A mother-of-four from Wigan is living the American dream, after she and her husband spent $38,000 on turning an old yellow school bus into a stylish mobile home for their photogenic family.
Debbie Mayes, 33, met her husband Gabriel, 35, from Angleton in Texas, when they were both at a ministry school in Illinois and they married after two years of dating – now they’re parents to Gracen, 10, seven-year-old Darby, Deacon, five, and Jovey, who is almost two.
Despite their sizeable brood, the couple grew tired of their 5,000sq ft house, and decided to swap it for a family home on wheels.
The Mayes snapped up a classic American school bus, stripped out the seats, and added a kitchen, cosy living area, a bedroom and bunks for their four children, in which the family has now racked up 3,000 miles on a cross-country adventure – from Tennessee to Nevada.
After heading to either Mexico or Alaska this summer, the Mayes are hoping to buy some land in California and park up while they build a permanent home – but Debbie says they’ll always hold on to their beloved bus.
‘We are always going to keep the bus either as an Airbnb or to travel in it as a family,’ said Debbie, adding ‘the kids already argue about who is going to have the bus when they are an adult.’
Mother of four Debbie Mayes, from Wigan, and her American husband converted a school bus into a stylish mobile home for their young family
Debbie met Gabriel at a ministry school in Illinois and they married after two years of dating, now they are parents to four children with whom they’re exploring the US in their mobile home
They’re now parents to Gracen, 10, Darby, seven, five-year-old Deacon and Jovey (pictured), who is almost two
The cosy and compact bunk beds provide plenty of space for the Mayes brood to snuggle up in during nights on the road
It cost $38,000 (£27,000) to buy and convert the bus into a liveable space fit for their family, and the refurbishment took six months in total.
‘We were living in a 5000-sq-ft house with Gabriel working multiple jobs, sometimes working until the early hours of the morning,’ said Debbie.
‘We have always had someone living with us since we married 12 years ago. And we very much believed that our value was based on what we did.
‘Things emotionally started to fall apart. We were both miserable and disconnected so realized we needed to change everything about our life.
‘I saw a YouTube video of Expedition Happiness on Facebook and instantly knew we would rock that lifestyle. Gabriel was a little sceptical but we were both knew that we were supposed to head to California so thought it would be the perfect way to reconnect as a family and head that way.’
The Mayes family have so far clocked up 3,000 miles in their bus travelling through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada before finishing their trip in California.
Debbie insists the bus life has brought the family closer together and the children love the freedom is brings.
What a transformation: The familiar yellow school bus before it was given its Instagram-friendly makeover by the Mayes
American dream: The couple spent $38,000 (£27,000) to buy and convert the old school bus – it took them six months
Their home has gone from a classic American yellow school bus to a chic mobile home that features heavily on the family Instagram account
Debbie says she and her family are planning to travel to either Mexico or Alaska in the bus over the summer
The next step will be to buy some land in California, says Debbie, who adds that the family will continue to live on the bus while they build a home
‘The best thing is how connected our family has become,’ she explained.
‘We used to find ourselves all spending time in different rooms of the house but now the kids read to each other in their bunks, go on biking adventures and we all curl up together on the couches and watch movies.
‘Being in such a tiny space can be stressful but we have so much more opportunity to talk it through and connect. It’s completely changed us.
‘The children are able to explore and travel and as a family we are so much more focused on each other. Life is so much simpler now. Stuff is not as important to us, we spend much more time outside or having fun experiences as a family.
‘We are much more in tune with our emotions and the emotions of the other members of our family. We are using this time to get out of debt (almost there!) and save money so that we can build our forever home.’
While the family have enjoyed their time on the road they have fallen in love with Northern California and plan to settle there.
Debbie also had a message for anyone wishing to follow in their footsteps and hit the road in their own van or bus.
‘We plan to travel in the bus over the summer either to Alaska or Mexico and we are hoping to buy some land in California so we can live on it in the bus while we build a home,’ she said.
‘We are always going to keep the bus either as an Airbnb or to travel in it as a family. The kids already argue about who is going to have the bus when they are an adult.
The small but stylish bathroom inside the Mayes family’s converted school bus features a sleek vanity (left) and even house plants (seen right)
Humble beginnings: The former school bus once it had been stripped of the old seats to make way for the Mayes’ living area
The Mayes were unhappy in their old, 5,000sq ft home, so swapped it for a house on wheels. Debbie says they’re now much more ‘connected’ as a family
Their cosy converted school bus even has a door mat, as seen in this snap from the living area – with the driver’s seat visible behind
The Instagram friendly kitchen features trendy subway tiles, a chunky wooden worktop, and a sleek stove top
‘Don’t waste time worrying about what other people will think or if everything is perfectly planned. We get so many emails from people who are miserable with their current life and want to do something similar and there is always a BUT (well paying job they can’t leave, family that disagrees etc).
‘If you are unhappy with where you are at you are only ONE decision away from changing everything and you will feel so much freedom when you start living your life the way you feel called to live it.
‘Sometimes starting can just mean minimizing what you already have, or not living beyond your means – taking any step in that direction will get your momentum going, you don’t have to make a sudden big leap like we did.’