Bus Life


Bus Life


Words / Ashley Saupe

Photos / Courtesy of Ashely Saupe


I’m a wanderer, a gypsy, a transient. I am someone who can’t settle down and refuses to commit to anything longer than a few consecutive months. 


I’ve been traveling the world for the last decade. Exploring. Not really searching for anything, rather looking at and admiring everything. I’ve never owned a credit card because I believe in only spending the money that I have. I’ve also only ever had $1,000 in my bank account at one time. Keeping it simple is the trick. One of my mottos is, “if it’s free, I’ll take three” – this has gotten me out of many dire situations. Try it sometime.


For 4 months out of the year, I live in a bus that I bought for $1. She’s parked down by a river, about 26 miles outside of Haines, Alaska, the mecca of heli skiing. I still owe 50-cents for her. Her name is Mobi because I’ll be forever optimistic about her being mobile. She’s an original steel school bus from the early 80’s. This last year, I had to pour fuel in the carb to get her to fire up. Her key is a drill bit. The fuel tank filler is rusted through in so many spots that I have to get creative by covering the holes, just to get fuel in the tank. She’s got no brakes, but the road out towards Canada, where I live, is so flat that it ends up being enough just dropping her into first and letting her weight slow us down. But, she’s a gem because she’s my home.



I think it’s a glamorous life during those 4 months. Hauling my water in and chopping firewood to keep my wood stove stoked so the bus stays warm enough for me to not end up a popsicle; Cooking off a little stove and trying my hardest to keep the mice out. At one point, I actually found the mice ripping chunks off the bottom of my Burton snowboard boots for their nest. Nasty little things. The best thing about living in a bus is the solitude. Being free of rent and bills and having just enough space to keep the things I need with me and keep the things I don’t need away from me. Another perk is the sled access from my bus into the mountains. I’m able to access heli lines from right from my door. It’s insane. 


I end up spending a little over 4 months in Haines, dispatching for a heli ski company and shredding the gnar. Then, in May, I instruct mountaineering and backpacking courses for a couple different schools in Alaska, Colorado, and Patagonia. This season, I’ll work until October – living in and out of a tent in the mountains, traveling over glaciers, past waterfalls, around lakes, through rivers, up and over huge mountain passes, bushwhacking through thick devil’s club forest via compass bearing, and dodging bear encounters the best we know how. 



I probably spend 80+ days a year sleeping in a tent and wandering around the mountains with necessities on my back. No more, no less. My system is dialed out there. I carry only what I need. That feels good.


Then, when October rolls around and my summer season comes to an end, I collect my PFD and leave the country. I’ve been gallivanting internationally for the last 8 years. Often, with no agenda. Sometimes I end up on multi-month long surfing trips in Nicaragua. Sometimes I end up climbing Cotopaxi (5,897 m). Sometimes I end up living in cliff side mansions in Brazil. And sometimes I end up sleeping in a park under a bench in Chile. The adventures are never ending. 



I often travel solo when I leave the country. I think it’s better that way. It teaches you independence, survival, and self-reliance. I can hop on a collectivo (a small taxi-van that picks up more people than there are seat belts for) and get off anywhere I please. There is no conversing with your partner about what town to go to or what activity to do or about how to get there. The choice is yours and yours only. I rarely plan my adventures out. I just get on a bus and when I don’t want to be on a bus anymore, I get off, figure out the name of the town I'm in and go from there. Being open to the unknown and willing to explore the unknown, that’s what adventuring is all about.


During my adventures, I've thought about the difference between being lonely and being alone. I'm not lonely out there. I don’t feel like I’m running from anything. Or searching for anything. I don’t feel like I’m lost because I want to wander. I feel most like a human when I am out exploring the world that I live in. There is so much to see and so little time. I sometimes get anxiety thinking about how much there is to be done still. 


Pico Iver said it perfectly: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again – to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more."


By keeping your heart and soul open to the universe, you can do anything because not all who wander are lost. I know this because when I wander, I feel found.


Stay Fresh,

Ashley from Alaska