What first inspired you to create Skoolie Stays as a retreat?
In 2019, we decided we wanted to do something different. We took the kids out of school, quit our jobs, rented out our house and headed to America for a year-long road trip. Rather than just hire a regular RV, we decided to up the ante and travel in an iconic vehicle: a converted American school bus. It was an incredible adventure, taking us 14,000 miles across 20 different states, and we loved how much freedom living off-grid in the bus gave us. Not only did it get us closer to nature, we had more time adventuring and having fun as a family. It also felt pretty awesome living in a bus! When it came time to sell the Skoolie and return to Brighton, we decided we weren’t quite ready to leave Skoolie-life behind. Within just a few weeks of landing back in Sussex, we had found ourselves a newly-retired bus in Florida and had it put on a boat to the UK. We were going to share the mental health benefits of Skoolie Life with the UK!
Have you always been in hospitality? If not, what else did / do you do?
Both of us have worked in the travel and events industry, so when we combined that with our new found love and understanding of American buses, it was easy to see how to develop a luxury glamping business that could surpass customer expectation.
Your second project was an eco-cabin – The Vacationist. Why not another Skoolie?
The Skoolie was designed to share what we had learnt about the benefits of an off-grid lifestyle. It worked – our feedback has been 5-star all the way. When it came to creating a second space though, we had a different dream. Over the last two years we have seen the impact that travelling has had on the planet. 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to tourism, and that’s predicted to double by 2050. Three-quarters of this impact can be blamed on flights alone and, as holiday providers, we wanted to address this and offer an alternative to those who want to travel more sustainably. Using eco-tech, repurposed materials and sustainably designed furnishings, we built The Vacationist Eco Cabin to show that you can balance luxury, comfort and style without having to compromise on green credentials.
What’s the best thing about being the owner of Skoolie Stays & The Vacationist Eco Cabin?
We poured our hearts and souls into both conversions and so it is incredibly rewarding when people tell us that they have had a brilliant break, that they fell in love with the design or our story, that they were amazed by all the detail, that it gave them the time and space to properly relax, that they felt inspired to live more sustainably or simply, that they want to book again or, and it has happened, they want to build a cabin or buy a bus of their own!
What’s your favourite feature of both retreats?
It’s really cool to stay on an iconic yellow American school bus, and it certainly turns heads, but for us the best part about Skoolie Stays is how it integrates with the green space around it. Whether you are sitting in front of the fire on the leather sofa, eating breakfast in the dinette (fashioned from the original bus seats) or curled up in the king-sized bed, every where you look is a window framing a tranquil view that changes with the seasons.
The Vacationist Eco Cabin offers something different – inspired by the American A-frame it has sharp angles, a triangular feature window and possibly the coolest flooring you will ever see. It also has a super-exciting hidden bookcase door that your kids will love!
What do you love about the local area?
The Skoolie is based on a farm near Thakeham in West Sussex. The Vacationist Eco Cabin is based on a farm near Halland, East Sussex. Both are close to beautiful villages to explore, with ancient pubs and tea-rooms, as well as easy access to the South Downs for hiking and biking.
We are working with other people who want to set up glamping units but who do not have the time to manage them or the land to place them.
If you couldn’t stay at your place, where would your ideal holiday be?
Ever since watching Swiss Family Robinson as a kid, I’ve always loved the idea of a treehouse. Maybe that should be the next project….
Sum up Skoolie Stays & The Vacationist Eco Cabin in three words
Luxurious, Stylish, Off-grid
If you were visiting, how would you spend a day at Skoolie Stays or The Vacationist?
Coffee in bed – both places have a beautiful view of the trees, and it’s such a treat to have a lazy day. Then I’d cook up breakfast in the kitchen, take a hot shower and head out for a countryside walk. Both sites are close to lovely vineyards and 16th / 17th century pubs, so it’s nice to include those! Back home you can light the burner and enjoy the flames with a glass of wine and a board game or, if the weather is fair, fire up the firepit and toast some marshmallows and look at the stars.
Find out more about Skoolie Stays and The Vacationist via their Host Unusual listings below!