A British couple who struggled to find work after graduating at the height of the pandemic are now living “off the grid” in a yellow school bus in the US.
Harri Cook, 23, and Nicky Horsley, 22, graduated from the University of Southampton in 2020 and have struggled to find work as the UK just emerged from lockdown.
Inspired by YouTube, the couple, who have been together for six years, bought a Ford Transit minibus and used it to explore Europe.
By the time they returned to the UK, travel bugs had gripped them and each took on temporary jobs to save for their next big purchase – an iconic yellow US school minibus.
The couple also took on a mini-project, converting a Peugeot Boxer and reselling it for a profit of £5,500.
Harri Cook, 23, and Nicky Horsley, 22, from Ascot, decided to travel the world after finishing their studies and entering a difficult job market
The couple bought an old school bus and converted it for a total of £12,000. They now live on the bus and travel around the US West Coast
Harri and Nicky had no DIY experience when they first started converting vans, so they looked up tips on YouTube and are now experts in the field
Nicky, pictured on the bus, said the couple always knew they wanted to be together forever but decided to see the world before settling down
Nicky said: “We saved from selling the boxer and working part time and used it to buy the bus which cost a total of £8,160 ($10,000) including tax.
“It’s from 2012 with 96,000 miles and has been well maintained.”
After the couple bought the bus, they spent a further £4,080 ($5,000) to convert it into their new home – costing them just over £12,000 ($15,000) in total.
After the renovation was complete, the two began traveling up and down the US West Coast.
“We live rent-free with no money for park-ups and we’re completely off-grid so don’t need to be hooked up to a utility,” Nicky said.
She estimates they spend just over £800 a month on food and fuel for the bus – and aren’t tied to paying any rent.
The couple, who spent a month remodeling the bus, drive around the US West Coast and park in a different spot every night
The couple installed chairs and tables and other household appliances, using tips from YouTube videos and their past van conversion experiences
The couple have installed a solar-powered shower in the van – but also share a gym membership should either of them wish to use the gym shower
Harri (left) and Nicky (right) say they’ve met some great people on their travels up the US West Coast and say they love spending each day at the beach
When the couple bought their first van, they had no DIY experience at all, instead following YouTube videos of how to build vans.
The two then put their new skills to the test and built their own little home in the van in Harris’ parents’ garden in Ascot.
During their three-month tour of Europe, the couple documented their journey on their YouTube channel – and were soon making money from their videos as they gained more subscribers.
When they returned to the UK they found there was a great demand for converted vans and sold their beloved Ford Transit for £17,000.
“We get negative comments from people saying it was funded by Mom and Dad’s bank — it gets under our skin because people always think our parents are paying for it, but they’re not paying for anything,” she said Nicky.
After repairing two vans, Nicky and Harri were conversion experts at the time they moved to the US and spent a month in an Airbnb in San Diego while they worked on the vehicle.
They now live the van life and say they take each day as it comes and have fallen in love with the area they are in.
“Our family has all been very supportive of us – they were a little surprised at first and probably thought it was just for a few months. But the more seriously we take it and the more professional we get with it on the content creation side, they appreciate it a lot more and see that we’re happy,” Nicky said.
“I don’t know if some people think we’re having a quarterlife crisis, but we’re focused on growing as a brand and making a few hundred pounds a month from content creation.
Nicky says the couple had no experience converting vans and had to watch YouTube videos to learn how it was done when they took on their first project
While the converted school bus is currently the perfect home for Nicky and Harri, they hope to resell it once their America adventure is over
The couple mostly prepares lunch and dinner in the van to save money, but often goes to a coffee shop for breakfast
Solar panels are installed on the bus for electricity, meaning the couple lives completely off the grid
“We make about the same from affiliate links on Amazon and eBay, and we always say our third source of income is converting and selling vans.
“We’ve been together for six years and knew we’d stay together — before we settle down we want to see the world, so we started looking into backpacking in Southeast Asia and while we were researching we came across Vanlife.”
She added: “We’ve been watching all these people online with their skooles looking amazing – they were so big with so much room, wider and cozier so we thought let’s go to America and try to convert one ourselves.
“It was a bit scary because there is very little research to do when it comes to buying a vehicle on a tourist visa in America and insurance.
Harri said: “When we actually got here, everything was perfect, we found the perfect car dealership south of San Diego and two days after we left, we had this school bus.
The couple use their social media account and YouTube channel to document their life on the road and share van life tips with other people
“For the first month we stayed in an Airbnb outside of San Diego owned by this ex-military man named Nelson who said we could remodel our bus in his driveway so we lived with him for a month and remodeled the school bus in four weeks .
“It was my first time and Nicky’s second time in America – it was all new to us being in a foreign country with different prices and different shops.
“We finished the bus and cleaned it up, then traveled west a bit and fell in love with the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles.”
He added that they now spend every day at the beach and have a relaxed daily routine, waking up early and going to a cafe for breakfast.
They keep lunch cheap and usually prepare food in the van before parking in a “nice place” for the evening.
“We share a gym membership so we can get a little workout and shower, or we use our solar shower, then we go back to the bus and make dinner – we have a two-burner stove and a full household fridge,” said he .
“We went to bed early and got up early – there are no curtains in the van yet, so we go to bed when the sun goes down and wake up when it comes up.”