Health + wellbeing

Extreme mobile office: Living, working and travelling in a bus motorhome

- September 22, 2016 3 MIN READ

Last year, Lauren Shay and her husband decided to opt for a simpler life with a mobile offic. Or, as their friends and family might say, went bat-s*** crazy and sold their house to live on a bus.

I don’t know about you but when I think of a mobile office, I think of the beach. I think of pulling up in a sandy car park that overlooks a vista of sea and surf. The blue sky stretches to infinity as I put my feet up on the dashboard, peacefully sip from my takeaway cappuccino, oh, and occasionally tap away at my laptop. This is the life. This is FREEDOM.

Then I snap out of my dream and take a look at my actual mobile office with its floor strewn with toys, blankets, pillows and oats (the remnants of my three-year-old daughter’s ‘tree house’, in which she was making her ‘cake’). And I resist the urge to scream silently into my fingerprint-smudged laptop screen, (my laptop being a device which is used to placate my daughter with ABC Kids iView almost as much as it is for actual work).

You see, I live, work and travel in a bus motorhome. Last year, my husband and I decided to opt for a simpler life. Or, as our friends and family might say, went bat-s*** crazy and sold our house to live on a bus.

The reasons for this losing of our marbles, I mean, conscious lifestyle change were many and varied. We had a mortgage. We did not like having a mortgage. We lived in the suburbs. We hated the suburbs! So we got rid of almost everything we owned and squeezed our lives onto a 12-metre-long bus, AKA The HMAS Patrick Stewart (an old passenger bus, it has the words “STEWARTS” emblazoned on the side), with our little car in tow.

My husband, who is a service engineer, travels a lot for his job, so we saw the bus as a way for my daughter and I to travel with him. I could continue to run my writing, editing and design business in my new ‘mobile office’, as all I really needed was my laptop, an internet connection, and a free-flowing source of coffee. And our daughter would become a free-range child, having many wondrous adventures during our travels around this great land.

We’ve been calling the HMAS Patrick Stewart our home/office for more than a year now, and some of what we envisioned did become reality.

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My daughter is well and truly free-range (some would say feral). I have continued to run my business, albeit while wearing slippers from a Wayne’s World discount shop and with my daughter often perched on my shoulders. And my husband continues with his work, driving and sometimes flying off every day, being able to talk to people older than three and not constantly having to stop what he’s doing to make a tree house out of sheets in a space smaller than an ensuite.

Some things have not happened how we imagined.

We haven’t been able to travel as far afield as we’d thought. So far, we’ve travelled from Brisbane along the NSW coast to Victoria, but we mainly hover around the Southern Queensland countryside (which we love, so it’s not a bad thing). All the money we thought we’d save by not having a mortgage is spent on bus repairs and mobile broadband.

In Peter Crocker’s article Is my mobile office a pipe dream?, he laments: “Indeed, despite hearing a lot about the idea of travelling around Australia (or the world), living the laptop-lifestyle while running a business, no one I know is actually doing it.”

When I read that, I felt like putting my hand up and saying, “Me! Me! I am!” Just maybe not quite how Peter – or I – imagined.

The important thing is that I can and do still run my business as I did before. Yes, it’s a small enterprise. No, I’m not about to be featured in Forbes. But that has never been my intention.

Sometimes, when my daughter decides to scatter handfuls of ash from the outdoor fireplace onto the floor of the bus, then laugh hysterically at her powdery footprints up and down our ‘hallway’, I do think back to my previous life as a sub-editor, working in the city, in nice offices – offices with baristas! But you know what? That life wasn’t for me.

It may not be glamorous. It may not be what any other sane person may choose. And I don’t know how long we’ll be doing it for. But I love my mobile office and home.

It brings me closer to my family – literally.

It lets me live and work anywhere.

It is, in a way, my freedom.