Brit couple travel US in school bus they converted taking YouTube tips
20th June 2022

British couple who couldn’t find jobs after graduating at the height of the pandemic travel around the US in old yellow school bus they converted into a home for £12,000 after watching YouTube videos

  • Harri Cook, 23, and Nicky Horsley, 22, graduated from the University of Southampton in 2020 during the height of the pandemic
  • Despite having no DIY experience, the pair bought a Ford Transit van and converted it into a home by taking tips from YouTube and travelled around Europe
  • After selling their smaller van for £17,000 the pair saved up and bought an old yellow school bus for their next adventure travelling the West Coast in the US
  • They now live off-grid in the bus and spend around £800 a month on food and petrol, while not paying a penny on rent (or parking)

A British couple who struggled to find work after graduating during the height of the pandemic are now living ‘off-grid’ in a yellow school bus in the US.

Harri Cook, 23, and Nicky Horsley, 22, finished their degrees at the University of Southampton in 2020 and struggled to find work because the UK was just coming out of lockdown. 

After being inspired by YouTube, the couple, who have been together for six years, bought a Ford Transit minibus and used it to explore Europe.

When they returned to the UK they had caught the travel bug and each took on a temporary job to save up for their next big purchase – an iconic yellow US school minibus.

The pair also took on a mini project converting a Peugeot Boxer and selling it on at a profit of £5,500. 

Harri Cook, 23, and Nicky Horsley, 22, from Ascot, decided to travel the world after coming out of university and going into a difficult job market

The pair bought an old school bus and converted it costing a total of £12,000. They now live in the bus and travel around the west coast of the USA

Harri and Nicky had no DIY experience whatsoever when they first started converting vans, so they watched YouTube for tips and are now experts on the subject

Nicky, pictured in the bus, said the pair always knew they wanted to be together forever but decided to see the world before settling down 

Nicky said: “We saved up from selling the Boxer and having part-time jobs and used that to buy the bus which cost £8,160 ($10,000) all in including taxes.

“It’s from 2012 with 96,000 miles and was well looked after.’

Once the pair had purchased the bus, they spent another £4,080 ($5,000) converting it into their new home – costing them a total of just over £12,000 ($15,000).

After the renovation was complete, the pair began travelling up and down the west coast of the USA. 

“We’re living rent free with no money on park-ups and we’re totally off-grid so don’t need to plug into a supply,” Nicky said.

She estimates they spend just over £800 a month on food and fuel for the bus – and aren’t tied down by paying any rent.

The couple, who spent a month converting the bus, drive around the west coast of the USA, parking up in a different spot every evening 

The couple put in chairs and tables and other household appliances using tips from YouTube videos and their experience converting vans in the past

The couple have put a solar-powered shower into the van – but also share a gym membership in case either of them wants to use the gym shower

Harri (left) and Nicky (right) say they have met some great people while travelling up and down the west coast of the US, and they like to spend every day on the beach

When the couple bought their first van, they had no DIY experience whatsoever but took instruction from van building videos on YouTube.

Then the pair put their new skills to the test, building their own little home within the van in Harri’s parents’ garden in Ascot.

During their three-month trip around Europe, the couple documented their journey on their YouTube channel – and soon earned money from their videos as they gained more subscribers.

Once they had returned to the UK they realised there was a high demand for converted vans and sold their beloved Ford Transit for £17,000.

“We get negative comments from people saying it was funded by the bank of mum and dad – it gets under our skin because people always think our parents pay for it but they don’t pay for anything,” Nicky said.

After fixing up two vans, Nicky and Harri were experts in conversions at the time of moving to the US, and they spent a month living in an Airbnb in San Diego while they worked on the vehicle.  

Now living the van life, they say they take every day as it comes and have fallen in love with the area they’ve found themselves in.

“Our family have all been very supportive – they were a bit surprised at the beginning and probably thought it was just for a few months. But the more seriously we take it and the more professional we get with it on the content creation side they appreciate it a lot more and see that we’re happy,” Nicky said.

“I don’t know if some people think we’re having a quarter-life crisis but we’re focusing on our growth as a brand and make a couple of hundred quid a month through content creation.

Nicky says the couple didn’t have any experience converting vans and had to watch YouTube videos to learn how it was done when they took on their first project

While the converted school bus is currently the perfect home for Nicky and Harri, they hope to sell it on once their American adventure is over 

The couple tend to make lunches and dinners in the van to save money, but often go out to a café for breakfast

The bus has solar panels installed on the top for electricity, meaning the couple live completely off-grid

“We make about the same on affiliate links to Amazon and eBay and we always say our third source of income is converting and selling vans.

“We’ve been together for six years and knew we were going to stay together – before we settle down we want to see the world so started looking into backpacking in South East Asia and while we were researching that we came across vanlife.’

She added: “We watched all these people online with their skoolies which looked awesome – they were so big with so much space, being wider and more homely, so we thought let’s go to America and try to convert one ourselves.

“It was a bit scary because there’s very little research you can do when it comes to buying a vehicle on a tourist visa in America as well as insurance.

Harri said: “When we actually got here it all fell perfectly, we found the perfect car dealer south of San Diego and two days after we had flown out we had this school bus.

The couple use their social media account and YouTube channel to document their life on the road and give other people tips on how to live the vanlife

“For the first month we stayed at an Airbnb just outside of San Diego owned by this ex-military guy called Nelson who said we could convert our bus on his driveway so we lived with him for a month and converted the school bus in four weeks.

“It was my first time and Nicky’s second time in America – it was all new to us being in a foreign country with different prices and different stores.

“We got the bus done and up to scratch then started travelling a little bit up the West and have fallen in love with the coastline between San Diego and Los Angeles.’

He added they now spend every day on the beach, and have a relaxing daily routine of waking up early and going to a café for breakfast.  

They keep lunches cheap and usually make food in the van, before parking up in a ‘nice spot’ for the evening.

“We share a gym membership so we can do a little gym session and have a shower or we use our solar shower, then we head back to the bus and make dinner – we have a two burner hob and full domestic fridge,’ he said.

“We’ve been going to bed early and waking up early – there’s no curtains in van yet so we go to bed when sun goes down and wake up when it comes up.”

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