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Home is where the bus is — Minnesota family prepares for life aboard traveling house

Joanie and Adam Wegman and their three children, Eden, Solomon and Lincoln, stand outside their future home Friday, Oct. 19 in Pequot Lakes. Erin Bormett / Echo Journal1 / 4
The Wegman's bus sits outside their home and former salon business, J Amelia's, on Friday, Oct. 19 in Pequot Lakes. Erin Bormett / Echo Journal2 / 4
Joanie Wegman reacts to seeing the newly finished cabinets her husband, Adam, installed in the "bedroom" section of the bus Friday, Oct. 19 in Pequot Lakes. Erin Bormett / Echo Journal3 / 4
Joanie and Adam Wegman lift a tub for bathing and laundry into their bus Friday, Oct. 19 in Pequot Lakes. Erin Bormett / Echo Journal4 / 4

A Pequot Lakes family is giving "home makeover" a whole new meaning. Adam and Joanie Wegman are converting a retired school bus into a house for them and their three children.

The Wegmans operated J Amelia's Salon and Spa and Stone House Jewelers out of a restored chapel on Main Street before closing their businesses to prepare for life on the road. The couple now works full time to turn the bus into the perfect traveling home and portable salon.

"Several doors have closed for us here, and this one opened," said Adam.

Joanie said that they initially felt God calling them to sell their possessions and live more simply, but they didn't know what it would lead to.

"Before we knew it we were feeling God's tug to sell our businesses and trust everything in Him for our future," she said. "There were bigger things God had planted in our hearts that we couldn't see."

Adam and Joanie didn't originally plan to live in a renovated old school bus. They wanted to travel more as a family while remaining rooted in Pequot Lakes, so they first looked at Airstream trailers.

After realizing they were interested in living on the road, the couple asked for advice on Facebook. One of their friends suggested they get a bus instead, which introduced the Wegmans to the concept of "skoolies," or converted school bus homes.

"(A nomadic life) was the kind of life we wanted," said Joanie. "Our possessions had started to control us."

They found the right bus for their needs in April. Adam drove it back to Minnesota from Montana in April, and renovations started in May.

Once the bus is complete, it will include a wood-fired stove, secure seating that doubles as a dining area, a sleeping bunk concealing a tub for bathing and laundry, a salon area complete with a chair and sink, a "master" bed area, a dry toilet, running water, and storage compartments in every available nook and cranny.

"It's like we're building a house, but there's even more to it," said Adam.

He said the specific shape of a bus and the unique features they want to add require the pair to be strategic in their design.

"You can't just go to the lumber yard and pick up the right pieces," he said.

This project also required a significant amount of unexpected research. How quickly water heats on their stove, or what kind of generator can power the bus without breaking noise ordinances on certain campsites are questions the Wegmans never had to think about before. However, they enjoy the challenge of the restoration.

"We are not 'buy-it-new' people," said Joanie. "We love to see our ideas and innovations come to life through the restoration of things that were something and could now be something else."

Adam and Joanie's reluctance to buy new items also stems from their desire to live more simply.

"We wanted freedom from the things that were not bringing about our dreams or what we wanted for our family," said Joanie.

Both agree there is a danger in letting one's personal worth become defined by what they own. They realized they felt liberated as they began selling their property.

"We are shedding off all things that hinder us," said Adam.

Adam is looking forward to taking as much in as he can from nature and experiencing what God has given.

Once on the road, the couple plans to drive to Arkansas to see friends, followed by a visit to Texas to be with family for a while. The Wegman kids - Eden, 8; Lincoln, 6; and Solomon, 4 - are excited to begin this new adventure. They said they wanted to see the mountains, go zip-lining, visit a museum with dinosaur bones and see lots of animals.

Adam and Joanie will homeschool their children, Joanie will continue to run her salon business out of their mobile home and Adam will focus on starting up a ministry that he will facilitate as the family travels around the country.

The Wegmans haven't been unhappy in Pequot Lakes, but felt it was time to move on and do something bigger.

Joanie said she sees people who aren't passionate about their careers anymore, and they have become stuck in a rut of doing things just because they think they should, not because it makes them happy. She didn't want to end up like that.

"This is a comfortable place to live, but comfort means that people get complacent," she said.

"In our society, we're told from when we're little what we should do, but most of us don't find out until much later what we ought to do for our own selves," said Adam. "We realized, if we don't do this, would we regret it in five years? The answer is yes."

He said that to make a big change in life, it's necessary to be uncomfortable. He said short-term sacrifice is worth it to accomplish ultimate happiness.

Word is getting around about the Wegmans' "Adventure Bus." Joanie said people tell them how inspiring their story is, how they wish they could do something like that.

Joanie said there's no reason why anyone can't be bold and do what makes them happy.

"We're not some special people that got to do this," she said. "In fact, we're just the opposite. We all have that grit in us. If there is that dream or that vision, you're not going to get it by saying 'maybe tomorrow.' You literally have to say that today is the day and make a plan."

The Wegmans hope to finish their work by the end of November. The family will document their travels on Facebook at Adventure Bus/J Amelia's Salon/Cherry Picks/W Designs Jewelry and on Instagram @adamjoanieadventures.