By SKYLER ASHLEY
“This is our next step. We’ve been in Michigan our whole lives. While this country is so vast and beautiful, we’d be doing ourselves a great disservice if we just sat here and saw none of it.”
Even though many of us couldn’t imagine spending our daily lives on the road, for young Lansing couple Jordan Lane, 26, and Hayden Malcolm, 24, it’s a dream come true. With some handy carpentry and mechanical skills and a healthy dose of wanderlust, the pair has converted a school bus into their home and headquarters for a permanent road trip that launches next week.
Malcolm and Lane met three years ago through social media. When Malcolm would post videos of herself skateboarding and dancing with her dog, Lane would respond by direct messaging her with original poems. She was attracted by his unique prose and long hair and invited him over on a day she felt alone and sad. The connection was instant, and the two hit it off.
“We are one of those classic, new-age kindlings from the social media age,” Lane laughed.
“I liked everything about him,” Malcolm said. “I think we fell in love the day we met.”
Traveling with a devil-may-care attitude has been in the couple’s DNA from the very beginning.
“The first year we met, I owned a small Jeep. We decided to go on a trip to Florida for 10 days and rather than staying in hotels, we just slept in the back of the Jeep. We ended up saving ourselves thousands of dollars,” Malcolm said.
Malcolm said her role in the couple’s latest and greatest journey is ultimately the result of her finally deciding to live in the moment and do precisely what she wants to do with her life. She’s earned a business administration degree from Lansing Community College, which she said appeased her family, and now the trip will reward the side of her that is a much freer spirit than a button-downed college student working part-time serving drinks.
“We’re finishing up a few last little things and off we go,” Malcolm said.
Lane has never been comfortable with the average, straight lifestyle. “I believe I’ve always needed some sort of escape or outlet from the mundane, the boring — going to college and getting the 9 to 5 job at a desk. I honestly floundered a little bit from 21 to 25 after dropping out of college and working bar gigs. Finding my way into the world of construction is what set me off,” Lane said.
Lane found his endgame in life through woodworking and carpentry. “Ever since I started swinging a hammer, I found what I was passionate about,” he said. Knowing he can’t stay on the road literally forever, Lane hopes to eventually combine his woodworking skills with his love of music and become a custom-guitar maker.
The pair agreed the most important lesson of their fateful Jeep trip down south was that nationwide traveling becomes much more feasible if you cut out the daunting cost of lodging. The perfect live-in vehicle came along when they came across a 20-foot short-length school bus on Facebook Marketplace in Detroit. It ran them $3,000.
They’ve since converted it into a California-style bungalow on wheels. With its cozy blanketed and cushioned accommodations, Malcolm and Lane will hardly be roughing it. They modified the bus to include laminated vinyl plank floors and insulation, and Lane used his carpentry skills to build custom wooden counters, shelves and benches. The bus also has solar panels to store electricity and rack storage space to stash supplies, food and clothing. Renovations, equipment and mechanical improvements to the bus ran Lane and Malcolm another $3,000.
“It’s got a turbo diesel engine; it’s tough as rocks and it’s pretty freakin’ radical,” Lane said.
“It’s helpful that Jordan’s dad knows a lot about cars. We feed him a meal and he helps us out for the day,” Malcolm said.
Lane and Malcolm, along with their two dogs and cat, plan to first visit locations in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula that they’ve never explored. That will keep them occupied until Halloween. “There are actual mountains up there, I had no idea,” Malcolm said.
After their Michigan bucket list has been checked off, their vision is out west. “We want to see the Badlands, the Rockies, Utah and Idaho. I have a thirst for snowboarding resorts. We’re going west and see what that has to offer, maybe see the Pacific Northwest as well,” Lane said.
Lane will have his carpentry equipment in tow, just in case the opportunity arises for a weeklong gig to get together some extra dough to help further the expedition.
“It’s a way to pad out our pockets as we go along,” Lane said.
In preparing for the life-changing journey, Malcolm said she realized it was never going to be the ideal time to leave, and that to achieve her dream she needed to just, well, do it.
“Life kept happening. I learned there was never going to be a ‘right time’ to go,” she said. “Now that we’re almost done, my family has given me little present for the bus and they’re more accepting.”
“I’ve gotten positive support from my family, but they all know I was destined to something crazy anyway. I’m just happy to do it with Hayden,” Lane said. “Life is too short to live somebody else’s.”