Sara Reed: Bus Life


Interview: Riley Roderick

Glitter sparkling under her eyes, wind rustling loose tendrils of a messy braid, everything about 26 year-old Sara Reed seems to be in constant motion—except for her eyes. Her gaze is full and steady, reflecting an inner peace; I'd bet she could be happy with only the clothes on her back. Typically dressed in overalls and a deep brown, leather hat, she gets around via scooter with her baby pit-bull, Booty, daintily trotting alongside. Sara proudly boasts that for the last few years, she's been traveling every six months.

The travel bug caught her after finishing her undergrad degree. "Me and my lady friends just packed up and hit the trail." They backpacked around South East Asia, Cambodia, Thailand, and China. However, she brought too much stuff. Sara has a thing for knick-knacks and specifically remembers bringing a tiny plastic elephant with her throughout this journey. "It's just all deadweight," she says. That was when she realized just how much stuff she had (and didn't need).

But it was the time she spent meditating in the local monasteries that clinched her dedication to minimalism. She envied their simple lifestyle, admiring their baggage-less approach to life, so much so that she believes their ascetic approach to like is the "secret of the world."

She used to find this timeline exciting, invigorating, and still loves an address-free lifestyle, but began craving a home late last year. She wanted roots, but she wanted them her way—a minimal, transient way. Now back home in Portland, she preps for her next adventure: converting a school bus into a moving living space. After purchasing the bus in Seattle, Sara had to admit something difficult to herself: she didn't know anything about cars.

"Yeah, the thing about my bus is that it has this huge Detroit engine, it's like a tank engine. It's a real monster." Some might be intimidated by such a beast, but she's not worried. She's resourceful, outgoing, and knows how to use others' knowledge to her benefit.


We sat down and chatted with Sara to hear about her travels, life on the road, and "bus-life" experience.


What was the idea behind the bus?

The idea for the bus was to have my own sovereign space to be contained and antonymous! I have been blessed enough to live off of the kindness of others for a bit, which is a blessing, but is something that cannot be sustained.


How are your mechanic skills?

Nonexistent.. I got real lucky. I was looking for a bus for months. I thought the first one I saw was mine, but got no response back, which broke my heart. A few weeks later, I saw my baby on craigslist in Seattle. Once I made the journey back to Portland and took it to the mechanic, the mechanics couldn’t find anything wrong with it. 


Why not a van?

Van life is different, and very transient. You are always on the go - this is your life. Busses are meant to be more of a home and can be parked anywhere. A van isn’t as nesting as a bus is. A van is great for adventuring, but that is not the only thing I intend to do. 


How do you afford this lifestyle?

I am really fucking thrifty, honestly. I don’t need much! I only spend my money on food, and I don’t eat out, or go out much. It is not that big of a secret, that shit adds up. If I don’t have to spend money for rent every month, boom that’s a plane ticket somewhere else. Rather than spend money on shit I don’t need, and rent money, I would rather dump money into something I actually own.


How have you planned what to actually build within the bus?

When I first started sketching, I wanted like, a bathroom, a hot tub, a kitchen, like all this shit, but all I really need is a place to cook and a place to eat. A bookshelf maybe, a space to chill. I just wanted to nest.


What kind of personality do you need to live in a bus and on the road?

I don’t think it’s a personality thing; more of what you value. What is important to you? Can you see through the bullshit of buying things every day? 


What was your thought process of wanting to live a mobile life in a bus?

The idea of having a friend call me up from Colorado and saying, "hey we got this going on, come and see us'" and me being able to say "alright, cool, I'll be there in 20 hours," that's really appealing to me.


Thanks again Sara!