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Watch: ‘We have lived in our bus for a year – it is true freedom’

The Jooste family from Durban love their new life in their bus.

The Jooste family from Durban love their new life in their bus.

Published Jul 14, 2022

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Durban - A Durban family who gave up their brick-and-mortar house to live in a bus has just celebrated one year in their beloved home.

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Although they commonly refer to it simply as ‘the bus’, its real name is Rolling Mirth, says Liezel Jooste.

“‘Rolling’ – as it moves, and being an old bus means it isn’t the fastest on the road; and ‘Mirth’ as this traditionally means ‘glee’, ‘hilarity’, ‘merriment’ or ‘jollity’, but is now also described as ‘gladness’ or ‘gaiety’ – so defined as laughter or amusement.

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“And the bus definitely fills both those categories; it brings us great joy, and since the start of the build to now, has supplied endless laughter. It also creates a lot of amusement for others, so the name just feels right.”

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Liezel shares the small living space with her husband Jacques, and two children, Colby, 18, and Calisra, 13.

In the original article published by IOL on July 20 last year, the Durban mom said the idea of “living small” began as a joke, but started to become a decision in 2018. It was at the end of that year that the family chose to not only downsize drastically, but swop a brick-and-mortar home for one on wheels.

The decision to go small was based on a few factors. These included the cost of housing as the family was paying “huge amounts” of rent each month for the minimal amount of time they actually spent in their home.

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“We were almost never home, and to pay all that money every month for a house we only ate in, cleaned, and slept in seemed like a huge waste.”

The family was also considering the environment and their quality of life when they chose their new lifestyle.

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Life in the bus, today

“We moved in on Sunday, July 9, 2021, and that night the rioting in KZN started. We were stranded as the diesel pump was in for repair, so we spent the first two weeks stuck in one place, hearing all the gunshots around us with no way of getting out.

“On top of that the place the pump was given in was looted and we lost a fair amount of money as we then had to replace it.”

At least, she says, this makes for a “very interesting” story to tell about “the first night we lived in the bus”.

“We knew it could only get better from there.”

The family’s bus is currently parked as it needs new tyres.

“The ones on the bus are old and we had a rugby-sized bubble on one of the front wheels the other day, but it is mobile.”

However, the family does not move around as much as Colby is in Matric so they stay close to his school. Once he is finished though, they will look at travelling more.

The installation of the Rolling Mirth’s solar system also needs to be completed before it can be completely off-grid.

“That will open up more doors and we already have a list of places we will be visiting – starting with the coastline.”

Reflecting on the past year

“We love living in the bus,” Liezel says, adding that “it can only get better when the proper travelling starts”.

“It would have been nice if we had more time to build before we had to move in, but I still love the unconventional look and feel we went with.”

Although they did put precautions in place during the build, the condensation due to Durban’s humidity has been “interesting”.

“So far, besides needing to replace one of the cupboard doors and us wanting to upgrade the bathroom space a little, all is still good.”

Liezel says the advantage of having remodelled the bus themselves is that they learned to do many things they could not do before, and because they believe that knowledge is power, “this was a huge positive lesson”.

“We have also learned even more that living with less is very freeing and actually empowering.

“You learn to enjoy the things that actually matter and don’t care about all the noise the world creates around you. It is something that one really can’t explain; you have to experience it to learn that lesson yourself, but when you do, your eyes are opened and you never want to go back.”

Surviving the KZN floods

The Joostes and their bus survived the floods better than some properties in the province.

“We are lucky that, when the floods hit, the bus was parked in a very nice spot where the water simply ran past. There was nothing near us that could collapse or slide, and no water build-up.

“We did, unfortunately, have a leak in one of the windows that we could not fix while it was raining, and had to do a very small amount of damage control, but overall we were safe and dry.”

Because the family prepared for their lifestyle change by “living small” for two years prior to moving into the bus, Liezel says they did not have to make many adjustments. In fact, overall, she says the bus is an upgrade as far as space and privacy is concerned.

“It has definitely brought the family even closer. We are all less stressed and much happier.”

She adds: “The freedom of being able to just go away is also a huge plus – no planning needed; just jump in the bus and off you go.”

The children also love the bus.

“In fact if they have a choice, they prefer to be by the bus. They can be themselves as there is no need to live up to any ‘image’ associated with having a huge room and stuff. As teenagers, this is a huge advantage as peer pressure is nullified to a great extent. If others tell them they should [be doing or getting something], they simply answer: ‘Why? I live in a bus.’”

If there are any challenges at all, it is just that the family has to keep on top of tidying up.

“One just has to make sure everything goes back into its place as, with less space, it can get cluttered very easily. Daily sweeping is also a must, but the space is so small so it really doesn’t take long – or much effort. Making sure things are secure when moving around is also something to consider when bringing anything new into the home.”

Living costs and future plans

Liezel says the family has to pay to park the bus at its various locations, and the price depends on whether it is parked in a caravan park or on someone’s property. So although this cost does range, it has never been more than R3 000 a month. The maximum cost of gas is about R400 a month – often it is less, and the diesel costs depend on where they travel.

“There is obviously also a bit of maintenance here and there – like now needing to replace the tyres.”

By comparison, she says the house the family was living in before going small was R10 000 a month without water and electricity. The rent also excluded the cost of maintenance or upkeep of the yard.

“Rent for a bachelor flat these days runs at around R5 000 and up in the general Durban area, not to mention what a house costs – so the saving is a lot.”

As soon as they are able to, the Joostes plan to travel around South Africa and a few other African countries, but hope that the lifestyle will then evolve into them touring the rest of the world too – that would be the ultimate goal.

“Not knowing where the world is going and what the future holds, this lifestyle affords us the ability to move to safer areas at the drop of a hat if need be.”

Dealing with other people’s thoughts and opinions

In general, Liezel says the response to the family’s choice of home and lifestyle has been good, although there have been some “very stupid comments from people who have no idea what it is about”.

“There are also those who are very narrow-minded and, for them, the idea is completely ludicrous. There have also been some very funny comments that have given us a very good laugh – when our story first came out we read every comment and, I must say, it was very entertaining.”

In terms of the response from other family members, she says this has been split, with one half being “very supportive”.

“Some still think we are mad. But as we have not been moving around that much, many haven’t seen the true freedom and amazing opportunities it gives us yet. So once that happens we expect even more family to come around and more positive comments from strangers in general.

The kids’ friends all think it is rather cool and visiting is almost like going away for them.”

Regrets?

Absolutely none, Liezel says.

“None of us regret the choice. Life is easier and a lot more simple in the bus. It’s more relaxed and we get to choose the atmosphere we are around; if we don’t like it, then it is easy to just move.

“We would definitely do it again in a heartbeat, in fact, we wish we had done it much, much earlier.”

The only thing the family would change is having had a little more time to build.

Advice for others looking to make the same move

“In our opinion, this is definitely the way to live, but we do understand that it is not for everyone,” she says.

“We would therefore recommend that you try it out first – go stay in a tiny place for a holiday and see how that goes. Start scaling down long before you make the move – it makes it a lot easier.”

She says one should also do research before they start as there are a lot of ideas and assistance to be found.

“Plan your build to make sure everything works for you. Each person has their own priorities and you want to make sure your build has what is important for you.”

Liezel adds: “We would love to see South Africa embrace this lifestyle the same way so much of the world has, and build the same type of community that is enjoyed by many others living ‘tiny house’ and ‘house-on-wheel’ lifestyles. This is part of our goal – to help people see what true happiness and freedom actually is. So many people say ‘if only I could do that’, or ‘you are living my dream’– well guess what, if you don’t take the first step, your ‘if only’ or ‘dream’ will never happen. The only thing holding you back, is you.”

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