Photos Cameron Flaisch
Some folks are just born to roam. Whether it is a small village in Alaska, the smack-dab middle of a national forest or a sprawling metropolis buzzing with the hum of the hustle, the urge to move is insatiable.Their spirits tug at their roots until they are loose and growing towards apath to an unfamiliar destination.
For one local couple, the means to freedom is to lighten their load and put wheels underneath what they would soon call home.
But before their dream was realized, they first needed to find a lady fit to serve as home base. Justin Fields, Erin DeMesquita and Lueez, their pooch, have found love in each other’s arms and adopted an additional family member they’ve tasked with helping them hit the open road in search of new adventures.
They call her Sheila, Sheila Bluebus to be exact, and boy is she pretty.
Before telling the story of how they purchased and whittled their 1995 Blue Bird bus into a bohemian-chic paradise of a pad, it helps to visit memories this courageous couple has aboutbuilding the foundation of their friendship and discovering common ground in their wishes to never make any ground common.
Believe it or not, they have been “Down” for a quite some time now and “Livin’ &Rockin'” to some of the same tunes. The warm, “Amber” color of their energy formed a bond like “You Wouldn’t Believe” and inspired them both to “Reconsider Everything.” Although the future of their journey together “Seems Uncertain,” they knew that if they “Don’t Stay Home” they would still be fulfilled by living on the road, something they like to call the “Continuous Life.”
“We have known each other for around 15 years,” DeMesquita says as she takes a swig from her margarita and dips a half-broken chip into a bowl of salsa. “We met because we were going to a lot of the same concerts with the same group of people.”
“Yep, that’s what I remember,” Fields smiles. “I met you at a 311 day concert in New Orleans.”
It dawned on them both, just as plates of refried beans and warm tortillas hit the dinner table, that it was exactly two years ago while grooving at yet another 311 concert, that their friendship started to take on new meaning.
The seed for romance was planted roughly a week before when the same crew visited the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. “That is when the thought started for me,” DeMesquita says. “We had a really good time together, even when we were not romantically involved. Our friendship is pretty much based on getting out, mixing with new people and enjoying good music. So, we have continued on that way. We have become closer than we ever have been in 14 years by finding new places to explore, experiencing fun things and enjoying our friends and family. It is fitting that we are going on this adventure together.”
Buying Sheila was not an idea that was on the table at first, but the stage was certainly set for change. Both of them had come to a figurative fork in the road, one where life’s natural progress would be left or right. However, these two decided to forego both options and look up, way up to the top of the globe, for their next escapade.
“There were a lot of changes in my life that forced me to step back and think about what I really wanted to do,” DeMesquita says. “I had always wanted to visit some cool location and work a seasonal job while taking in what the area has to offer. There is a website called CoolWorks.com where people can find seasonal jobs in many different states. I was already thinking about traveling, and when Justin and I started dating, I would tell him what I was thinking about. He thought my ideas were awesome and he helped to sway our decision by arranging a sit down with some of his really good friends who had worked in Alaska for a summer.”
After a lengthy interview with Justin’s friends, the couple decided that they were headed to the top of the map to tend bar and play in some of the most beautiful natural settings this country has to offer. Before buying the bus, they shed their extra stuff and spent a summer working and exploring in Alaska. In a way, they were taking steps to manifest what they wanted out of life, and what they would soon need to do to fit inside a skoolie home.
“I was managing a restaurant, and to be honest, I was not very happy with where I was and what I was doing with my life,” Fields says. “One of the bright spots was some work I did while playing in a hip-hop band. We had a video shoot scheduled in Gatlinburg, Tenn., and I asked Erin if she wanted to go with me and live in a van for a couple of days. She did not hesitate one second. She said yes.”
“I think my response was something like, ‘That is the sexiest question anyone has ever asked me,'” DeMesquita says after sharing a hearty chuckle with her mate. They then knew they both enjoy tiny digs, and traveling was something they loved without a doubt. DeMesquita had already been tossing around the idea of renovating an old school bus and letting the road lead the way.
“Part of what I considered when taking this existential look at my life was what my dreams are,” DeMesquita says. “Before, I always tried to put it in the box of some sort of vocation, you know, a job that I really wanted. I kept coming up short and I felt almost inferior. I realized that I did not have a dream. The one thing I thought would be so damn cool is to travel around in a purple school bus.”
Well, Sheila is blue, and lucky for them this 30-foot-long home on wheels does not get offended easily. Her doors still open the old-fashioned way, mechanically with the push of a handle. Inside, visitors will find a comfy L-shaped couch that is perfect for catching an afternoon siesta. And this seat comes equipped with Lueez and free snuggles courtesy of the prissy little pup.
If you need to catch up on a few emails, or get your game on, Fields has mounted a flat screen television across from the couch and built a custom cabinet system for his Xbox. He has found a service that allows him to drop a hot spot in remote locations and ensures that the couplecan stay connected to the world via the internet.
Sheila also has a functioning kitchen, a composting toilet and restroom area, and a queen-size bed tucked into her rear partition. The shower is outside and is found near a rear deck they have attached to haul a generator and other needed supplies. Now, they will need to find a place to plug in if they are going to be staying for an extended time; however, future plans of installing solar panels will help them to reach their ultimate goal of off-grid readiness.
All around the bus are things they both hold dear, remnants of the past that act as breadcrumbsto follow home when a hug from familiar faces beckons them back to the foothills of Northwest Georgia.
Family and friends chipped in and sweat it out during the build, and both say that it helps to know that the people they love most are a part of their dream.
“We are only keeping the things that mean the most to us,” Fields says, “and that process started when we took our first trip to Alaska to work for the summer.”
“Once we had downsized and rid ourselves of things we don’t use every day, it was time to start looking for a bus,” DeMesquita remembers. “Turns out, there are tons of people who are adopting this lifestyle, so we did not have trouble researching how to buy the bus. People can find buses on Craigslist, and some even buy them directly from school systems. We found ours on Facebook Marketplace.”
Depending on the amount of work that has been done to the bus before the purchase is made, the prices can vary. Sheila was a mobile clothing boutique before she became the coolest casa ever, so the inside had the makings of a space for living.
“I kind of had a small list of things I wanted to already be started in the bus that I chose, and I really did not want much to be converted already,” DeMesquita says. “We really wanted to do the work and to be proud of it.”
Sheila had her seats removed and the floors were already installed. Also, her exterior had a coat of blue paint that was a perfect stand in for the purple DeMesquita had always imagined for her bus. “Sheila is the perfect length, too. The reason we wanted the 30-foot model is because she is easier to handle, and we hope to do a little more stealth camping. We have about 152 square feet of living space which is more than enough for us to live in and even have guests over.”
The couple took the bus down to the beach in Florida during the early summer where they hosted a friend for part of the trip. Both said that everyone was more than comfortable in the space, which further fits the philosophy they share about sharing good times with good people.
“We are still learning about Sheila; we are learning about her every day,” DeMesquita says. “We are learning how long she will go before she needs gas; we are learning how fast she will go and what we need to secure before we start driving. We are going to have to learn how often we will need to run our generator to power our air conditioner. That is part of the fun. We learn something new every time we use her.”
“The world looks so much different through the windows of our bus,” Fields added, “especially as it moves down the road. I love just sitting and watching the world go buy as we move from place to place. It is almost therapeutic.”
Fields, DeMesquita and Lueez are already on the first leg of their trip. After saying goodbye to the folks they love, they left town in Sheila in early July with plans to stop and see the sights along their way back to Alaska. After Alaska, they are going to work their way down through Canada and along the West Coast of the U.S. There is a loose itinerary, but you can bet they won’t let a plan stop them from finding joy on the journey.
“It’s best for me to say that this bus build became so much more of a family affair than I could’ve imagined,” DeMesquita says with a satisfied smile.”With the support of my family, in terms of sharing so many of their resources, their advice, expertise, patience and just believing in the dream, this would’ve have been a very different process. I am truly forever grateful.”
If you would like to keep up with Sheila Bluebus and the couple who call her home, follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/sheilabluebus. You can email them at email@example.com or find them on Instagram using @sheliabluebus.