Crafting a simpler way of life with bus conversion company

Megan Donahue ’20 and her mother convert school buses into mobile homes in honor of her late brother.

Megan Donahue ’20 and her mother, Lisa, cover Tobius’ metal sides with paint, looking for any spots that need touch-ups. Megan is trying to make the 30-foot bus look perfect before it hits Facebook Marketplace.

“They don’t leave until they’re perfect,” Megan says, referring to her buses. “You can eat off of the floor. I say I want to advertise like that: a video of me eating off the floor because I would.”

An interior look at one of their buses.

It’s February and Tobius is the latest bus the mother-daughter duo is transforming into a home as part of their company, Live Simply. The business began as a way to honor Megan’s brother, Michael, who died in 2015. Michael always loved being outdoors and a week before he died, he tweeted, “It is the simple things in life that make it worth living.”

Megan wanted to find a way to take that mentality and turn it into a project that could involve her whole family. Originally, they thought of flipping houses, but decided against it due to the large financial commitment required. They realized they could afford a school bus instead, and thought a home in a bus epitomized Michael’s message.

“I think people now, especially with the pandemic, are realizing that all of this is not worth it,” Lisa says, gesturing at her home. “It’s quality time, and that’s what we’re trying to promote.”

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In the summer of 2017, Megan and Lisa went to a junkyard and found a small 11-seat Chevy bus, which they named Gus. Gus was the first of seven buses they have redone so far.

Gus took more than a year to transform because Megan was still finishing her communication design studies at Elon and could only visit her family’s house in Graham, North Carolina, on the weekends. In order to complete the job, they worked with carpenters, electricians and plumbers. Once the project was complete, Gus took only 12 hours to sell.

They attribute the fast sale to the effort they put into the appearance of the bus and their work to make it economical. “We want to make sure [the price] is reasonable,” Lisa says. “But at the end of the day, we just want it to go to somebody who is going to spread the word about Michael.”

An exterior shot of one of their buses.

They do not want to use sorrow as a reason to make a sale, though. “Just keep my brother’s name going, and that’s all we can really ask for from whoever buys them, but not in a sad way; my brother goes everywhere those buses go,” Megan says, adding that her dream is to get the buses on a property in Vermont and turn them into rental properties.

Beyond carrying on Michael’s legacy, the business has deepened Megan’s relationship with her mother, something she will forever cherish. “We were best friends before,” Megan says, “but now it’s just like a new level.”

You can follow Live Simply on Instagram (@living_simplyyy) and Facebook (livesimplybus).

A version of this story was first published by Elon News Network.