‘Destination unknown’: Tampa family refurbishes school bus, sets out to see America

Eric Hildebrand and Ingrid Poole wanted to travel abroad with their three children, but when the pandemic brought those plans to a halt, they turned a retired school bus into a home on wheels and set out for the adventure of a lifetime. 

The family of five left Tampa in May and headed toward the Florida Keys. Their goal was to start at mile marker 1 and finish the first leg of their trip at the end of U.S. 1. 

An unexpected tire blowout and brake issues near Miami set them back a little bit but didn't derail the trip. 

"On day 3, we had a $5,000 repair bill on our bus, which was totally unexpected," shared Hillebrand. 

After several days in the Keys, the family headed north to see the sights of the Sunshine State. 

"I think that's been the most exciting thing about all this is all these experiences that we get to have. Yeah, we did two nights actually in Brooksville at a winery. That was phenomenal," Poole shared.

They also spent a night at a north Florida farm and a sunflower field. 

Hildebrand and Poole search apps dedicated to RV life to find these unique spots with people allowing them to stay on their property.

READ: Family turns to RV to stay connected amid coronavirus pandemic

"The first one is 'Harvest House', and that's more like farms, and retail shops or industrial parks or wineries. I think a couple of golf courses that just have the space for RV parking. So that's been really fun. Some of them offer a couple of different things like maybe some RV hookups or allowing generators, maybe even offering wi-fi," explained Poole.

The other app is called 'Boondockers Welcome'. This app allows travelers to find people that have a lot of land and are willing to host according to the couple.

"Maybe they’re RVers themselves and appreciate the lifestyle, so they're willing to, if they have the space on their property, they're going to host," added Hildebrand.

The traveling family has a popular YouTube channel that chronicles their adventures. The bus got a brand-new wrap when they were in Orlando, which makes the family easy to spot.  

"We get messages in our YouTube videos actually like, oh I saw you on the road," added Poole.

The family enjoys their new life even if they’re still not used to getting recognized.

"We drove through this little town called Edmonton, and as soon as we parked downtown, everybody was there waiting for us, which is so funny," shared Poole.  

The family says even with the challenges, they like seeing new places and enjoy RV living.

"I think this is exactly what we were desiring. Of course, anything is going to come with a set of challenges, but I don’t miss it. I like the road. I like seeing things," Poole said. 


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