A SINGLE mum who lost her home two years ago has found a new way of living – off-grid and in an old bus.
Marie Grindlay, 45, lives in British Columbia, Canada, with her daughter Ruth, four, their two dogs, Shasta, 10 and Freyja, eight and their seven hens.
Up until February 2019, the family had lived a "comfortable life" in a "normal" home but sadly, due to a dispute with her landlord over rent, the mum lost her home and found herself scrambling for somewhere new to live.
Thankfully, a friend had an MCI Coach Line bus sitting in storage, while others had spare land and agreed to let her park the bus on it.
In June that same year, Marie and her daughter started their life and the duo haven't looked back since.
"This lifestyle wasn't born of a dream, it was born out of necessity," Marie said.
"I lost my housing due to unfortunate circumstances in Feb of 2019. The eviction was traumatising. This left me scrambling as my town had grown and housing was an issue.
"Finding new accommodation was tricky because no one wanted a single mom with two big dogs and I literally couldn't afford anything.
"I had a friend with a half-finished MCI Coach Line bus sitting in storage and a few friends with land, and no other feasible options.
"We made a deal and decided to build it into a home for my little family.
"I found temporary housing for two months while we finished the bus to suit a toddler, mum, two big dogs, fish and seven hens."
Marie had mixed emotions about the drastic change but was also excited to start a new chapter in her life.
She said: "I had so many feelings and lots of grief. I've always lived in houses or apartments before so this was the first time I would have to manage every part of life – like power, water, waste… it was a lot.
"I was sad about what we had been through losing our housing but excited because the bus gave me freedom and autonomy.
"We were excited to have our very own little home."
Marie's bus already had a bathroom, bedroom and closet. But as for a kitchen, there was only a fridge and little else.
She immediately set about redecorating the space to make it more homely, painting the interior and even the roof, as well as building a kitchen.
"I had so many feelings and lots of grief… this was the first time I would have to manage every part of life
The mum said: "We built the kitchen from scratch and managed to find a countertop, among many other things, at the local rebuild.
"I have a compostable toilet, plumbing and proper drainage. I rented a machine and dug my own grey water drainage ditch and so far, we haven't seen it freeze!
"We also have a small bathtub for my daughter, that's a great shower for me. I recently installed hot water on demand, so we have excellent hot water too.
"My backup heat, hot water on demand and stove are all on propane. We are on the electrical grid, thank goodness, and we really have everything we need.
"I also have a front room that has a fireplace, which is being installed soon, so wood heat will be our main source of heat this winter.
"This is a big deal because we have been cold two winters in a row."
But living off-grid doesn't come without its difficulties – particularly when it comes to water.
Marie said: "The hardest part was having to carry all my water for one year. Also, the winter that I only had 20 amps so I had to choose between heat or hot water.
"However, carrying my water built a relationship with water that I wouldn't otherwise have.
"I've always been a grateful person, but this took it to the next level. I had to go to a friend's to shower for well over a year."
"Luckily for us, I had a friend who gave me the open door invite to do my laundry and use the bathroom.
"This was huge for me and I'll be forever thankful I have such good people around me."
Despite this, Marie has no regrets and feels her new way of living is more "natural".
She said: "I've always been a sociable person, I spent my 20s in Whistler on my snowboard, my 30s running a busy landscape company and now I'm in my 40s, a single mom – since I was three months pregnant – and living in the bus, raising my little one.
I've always been a grateful person, but this took it to the next level. I had to go to a friend's to shower for well over a year
"It's full-on but I couldn't be happier.
"I have space to allow my daughter to learn and she's great at fishing, looking after the chickens, dogs, and horses, and is my great little helper and sidekick."
Three times a week, Marie and her daughter will tend to five horses out of town, feeding them and grooming them.
They then do a tour of the local rescue, which houses 100 horses, and spend the rest of their day at home, taking the dogs out for walks and tending to their chickens.
Marie said: "Oh it's a lovely life. We don't get to town much but there are always things to do.
"I get started on coffee and breakfast in the morning, and from there, I'm onto the next task with my daughter in tow.
"We do everything from tiling to painting to gardening. I'm blessed to have her.
While Marie admits she sometimes misses living in a "normal home", she has no plans to leave the bus anytime soon – and is even adding new features.
She said: "I love the autonomy this kind of home gives me and I'm hoping to add a 'sizeable' addition to it in the next year or so.
"I'm going to need a bedroom and as my daughter grows up, she's going to need her own space as well.
"I have plans to build an outdoor bathroom so I can have a hot bath. It's easy to plumb it in.
"My good friend, Uncle Pete, whom I bought the bus from, does the work like electrics for me.
"But for now, tripping over dogs, being followed by my four-year-old daughter while doing a million tasks is just how it is.
"And I wouldn't change a thing. What a blessing my life is. Right now we're in the big push to get ready for winter. I refuse to be cold and miserable this winter!"
Of course, living on a bus gets mixed reactions from friends and family, especially when Marie shares the not so finer details of everyday life.
I wouldn't change a thing. What a blessing my life is
She said: "Everyone thinks it's pretty good, although they soon lose interest pretty quickly when I tell them I have to throw out our urine from our pots every week and the poop bucket twice a month!
"I find it hilarious that folks have such a hard time thinking about dealing with their own waste.
"It's all part of the overall autonomy and freedom I feel.
"I know my systems and how they work. The world can stop working and we, for the most part, will still be ok.
"We are strongly supported be my family, they love and encourage us and help where they can."
As for anyone else considering living off-grid, Marie has some very important advice.
She added: "Spray foam the inside before you do anything. You'll be glad you did as it keeps you warm and keeps away the rodents.
"Mice have eaten my pantry and rats ate my truck engine, twice, so definitely use spray foam!
"Living correctly in relation to the land you are on is also important.
"I live on indigenous land on the West Coast of Canada and I endeavour to be mindful of sharing this land with the land spirit and guardians, so I will often offer spirit gifts of food and tobacco.
"This practice keeps us safe here and raises my connection and love for spirit and creator.
"It is not lost on me how blessed I am living out here."
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