The YesBus Story
Dave lived out of a bag for 10 years just to keep costs down as he tried to make a living from the thing he loved most in the world, adventure. After a while though he started to think about settling down, but by then a house seemed a bit boring and expensive. So why not live in a unique tiny house? A shipping container? A boat? Or a bus?
In between wondering what weird things he could live in Dave realised he didn't know many of the people who followed him on Facebook, so he decided he could put one night aside and invite his online 'friends' camping just to see if they were real people.
19 people turned up under the clock at Liverpool St Station that evening and they caught a train, found a hill and slept under the stars. What's more, they all seemed nice, so Dave did it again the next week, and the next, and...well, here's the full story.
On the night of the Blue Moon on 31st July 2015 a group of this community of one-night campers which had by now developed the cultish nickname of 'the YesTribe' were in Oxshott Woods just south of London. A new face turned up, this bloke in a checkered shirt riding a bicycle. 'I've just cycled from my job at Heathrow,' he said, 'I had to see what this was all about.'
And that was when Dave met Chris.
Now, if you're the romantic type you might be thinking 'eh up, this story is getting exciting.' Especially when you hear that just two months later Chris joined Dave in a paddle down the Mississippi, with fires on the beach every night and starry skies and...
Stop. You're getting distracted! But you do have a point - campfires ARE cool! Every evening on the Mississippi Chris took it upon himself to bound gather firewood and industriously stoke the flames. He wasn't just a good guy, but he wasn't afraid of getting his hands dirty.
In fact, Chris was an engineer, exactly the type of character that gets things done. And Dave, for all his ideas and silly projects and long distance journeys, was absolutely crap with his hands.
As the YesTribe grew Dave saw new potential in ideas he had once had, and converting a bus into a home started to play a back seat to the idea that a double decker bus could actually make a super cool countryside hub for the YesTribe.
A place that would be utterly unique in a very familiar frame. One that would entice people away from the city into the countryside. A relaxing, safe space that would be the perfect setting for an escape, a new start, the incubation of fresh inspiration.
From co-working desks to a base for inner-city kids exploring the countryside for the first time. A digital detox retreat designed to improve the mental health of adults struggling with the pressures of modern society. A centre for skill-sharing. An events space with drop-down cinema screen and a memorable site for team building days.
An example of exactly what is possible when you take an idea and just act on it.
Dave started looking around for land where a bus could live and one day Chris joined him as they looked around Home Farm in North London. After that visit they had breakfast in a cafe, realising that convincing someone to give them land for a bus that didn't yet exist was actually quite hard.
And right there, over toast and sausages, they decided to get started.
There's a business in Essex called Ensign and they take in former London buses and either sell them on or use them as a fleet of rail-replacement vehicles. We asked around and Ensign were recommended, so we caught a late train out with our friends Tam and Rima, camped overnight in fairly wet conditions and then walked three miles to the bus depot.
We looked at two buses that day. Both were roughly the same age (built in the early 2000's), both were double deckers and exactly the same shape and size. But there was standout difference. One of the buses had spent its last three years on the Isle of Wight and had a very cool orangey wraparound design covered in dinosaurs. On the back there was even a Transformer's poster. It felt....right.
We left Ensign buses in a pondering mood. We'd been open to anything but walking around the yard had brought the (potentially stupid) reality of the situation home. Buying a bus was relatively simple, but it was a huge thing, a crazy commitment. Who does that?
But one thought was nagging - what if someone bought the dinosaur bus by the time we made up our minds?
The next week Chris and Dave returned to Ensign and signed a piece of paper. That same day the bus passed its MOT, Dave and Chris got to go UNDER the bus (safely) and then all the seats were ripped out. Just like that, they were the proud owners of a double decker.
Now there was no going back.
The next week the bus was delivered to its new home, a boat yard in Shepperton where the conversion would take place. A few members of the YesTribe came over for a celebratory campout - there was cake and illuminated balloons and hammocks - and then the work started in earnest.
The bus was filthy and the tribe helped clean it up at the same time as Chris started stripping the innards down to a place where he could start building up from. The upstairs floor disappeared. The expansive plastic wheel covers were removed. All necessary wiring was cut out and plonked outside. It was happening.
Now there was a bus the hunt for land begun again and a message on Facebook gave cause for optimism. Nikki Gilbey worked at Brinsbury Agricultural college and she expressed an interest in forming a partnership with SayYesMore. Dave visited first and was struck by Brinsbury's likeness to the vision he'd had for a countryside bus base.
The next week Chris, Tam and Jules joined Dave for another visit to Brinsbury and they camped in Keeper's Field, a triangular and deliciously green section of the campus that had no current use. This, Nikki told them, could be a home for the YesBus. It was perfect.
For the rest of 2016 Chris continued to work on the bus. He got friends in to help with some jobs but mostly it was just him, working in evenings and on weekends and then, once jottings of the bus became commonplace at work, he took a three month unpaid sabbatical to speed up the progress.
The inward-opening rear doors came off and the hinges were rebuilt so they would open outwards. A U-shaped seating area began to develop over the rear wheel-well. Chris built a frame for the new upstairs floor and laid a new, flat surface. He installed a sunroof and vents throughout, hoping that they would in some way alleviate the heat that naturally built up in what was effectively a tin can on wheels.
In October 2016 the second Yestival was held at Brinsbury and this gave the college an insight into what SayYesMore and the YesTribe was all about. The festival was a great success and afterwards the Brinsbury board gave the thumbs up for the YesBus to make its home on the campus
As 2016 turned into 2017 Chris continued working on the bus and as Spring arrived the exciting stuff began to happen. Insulation was covered with cladding. A wood burning stove with two-storey flue became a familiar site in the middle of the bus. The upstairs ceiling went on. Seating was completed. Power sockets installed and a thousand other small tasks which only Chris will ever know about, but were integral to the successful future of the YesBus.
The Summer of 2017. The conversion is close to complete and a crowdfunding campaign is underway. It takes just one or two people to conjure up an idea and start to turn it into something that will benefit hundreds and thousands, but there are so many other individuals who play a part in a project like this.
We hope, as you finish reading this history of the YesBus so far, that you can now become a part of the story. We need your help, a little bit of love to send the bus on the next stage of its journey. Even without an HQ the YesTribe has made its mark on over 4000 people so far. Just imagine the impact we'll have once the YesBus is finished.
So open up the driver's door, take a seat, and make a little donation if you can spare it. We look forward to welcoming you to the bus very, very soon. Thank you.