When people imagine their dream home, most picture a mansion, a penthouse, a cottage or a ranch. But a certain man from Texas had a totally different vision. Rather than buying a house, he wanted to build one, and when you don’t have a large budget, you’ve got to get creative.

What started as a seemingly impossible fantasy quickly turned into the journey of a lifetime, as this man lost everything in order to achieve what mattered most to him. Then, the time finally came to see if his sacrifice would pay off or if all his efforts were in vain…

Michael Talley, an illustrator and graphic designer from Austin, Texas, always dreamed of building his own home from pre-existing materials. So in 2016 he finally took the opportunity to let his creativity flow and get his hands dirty.

First, Talley purchased an old school bus for $2,200 off an auction website listed by the Austin Independent School District. It needed to be stripped entirely of its seats to make room for his new project, but having no experience with construction made this a difficult task…

Although Talley was never a big handyman, he is an expert in design. He draws comic books, event posters, signs, and even political cartoons. When he decided to embark on his school bus adventure, he must have felt inspired by his personal hero Davy Crockett, because he took the leap and never looked back.

Stripping the bus was the first critical step in the process of transforming this bus from a kid-mover to an actual home. Talley wasn’t entirely sure about what he was doing, but he got to work anyway, removing evidence of the bus’s previous life in the process. 

Talley put his imagination to work and began to design his new space to the exact millimeter. He drew up a kitchen, bathroom, living/work space, and a bedroom. He kept the bathroom and kitchen closest to the front so they could be easily accessed during an outdoor BBQ.

Talley made one big error when buying the bus, though. He didn’t realize how high the roof would be! Although it could easily fit school children, it was not tall enough to comfortably house the 6″6 giant. Talley had no choice but to literally raise the roof, which would be impossible to do by himself.

Luckily, he didn’t have to do it all alone. He had help from his stepdad, a few friends, and even some very kind strangers. After all, the project proved to be a much more difficult one than he had imagined.

The bus was almost entirely re-built. The roof was raised, the windows were removed, the back was expanded and even the insulation was renewed. The build was taking longer and costing more than he had planned…

You see, the bus was being sold by the school district for a reason: it was old and worn-out. If Talley wanted to drive it, the engine, power steering, and even the tires needed an update. “Changing a tire on this thing was more expensive and less fun than I had thought it would be,” he said.

After altering the entire “skeleton” of the bus, it was finally time to spruce up its insides. Talley got some good deals at IKEA and was able to decorate his living space within a fairly small budget.

The reason he picked this specific bus was because he used to ride an Armadillo bus, and it reminded him of his own school days. Nostalgia can be a powerful force, but who would have thought it would influence his new home? This motivation would come in handy pretty soon, as Talley was about to face some tough times…

Not only was the physical labor challenging, but Talley also experienced quite some hardship in his personal life. In the year that he spent building his dream house, he lost his job, his girlfriend, and his grandfather, but he was determined to keep going. After all, he had nothing left to lose.

Talley’s determination paid off when the interior came together. The first thing he finished was the kitchen. He chose white subway tiles with black grout, and installed everything himself. He is not the biggest cook, but he does need a good place to snack and entertain.

After the kitchen came the bedroom. It is not only incredibly cozy and comfortable, but it has a spectacular view of wherever Talley drives it. The original windows of the backdoor are still there, so he often overlooks a field or a forest.

The living room is not too shabby either. Talley has set himself up with the foundations of his old couch, a brand new TV and of course, his Playstation. He has both a heater and an air conditioner in case he drives the bus through all kinds of climates.

As it turns out, the kids putting “kick me” notes on each other’s backs were not the only pranksters around. On April Fools’ Day, Talley posted a picture on Facebook of a school bus burning to the ground, causing his friends and family to almost have a heart attack. Luckily it was just a prank, and his dreams did not go up in flames.

With his school bus still intact, Talley now needed gas, water, and electricity. Although he installed a few tanks and generators, he wanted to leave only a small ecological footprint, so he installed a few solar panels on the roof (all by himself!)

Most of the power generated by the panels goes straight to his beloved TV. After a week of watching Netflix on his phone, he knew he needed a big screen in his living room and his bedroom. Now he can watch The Sandlot whenever the need should arise.

Although he loved the look of the classic school bus, Talley didn’t want to cause any confusion, and decided to paint the exterior. He ended up choosing white because it keeps him cool in the Texas weather and leaves room to add more color later. Who knows, maybe he’ll add some flowers and peace symbols in the future…

At the end of a long day at work or fixing the bus, Talley likes to climb up on his roof and enjoy the sights, his freedom, and of course, a sip of wine. That victorious feeling certainly makes all the effort worth it.

Michael Talley is currently enjoying his finished home and found a new job creating art for an organization called USA Military Medals. In regards to remodeling the bus, he says it’s the hardest thing he has ever done, but also his greatest achievement. Cheers!

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