Alistair Garnto had one major concern when he found out his family was making a big move into a tiny home bus.
“He regretted not having a place to wrestle,” said his mother JoAnna.
Not to worry, seven year old Alistair and his five year old brother Laine quickly found a workable solution.
“Now they just wrestle everywhere,” said his dad Matt with a laugh.
For the moment Laine and Alistair are calmly jumping around on their parent’s bed in their rolling home which is parked on a spread of farmland near the Lumpkin County line.
The third Garnto child, 10-month-old Bodhi is too young to join in, but he seems to be considering it as he makes his way along the floor.
This is the Garnto home. It runs on diesel. And it’s always ready to roll.
Last year the Dahlonega family made the leap from their 2,300 square-foot-home on Skyline Drive to a smaller apartment and then finally a 240 square-foot Gillig Phantom passenger bus.
It’s a life they had always thought about and started to seriously consider after sinking a lot of money into their old downtown residence and only getting stress in return.
“We spent a ton of money and a ton of time remodeling that house and we thought we would be there for 20 years,” said JoAnna. “And then we realized that we were always going to be dumping money into the house.”
Instead they sold the house and decided to invest that money into something unexpected.
For Matt it was a matter of adventure.
“The ultimate goal is to travel,” he said.
For JoAnna it was the chance to minimize the clutter of life.
“It’s almost like the more space you have the more you fill it up,” she said.
And so last year, after much discussion, planning and viewings of Youtube tiny home tours, they decided to make the plunge and bought a bus they found on the internet.
“We bought it on eBay,” said Matt.
That was the easy part. Telling the in-laws was a little more difficult.
“We waited until the very last minute to tell Matt’s parents,” said JoAnna.
The response was something like “you can’t do this to my grandchildren,” laughed Matt.
JoAnna parents were easier to convince since they’re more “laidback and hippy,” she said.
TINY HOME TWIST
The vehicle itself is a Gillig passenger bus that’s normally used for mass transit.
“If you rode a bus at Disney World or even in Atlanta, chances are it’s a Gillig,” said Matt.
Once the Garnto’s plans were formalized, they left their two kids with the grandparents and set off for California.
Yes, at that point, there were two.
Bodhi was a surprise that added an unexpected twist into the planning since Matt and JoAnna had plotted every square-inch of their tiny home for four people.
This called for some creative design as Laine’s bunk has now shifted to a shelf that was originally meant for storage.
The overall conversion was handled by a Chattanooga-based tiny home company called Wind River.
“What we love most about the Garnto bus is how open it feels because of the many big windows and the wider body of the city bus,” said Wind River Creative Director Dea Lisica.
JoAnna’s background in interior design came in handy too as everything in the bus-home now fits together like a puzzle. From the living room/office in the front to the full kitchen in the middle to the master bedroom in the back.
The bus is also full of nooks and crannies as sofas and booths open up to reveal hidden storage spaces throughout.
One of those storage units contains the books Laine and Alistair use for home schooling. And Matt works as a physical therapist, which makes year-round road trips possible.
In November they put that to the test as they headed to Huntingdon Beach State Park in South Carolina for warmth and plenty of fishing.
Lately COVID quarantining has prompted them to consider a major cross country journey.
“I was really against it at first because I didn’t want to leave our community,” said JoAnna. “… Then COVID happened and we’ve kind of been going solo anyway.’”
For those considering moving into a tiny home, JoAnna would warn that it’s not all easy living, as she feels like they’re continually cleaning up their 240 square-feet.
“It’s a different kind of hard,” she said. “The jobs don’t take too long. But they happen more frequently.”
But they’re quick to add that the lifestyle has its perks.
“For me my favorite part would be knowing that we don’t have a lot of excess stuff,” JoAnna said. “I feel like we’re forced into minimalism and it’s kind of fun. In order to function we have to constantly purge and reorganize and I thrive on that.”
Matt likes that the next big journey is always a possibility, instead of something that has to be crammed into a few vacation days.
“The potential of it,” he said. “…That’s a fun way to see the country so the potential to travel is what I really enjoy.”
And now the Garntos are the ones on Youtube, as Tiny Home Tours stopped by their house over the summer for an inside look at their home. The video has attracted more than 100k views since late November.
“It feels very normal now,” JoAnna said. “… We don’t miss any of the things or space. But during that transition there was definitely a time where we were like ‘How are we going to do this?”
As for Alistair, when asked how he likes life on a tiny home bus he stops to gather his thoughts for a moment.
“I like it medium,” he said.
More than anything, Alistair and his brother are big fans of playing outside, said JoAnna. And they don’t seem to mind the lack of storage since their toys are mostly improvised.
“They play with sticks and para-cords,” she said with a shrug.
The good news is those aren’t too hard to store. And the better news is, when your home can travel across the country, the whole world can be your wrestling mat.