On the road. (Photo: Outside Found)
Jo Piazza for Yahoo! Travel
Last summer Will Hitchcock and Alyssa Pelletier were in the midst of an epic road trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, and Oregon. They were sleeping in the back of their truck and working in coffee shops.
That trip taught them just how much they loved the freedom that being on the road afforded. What they didn’t love was living out of a pickup truck.
Midway through the trip, as they were driving through Ennis, Montana, Hitchcock saw an old bus on the side of the road with a for-sale sign in the window.
That got the gears turning, and before they reached Washington they had it all figured out. They would buy a bus, renovate it, and turn it into the ideal tiny house-office that they could drive across the United States with their dog.
Easy, right? Not exactly.The couple began looking for the bus in late fall 2014. Using Craigslist, they searched far and wide, expecting to find it in some faraway state. Amazingly enough, they found the ideal one a mere 50 miles from home.
They spent the winter months researching and planning the build. Hitchcock’s dad and grandpa have some building experience, so they supplied a lot of the knowledge and all the tools.
“We started working on the bus in early March and worked feverishly to complete it by the end of June,” Pelletier says. “During that time, we did everything from pulling out the existing seats and floor to building furniture to installing electrical, propane, and plumbing and everything in between. We did all of the work ourselves with a ton of help from family and friends. We also hired an RV contractor to make sure everything was safe and up to code.”
The renovation was one of the most difficult things Hitchcock and Pelletier have ever done, hands down. There is no “bus-to-tiny-house conversion manual.”
“We spent a lot of time starting things the wrong way, figuring things out mid-install, then tearing everything down and starting again,” Pelletier says.
But eventually they made it work. And now they are trying to make everything else work on the road.
The bus is bigger than some New York City apartments. (Photo: Outside Found)
“Living and working on the road is a challenge. First of all, we’re visiting all these amazing places and feel like we’re on vacation, when in reality we’re both juggling a full-time workload,” Pelletier says.
“Finding a good work-play balance is a skill that we’re still developing.”
Another challenge is the Wi-Fi. They originally thought they would be able to hop onto free Wi-Fi networks, but they were hard to pick up on the bus. To deal with it, they ended up having to buy a pricey system for the bus.
They also had to figure out how to get their dog comfortable with the journey. One of the major reasons the couple decided to drive around the country rather than fly around the world is their gentle giant Hilde, a Bernese mountain dog with a kind heart and a soul for adventure.
“She’s a huge part of our lives, and we just couldn’t imagine leaving her behind,”Pelletier says. “Since her puppyhood, we’ve been training her to be the ultimate adventure companion.” Hilde cemented her badass status when she won the “Live Your Kurgo Adventure” contest. Kurgo, a manufacturer of pet adventure gear, set up the family with great outdoorsy dog gear for Hilde.
“She comes alive on the trail, and every excursion we have together reminds me to live in the moment, to be happy that we’re alive, and to enjoy the incredible beauty that surrounds us,” Pelletier says.
Hilde is pretty good about being in the bus these days, but it was tough in the beginning.
"As soon as the bus started rumbling to life, she started zooming around, searching desperately for an exit,” Pelletier says. “She ended up squashed down in the wheel well, which was probably the least safe spot for her to ride.”
They weren’t planning on letting her have access to the couch, but she was so afraid on that first voyage that Pelletier gathered her up and let her snuggle in next to her on the couch. Now the couch is her second home.
Hanging out on the side of the road. (Photo: Outside Found)
These days the duo, along with Hilde, are able to live and work on the road. Together they run a small Internet consulting company. They also chronicle their adventures on their website, Outside Found. In July, Hitchcock proposed to Pelletier during a hike along the Elwha Dam in Washington. Their entry about it is absolutely worth a read.
When we talked to them they were in Bozeman, Montana, which is one of our favorite spots. From there they’ll cruise down through the Rocky Mountains, stopping in Jackson Hole and the Wind River range in Wyoming before heading to Boulder, Crested Butte, and Telluride in Colorado.
Then it’s over to Moab, Utah, for the fall. Not a bad life.