A mother of twins who both suffer cerebral palsy has revealed why she decided to ditch the comforts of modern living for life in a converted school bus.
Jessica London, 33, from Wellington, New Zealand, along with River and Zach, both three, and her husband Tim have been on the road now for three months, enjoying a simpler life and making memories as they go.
Mrs London told FEMAIL the decision to embark on the adventure of a lifetime came after spending eight months in hospital – seven of which were in ICU – with her babies, who were both then under one at the time.
‘In a moment of clarity about what matters in life, we decided that when we were all better we would take them on a huge adventure – and heal as a family,’ she said.
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Jessica London (pictured right) with her husband Tim (pictured left) along with their twins have renovated an old school bus and set off on the adventure of a lifetime
While the journey with her kids in tow might be new for the couple, it’s not the first time they’ve ditched their home and hit the road to get a better perspective on life.
Mrs London said six years ago, when she and Tim were in South East Asia working in aid and development, she was struck by encephalitis and became very sick.
‘It took me about a year to recover and near the end of my recovery we travelled around New Zealand in a van,’ she said.
‘It was a really special time reflecting on our life in Asia and my illness, and just letting the adventure and nature heal our souls.’
Before: The couple bought this disused 11-metre school bus with a view to building a mobile tiny home for their family of four
After: The bus took the pair over two years to renovate before it was transformed into a stylish home, ideal for the ultimate adventure
Bringing their new dream of travelling with their kids alive saw the Londons purchase a disused 11-metre school bus for $13,000.
However, not long after the bus arrived the reality of what they were hoping to achieve in terms of creating a tiny two-bedroom home on wheels set in.
‘Honestly, we had no idea what we were doing,’ she said.
‘I remember the day it arrived, a rainy, cold New Zealand day and my hubby and I looked at each other in awe at this huge crazy decision.’
Before: Not long after the pair acquired the bus, they outsourced the renovations to a friend but soon realised unusual job was an epic project
After: The bus has been transformed in the most epic way and now features a bedroom with a king-sized bed and bunks, a lounge room and a bathroom with a shower and kids’ bath
The daunting project was made even more complicated by the fact that neither could drive the vehicle, and it meant the conversion needed to be outsourced.
They outsourced the job to a friend but realised after four months the ‘unusual and tricky job’ was an epic project and it would cost far more than they anticipated.
It was also around this time her twins, then aged one, were diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. This meant more trips to the hospital.
‘It cost way more than we could afford and we developed cold feet – and we were already so tired from coping day to day with our sick kids,’ Mrs London said.
Mrs London’s twin boys would spend months in hospital as newborns and when they were aged one would both be diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy
Their unfinished home sat in their driveway; a constant reminder of what could have been.
It took reaching breaking point to make a decision to finish the job and a decision that they would finish it even it meant working on the bus themselves.
‘In 2018, our own mental health and marriage was really struggling after so much stress and my husband’s job was also ramping up in terms of time and energy,’ Mrs London said.
‘It felt like we had lived in survival mode for so many years that something had to change.
‘So mid last year Tim went on leave from work and physically finished the job himself.’
What elements have been included in Jessica and Tim’s bus conversion?
* The house has an open-plan lounge with storage underneath and both couches can be turned into a bed
* It has a full-sized kitchen and full-sized gas oven, and a solar powered fridge
* The bus has hot water and high water pressure, a working small kids’ bath, a shower and a compostable toilet
* It comes with power and lights
* There’s a king-sized bed, two bunk beds and a small office tucked into the bedroom
The pair spent five months ‘pouring everything they could’ in to complete their new home and they learned how to drive it.
‘In the end, one of us worked until midnight every single day to finish it and we had over a dozen friends volunteering,’ Mrs London said.
Friends would also pitch in to help the couple raise much-needed funds to ensure the project was finished.
‘One of our friends who knows us really well and loves us both really believed in this dream.
‘So behind our backs, she gathered funds from friends and then gave us this very generous gift and significantly allowed us to take this project back on.’
As well as pouring in everything they had to get the bus finished, their friends pitched in by giving their time and money
The couple did everything themselves including the carpentry and installing a full plumbing system for the bathroom.
‘Our vision was to have a fully liveable home on wheels with everything like water and power and heat so our kids could be happy and healthy onboard.
‘We also really like light and open spaces so designed it around that.
‘Also with our boys being non-mobile we needed lots of floor space and all the busses and RVs we saw out there all had no floor space.’
When the pair bought the bus it was completely fitted out with original seats that had been used to transport school children
As to be expected there were more than a few challenges along the way.
Mrs London said the first of these was realising the roof was far too low for them to stand up in. This meant the flooring had to be knocked out and replaced.
The pair also realised the roof leaked terribly after it rained. To remedy this a special drainage system needed to be created.
And then there was the fact the bathroom was a disaster – something which they realised in hindsight they should have built first.
‘We had to brainstorm and problem-solve the whole way,’ she said.
The family have been on the road for three months now and have been visiting a range of exciting locations all over the North Island of New Zealand
By December last year – just a week before Christmas – the family were finally able to move into their new home.
They’ve been on the road now for three months and have been taking their time visiting a range of exciting locations all over the North Island of New Zealand.
‘We have done mountains, lakes and national parks,’ Mrs London said.
While occasionally there’s the odd hiccup, nothing has deterred the family’s enthusiasm to continue.
‘We have had some mechanical issues with the bus and long hot car trip days are never fun for anyone.’
Making memories: The trip is to help the family heal and to allow them all to make precious memories together
Their new-found freedom means anything is possible – and Mrs London reveals there are potentially big plans for the future.
‘We will do another few seasons on the bus and then most likely head on a road for a world trip for some innovative therapy for our boys.
The pair believe that while there might be uncertainty in their children’s future, they stand by their radical decision to make their dream come true.
‘To those thinking about doing something similar, I would say have a great reason to do it and that will carry you through.
‘It’s totally worth it but all the best things in life are – and for us, this was harder than we could imagine.’