We made it. One full year of living in the school bus.
And a riveting year at that.
It’s been a weird journey of re-learning how to road-live from a truck to a bus and, more emphatically, how to make friends.
I spent so many years never meeting anyone, and I’m unsure how to explain it. Everyone has wildly different experiences, but I think mine was more of a survival mindset than most. And when you’re busy frantically trying to figure out how to keep you and your dog alive and sane, finding people that also enjoy the things you do becomes the bottom of the list. Not to say I wasn’t desperate to find them! I truly was! But I had no idea how. I’ll never forget it was early in my fancy in AT Overland Atlas truck topper journey; I was in Kentucky at the Mammoth Caves NP, I had been before, but it was off-season, post-covid, and I was so excited to be in my fancy new truck topper, I thought for sure it would more evident that I lived in it. People would find me and talk to me (more obvious than a low-profile LEER topper as my previous home).
The back of the parking lot was full of vans and even a wooden gypsy-like camper. I nervously stood around, waiting to see someone emerge from their vehicle. A van passed, and I enthusiastically waved. But I never met anyone. No one ever said hi, and I thought this must be how it is. Maybe they were part-timers, a lot of them were, especially of the older variety, but all I could figure was no one was like me, so from then on, I stuck with that idea and kept to myself.
I suppose a bus is much more apparent, but I noticed that people with school buses all seemed to know each other. I knew Indy, and I couldn’t hop in and out of that tailgate forever, and after too many experiences of over 100 temperatures, a school bus made sense.
After much Facebook group hunting, I realized there were gatherings, all I needed was a skoolie, and I knew I could meet people there. Looking back, it seems silly; I could have taken the truck to those events too. But my early experiences taught me otherwise, and who was I to challenge what I observed?
Even farther back, when I only had the LEER topper, I remember the only thing I was excited about working the night shift at Amazon as part of their camper-force seasonal work was that I would be with other campers. I’d meet people! Unfortunately, it was practically all couples, the older crowd, and everyone in literal campers.
They’d give me blankets and socks, worried I would freeze to death in my truck. One man even gave me the Ford hat I still wear to this day. All in all, I did meet people, just not my people, the people you can’t help but stay up late with, talk endlessly about your crazy road stories, the ones you can’t wait to see again.
I’m happy to report that I have found those people in just one short year. I didn’t need a skoolie, just an open mind, patience, and a sprinkle of research (OK, maybe a hefty sprinkle). It’s hard not to feel sad for past me, struggling alone, and thinking that I was so alone. I didn’t know where to look. An amazing thing was a solidifier of this a couple of days ago. I went to Oregon Caves (I’m a park connoisseur, what can I say), and the woman working the ticket booth began writing my tour time on the receipt. I squealed, “You hold your pen like I do!!”
It was the FIRST time I’ve ever met ANYONE that writes in the cramped, wholly inappropriate by scholastic standards, smudgy way that I’ve always done. She got a big smile, “I’ve met one other woman who holds it like this as well!” she exclaimed.
How a person holds their pen might seem insignificant, but for us freak flyers, it was a harrowing journey of being told you are always wrong. Finding another soul that chose the solitude handwriting path felt like a giant rush of fresh air.
Are we really all that different? Are we really ever alone? Are our experiences so unique that no one else could ever understand?
It certainly feels like it sometimes, but I’m beginning to see the cracks in this mindset. And I want nothing more than for others to see it too.
Considering this was only year one, I am jazzed to see what year two will bring.