INTERVIEW WITH LIZ AND WES (@NAUTICAL NOMADS)
Who are you and what is your backstory?
What’s up everybody!? We’re Liz, Wes and Finley and the Octobus and together we make up the Nautical Nomads. We are currently based in Sarasota, Florida but it wasn’t always that way. Wes was born and raised in Sarasota and I am from London, UK. Wes and I met when I was barely 16 and he 20 and although we didn’t actually start dating until our mid 20’s the rest, as they say, is history. We married in 2016 and found out we were going to have a little nomad joining, shortly after.
We are audacious, thrill-seeking, adrenaline junkies who love all things outdoors. We live to fish, camp, hike and ride things that go way too fast. We are constantly chasing adventure and planning the next one. Whether it’s 4 hours or 4,000 miles from home. We believe that we were born for more than just paying bills and dying so we try to live every day to its full potential.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Bus life?
We were floating through life, as you do, working for the weekends so we could go anywhere and everywhere and dreading Mondays. Wes was working hard building his construction company and I was trying to establish my photography business Black Pineapple Photography.
When we found out we were pregnant we had been living in our rental home for 4 or so years and we went into panic mode. It was barely big enough for us and our businesses let alone a baby! We immediately started the home buying process and, let’s just say, it was a miserable, stressful, toxic experience.
Through no fault of our own (paperwork hiccups by our lenders) we were denied TWICE on closing day and our credit, that we spent so long trying to build, was now shot. We were back at square one.
"First and foremost, the community. It is absolutely incredible how the community on social media are like one big family. We have become friends with some of the coolest people we know and most of them we haven’t even met yet! "
We spent hours a day trying to figure out how we could just buy even a piece of land and live in a mobile home while Wes built us a home but being a first time home buyer with now crappy credit - lenders wouldn’t touch us with a 10ft pole. An absolute blessing in disguise in hindsight.
During my research on mobile homes for the land we so longed for I came across skoolies and I had my ah, ha! moment. We could have the home we wanted to build AND travel around with it. The only obstacle was Wes’ construction company. Although it was a massive source of stress for us it was still a huge accomplishment that was going to be hard to let go of. After a lot of deliberation and painstaking pros and cons lists we ultimately decided to close the construction company. The cloud of stress was lifted.
When I brought the skoolie idea to Wes he was concerned about how we would make money on the road. By this time, my photography business was picking up and could support us both (at home base and potentially on the road) so we took the plunge. With Wes’ background (before construction) in advertising and affiliate marketing, he turned his attention to Black Pineapple Photography. With our concept proven, we started our bus research.
Wes is an avid researcher. I am more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl which, in my adulthood, I have realized isn’t always the best way to be. Especially when looking for a vehicle to live in. I was so excited that I would have bought the first one that popped up on ebay!
After quite a while searching all over the map, literally, I stumbled on a craigslist ad in Louisiana. I used to troll every state, every night for new ads and it finally paid off! We found the ad on a Monday and were driving our bus home on Tuesday night. To say we were stoked would be an understatement!
Tell us about the advantages to the Bus lifestyle?
When we first started our conversion we figured we’d be done in 6-9 months *and all the skoolie convertors laughed*. We now know that everything during a conversion takes 3 times as long as you think it will so a skill I have learned during this whole process is patience.
"I wish we (mainly me) would have had a more realistic expectation for our completion schedule. We’re now 1.5 years in and it’ll be closer to 2 before we move in."
While we post YouTube videos of our build, we love to watch our friends that are already out on the road. Especially those with kids like Number Juan Bus. It’s such an inspiration to see other families out there living the dream with their little ones. It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure of the “societal norms” and want to start researching what school to put your child in. It’s hard to make a decision not everyone will agree on (sometimes even family members).
We are stoked to show Finley the world. She will learn about historical sites in person, not just out of a textbook. She will travel and feel the difference in cultures from state to state through-out her country that she will be proud to grow up in.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Bus lifestyle?
It will be hard to be away from family while we are on the road. Thankfully, with today’s technology, grandparents are only a Facetime call away. Many family members are excited to meet us on the road for small getaways!
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
Although we are still in the build process, we have learned so much about the bus lifestyle. First and foremost, the community. It is absolutely incredible how the community on social media are like one big family. We have become friends with some of the coolest people we know and most of them we haven’t even met yet!
Wes being a contractor and going through schooling has undoubtedly given us a massive advantage from a build stand point. That being said, a bus is not a house and everyone has their struggles! If we have a question, we put it out on our instagram @nauticalnomads and within the day our problem is solved.
How do you support yourself financially?
As I mentioned earlier, we now have a successful photography company, Black Pineapple Photography. This is our main and only source of income. Wes takes care of the advertisement and website side of things and I take care of the creative side and the client interaction. We make a great team and we love the freedom we have now so that makes us even more excited for life on the road.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
I wish we (mainly me) would have had a more realistic expectation for our completion schedule. We’re now 1.5 years in and it’ll be closer to 2 before we move in. A huge reason for this though, is that we aren’t skimping on anything. If there’s something that we want we will wait, save if we need to, and get it.
We see this as our first home we’re building together so we want it to be A. comfortable and B. just the way we want it. We plan to eventually build a homestead and live in the skoolie while we build a house so we are bearing that in mind with every aspect of the conversion. Especially when it comes to AC and solar considering we live in Florida!
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
There are a ton of amazing resources out there for skoolie builders. Besides the people that are elbows deep in their conversion and have gone through all the trials and tribulations themselves, we used skoolie.net, watched Youtube channels such Tale of Two Smittys, The Hive Drive, Shawn and Ash and Eamon and Bec. We also had some major help from Aaron Bockelie who we endearingly coined “The Solar Sensei”.
We did find it super hard to find information on what to look for when buying a bus. We had no clue what to look for so we had to do hours and hours of research. Once we had our bus we compiled it all into a downloadable e-guide called The Ultimate Guide to Buying a School Bus which gives you a super easy, step by step guide to what to look for. Not only does it tell you how to look for a bus but what to look for when you get to view one with a very handy checklist that you can take with you. From how to start the bus to checking for body damage and fluids.
Watching people out on the road already is major motivation and inspiration. It gets (and keeps) us excited when we’re feeling burnt out and tired. We like to watch Kinging It!, Eamon and Bec (pre COVID-19 they were traveling around Africa!), Number Juan Bus and Bus Life Possible.
What does the future look like?
The future looks exciting. We hope to be living full time in the Octobus by Christmas this year and we hope to “set sail” in spring. We will travel until the holidays and be back in time for Thanksgiving dinner! We can’t wait to start our journey.
Like I mentioned earlier, our long term goals are to buy some land and build a homestead. We will always have the Octobus to travel in as I don’t see our feet becoming any less itchy! Wes and I have thrown around the idea of living on a boat when we’re old and grey!
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
We would love to hear recommendations on how to find places to park! We aren’t super worried about not finding spots but we would love to be prepared for those days when we get in a pickle!
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Bus essentials that you couldn’t live without?
- AC (which is why our solar system will support AC whenever we want it)
- (For conversion purposes) an angle grinder
- The community of people!
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
- Costa Rica
- Louisiana (to pick up our bus!)
Where are you now?
When did you first start the Bus life?
Hoping to be in the bus before christmas 2020
Are you full-time or part-time Bus-lifing?
We will be full-time bus living
What kind of bus do you have?
1998 Thomas International
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?
- Our Website
- Our Facebook
- Our Instagram (We post daily updates)
- Our Youtube Channel (We’re documenting our build here)