We’ve all felt like making a big change in our lives, at least for a moment. Despite all the opportunities and experiences the modern world offers, many of us follow the same path. Finish school, get a job, find a home, start a family, move to a bigger home, see our family grow and leave, downsize to something more manageable, and work towards retirement. It’s only natural to wonder if there’s another way. For most of us, these are only fantasies. For one adventurous young woman, a magical moment on eBay led to her making it a reality. This is the inspiring story of Jessie Lipskin and her unique plan to turn a bus into a home.
From Greyhound to Great Home: The Inspiring Story of Jessie Lipskin's Amazing Bus ConversionPublished 2 months ago
It all began in 2015 when New Yorker Jessie Lipskin was looking through eBay for something she could buy that might enhance her life, or perhaps just lift her mood. As she scrolled, an unusual item caught her eye. She decided to put a bid in and see what might happen. When the auction ended, she was the proud owner of a 1966 GMC Commuter Greyhound bus.
Jessie had been considering a change in her life but had so far been unable to find what she needed to make it happen. “RVs lacked the aesthetic I was going for,” Jesse explained, revealing her desire to begin a life on the road. “So I landed on a vintage bus conversion.” The purchase cost her $7,000, but that was just the beginning.
Jessie Lipskin, who didn’t even have a driving license when she bought her Greyhound bus online, had been feeling more and more that her lifestyle didn’t fit with her ideals. She was a vegan and had become passionate about making her impact on the world more responsible in every way she could. Though she had a good life, it wasn’t what she wanted.
“I was working long hours in finance at the time,” said Jessie of the job that allowed her to live in comfort but left her wanting in other ways. “I felt like there was something else out there.” We’ve all felt it, but how many of us have done something about it? As the new owner of a huge vehicle she couldn’t drive, Jessie was ready to make some changes.
The first seeds that led to Jessie Lipskin’s big change were planted when she watched the 2007 documentary, Garbage Warrior. It followed the work of eco-architect Michael Reynolds who built “Earthships” from recycled materials. Jessie was captivated and inspired by the film, which she later said demonstrated an idea that “really resonated with [her].” After viewing, she embarked on a self-driven journey of discovery.
“I began to consume everything I could read… about sustainable lifestyles,” Jessie recalled. It didn’t take long for the seed in her mind to grow into a fledgling notion. “Ultimately, a home on wheels seemed like a perfect solution… I could easily explore new places,” she explained. “Finding a permanent place to settle, in the short term, was not a priority for me.”
Many of us would struggle to downsize our lives until they fit neatly inside a bus, but Jessie Lipskin was a woman who had no such trouble. She began leading a more nomadic lifestyle from the moment she purchased the old Greyhound shell. “I relocated seven times,” Jessie revealed.”By the end, just about everything I owned fit in my SUV.”
Channeling Marie Kondo’s “discard anything that doesn't spark joy” philosophy, Jessie never really saw the point in hoarding possessions. Unlike Madonna, she was not a “Material Girl”. “People waste a lot of time focusing on physical items: purchasing them, misplacing them, and subsequently looking for them,” she argued. “Most of these items, from my standpoint, felt superfluous to a meaningful life.”
During its original life, Jessie Lipskin’s bus carried hundreds of people as they went about their daily business. If it could talk, it would certainly have some stories to tell - happy ones, sad ones, and perhaps even romantic ones. Today, it is silent, but its appearance still brings to mind a famous tale, one which has been shown to millions of people around the world.
If you were to see Jessie’s bus at the time it was delivered, you’d be forgiven for finding it instantly familiar. Perhaps you might imagine Sandra Bullock behind the wheel and Keanu Reeves standing in the aisle. That’s right, the 1966 GMC Commuter is the exact bus used in the 1994 movie, Speed. By the time Jessie was done with it, however, it looked very different.
When Jessie Lipskin first took possession of her bus, all that remained inside were a few of the original seats. She wasted no time in taking those out too and creating a completely uncluttered shell that she could use as her blank canvas. Jessie originally intended to do as much work as possible by herself, but she soon encountered some unexpected problems.
“I constantly had to account for movement,” Jessie explained after discovering that a bus, even a stationary one, isn’t quite as sturdy as a standard home. Whatever work she undertook, she had to allow for a little, or a lot, of unsteadiness. “On top of that,” Jessie added, “the angles of the bus and slanted-style windows made it challenging to design the best possible layout and curved woodworking.”
It didn’t take long for Jessie Lipskin to admit she wouldn’t be able to complete her mission alone. “I love DIY,” Jessie was keen to point out. “However, I don’t have experience with [the] plumbing, electrical, [or] carpentry needed for this project.” Thankfully, Jessie’s choice to move around as she worked meant she was constantly expanding her social network and finding new people who could be useful.
By accepting help where it was offered, asking when she felt it was appropriate, and hiring professionals if she needed to, Jessie began to assemble a team and plan her project properly. Slowly but surely, things came together. Still, no matter how much support she found, Jessie was never blind to the enormity and complexity of the task she had taken on.
Alongside all the support Jessie Lipskin found for her passion project, there were also some doubters. As is often the case, these skeptical voices came from those who were closest to her and wanted to protect her. “My mom thought I was crazy,” Jessie remembers. “She would tell all the people in her apartment building, ‘My daughter is buying a bus to live in.’”
Although they may have been unsure whether Jessie was making the right decision for her life, her family was always confident that she could see it through. “People thought it was a big undertaking,” Jessie admitted, and she could understand how they felt, but she had proved her determination to succeed before. “They thought if anyone could do it,” Jessie added, “it would be me.”
Doing an OK job was never going to be good enough for Jessie Lipskin, she wanted her mobile home to be perfect and she put a lot of pressure on herself to achieve that. She also discovered some unique obstacles as she began fitting out the interiors. “One of the hardest challenges was building walls and storage and closets in,” she said after the job was complete.
It wasn’t just that the old bus wasn’t built with right angles and flat surfaces, as a house might be, but it also had moving parts that might change position during every relocation. “If the angle isn’t exactly the same every time you park [the bus],” Jessie explained, “you might have an issue with opening a door or something like that.” Nevertheless, she persisted.
One of the first jobs in the reimagining of Jessie Lipskin’s bus was to put in the main framework and scaffolding upon which all the other features could be added. Knowing these would be the basis for the furnishings that would govern every practical requirement of her home life, from storage to sleeping, Jessie decided this was the right moment to call in an expert.
The man she found was Mike Slater, a local carpenter with an excellent reputation. He joined Jessie on the bus project and worked his magic to install boardings, closets, and countertops which met the brief and formed the foundations of the interior design Jessie had planned. In a social media post in November 2017, Jessie thanked Mike for his “amazing carpentry” and referred to him as “truly a pro”.
As you might expect, a working bus has a range of features and markings allowing it to be identified, and its history to be traced. These include a plate that states when, where, and by whom it was originally constructed. There is also a unique license plate, just as all roadgoing vehicles are legally obliged to display. Jessie Lipskin knew these were important heritage markers and made sure to incorporate them into her conversion.
Rather than leave the plates in their original positions, Jessie planned her interior design to include them as decorations within what would now be her home. Just as people buying old houses are often keen to preserve the original features that tell the story of the building’s history, Jessie did the same for her mobile abode. Today, among all the contemporary decor, the original license and construction plates can still be seen.
It took three years for Jessie Lipskin to complete the incredible transformation of her $7,000 retired commuter bus into a luxurious mobile home. Throughout that time, the cost also escalated rapidly. By the time the conversion was complete, Jessie had spent more than $70,000. What had started as an impulse eBay purchase wound up costing 10 times its original price tag, and three years of Jessie’s life.
On the face of it, $70,000 might seem like a lot of money. If you compare it to the price of a normal New York City apartment, however, it’s a bargain. On today’s market, a one-bedroom studio in Manhattan would set you back an average of almost $1,000,000. Monthly rents start at around $4,000, meaning Jessie could easily spend $70,000 in just 18 months.
Jessie Lipskin’s bus conversion was total. Every part of the vehicle was completely transformed, inside and out, apart from those things that needed to stay in place so it could be legally driven on the road. When it arrived. Jessie’s bus bore the standard Greyhound colors with a dominant theme of red and blue stripes across a white background. This was fine, for a working bus, but not for an elegant mobile home.
Jessie’s solution was to replace most of the original livery and spray the bus white from bottom to top. The result was a sleek, clean, and contemporary appearance that complemented the chic look she was creating inside. It also blended in well wherever it was parked, or driven, to ensure she kept her temporary neighborhoods looking classy, not trashy - an important consideration if Jessie wanted to feel welcome wherever she stayed.
Aside from having a home she was able to move around as she wished, a large part of the appeal of the bus conversion for Jessie Lipskin was downsizing to live a more compact and contained lifestyle. Now it is complete, however, she realized her expectations might not have been quite in line with reality. “When I walk in, it feels huge,” Jessie said of her new home.
Whether it's that the bus was bigger than she had imagined, or that her Manhattan condo was more “cozy” than she had previously believed, Jessie was shocked at just how much space she had in her renovated mobile home. “It feels even bigger than my New York City apartment,” the young pioneer admitted after spending a little time living in the results of her labor.
Though her new home meant she was no longer tethered to any specific place or community, Jessie Lipskin still wanted to feel connected to her roots in some way. She had a complex relationship with her family but wanted to ensure she carried at least some reminders of them with her on her travels. A few handpicked possessions were what she used to achieve this.
Though it was not a home that would support clutter, Jessie found space for a set of china plates that had belonged to her great-grandmother when she had lived on Delancey Street in the Lower East Side. She also gathered some photos of her older relatives and used several family heirlooms as decorations. Jessie was keen to create more than a convenient way to travel, she wanted to make it a home.
When Jessie Lipskin planned her epic bus conversion, she didn’t want to compromise on anything. She wanted comfort, convenience, style, and a luxurious contemporary home. In addition, she wanted to stick to her sustainable principles. When it came to her kitchen, which looks like something straight out of the window of a designer store, she achieved every single one of these aims.
Jessie’s kitchen features everything you could need for a functioning home. There’s an oven and a stove, a large sink, and wooden countertops. She even has a washer and dryer along with plenty of storage space. All of Jessie’s amenities are energy-efficient and eco-friendly and she can enjoy the views outside while she cooks with a huge window that bathes her kitchen in natural light.
Many would argue that the true mark of a quality apartment is its bathroom. This needs to be more than just a functional necessity, it needs to be a calm space with the right facilities to leave you feeling properly clean, refreshed, and pampered. Nothing makes a bad day worse than a bad bathroom experience, and few things can turn it around quicker than a hot, strong shower.
For Jessie Lipskin, there are no worries in that department. Her bathroom has a generous amount of space and she built it using one of the most luxurious timbers around. “The bathroom has mahogany wood slotted flooring that drains for drying off post-shower,” Jessie explained. “The shower drain connects to the floor drain and they both lead to the gray water tank which is mounted under the bus.”
One of the first things many of us buy, or unpack, when we move into a new home is a television. Movies, shows, and games are such a central feature of leisure time for most people that a large flat screen with quality sound is always high on the priority list. For a while, Jessie Lipskin considered adding this to her mobile home too, but quickly decided against it.
“I had the option to have a TV,” Jessie explained, “but I really like waking up in the morning and hearing the birds outside my window.” It was a bold choice and, living alone without a permanent community to socialize, it might have been one she quickly came to regret. Now she has tried it, however, Jessie is sure she made the right choice. “I love not having a TV,” she declared.
Just because she doesn’t have a TV doesn’t mean Jessie Lipskin is lacking for entertainment. In fact, she’s using her new life to embrace a dream that many of us will relate to. “I feel like I’ve been so busy these past few years that I haven’t read as much as I’d like,” Jessie explains. “I have the time now to do that.”
As part of her conversion, Jessie made sure she turned her “to read” pile into a “to read” shelf she could work her way along. “[I have] a little library along the back of the bedroom,” Jessie says proudly, In her own little space, Jessie can find her perfect contentment through the words on a page. “It’s nice to just cozy up in bed and just read a book,” she says.
As spacious and luxurious as Jessie Lipskin’s converted home on wheels is, she has needed to make some allowances when it comes to storage. Fortunately, Jessie has never been a hoarder and has always done what she can to lead an efficient life. “I’ve always been very organized and tidy and kind of tried to get rid of whatever I don’t need,” Jessie explained while showing off her new home.
“This is just one portion of the closet,” Jessie says as she points out the clever compartment in which her clothing is kept. “It extends to the left and right a decent amount.” Smart solutions are key to the success of Jessie’s project, alongside the acceptance that, sometimes, there simply isn’t space to keep everything. If it doesn’t get used or appreciated regularly, Jessie sets it free.
A home can be many things. It can be a private sanctuary in which you feel protected from the world outside. It can be a space to share with only the most special people. Or, it can be somewhere to experience the joy of hosting others and inviting them into your world. Just because she could now live nomadically, didn’t mean Jessie Lipskin couldn’t still be social.
Despite her limited space, it was important to Jessie that guests could stay over without feeling cramped, or that they were imposing. She designed a second sleeping space which was installed at the front of the bus ready for friends, family, or whoever she chose to spend the night in comfort. She had her own mobile cocoon, but she also had somewhere she could entertain too.
When it comes to a high-end conversion project like Jessie Lipskin’s bus, little touches make big differences. Keen for her home to have the “wow” factor throughout, Jessie has employed clever technological innovations in places where they offer real enhancements. One in particular always sets heads nodding when guests see it, especially because it’s one of the first things they see on arrival.
A big step up from street level is something we’ve come to expect from a commuter bus, but a luxury home needs something a little more elegant. When you arrive at Jessie’s door, there is a button to press. When activated, a set of electric-powered steps slide out allowing for a dignified entrance without stretching any muscles. Once inside, another button retracts them again. The same process is then repeated when it’s time to leave.
It may have taken three years of hard work, a small army of helpers, and $70,000, but what Jessie Lipskin has achieved with her eBay purchase has been phenomenal. When it arrived, it wasn’t even a functioning commuter bus. It was a shell of a former working vehicle with little to show for itself beyond scratches and scuffs earned from thousands of journeys on the streets of America.
Today, it is not just a mobile home, but a luxury apartment with everything a person could need. A plush bathroom, a cozy bedroom, a deluxe kitchen, a spare bed, and hi-tech touches with personalized eco-friendly design throughout. For the price of 18 months rent, Jessie has created somewhere she can live for years and still wake up to a different view each day.
After all her hard work was completed, Jessie Lipskin was ready to begin the life she dreamed of and travel across America in her unique luxury home. Except, she didn’t. In 2018, an ad appeared on Craigslist offering the converted bus for sale at a price of $149,000. If it sold, it would net Jessie almost $80,000 in profit. After watching her progress with excitement, however, many observers were left confused.
“I’m giving it up,” Jessie said. “But I’m gaining through the experience of having had it.” When pressed for more details, the bus converter had two things to confess. Firstly she couldn’t drive the bus all by herself as it was too big and she had never learned to drive a stick. Secondly, she had an opportunity to move overseas and the bus just didn’t fit into those plans.
When Jessie Lipskin couldn’t find any buyers willing to pay what she believed her unique mobile home was worth, she removed her Craigslist ad and set up an auction on eBay. Despite advertising the sale heavily on her social media, the bidding deadline came and went without anybody offering the reserve price. Fortunately, resourceful Jessie had a backup plan to begin earning back her $70,000 investment.
After moving the bus to California’s stunning Joshua Tree National Park, Jessie listed it on Airbnb. Now, for a little more than $100 a night, anyone can stay in the luxury home which was once a local commuter bus. Jessie put her heart and soul into creating a place she felt truly happy in, and now she’s offering the chance for others to enjoy it too.
Those lucky enough to be able to travel to Joshua Tree aren’t the only people Jessie Lipskin is sharing her bus-cum-home with. No matter where you are in the world, you can experience Jessie’s conversion journey by viewing pictures of the project as it progressed and of the end result as it is used. You can even ask questions to the woman behind it all.
Through the Instagram account @thebustinyhome, Jessie invites us all to see, share, and learn from her experience. Scrolling through the comments of each post shows how she has inspired other would-be converters all around the world. Some have used the page to find out exactly how Jessie overcame particular challenges. Others just enjoy and appreciate the amazing accomplishment of turning a discarded bus shell into a wonderful luxury home.
Jessie Lipskin’s bus might not currently be living the traveling life, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting out and seeing the world. As the old Greyhound welcomes tourists to Joshua Tree, Jessie is enjoying some time as a digital nomad. "I work remotely,” the former bus renovator explained to Apartment Therapy. “[I] have the opportunity to travel internationally for a while, which I want to experience in full.”
While now isn’t the right time for Jessie Lipskin to live in a little moving home, she hasn’t given up on the dream completely. “[After traveling] I'd love to return to tiny home life,” Jessie continued. In fact, she might even downsize a little more. “[I’d like] something a bit more manageable for me to drive on my own — a Sprinter conversion or a towed Airstream trailer."
Even though she is not living in her converted bus, Jessie Lipskin hasn’t completely stopped modifying and improving the little home. The most recent Instagram posts on @thebustinyhome show new additions such as unique art, a disco light for party nights, and a sailboat candle holder brought all the way from New Jersey. No matter how beautiful the home already is, Jessie is always finding little extras to complement it.
Who knows what projects this remarkable young woman will take on in the future, or what she will inspire others to try? If you can convert a bus, perhaps you can convert a train, a tram, or a fishing boat. How small can a luxury home be? Could you live in a station wagon, or perhaps even a sports car? We think anything is possible, if you put your mind to it.
Twenty-nine-year-old Demi Skipper has way too much energy for her own good. The woman, who lives in San Francisco, admits that she’s a serial side hustler, and constantly has a project on the go - even with her full-time job.
In May of 2020, when Demi was suddenly faced with Covid-19 quarantine, the energetic young woman had a brilliant idea. She wanted to challenge that guy (Kyle Macdonald) who had managed to swap a paperclip for a two-bedroom farmhouse. Demi wanted to swap for her own house. And that’s what she’s been doing ever since. This is her story.
Demi began with nothing but a hairpin and a few rules. She was not to spend any money (although she does pay for any shipping needed), she could not swap with anyone she knew, and obviously, her goal was to swap for items of a higher value each time she traded.
She looked on Craiglist and Ebay and managed to trade her hairpin for a set of brand new earrings. Then those were traded for four margarita glasses. People seemed so eager to get involved in the project, and Demi kept the project alive by naming it Trade Me and starting a TikTok account just for the trading.
After a couple of smaller trades, Demi traded the four margarita glasses for a vacuum cleaner worth more than double the value of the glasses. This was the trade that showed Demi her goal was achievable and that perhaps she would be able to trade all the way up to a house.
The vacuum cleaner was traded for a kid’s old snowboard, which was the first trade that took place out of the city where Demi was living. The project was clearly spreading, and Demi was beginning to reach people all around America who were keen to swap her something and be included in the Trade Me project.
After the snowboard, Demi traded for an Apple TV - the very first branded item that she had come across - things were picking up quickly. After this, people were a lot more willing to swap for more branded (and therefore valuable) items.
The Apple TV was traded for a pair of Bose headphones. And then Demi found a man who offered to swap her an older MacBook for the headphones. By this time, Demi had quite a following, and more and more people were becoming interested in her project.
While she had the old MacBook, Demi received a trade offer for a camera worth quite a bit more than the computer. But the person lived too far from Demi to do the trade in-person, and so both items had to be shipped - this took trust from both sides.
Thankfully, Demi sent the MacBook and she received the camera in return, with no hassle or troubles along the way. Now she had successfully spread her project across the country and had proved it was possible to swap using shipping as well.
When Demi wasn’t shipping her traded items across the country, she was meeting new friends as she did drop-offs and pick-ups for the trades. Demi found someone to help her figure out how to tell when expensive sneakers were real and swapped the camera for a pair of valuable sneakers.
Even though Demi’s pattern had been to swap outside of categories (no computers for computers, or cameras for cameras), she did find another trade - one pair of sneakers for two pairs, which she couldn’t turn down. But she finally got rid of all the sneakers when she traded them for an iPhone 11 Max.
For the iPhone 11 Max, Demi was offered a minivan - which seems like an insane thing to swap for a phone. The family who offered this trade even offered to drive the van to San Francisco from Minnesota - with two kids in tow as well.
But the minivan suffered after the 29-hour journey, and it broke down as it got to Demi. This left her in a bit of a tricky situation since her project meant that she couldn’t spend any money to fix the car. So she needed to now find someone willing to trade something for a broken minivan.
All that Demi could get for the minivan was an electric skateboard which, as cool as that is, was not anywhere near the value of the vehicle. But it meant that Demi now had a working item to trade again, even if she did have to trade down in value.
The electric skateboard was then swapped for the latest MacBook - not quite the value of the van, but Demi could see that things would be able to improve again. And so she continued with her project until she found a pretty cool trade.
The minivan was a hiccup in the project, but Demi was committed and her positive attitude kept her going. She took the latest MacBook trade and swapped it for an electric bike food cart which she seemed to enjoy riding around the city - and we don’t blame her.
Some may have actually stopped there. She was a few months in, Covid was still driving everyone crazy, and she now had a working electric bike food cart that she could keep, use, or even sell. But that’s not how Demi does things, clearly.
There was still quite a way to go before Demi reached the ultimate goal of an actual house. So she took her electric food cart bike to the streets, where she was able to gain even more attention for her project - and more followers, of course.
This helped her get the word out as she was on the search for her next big trade. But trading the food cart meant a little more digging for valuable swaps compared to trading the hairpin. Demi had to go through trade offers and decide which of them were best for her - and the Trade Me Project.
Demi believed she would reach her goal - but she probably didn’t realize how big things could actually get. After her electric food cart bike, Demi became the proud owner of a number of cars. She traded the food cart bike for a fully working Mini Cooper.
There were some smaller trades after that, but at one point Demi traded for a Mustang as well. It is incredible to see how a project that started with a simple (and inexpensive) hairpin could result in a trade with valuable vehicles.
Unfortunately, as much as Demi tried to research the items she was trading, some caught her off guard. Like the diamond necklace that unfortunately ended up fooling Demi and causing her to trade down yet again - although this time unknowingly.
The diamond necklace was thought to be worth around $20,000 but when Demi received it, she realized it was actually not that valuable at all. While that was the appraisal value, the resale value was only around $2,000 - a crazy downgrade from a Mini Cooper.
After another hurdle in her trading, Demi simply used her gusto to keep swapping. She managed to trade the necklace for a Peloton exercise bike (which we know were all the rage during quarantine). This helped Demi get back on track.
She was now down 22 trades, some not-so-great and some incredible (almost unbelievable). Plus, she had over four million followers on her project’s social media accounts. There were so many people who had become involved in the project as well.