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  • Writer's pictureLaurén Ettinger

Tiny Home Talks: Brain Tumor Drives Life Change

Doug and Mindy Ashwood are a retired couple from Prince Edward Island, Canada, who are now in their third skoolie buildout. In our interview below, their share their unique story of how a brain tumor caused them to reevaluate their priorities and pursue bus life.

Abe: How long have you been on the road, and what inspired you to get on the road?

Doug: On this particular trip, we've been on the road approximately eight months. This is our first trip on this bus. This is a 2009 4500 that ran as a GO bus in Toronto, Ontario. 1.5 million kilometers is what's on the chassis, and 200,000 kilometers is what's on the engine.

Abe: And what made you want to go on the road originally?

Doug: I've been retired eight years now. Just wanting to get out and do things in retirement and I didn’t want to be sitting around at home doing nothing. This is our third conversion.

Abe: What challenges have you faced living nomadically?

Doug: We have a home on Prince Edward Island. We're part of what's called Boondockers Welcome. We allow people to stay on the property for free. It gives them a stopping point, and we act as a liaison for things to do on the island and people to experience coming, especially from the US or from Europe. Give them a place to stop and stay for a bit. So we do the same thing around North America. We do Boondockers as well. We've never stayed in a trailer park our entire time that we've traveled because we have 3200 watts on the roof and completely electric we've not really required the ability to plug in.

Abe: Your wife had mentioned that one of the reasons you had kept your permanent residence was for medical reasons?

Doug: Yes, as a base point. Mindy has some serious issues with her back. She needs some back surgery. I myself have a brain tumor, diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 40. I worked until I was 49. So I was fairly young when I retired, but at one point, I ran the subway system in the city of Toronto, and Mindy drove a subway train. Having a brain tumor allowed me to reevaluate my life and what was important to me. And the bus was important to me; the bus life was important, and getting out meeting people is huge.

Abe: What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Doug: Don't be afraid to get out and experience. The unexpected happens all the time turning the corner. I had zero mechanical experience. I had basically 30 years of driving experience, and I found the mechanical side of the vehicle intimidating, but the community and the bus world is so large there was a great amount of people that came out to help and reached out. Don't be intimidated. Wrap your head around what needs to get done. Reach out to the community who can help you and then have people at your side to be able to tackle the jobs that you're afraid to tackle.

Abe: Because you had mentioned that you go around and help people actually, correct?

Doug: Yes, when can I get out and help as much as I can and when I can like this. This is a first for us. This Skoolie get together [Skoolie UP]. But what I am shocked at and pleasantly surprised at is how equally everybody is treated. That's fairly, fairly important to me that there's nobody any different from another individual. And there's nothing more pleasurable than to be around somebody that it doesn't matter what you have or what your venue is or what you're driving as your vehicle.

Abe: What have you learned about yourself while doing this?

Doug: It’s taught me that no matter what, what the…what the mountains you need to climb are doable. And as you…as you tackle these issues that you've got to deal with that you've never dealt with before in a different format. No matter your age, it teaches you confidence and the ability to get through no matter what, and they're always people there by you to be able to get through and help you get through it.

Abe: Things happen you got to overcome, essentially?

Doug: Yes.

Abe: What is your best memory so far?

Doug: My best memory so far had to have been my previous bus going down to Baja. Taking it down there in Mexico for the very first time, I went 500 miles south into Baja. And then after getting off the main highway, beautiful highways down in Baja. But I got seven miles off the beaten path into a fishing village and was running 200 feet off the ocean front with the bus and it broke the surface unexpectedly and then buried itself. To make a long story short. We spent six/seven days at it, and the entire community came out and helped me dig it out. And we got it out. I parked on the side of the beach just off about 15 feet, and they were feeding me halibut almost every day. And the fact we couldn't speak Spanish. We used a translator and got through it, so we went back this year. Mindy, my wife was teaching sewing and quilting, and I was installing solar to give back, and to give was pretty cool and special and important…so I'm hoping maybe in the next few years I can get a small group together because we went by ourselves…

To connect with Mindy and Doug follow them on Facebook under Doug Ashwood and Mindy Ashwood.

If your headed to Prince Edward Island book a stay with them on Boondockers Welcome as they love giving back to the community.

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