“I sold everything I owned. My bills are less than $1000 per month. My costs are low enough that there’s no burden to my lifestyle. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. It’s been a lot of fun in this time of life,” said Michael Fuehrer, owner of the brand Navigation Nowhere.
Fuehrer (pictured) describes himself first as a traveler. He has, more than once, found solace on the open road when the pressures of life “overwhelmed my mind and I chose to travel to re-energize myself and find clarity.” He has been traveling nonstop in his 35-foot, 2004 Thomas Freightliner skoolie ever since he bought it on Craigslist, gutted it and built it into his dream home on wheels.
“The build took nine months,” recalled Fuehrer in a recent interview at a Colorado ski resort where he was attending a wedding. “It took a long time because I was doing the work in addition to a full-time job. I’ve been living in it full time for over a year-and-half, and by the time I get to the show in Maryland, I will have driven it 45,000 miles.”
“People often travel with me. I’ve had 16 roommates to date. It includes friends who follow me online and friends who have gaps in employment. I’ve only been alone for about a month,” said Fuehrer. “It sleeps six.”
“I work online now, so I can do that anywhere I have an internet connection,” said Fuehrer. “I also develop courses and training videos, and consult about converting buses and adventure rigs and living on the road.”
Fuehrer plans to be in Florida and Louisiana in December and then, in January, “I’ll be starting a new build for myself that I hope to have completed by spring.” He plans to keep the current bus for his parents’ retirement or to rent out. “I have some ideas for my new bus, but I haven’t made any final decisions yet,” disclosed Fuehrer.
“To be honest, my skoolie is a good example of a bus you shouldn’t buy because of all the work I had to do to get it to a convertible state,” said Fuehrer. “It was from Pennsylvania and had a lot of rust. I had to do a good bit of welding and metal work. I should have gone to a dryer climate and bought a rust-free one for the same price.”
“My bus was designed in keeping with a craftsman style home in the Pacific Northwest, and the green tones and cedar fit in with that style,” explained Fuehrer.
In a past life, Fuehrer’s rig was a 72-passenger school bus. It has a Mercedes 900 engine, automatic transmission and gets 10 MPG. Converting it into a well-appointed RV home required various skills.
“A skoolie conversion includes diesel mechanics, metal work and carpentry, plus electrical and plumbing. My dad’s a builder and I learned a lot of things from him. I have the mentality that if I don’t know what I’m doing I’m going to learn how to do it,” said Fuehrer. “The vehicle maintenance adds another layer to a skoolie that a tiny house trailer doesn’t have. I enjoy that challenge.”
Hot and cold
“Typically, I’m not in extreme temperatures because I drive away from them,” said Fuehrer with a chuckle. “I Insulated and rebuilt completely. I sprayed some of the bus with closed-cell foam – the roof is board insulation, but knowing what I know now, I recommend spray foam. I was in negative 20 degrees last winter in New York and I did okay with a wood stove and propane heater. When it’s hot I have an air conditioner, but I tend to not use it because I have so many windows.”
“Insurance companies don’t love us just yet. Part of the reason is builds run the gamut from 1970s hippie wagons wired with lamp cord to professionally built, high-quality rigs,” said Fuehrer.
“Skoolies are definitely growing. Skoolie social tags were under 10k two years ago and now they’re in the hundreds of thousands. Tiny homes serve a purpose for people in certain life situations. Skoolies and THOWs each have their advantages. Buses fit a market where people want the lifestyle of mobility without the hassles of towing a heavy, bulky trailer. But tiny houses have the advantage of being detachable from the vehicle whereas a bus is hard to park in crowded areas,” said Fuehrer. “I expect to see more buses on the road over time.”
“The more I learn and explore new people, places, and projects, the more I find a freedom in navigating my life. I’m seeing that being nowhere allows me to be more present, or now here, for the people and projects I engage with, and that is worthwhile to me,” said Fuehrer.
You can meet Michael Fuehrer and tour his skoolie at the Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo — Philadelphia on November 2-3, 2019. For more information and tickets, go to TinyHouseExpos.com.