 2018!

How did you transition to this kind of lifestyle & how long did it take? What were some of the steps you took to turn your vision of life as a digital nomad, into a reality?

Over the past few years, we considered several different types of nomadic journeys including an overlander trip through South America, to backpacking Southeast Asia, to our current trip around North America. We started saving a few years ago but started the real work when we began actively looking for a rig during the Summer of 2017. After looking all over the country, even flying to Seattle with the intent to drive a van back (it ended up having too many mechanical issues), we found our beloved Blue Jean a couple of blocks from our home in Denver. Once we had a partially built rig, we were able to rent our house on Airbnb as a way to save more money and practice #buslife 😉

Shady Lady taking in the views

Describe what you call "home"? Why did you end up choosing that over something else? 

Our home is a 1996 Ford e350 diesel Short School bus! We considered many different types of rigs, but wanted a vehicle that could cover a lot of miles and would allow 6’3” David to stand. We also decided it made the most sense to buy something already partially built out since we wanted to immediately start staying in it as a way to save more money by renting out our house on weekends. It was a perfect balance since the basic work was done, but it was still a blank slate that allowed us to decide what appliances we wanted and to personalize it in a way that made it truly feel like home.

What were some of the biggest challenges during the transition?

Initially, I was so worried about what was going to go wrong that I couldn’t enjoy all that was going well. We had put so much time, energy, and money into making this dream a reality and my fears were robbing me of achieving the whole experience we were seeking: freedom and presence. After a challenging first week battling through the heat of the Midwest in July while our fan and AC weren’t working, we realized that things would continue to go wrong and that was out of our control. However, we could control how we responded to it. Instead of fighting and letting it pull us down, we learned to lean on each other and opt for humor! This has become much easier with time as we have gained more perspective on the rollercoaster ride that is life on the road.

What's been the greatest aspect or benefit of living nomadically?

Mine and David’s relationship is the strongest it’s ever been in our 9+ years of knowing each other. When you live in 80sq ft and spend every waking moment together, you need to learn to communicate well. We are becoming experts on understanding each other’s needs and responding in a way that is productive. It can be stressful and scary when something goes wrong on the road and we’ve learned that we can react in a way that exacerbates that or a way that brings us together as a team to problem solve and move forward. I can’t think of a better life skill for us as we begin our marriage! All the beautiful and hidden paradises we get to call home night after night are pretty great too!!

Kristie & David heading out on a stroll with Shady Lady

What's been the biggest challenges you've faced living in this way?

For me, it’s managing my anxiety. I have the classic worst-case scenario anxiety-based thinking. Luckily, I work in mental health. Over the years, I have learned so much from the amazing therapists and doctors I collaborate with about anxiety management. It wasn’t until we took off on this trip that I’ve been more active in my own application of skills I’ve been talking about and referring to inpatient care for several years. Leaving a predictable and safe path of living leaves a lot of room for my mind to predict all the ways it can come crashing down. I have started a daily meditation practice in addition to journaling and this combination is something I plan to carry throughout my life! For David, the biggest challenges are whenever a mechanical issue with the bus arises. He has learned so much about maintaining the bus’s health, but there is still so much that is a mystery to both of us, so when anything goes wrong and he isn’t able to fix it on his own he feels frustrated and helpless.

How has being nomadic influenced your life?

We have a stronger perspective on what is truly important to us! We’ve realized how powerful it can be to live an intentional life. We don’t want to follow a predictable path that we feel obligated to and want to live a life rooted in what we value most. We didn’t enter this journey with the intention of becoming long term minimalists, and we might not be forever, but we believe a simpler life leaves so much more space for the things that bring us true happiness!

Would you go back to a conventional lifestyle after this, or do you see this as a long-term lifestyle?

Initially, we planned to return back to our house in Denver after 13months on the road with our next step being kids and buying a bigger home to grow into. However, we have set our sights on buying a tiny home on wheels. It feels like the perfect transition to allow us to grow our family while staying rooted in what matters most to us!

How has this lifestyle affected your expenses and/or financial situation?

Since we are primarily financing our trip through savings, we expected to return home with less than we started. That being said, we have been blown away by how affordable and cheap this lifestyle can be and that is a major reason we want to maintain a downsized lifestyle!

A family portrait outside the bus

If you live this lifestyle with a partner, family, or pets, how does this impact your lifestyle? What kind of considerations and choices have you made to accommodate everyone involved?

It’s all about being flexible! We have our dog with us which is something that impacts a lot of what we do. We try to do something fun for her every day whether it’s a hike, throwing her balls, or running around at a beach. She’s pretty easy to please! But, there are places we can’t go if they don’t allow dogs and the weather makes it unsafe to leave her behind. Luckily, David and I have a lot of the same interests so we agree most of the time on how to spend our days.

How do you spend your free time?

It depends on where we are, what we are in the mood for, and what the weather is like. Most of the time we are hiking, hanging at the beach/mountains/desert, or exploring cities by foot or bike. We spend downtime playing games, reading, journaling, and watching whatever show we are currently obsessed with. I have dabbled with some art and knitting even though I’m not particularly great at either - they are just fun and creative outlets.

What are your go-to resources/apps/gear that you can't live without or that have been pivotal with this kind of lifestyle?

Our top apps for navigating this lifestyle are iOverlander, Campendium, and All Stays. We are also members of Harvest Hosts which allows us to stay at wineries, breweries, farms, and more all over the continent which is a fun and unique option! The Calm app has been a tremendous asset for me in my work with meditation and mindfulness. We have a portable shower but are limited with when and where we can use it so we joined Planet Fitness. I have the black card membership so David is always my free guest. This is essential to keeping us clean and sane! We have a solar setup which is great when the days are long and sunny, but that isn’t always the case. As a wedding gift, we got a Goal Zero Yeti 400 portable power station. We primarily use it for our lights and charging our devices. We also received a Brookline all season comforter which we are obsessed with! It’s lightweight and packable while being crazy comfy and cozy in ANY temperature!

What do you wish you had known before starting the journey to becoming a digital nomad?

This is a hard one! I’m sure there are a lot of little things that would’ve been helpful to know ahead of time, but the most valuable parts of this trip have been the lessons we learned along the way! We have learned so much about ourselves individually and as a couple and just life and adventure in general. The most important thing is to plan as much as you can ahead of time and then allow yourself to learn and trust in the moment!

Do you have a favorite moment thus far? 

Oh gosh this is crazy hard and I don’t know if either of us has a “favorite” moment, but some early moments felt pivotal for us as we were adapting to our new life. For me, it was our day in Prince Edward Island. It was one of those spectacular days following a really challenging day where everything was going wrong and my head was screaming about what a mistake it was to leave our lovely, stable life in Denver. Everything just felt right. It was the first time I really gained the perspective that has stayed with me every day since. I now know that bad days will come and go and it is because of them that the magical days are so magical! For David, it was a spontaneous detour to an adorable town in Nova Scotia called Peggy’s Cove. We found a wonderful spot to spend the night and ate our dinner on the roof of the bus watching the sunset.

Any exciting plans or changes planned for the future, pertaining to this lifestyle? 

There is still so much up in the air, but we have our sights set on extending our trip even just slightly! We will change the pace and practice living in one place while we both resume full-time work with our goal to move into a tiny home on wheels in a couple of years - once we replenish those savings!

What is one piece of valuable advice or wisdom you'd like to share with others that are hoping to embark on this lifestyle?

If you want to live this way, you can! We have met and learned from so many others - all ages, backgrounds, financial situations - and if you want it bad enough, it really is doable! There are absolutely sacrifices, but in our experience, they are minimal in comparison to all you gain! Other than that, just trust in the journey! The worst moments are some of the ones we are most grateful for as they have had a profoundly impacted our outlook on life.

Where can people find out more about you & your lifestyle?