Pointe-Claire resident Veronica Jaramillo is a McGill student in food science and has been friends with Marie-Jeanne Paquet ever since they attended Vanier College together. Marie-Jeanne is a music performance student at McGill and a Saint-Laurent resident. The two, now 22 years old, have completely converted a mini school bus named Kyrie, which began as a pandemic project and has evolved into the perfect mobile home on trips they take together. Now, others will have the chance to experience Kyrie and rent the bus through RVezy and Outdoorsy as of the spring of 2023.
The duo gave the West Island News a tour of the home on wheels and discussed their entire journey in an interview.
How did you obtain this mini school bus, and what was the thought process behind converting it?
Veronica Jaramillo: It was the beginning of the pandemic, and my whole life, I've wanted to complete a conversion project. In December of 2020, I began looking at buses on Facebook Marketplace even before Marie-Jeanne and I decided to get into this conversion project together. We wanted to tell our children in the future that in our 20s, we created this amazing converted school bus, and I knew that if I was going to do it at any time, it was at the beginning of the pandemic.
Marie-Jeanne Paquet: I had this vision of living minimally for a very long time, and this was the perfect way to test it out and take my life wherever I wanted to go. So I knew I had to team up with Veronica. We came across a man who is a father to 10 adopted children from around the world and he was selling a minibus. We knew it was in good condition because he used it to drive his children around. The bus was in La Tuque, 3 hours north of Montreal. We knew we had to find this man and get the bus. He had two visits that day with potential buyers, but we decided to put a deposit down without ever seeing the bus to make sure that it was ours. Within the next week, we drove all the way to and from La Tuque. One of his children's name was Kyria, and now Kyrie honors one of his children.
How was the process of converting this bus, navigating auto-mechanics, a budget, and legalities, especially as young women in uncharted territory?
V.J: We had to learn a lot by ourselves and accumulate all the knowledge so we would not have to depend on mechanics or others who would try to profit off of us. It was difficult for us, but we knew what was happening with our bus because we put in the time to learn about it. My father, who is an engineer, helped us a lot, and our friends helped us sand the bus for eight hours, so we had a great support system.
M.J.P: We did not see young women represented in these kinds of projects, so it was empowering to do all the hard parts and go through with the whole project. We decided to do this with few funds; we had to budget and prove that it could be possible without this huge budget. Legally, Quebec has many more regulations than any other province or state, so we had to learn a lot in that area. I would be a member of these forums with people who had or were undertaking similar projects, and they were filled with mainly older men who would undermine my knowledge. Meanwhile, I knew what I was doing and used it to help other people in their journeys.
During this arduous and consuming yet rewarding project, how has your friendship evolved?
V.J: Before we built this bus, we made a contract together to make sure that no matter what, we remained friends.
M.J.P: The contract outlined everything and ensured we were on the same page about the vision and investment. It allowed us to compartmentalize decisions that were about friendship and decisions that were about the bus. It quickly became a great source of pride and collaboration.
V.J: We had so many different ideas of what the bus would look like, but it was always a synergistic experience, and our visions would coincide. We knew that we were both type A personalities, meaning we would be meticulous, show up on time, and be committed to doing everything correctly.
M.J.P: Our trips together have also tested the boundaries of our friendship, but we have always been able to surmount any challenges together, and now we have this investment together. It's the project of a lifetime that we can always look back on.