Couple ditch rat race and move into school bus converted into new home

Couple expecting their first child convert an old school bus into a quirky home complete with checkerboard flooring and pink AstroTurf – and plan to live a ‘nomadic’ life with their baby

  • Hunter Helmstaedter, 32, and Ming Min Luftig, 28 were spending $1800 on rent
  • The photographer and ex-cosmetologist, from Colorado, were living in New York 
  • But they decided to follow their ‘nomadic dream’ and bought the $5,000 bus
  • The couple, who are expecting a baby, spent $20,000 to convert it into a home

A couple who are expecting a baby have quit the rat race and transformed a yellow school bus into a quirky home.

Hunter Helmstaedter, 32, and Ming Min Luftig, 28, who were spending $1800 (£1,300) on rent and utilities whilst living in New York, decided to hit the road during the pandemic last year and bought a yellow school bus to live in for $5,000 (£3,600).

The couple, from Colorado, spent $20,000 [£14,500] in nine months on materials such as solar panels, air conditioning and interior.

From the outside, the bus looks like a regular American school bus but inside is filled with pastel furs, chessboard flooring, flamingos and even pink AstroTurf.

Hunter Helmstaedter, 32, and Ming Min Luftig, 28, from Colorado, were spending $1,800 a month on rent in New York, so they bought an old school bus to convert into a home – pictured here during the renovation

The couple spent $20,000 on converting the bus from its original state (pictured mid transformation) into a quirky pastel home

The bus, which cost the couple $5,000, shown here after they overhauled the interior, decking it out with colourful soft furnishings

The bus (shown post-renovation work) also has  solar panels, air conditioning, making it perfect for the couple’s nomadic lifestyle

Ming, who lost her job as a cosmetologist during the pandemic, and Hunter, who is a photographer, are expecting a baby. They plan to baby proof the bus for the new arrival 

Ming lost her job as a cosmetologist and Hunter, who is a photographer, continues to work whilst they travel.

‘We were both furloughed at the start of the pandemic in March 2020,’ Ming explained. ‘As the pandemic continued our positions were ultimately terminated placing us on unemployment.’

‘We were paying almost two grand to sit in the flat so we decided to follow our dreams and live a nomadic lifestyle.

‘We used to work 60 hours a week and it was difficult to see each other as we rarely had the same day off.

From the exterior, the now-renovated bus still looks like a typical school bus – the couple just radically overhauled the inside

While the pair – pictured in the updated home – splashed out on the bus and renovation works, they have now slashed their monthly outgoings in half 

An additional benefit of van life is that the couple now spend more time together – before they worked 60-hour weeks, according to Ming 

Ming says the couple ‘swayed away from the generic oatmeal and bohemian theme for bus conversations’ as that isn’t her style – instead they opted for a colourful theme

Hunter says there are ‘some clues’ from the outside that the bus has been renovated – like a chimney and air conditioning – but that most people probably think it’s just a typical bus

‘We weren’t allowed to decorate before which was frustrating as we are both very creative. So this is the first home we have ever decorated.

‘We swayed away from the generic oatmeal and bohemian theme for bus conversations as it’s not my style.

‘I wanted to put my own stamp on the bus as I am a lover of all things fluffy, girly and pink.’

The inside of the bus has been painted pink, purple, yellow and blue and boasts plenty of fluffy pillows and blankets along with a kitchen that somewhat resembles an American diner.

The couple say the bus (pictured here before they transformed it) is their home, and while they are nervous about living their with a baby, it is safe and will be an adventure

Hunter is an electrician by trade and had help from his carpenter uncle in overhauling the bus – stripping out all the seats, and adding electrical, plumbing, insulation and solar panels 

Videos: Hunter also watched YouTube videos and read online forums on how to convert the bus – pictured mid-transformation

‘I am an electrician by trade and help from my carpenter uncle,’ said Hunter. ‘I watched YouTube and read online forums on how to convert the bus.

‘I stripped all the seats, added electrical, plumbing, insulation and solar panels.

‘We were interested in the outside and inside contrast – there are a few clues from the outside such as air-conditioning, chimney for our fireplace, and storage boxes on the side. But most people probably drive past and think it’s a school bus.’

Hunter has a unique style of capturing images known as ‘wet plate photography’ which involves developing the photos.

Following the renovation, the bus now has all the couple needs – including a fireplace as well as air conditioning

View from inside: the now-updated bus looks very different to its original state, with its colourful and kitsch interior

Ming, who is 22 weeks pregnant, says their new baby will get to see a lot of the country, as a result of their nomadic lifestyle

Hunter makes money as a photographer: at the bottom of the bus, he has a workspace that transforms from a digital lab to a darkroom

The couple’s fuel bill is approximately $100 [£72] per month as they tend to explore one spot for a few days at a time

Hunter and Ming, who like to move around every few days, say they will ‘roam school’ rather than ‘homeschool’ their child, as they will be living on the move in their bus

The camera alone generates a lot of attention from members of the public – some of whom pay for a self-portrait.

He said: ‘I take two portraits a week of strangers which keep us afloat. I charge $150 [£100] per image.’

Van life: a breakdown of monthly outgoings

Insurance – £110 [$150]

Phone/internet – £145 [$200]

Food – £70-145 – [$100-200]

Fuel – £70 – [$100]

Accomodation – £180 [$250]

Total – £655 [$900]


The couples monthly outgoings have been slashed in half to $900 [£655] per month. At the bottom of the bus, Hunter has a workspace that transforms from a digital lab to a darkroom.

He added: ‘We have created currency straight out of the camera.

‘We have used photos as substitute cash as I have been commissioned by landowners who have let us park up for free. It is very effective.

‘We have to make enough to keep the fridge full and diesel in the bus.’

Their fuel bill is approximately $100 [£72] per month as they tend to explore one spot for a few days at a time.

But their outgoings are soon to increase as they are expecting their first child.

Ming, who is 22 weeks pregnant, said: ‘Any new parent would be nervous about having a kid on a bus, but it is a solid and steel box.

‘It is safe and we intend on baby proofing the corners. It is going to be an adventure.

‘He or she will see the country more than half of their family members.

‘We prefer the term roam-school rather than home school.

‘Our child won’t just have to read about something in a book as we can just drive there to see it. We won’t ever have to worry about forgetting something at home because this is our home.’ 

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