GTPulse: Traverse City Man and His Dog Make a Bus Their Home

Housing is a highly discussed topic in Traverse City. The city’s expensive home costs and rental prices make living here difficult. Kyle Anderson is a young homeowner in Traverse City that just rented his house out in favor of a new living arrangement; living on a school bus.

When I went to talk to Kyle I drove to the top of Historic Barns Park and looked around for a man and his dog. When I couldn’t find him I called, and when he answered he told me to turn around.

There stretched the 40-foot bus that Kyle is now calling home. The front door opened and a long-legged, shaggy Irish Wolfhound bolted out and ran towards me. I should say galloped, Maeve, Kyle’s dog and trusted companion is as tall as she is sweet.

“Don’t be scared, she’s friendly!” Kyle shouted as she got closer. I knelt down and Maeve gleefully skidded to a halt to sniff me and give me a few eager cheek kisses.

After my warm welcome I followed Maeve to the home she shares with Kyle and when I walked in I was greeted with a burst of warm air from a tiny but effective wood burning stove. The bus has two benches for seating, a corner kitchen, a bedroom, an incomplete bathroom and a deskspace for Kyle.

Deskspace is important because Kyle is a remote tech entrepreneur. He has a designated workspace at 20Fathoms in downtown Traverse City, but he likes having the flexibility to travel when he wants to. 

“I’ve worked remotely for a while now, I’ve had a company of my own for quite some time.”

Having a fluid work situation makes traveling easier, having a fluid living situation makes it a cakewalk. It’s easy to see why Kyle would want a life designed for spontaneity but executing it was a unique challenge.

He’s self-admittedly not handy, but the bus says otherwise. Although he’s not finished with the interior, he’s ripped out all the seats and created much of the interior himself. He’s turned the bus into a 275 square foot living space with heat, running water and a place to sleep.

“I’ve always loved to adventure, really liked to travel but I haven’t really been able to get out. I could have bought a motorhome but I love the customization of tiny houses so I thought why not build a school bus?”

Skoolie is the term used for a bus that has been turned into a home, and there’s a community culture behind it. 

“There’s a skoolie-palooza in Arizona that has 160 plus of these types of school buses that are all converted and out there.”

He bought the bus this past August, although it wasn’t the bus he wanted. He wanted a bus with an engine in the back but struggled to find one. His dad gently pushed him to buy one with an engine in the front and spend as little as possible, citing that he could always spend more and buy a different bus in the future if he really liked the lifestyle.

“So I bought a bus for 1800 bucks. It was running, everything worked fine. My plan was to do only $10,000 dollars in the build. Right now I’m at about $8,000. So, this is my prototype. It’s called Makwaden.”

Kyle is half Native American and Makwa means bear in his native language. 

“I’m half Native American, with the Grand Traverse Band and my clan is the Bear Clan so Mawkaden fits in pretty well.”

He wasn’t involved with his Native roots throughout his youth, but he became interested in it when he got older. Kyle works as an IT professional for his own company called Makwa USA, where he helps businesses with IT work. After spending some time in California he moved back to Michigan and got involved with the Grand Traverse Band Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

“Five, maybe seven years ago I got involved and really started identifying with it. I started going to tribal council sessions and helping out because I have some good knowledge with technology and computers and so forth and I wanted to help out in any way that I possibly could.”

After a couple of years of attending and taking notes at tribal council sessions, he was eventually offered a seat on the Grand Traverse Band LLC board, the non-gaming side of the tribe. He’s currently working to give back to the Native American community by partnering with 20Fathoms to help Native American businesses through a nonprofit they’re working on. Although he no longer serves on the LLC board, he will run for tribal council this month when he returns from snowboarding in Colorado.

He recently rented out his home, so he’ll be living in the bus for the foreseeable future. He’s close to finishing it and looks forward to more tiny life living and more adventures with Maeve. He’s living the life he’s always dreamed of, and though bus life isn’t perfect, it’s afforded Kyle a life of changing landscapes and skies unseen. The best part is that he doesn’t have to do it alone, he’s got his best pal with him.

“Oh yeah, Maeve’s coming with. She always comes with.”

Categories: GTPulse