INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINA AND RANDY (@URBAN CITY NOMADS)
Who are you and what is your backstory?
Hello there! We are Randy and Christina- together, Urban City Nomads! Randy is from New York and was raised for a large part of his life in Pennsylvania. I (Christina) am from Texas, born and raised. Randy moved back to his home city at the age of 23. A few years later, I moved to NYC seeking adventure at 26 and that’s where our worlds collided! We met while both working at Guitar Center.
Randy has been a DJ for years, spinning at some of the best clubs in NYC and on the west coast too. He enjoys staying involved in social and political issues; we travelled to Washington DC several time to participate in marches. He’s also an amazing father to his awesome 9 year old son. I’ve been a musician all my life as a singer, guitarist, flutist and songwriter. I am a creative at heart; I love crafting and expressing myself through fashion. I also enjoy being a cat mom and planning fun activities with my step son!
I’ll fast forward a bit to the day we decided on “unconventional” living. We were reaching the end of our New Jersey apartment lease and realized just how much money we had spent in only one year with seemingly nothing to show for it in the end.
Randy asked me if I’d be open to living in an RV. After much thought, I agreed to try it with the option to back out after a year. So we planned a road trip and bought an RV in Texas. On our way back up to the northeast and about three days after our RV purchase, it died. We found our way home, sad and defeated but with a new dream- skoolie life. We bought our school bus six months later and have been converting it for a year.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Bus life?
As I mentioned, we decided on RV life first. Once our RV died, we realized why we should have gone with a diesel vehicle in the first place but diesel RV’s were out of our budget. Sitting in a cold RV in the mechanic shop parking lot, we decided to let it go and move onto another dream. Both decisions- to buy the RV and the bus- were basically out of desperation. We just knew there had to be more to life than struggling to pay bills and stretching ourselves so thin just living for the weekend. We still believe that but not quite living that life yet.
I think one of the hardest parts of living this life is making the initial decision- the decision to commit and then the decision to actually buy a bus. Once you’re in, you’re all in! And everything else will fall into place. Your mindset will start to change to figure out how to make things work like jobs on the road, which things are truly a necessity and how to complete your build step by step.
Tell us about the advantages to the Bus lifestyle?
We’ve developed so many skills already through this experience. Randy has been so hands-on, always researching new and better ways to do things like framing, building out our wet bath, and solar. I feel that much of my growth has been in my mindset. I went from committing to a year in an RV because I didn’t know where all my shoes were going to go, to really investing wholeheartedly and thinking about how our family will grow and thrive in this environment.
Our biggest piece of advice ever and to anyone is: do what makes you happy. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true.
I’m sure we’ll have so much more to add on this topic once we’re living in the bus full-time. At the moment, our money and time struggles are still very real since we not only support our everyday lives but are building a home also but we’re confident it will all be worth it in the end to decrease our bills and increase our quality of life!
We are so extremely excited to start living real bus life! To be able to move on to another location when we want or to stay put in locations we just can’t get enough of. Another advantage to tiny home living is that everything you fill your home with is things you love. It’s necessary to weed out the clutter and re-evaluate the priorities for your life.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
Again, this is a topic we’ll be able to add more insight to later but for now I’ll say the skoolie community has been so open and giving, always offering free tips, advice and encouragement. It will be a blast to meet up with some of them along the way!
As far as seeing family, I believe living in a home on wheels could make it easier to spend more time with family spread out across the country without overstaying our welcome in someone else’s space. For the most part, Randy and I love to spend a lot of quality time together, just the two of us, and with his son as well.
How do you support yourself financially?
At the moment, we both work full-time jobs at Amazon to support our life and the build. Once the build is finished, our goal is to save up money to feel more secure before traveling. We are also working to build a few small businesses including our skoolie social media, a vintage clothing shop on Etsy and a permanent makeup studio.
Permanent Makeup Studio - Muse Permanent Makeup
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
Our biggest piece of advice ever and to anyone is: do what makes you happy. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true. When thinking of living this lifestyle, does the thought of living in a smaller space to live a bigger life make you happy? Does the idea of having a smaller overhead for bills so you can spend more on experiences make you happy? This doesn’t mean you won’t have to make sacrifices along the way (I’m looking at you, shoe collection); it just means that will making those sacrifices for something greater be worth it for you? Only you can truly answer that question.
This question is also important if you take the leap into bus life. The skoolie community is a wealth of knowledge and resources as I mentioned before. Some people are also more opinionated than others. We have personally experienced many people telling us we made a mistake buying a bus with our engine. It freaked the living H out of us at first, especially considering our RV incident. But after a little research we found out the issues the engine has are no biggie if you do a couple things to take care of it.
So when considering which bus to buy: do some research then DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY! There will always be someone telling you to do something else. And guess what, it’s probably being said by someone who isn’t even taking the risk you are. Live your life because you only have one.
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
We’ve relied heavily on the skoolie community online. Facebook has several skoolie groups but mainly we follow IG accounts: @gilliganphantom, @navigationnowhere and @gus.gps all have a wealth of information on Instagram and YouTube! We’ve also used the skoolie.net forums.
What does the future look like?
Ahhh the future looks like an adventure. It looks like finally living the skoolie life- traveling when we want, lingering when we want, seeing new people and places and trying new foods. Some places that are on the top of our bucket list are the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Redwood Forest and White Sands National Park. We also want to visit cities including New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle. There’s talk of incorporating a series on our YouTube channel reviewing local pizza and taco spots wherever we go! Head over to our YouTube or Instagram accounts to let us know what you’d like to see.
The future also looks like being able to slow down from working full-time jobs while being a parent and step-parent and building our own tiny home with basically no prior experience. It means enjoying coffee and breakfast in the morning, exercising our creativity during the day to take photographs and edit YouTube videos, dancing while making dinner, watching the sun go down and getting a full night’s sleep. The beauty of building a skoolie is you learn to also build the life you want along the way!
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
While our interior build is getting closer to completion, our engine needs help! The batteries died over the long, cold winter so we weren’t able to start her up for quite a while. We have three brand new batteries yet she doesn’t want to start now. She turns over and we’ve had two mechanics take a look with no luck so far. Any VT365 experts in the house? Please reach out! We’d love to hear from you.
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Bus essentials that you couldn’t live without?
So far it's:
- Our solar kit
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
- New York City
- Moab, UT
- Denver, CO
Where are you now?
In Lehigh Valley, PA
How long do you stay in one place?
Once we’re on the road, this will depend on how much we like where we’re at! I presume we’ll travel a lot in the first year or so then slow down a bit
When did you first start the Bus life?
Are you full-time or part-time Bus-lifing?
We will be full-time once we move in to our skoolie
What kind of bus do you have?
What kind of Bus setup do you have? We have a 40’ or so dog nose International skoolie with a VT365 engine, Allison transmission and hydraulic brakes
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?