Bus Home

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I was sitting in McCarren Park, with my friend Ellie Lotan on an abnormally nice day at the end of November. We noticed a pink school bus parked on the corner.  A few gallons of vegetable oil were sitting on the street beside it. We were instantly curious.  We walked up to a woman standing next to the bus, holding a small child.  She introduced herself as Felicia; her one-year-old son’s name was Bowie.  We asked her if she owned the bus.  Felicia responded proudly, “It’s our home.”

Felicia, Bowie, and Felicia’s husband Ray have created an alternative approach to the idea of a home. In this era of economic disparity, widespread foreclosures, and exceedingly high unemployment, this family has chosen an unconventional path. They have created a refuge in travel and sustainable living. Their home is a gutted school bus, which runs on vegetable oil.  Most of the oil is given to them by local restaurants. This makes their home extremely sustainable, since the bus produces less harmful emissions than most vehicles. However, the vegetable oil requires the family to stay in warm places.

Felicia and Ray share a full size bed, and their son has a smaller bed close by.  There is a dining table, a couch, and a full kitchen with an oven.  Bowie even has a play area with toys, a desk, and a chalkboard.  The family stores their possessions in orderly closets and cupboards.  They access the Internet by making a hot-spot on their phones. When it gets warm, they turn on their air conditioner, which is a window unit installed in the back of the bus.

Before developing this unique lifestyle, Felicia and Ray both lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for ten years. Felicia is a dancer and Ray does video and retrofits tour buses for musicians. Since being evicted from their former apartment (for reasons they attribute to their landlord), they have been living on the bus, which they say is always a work-in-progress. They take jobs here and there to make money, but for the most part they end up bartering with like-minded people. Throughout their travels in America, they have met other bus families to which they share a deep bond. Felicia often misses her family and friends in New York, but the relationship with other bus families offers a reassuring and understanding relationship to which she cannot find elsewhere.

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New Orleans, Louisiana:

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