It's rare for a college student to say they’re able to purchase their own home. Junior McKai Morgan, a business and sustainability major, has not only purchased a future ho me, but transportation as well.
Morgan’s new home, which cost $3,500, is a 34-foot, yellow 1989 Bluebird school bus with only 50,000 miles. The bus was used by the Orcas Island school district until 2006, and still has “Orcas Islands Bus Number 1” written on the exterior.
A motivating reason for Morgan’s purchase was his dad, Mark Morgan, who in 1977 purchased a 28-year-old school bus for $30, which was his home for two years in Southern California. He then drove the bus up to Whatcom County to live in the bus on a farm in Everson, Washington.
The bus was a great home and one that allowed him to live simply among the forests and trees, Mark Morgan said.
“I had told [Morgan] about my bus as he was growing up, and didn’t know it kindled an interest until he asked to go see my old bus,” Mark Morgan said. “We did, hoping we could breathe new life into it.”
After beginning repairs on his dad’s old bus, which Morgan initially meant to take out on the road, he found fixing it too difficult and decided to look for a different bus. This is where he stumbled upon the bus, which was originally priced at $5,550 until a tire blew out when it was being taken out of storage, allowing Morgan to talk the seller down to $3,500.
In 2006, the bus was purchased by an individual in Olympia who renovated it to be used like an RV. In 2010, the bus has been sold again to a new owner who added insulation and made it more comfortable. The lightly furnished bus has a working sink and a wood stove for heat.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a bathroom in the bus. Having a working bathroom is the highest priority and the first project for the bus, Morgan said.
The goal for Morgan is to live in the bus for five years, wandering and living wherever the road takes him. After his journey ends, the bus will be kept as a monument of his youth, keeping him grounded in life as he pursues a career in sustainability, Morgan said.
“It’s easy to get sucked into a job or into your own life to where you’re not thinking about the Earth and your impact,” he said. “The bus is a way for me to remember I’m only a small piece of humanity and I need to do my part to keep this Earth as nice as I can.”
Being a fan of skiing and the outdoors, Morgan thinks living in the bus will be a great opportunity for exploration, Morgan said.
The first destination after Morgan finishes college is to take the bus down the west coast, ending up at Venice Beach, California, which he heard has relaxed parking laws. If the laws are as lenient as Morgan hopes, he’ll be able to park on the beach for extended periods of time. He looks forward to surfing and having a place to stay right next to his surf spots.
“It satisfies the itch to get out and move, even it means just getting it out for the weekend and going up to Glacier [National Park],” Morgan said.
Having a bus for a home is Morgan’s way of decreasing stresses in his life. For Morgan, living in a bus will keep him untied to a specific location, opening up opportunities to follow dreams that may develop along the adventure or passions like his love for outdoor exploration.
“Having a place to stay no matter where I go fosters adventure,” Morgan said.
Junior Mattias Evangelista, a graphic design major, has known Morgan for a year and a half and plansto travel with Morgan in the bus. To Evangelista, the bus provides a way for Morgan to change and grow as a person.
“This bus will help McKai become the person he wants to be in his life,” Evangelista said. “It provides that opportunity for him to really find out who he is and what he wants to do.”
While Evangelista won’t be living in the bus for five years like Morgan plans to, he is still going to be spending an extended amount of time traveling in the bus and aims for a possible trip beginning this summer.
“This would be a ‘get-your-feet-wet’ trip,” Evangelista said. “There’s so many variables. We’re going to see how the bus runs and how we work together.”
Evangelista works for PNW Productions, a video production company in Bellingham, where he edits a show. He hopes to crowdfund money to document their adventures in the bus. The film would document the lives of everyone on the bus and the people they meet along the journey, telling a story of individual growth throughout the bus trip, Evangelista said.
“The bus is just a vehicle,” Evangelista said. “The real adventure, the real change and the real growth comes after.”
For Evangelista, traveling provides the greatest amount of knowledge. While he enjoys attending Western, sticking to school and work isn’t always the way he wants to live.
“It’s just so hard, especially today where you get done with high school, go right to college and go from college to a job,” Evangelista said. “You’re always being forced down this path with hardly any room to come up for air.”
Sophomore Dylan Hallett, a business and sustainability major, has been a friend of Morgan’s since middle school. Hallett is also a photographer who plans on shooting photos throughout the trips in the bus.
“Whenever that thing goes on a trip, I’m going to be on it,” Hallett said.
Hallett wasn’t surprised by the fact that Morgan wanted to buy a bus, knowing that Morgan wanted to live a simple lifestyle. What did surprise Hallett was that Morgan actually went through with the idea of buying a bus.
“It’s easy to be like, ‘Yo, dude, I’m going to buy a school bus and live in it,’” Hallett said. “Once he was in the process of looking for buses, I [thought], ‘Okay, he’s going to make it happen.’”
As of now, the group is looking to add one or two people to the group for the trips, Hallett said.
Currently, the bus is parked at Morgan’s parent’s house in Bellingham, where it is hooked up for electricity and water. It’s where the bus will remain until Morgan’s post-college plans become a reality and the trips with Evangelista and Hallett materialize.
“We’re going to end up spending a lot of time in a small space [together],” Hallett said. “It’s going to be great, these are my best friends.”