When Thariea and River Paige splashed out £8,000 on an old council bus on eBay they had absolutely no DIY experience, and admit they couldn’t even hang up a picture.
Fed up of 9-5 life and missing out on time with their three children, Roman, eight, Arabella, six, and Nalu-River, 18 months, they set their sights on a nomadic life traveling the world.
They rented out their house and sold all their belongings apart from sentimental items and moved the 7.6m long eight-seater bus, with space for four additional wheelchairs and a driver, onto the drive of River’s parents’ house in Leicester.
They’ve spent the last year and £13,000 transforming into their dream mobile home, and they’re now planning to use it as a base for a long road trip through Europe to Africa when Covid-19 restrictions lift.
Thariea, 28, said: “We’ve always thought you should try and follow your dreams and not have regrets. Our view is just to give it a go.
“We heard a saying once, ‘You only get 16 summers with your kids.’ We wanted to have more time with them and a more spontaneous life than a house and a couple of weeks holiday each year would give us.
“My dad was in the Forces, so travel is a bit in my blood.
“I’ve been to Egypt, Antigua, Spain and France and other places. River has been to Nairobi and Antigua, we went together to Bulgaria, and we got married in Italy. It was after we’d had the two older children and they want to go back there in the bus.
“The bus we found was a former Bournemouth council bus that had been used for disabled and elderly people and had low mileage, so we thought we’d have it and collected it from a private owner in Dartford, Kent.
“Within six weeks, we had quit our rented property and sold everything in it and all our belongings apart from our clothes and sentimental items, and moved the bus on to the front drive at River’s parents’ where we stayed while we worked on it.”
To transform the bus into a home they have raised the roof, adding six solar panels and kitting it out with all mod cons.
Thariea, who explained how they have lived with her in-laws since leaving their three-bedroom modern rented semi in Broughton Astley, near Leicester, in January 2020, said: “We’ve loved living full-time on the bus for the last month, even though it’s only 80 per cent finished.
“The children were so excited that, after having a one-night sleepover in it on March 27, they wouldn’t leave! We’ve all been living in it ever since.”
The couple, who met when they were 15, had been saving to buy a house when Thariea’s dad Mark, 49, took them to a camper van festival in a Northamptonshire field four years ago and they had the “bonkers dream” of having a home on four wheels.
But it took nearly three years before they put their plan into action.
Thariea said: “At first, although it seemed like a great way of life, we thought it was way out of our comfort zone and impossible.
“Then we had our third child and one day early last year I texted River at work and wrote, ‘Let’s just do it’.
“He agreed and we started looking to buy a bus and found one on eBay for £8,000 just before lockdown in March last year.
“We decided we were just sick of every day nine to five work and missing out on time with the children.
“Every day just rolled into one.”
So, despite having no experience of DIY, the couple took the plunge.
After taking three years to start turning their dream of a nomadic life into reality, they had a little longer to wait thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Thariea said: “We did the conversion a little more slowly than we would otherwise have done.
“Four years ago, River didn’t know how to hold a drill. He used to ring his dad to ask him how to put up a picture at our old home!
“But he’s done so much research on this, as he is a perfectionist and wants everything just right.
“I’ve trawled Pinterest to get ideas to make the interior just how I want it.
“It’s great now to think, ‘Wow, this is our house’. We’re so calm in the bus.
“It doesn’t make any difference to us that it may be a bit small – our blood, sweat, tears and soul has gone into building it.
“Even the children have joined in. Roman helped measure, mark out and push insulation into cavities on the bus. They’ve all had a go at painting and sanding.”
One of the couple’s first jobs was ripping out the old bus seats and chopping off the 3.5m roof to make it higher.
Investing £13,000 in the refit, which they did in evenings and at weekends, as well as fitting solar panels, so they can produce their own power, they have spent £4,000 on the electrical system, bought a fridge, sink, cooker and heater, upholstery, and lots of materials including birch plywood – even though everything has been made bespoke by River.
River, 27, has sorted the electrics, plumbing and most of the re-fit, while Thariea helped out with grinding, stripping, and interior painting – and they have not used a single tradesperson.
Thariea said: “We have always been adventurous and loved travelling and the outdoors, and I think we are moving in the right direction of a more outdoorsy life amongst nature. Plus, the kids will be safer to run around outside.
“We’re now looking for a farm to move on to until we actually start travelling.
“When we leave the driveway, it will give River’s parents their space back and we can be a family again on our own, although they have been brilliant.”
Again, the couple have done their research before launching their life on the road – joining lots of travel forums to learn how best to adapt, although they do not have a fixed plan beyond the next few months.
Thariea said: “We’re quite easy-going and will go with the flow. We don’t want to rush and if we love one place we’ll stay.
“To start with, we’ll take the ferry to France and then head to Portugal, before aiming to get to Africa starting in Morocco.
“We originally thought we’d go for one year, but that could turn into two years, and two years could turn into three.
“The bus should be finished how we want it in another month, but until Covid restrictions allow us to go, we are looking for the farm to move on to, just so the kids gets to experience outside life and we’re out of River’s parents’ way.”
While both their parents were initially concerned about them leaving, they now realise how seriously they are taking it and, like their children, are excited about the adventure.
Thariea said: “We were keen for the kids to go back to school for a bit when they were allowed to again recently, as they had missed so much of their education and had missed their friends.
“We will be home-schooling them while we travel and, although they will be away from their friends, they have arranged to send postcards and do FaceTime catch-ups.”
And the couple will be teaching their children about the sites they see as they travel.
She continued: “We may well go to Greece and Rome. Roman has been studying the Romans and Greek mythology at school, so he will be able to experience it rather than just seeing it in a book.
“They will actually learn to write letters, which children don’t do any more – although I’m not sure what they’ll put on the address apart from ‘Our bus, somewhere in the world’.”