Student buys school bus, transforms it into home

by Kayla Reusche, Staff Writer

Most college students have to deal with the stress of finding an apartment and paying rent as a senior. But junior Lewis Cox won’t have that problem. He already bought a home – for only $5,500.

Cox is embarking on a tiny living journey, in which he will live in a bus throughout seminary school.

He found his new home on Craigslist and purchased it in July. He’d never driven a bus before, so he spent the summer practicing with a friend and found every excuse to take it out.

“I expect that I’m not gonna be in a bus forever, which means that the time between right now and when I’m at a point in my life when I’m probably not going to be in a bus is only getting narrower and narrower,” Cox said. “So that’s why I wanted to start building as soon as possible.”

The bus was partially converted into a camper from its previous owners who used it to commute and camp from their house in Missouri to their house in Florida during winter. It had all the seats removed, two captain’s chairs, a kitchenette, bed and other small furnishings when Cox bought it.

He attended TinyFest Midwest, a tiny house festival in Omaha, Neb., over the summer to tour tiny homes and get ideas for his own. He was amazed at how much space tiny houses really have.

With 200 square feet to work with, Cox plans to strip the bus and add furnishings for a complete home. It’ll have a water system, shower, toilet, bed, living area, kitchen, and other items like a typical house.

Cox described his $15,000 budget as a huge financial burden but expects it to save money in the long run. Aside from maintenance costs, this budget should cover the cost of living while he attends seminary.

Cox is planning the inside this year and will hopefully start construction in May. Not taking a May Term course and potentially starting his internship in June gives him flexibility to devote all of May to building his home. His bus is currently parked at his parents’ house in Urbandale, Iowa, where he will spend the summer working on it.

Cox hopes to graduate in December 2019, which will allow him more time to get his home ready before he moves to seminary school in August 2020.

It’s kind of a weird caveat to have to tell the admissions people that I own a bus and want to live in it

— Lewis Cox

Where he chooses to attend may dictate some functions of his home. A lot of seminary schools are in large cities, so commuting by bus won’t work. He’s thought about using his car by attaching it to the bus’s hitch, buying a moped he could store inside the bus or solely using public transportation.

“It’s kind of a weird caveat to have to tell the admissions people that I own a bus and want to live in it,” Cox said.

Since he wants a career in ministry, Cox is thinking about pairing with a church to park his bus there.

This would also allow him to make his home a community affair, which is something he desires. Whether it be offering meals or welcoming community members in, Cox wants to get everyone involved.

“I’m really drawn into sort of making that more than just my house but a space that’s welcoming for the community,” he said.

Cox added that this is a story that inherently draws people in. When people see him pull up in a bus, they have to ask about it. It’s too unique not to.

Cox became interested in minimalistic living after working with Joppa, a community outreach organization in Des Moines. The organization seeks to tackle homelessness in central Iowa by designing a village of tiny homes.

Through May Term trips and other experiences, Cox was drawn in to tiny living. He realized the social and economical impact he could have and couldn’t resist.

Cox said it took a bit of convincing to get his family and friends to understand that he was serious about tiny living, but once he did, they didn’t hesitate with support. His parents are just as excited as him.

The community is also getting behind Cox. Support is pouring in, and people are eager to help. Cox received many offers from people who want to devote their time and expertise to help him build his dream home. Although he doesn’t have much experience with construction, his connections do.

Aside from living in the bus, Cox is most excited about the opportunity he has to connect people.

“I love that a lot, that there’s this silly, dumb thing that I bought a bus, that all of a sudden leads to a genuine personal connection,” he said.

Cox doesn’t know what his future looks like, but he expects to live in his tiny home throughout seminary school. After that is uncertain, but he said he loves the fact that his home can take him anywhere in the nation.