Life in a Skoolie with Max Leisure

life in a skoolie with max leisure
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Welcome to episode 008 of Citizen of the World podcast. I am your host. Kathleen Parisien. On this week’s episode of Citizen of the World Podcast, we’ve got a very special guest. This podcast is all about inspiring action outside your comfort zone, and the best part about podcasts is hearing the perspective of people you don’t normally talk to. Today we’re learning about life in a skoolie with max leisure! See pictures of the Max Leisure Skoolie here.

Thank you for tuning in as you’re seriously doing yourself a huge favour. How often have you heard of someone quitting their job, renovating a bus, and taking off on an everlasting roadtrip with their husband? This is almost too good to be true, but I promise it’s true!

What is a Skoolie?

life in a skoolie with max leisure 2

Candice and her husband Phil recently literally packed up their life in Toronto, and set off in a bus. They renovated a small mini bus, also known as a skoolie, and are now adventuring throughout the united states. This is the second time Candice has left her corporate consulting job to travel, yet this time she’s doing it with her husband!

What does it take to quit your 9-5 job? What’s it like living in a bus? What’s it like to feel freedom? What is it like to follow your dream? What is a skoolie?

We’ll learn answers to these questions and much more from Candice. 
Welcome Candice!!!

Tell our listeners about yourself and how you came to live in a skoolie?

 I’m from Ottawa, in Canada. I graduated University in Commerce Business Systems and information management. I started working for a global consulting firm while in University and have been working for a couple different Consulting firms, for 10 years now. It’s a good career in the sense if you get to work on a lot of projects but it’s very high stress. The hours are very long and the demands are high. Which is what drove me to leave twice.

You know, I think that the first time I left it is probably a little bit more of a crazy story than this time around. Back then, I was burned out and my mom was sick. However, this time, we got married and wanted to enjoy our lives so we decided to bail.

How long have you been on the road with Max the Skoolie?

Since December 30th, I think that’s about 7 weeks now.

What is it like living on a skoolie?

The best part is that you can bring your home with you everywhere.  Sick of this town? Move on, easy! Downside is if you want to go buy milk you need to bring your whole home with you.  Or you can bike but when it’s hot out and the bike ride takes an hour – you don’t really want to bike haha

It depends on the day and honestly the weather.  Sometimes it’s freezing at night and we need to use the propane heater and have three blankets, other times it’s sweltering and we can’t even operate in the bus without sweating buckets.  

Adjusting to tiny living has been easier than I thought so far.  One thing I will say is that clutter drives me crazy. This was something that you’ll know since you’ve been to my houses before, I’m not what you call a tidy person.  I usually have clutter and when Phil and I lived together we both had clutter. Now we just can’t have it and it’s a constant struggle because you have to put things away immediately or else you’re literally tripping over it in 5 mins.  That said, I’ve gotten pretty good at organization.

 Would you say from your experience in the Consulting world that your colleagues wish they were having an adventure like this too?

Like when I did this departure and I told people the truth, because this time I actually had a plan. When I quit my 9-5 consulting job before, I didn’t have a plan. 

“You don’t have to love camping to live in a skoolie”

I heard every reaction that you can possibly think of! I had some people who would look at me a little bit sideways. Other people said “I can never do that but it sounds awesome and like I wish I could”. I’m like whoa, hold on like how do you in the same breath say I could never do it, but I wish I could!? Some of these people thought they hated camping so they couldn’t do it! Girl, I do not like camping! Some of them thought it would just be too hard to manage the finances or just like generally too much like they couldn’t fathom getting a mortgage or whatever it is!

 So, you and Phil decided to build a skoolie and travel together, and you didn’t let other people’s opinions influence your decision. How did you stay strong and not listen to what other people were saying? 

So we got engaged in August 2018 and started planning a wedding for August 2019 which was beautiful. Then, I think it was like January February of 2019 and I started to get burnt out again, working too many hours and just too much on my plate. I didn’t feel like how I was feeling and I started getting very like escapist thoughts. I’d say to Phil, okay let’s go to Bali, or let’s go to Hawaii. And, he would respond, what about Cooper? Our dog.

Van or Skoolie?

I saw this guy do a van conversion and then he had done it very specific to building a van for his photography business. I had just gotten back from my last road trip which we did in my little Cobalt for 2 and 1/2 months. I showed Phil this guy and his photography van conversion, and Phil’s like oh no, that’s that’s ridiculous we shouldn’t do a van, we should get a school bus! I was like I wish that less crazy than a van but okay!

So we decided that we would look into it to see if the concept was at all feasible. Because you see these people online who have renovated a skoolie for like $3000. But, we had to really figure out how to have running water and electricity. What’s the floor plan going to look like? What’s our monthly expenses going to look like? What’s the average cost in America and should we get a ton of research I think we must have watched like two thousand different van and bus renovation videos. Being a consultant, I build spreadsheets and saw that it was really possible! We just had to get married first, so we did. We had a beautiful fairy tale wedding, and then we went to Roatan in Honduras. But during our honeymoon, we just knew we had to go back home and buy a bus. Bring our dream to reality of turning a bus into a skoolie.

It’s amazing that when you decide something like this, you can’t forget about it. 

We bought the bus the weekend after we got back from our honeymoon.

Candice Mackay

A vacation for 7 days is just 7 days, you’re just a tourist, instead you guys really wanted the experience.

Yes, I really love immersing myself into new environments.  I think we’ve been in Florida for 5 weeks now, and we’ve got to really explore the whole state. And everything in between like Orlando and Miami and Vero Beach like the Space Coast like it’s all so different in the best way 

So you guys have been on the road for 7 weeks already now. What is your plan?  Do you guys have a plan ?

It’s pretty loosy goosy at this point. Initially, we were just like let’s go down south, let’s get away from winter. Mission accomplished, it’s 29 degrees in Florida! After Florida, we’re going to go west. In Florida it’s nice, but it’s expensive. There’s not as many places to camp for free. I’m going to write a blog about free places to camp. We’re going to Louisiana. With all the hurricane damage, we’re hoping to volunteer and repair the damage. Phil is a carpenter so he can help.

So not only are you guys on this never ending road trip, but you want to do good along the way as well.

Yes, that’s a huge part of it. It’s a bit easier to do this in the US with Phil’s skill set but we are planning to go down to Mexico and Central America. We’re both scuba diver certified so we want to help clean up the ocean. I’ve wanted to volunteer for 8 years now, just thinking about it and I haven’t done it.

Whatever you want to do, it’s hard to turn off that calling. You’re doing it now. What does it feel like to let go of the 9-5 corporate stuff? What does this mindset shift feel like?

It’s like I was so ready to not do my job anymore. I don’t miss it. I miss the people. I don’t really miss the schedule that I’m craving. I’m craving coming up with another schedule. We were doing renovations the first weeks of the trip. We had to finish the plumbing down south because it was too cold in Canada. I’m going to post instagram photos of the bus updates.

Skollie Swarm

Once we stopped we got to a skoolie swarm. We got to connect to other people who did the same thing, and go to see their skoolies. Then we were in Orlando, Miami and Disney World. We’ve been doing so much, but still very much on vacation.  Now, I’m like what am I going to do? Am I going to dedicate like 3 days a week to just work? But like, we haven’t gotten there yet. We’re still in the keys.

I feel like you want a routine. A lot of people don’t want to travel because they want a routine. But you can totally set a routine while on the road.

Of course, I have coffee. We have a garage in the basement of our bus, with my yoga mat, snorkel set and stuff.

How difficult was it to downgrade? How was it to get rid of your stuff and move into Max, the Skoolie?

We had a lot of stuff. We started purging 2 months before we left. We sold stuff on kijiji. 6-7 car roads to the salvation army. Some stuff is stored at my parents. It was stuff I might need again, but not on the bus. Mostly stilettos. Only two pairs of stilettos on the bus!

Would you say people live with too much stuff?

Totally. Even the first place we stopped in Washington DC, I gave more stuff away. Too many awkward sized things for the skoolie. We keep purging even on the road.

When I backpacked for 6 months, it was liberating not too much stuff. The simplicity of life is nice when we don’t consume so much stuff.

Kathleen Parisien

Yes, I swear the same things everyday. I brought dresses but like I probably won’t need it. I probably won’t need this. I’ll probably donate it too.

Nothing matters of trying to buy all these things. Travel bloggers sell you stuff, you probably don’t need it. The more businesses I’d follow on instagram, the more instagram would be promoting different products. Usually, we don’t need these products! You dont need a bag with 6000 pockets to do a roadtrip. You just need whatever backpack you have in your closet is fine.

How are you guys going to start making money on the road?

I’m looking into career coaching. I can use a platform where I won’t have to go get clients. I’ve coached over 25 different people. I’ve coached through client issues, team issues, promotions, all kinds of stuff. I have coaching experience. I could do this online and make decent coins. 

Candice has lots of ideas and ways to make money being herself

The other thing I might do, I made all the cushions in the bus. I didn’t realize how much people pay for this. I made it by fabric and some other materials for much cheaper. Some people are paying like $600 for cushions! I can make them for much less.

Skoolie building business

A Lot of people are building skoolies wrong. We don’t have a single 2×4 in here. 2×4’s reduce the amount of space in the bus. Your bus is already load bearing, your furniture doesn’t need to bear any load. Just plywood is what we used to build the skoolie.

How much did the skoolie cost to buy and build?

We got the bus on kijiji for $4,200. Legally we had to take off the stop sign and the yellow bar. How much did the renovations cost?

We’ve put about $15,000 in renovations. There are some things we got a little bit more high end that you don’t have to do. One example is our solar system. That was about $5000.  We have 800 amp hours, lots of power coming in from the sun. We have a charge controller, an inverter, and 3600 hours of lithium batteries. We bought the batteries and built them ourselves. We don’t need electricity when we visit campsites. But, we have a big 60 feet extension cord that we could use shore power if it’s there. But we can operate off grid, 100%. We have enough water to go for about 5 days.

What I’m understanding, is that not only did you have the courage to leave your comfort zone, but now you are renewable energy specialists.

Who knew I would know about off the grid energy technology! My husband, Phil knows so much about this. He did so much research. 

You are industry leaders of the skoolie life! Now you can help other people build their own skoolies! It wasn’t that elebarote. It’s cheaper than a winnebago. 

Yes, $20,000 all in! However, if you bought the material in the US, it would be cheaper than Canada. Especially for battery banks. Canada has so many regulations for batteries that they allow into the country.

You’ve learned so much from trying something new! When we get outside our comfort zones, the whole world opens up to us. But Candice, it is really hard to do this! It takes courage and fearlessness. What advice do you have for people that are scared to go into the unknown?

If it’s about doing a bus, I met someone who did their skoolie for really cheap. It was basic, and did it all for under $5000. He just went to thrift stores. You can improve! 


More Creativity, Less Comparison

Be creative, don’t confine yourself to what you see on instagram, you don’t. And also, take it one step at a time. A big goal is hard to think about in it’s entirety. But if you break it down into digestible chunks, you can make it happen. We always underestimate the stuff we can do in a day, but in a year, you can accomplish a lot! In a year, you can build a bus, build a power system and plumbing. Eventually, it comes together.

Before you know it, you’re making progress towards a goal that once seemed so far stretched!

You’re talking about anything, don’t compare yourself to others, focus on your own path and one step at a time. You can’t look at this big challenge as a mountain, but one step at a time and your dreams will come true.

If i had compared myself to the people on instagram, we would have never got on the road. These people inspired us, from what they did in their skoolie, or where they are going. But, so what if we don’t get as many followers? Or, our pictures don’t look like theirs. We’re figuring it out! We’re always learning

When you step outside your comfort zone, you learn so much!

There’s so much you can do. Anyone who can use powerpoint and edit a slide, there’s people looking for that on upwork. You can work for yourself. 

More people are awakening to living their best life, and not working 9-5. More people want to live a better life, not just pay bills.

There’s so many things you do listen to and watch to help you get into the mindset. It’s a different concept but all women feel bad about ourselves. I was noticing that my instagram feed was all these skinny women so I just stopped following. It helps. A lot of these people are editing their photos or they are anxoeric, and dealing with stuff. Why? You don’t need to be thin stick and gorgeous to start a following. There’s tons of accounts out there, people just normal that are doing cool things.

It’s about being authentic and in this situation, you guys did your own thing and you unfollowed people. Were much more conscious of knowing what’s good for ourselves. Your environment might be what is toxic. 

Yes, but it’s like when you get feedback. Some people give you feedback, and so you can file that into your filing system. But other feedback isn’t good, you can let that stuff. What is worth your brain absorbing, and what isn’t.

When I was going to Israel, a lot of people told me not to go. But I was so aware that they don’t want me to go. It was about them. But, I still needed to grow.

Absolutely. When we started telling people, we told people after we bought the bus. We got all kinds of wacky feedback. Some of it was positive, but most of it wasn’t supportive. 

When you make a decision, you have to stick with it. Just keep going! Just disregard the bad stuff. People will tell you all the things that could go wrong. People said the dog would be upset, but the dog, Cooper loves it. He gets scared of big trucks on the highway, but he just stays in the bathroom and he’s cool.

dog in skoolie max leisure
Cooper in Max Leisure


You can’t listen to what people say and just do your own thing!

How often do you guys drive?

We try to stay local. That’s one thing about a skoolie, that’s why we wanted a smaller one. We have a shorty. It’s 5 windows long which from nose to tail is about 20 feet. A normal car is 20 feet. With the bikes were a bit over. We are very mobile. We go everywhere. We’ve parked in busy tourist areas, in the forest, we’ve parked it everywhere. It can be exhausting a lot when we’re moving a lot. We try to stay in places at least 4-5 days, it’s just less stressful. Once we get to Louisiana, we can stay in the same spot for 2-3 weeks. It’s nice to find stability on the road in the Skoolie.

You almost feel guilty relaxing, but I’m tired. I want to explore, but sometimes I just listen to myself and relax. That’s the difference between being a tourist and a full time traveller. We need to take the time to relax, because that’s what we’d do back home.

We have to ignore the fear of missing out. You’re on your own path.

When people want to tell you it’s not going to work, it’s something they are almost projecting. Sometimes it’s out of the goodness in their heart, sometimes they want you to just think about something. But when they say, “you shouldn’t do this because of X”. You need to question whether you can’t do it because you can’t overcome it, or think that they couldn’t do it so they’re just putting that on you.

But when someone tells me I can’t do something, I want to do it even more. The negative feedback can be the motivation.

You took a one year leave from work, but you could technically just keep going. 

Yes, I’m fortunate with my job in the sense that I have the year leave of absence, and there is a pay to it. I do get $1000 a month, so it is helpful. I don’t have to make money right away. I am going to do a blog post about the financials of it all. I have my budget which I’ll share. We had wifi challenges at first. We had to get a phone plan which wasn’t part of our budget. We learn things along the way that change our budget. It’s important to keep track of these things. We estimated about $2000 a month on travel expenses. I am curious to see if we are tracking to that, and if not, well adjust our plans. Like spend less time at paid campsites.

To be sustainable, you need to be conscious of the changes in budget.

I might go back to my job, but a big part of it is both of our ability to make money while we do this. We have a business idea to do bus conversions, to build skoolies. If that works out, and we can contribute to our RRSPs, then we can do it. As long as we can get to a place where every dollar does not matter.

As long as you believe it, it can happen! If we’re thinking limiting beliefs, you’ll have limited circumstances. But if you can dream it, you can do it.

Most people spend more money at home, than what you guys are doing. It’s probably cheaper to live on the road than it is to be stable.

It is, that was a huge part in convincing Phil. Alone in Toronto, $2,100 a month in rent, plus bills, gas, insurance, etc. We still have insurance for the bus, but it’s cheaper. Drinks in Toronto are expensive. 

People can say traveling is expensive, but so is living a regular life.

If you work 9-5, or in consultancy hours, 8-8, when you are working a job and not getting fulfillment. I wasn’t even able to get to a yoga class. What do you do? You turn to outlets. You have a drink, I’m going to make mac and cheese. These “Treat yourself rituals” end up taking all your money, and make you fat.  Unhealthy habits, either its drinking or eating too much, or not working out, its bad habits. I saw people around me with so many unhealthy habits.

I’m the kind of person who likes a complete overhaul. I like taking risks and changing my life. 

Candice is such an inspiration to everyone. We’re excited to see their financials, actually how much is it to be on the road, and people can learn from Candice and Phil. They’ve made lots of mistakes, but that’s living! 

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not living. When’s the last time you made a mistake? If you haven’t made a mistake lately, you need to! Fail fast mentality is great, the faster you fail, the faster you figure it out!

Similar when I was a snowboard instructor, go fall, you’ll fail, and you’ll succeed faster!

Follow Candice and Max Leisure on Instagram, Facebook and on their website!!!

skoolie life in a skoolie with max leisure