When people envision a dream home, it's generally a two-story, brick-and-mortar classic with a backyard and white picket fence. But Richard and Rachel Lane's doesn't have four walls -- instead, it has four wheels.
The Lanes live on a bus in the San Francisco Bay area: a former school bus, to be exact, that they purchased in Oregon via Craigslist for $3,000.
The 39-foot bus is just like "a regular home" on the inside: it features a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, lounge area and even a movie room on the bus' "second story." Its livability is achieved by using custom, hand-made furniture, and IKEA pieces that have been altered to fit the bus' specs. And it even sleeps 10!
"We wanted to make a home together, and this was a way we could own our own property and really create our own lifestyle," Rachel (pictured at left with husband Richard), told AOL Real Estate. "With modular dwellings, everything's kind of decided for you, so you're not truly creating the structure you want to live in. So, for us, we found it was really advantageous to develop our own unique living space."
And it seems to be working: Rachel, a therapist, and Richard, an IT professional, have been living on the bus full-time for four years. The Lanes are part of the many people re-imagining the American Dream in response to a still-struggling economy and a growing desire for greater flexibility and sustainability. (Prior to living on the bus, Richard lived in a home in Northern California's suburbs, while Rachel lived in a studio apartment in San Francisco).
The Lanes currently don't pay rent or a mortgage -- they only pay $100 a month in maintenance. And they can live completely off-the-grid. Six solar panels, which they bought on eBay for $200 each, are mounted on the roof of the bus, generating all the electricity needed (770 watts for all daily necessities, including to power their refrigerator). Propane feeds the couple's catalytic heater and, soon, their stove and oven. The home also features a composting toilet. (The home has no running water, though: The Lanes buy it by the gallon on an as-needed basis).
"Living [on a bus has] given me so much perspective. Before endeavoring this, I wasn't appreciative of the basic needs of humans," Rachel told AOL Real Estate. "People don't see where the resources come from and what it takes to provide these resources, because the government provides it for everyone. Unfortunately, this means a lot of people take what they have for granted. Living this way has helped me figure out what's really important."
They also, of course, have the flexibility of being able to travel -- which they must do almost constantly. By law, the couple can't stay in one location for more than three days.
"We stay in the general vicinity, though, and just move from street to street because we really enjoy where we live," Rachel explained.
But, free from the confines of a brick-and-mortar structure, they possess the flexibility to live "wherever they want." In fact, that was the plan, according to Rachel, who said that they were originally inspired by a family of four who moved from New York City to California in their own bus home.
In not having to be dependent on the grid -- like the residents of Canada's Lasqueti Island and the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Missouri -- they are able to spend less time working off debts and more time with family and friends, doing activities that they enjoy, such as crafting.
"I think we live in times that have forced individuals to be creative in how they live, and really evaluate what it means to have a home. We just feel you don't need to buy into a life of debt," said Rachel. "We recognize that living in a bus is not for everyone. But we think that people shouldn't be restricted and everyone should follow what would make the most sense for you and the lifestyle you want to live. Create what will work for you."