Travel drives student to see beyond hometown

Taylor Morrison, mass communication junior, completely rebuilt and reconstructed the window frames of the steel bus so that the double insulation will garuntee more comfort on his summer long trip accross the country. Photo by Cortney Wood

Routine plagues him.

Wake up. Class at 9 a.m., and get out at 4 p.m.. Go to work, get home, maybe play with the dog a little bit. Then repeat the same thing day after day. Looking back, the only thing that really changes throughout his weeks are the restaurants he goes to.

Mass communication junior Taylor Morrison wonders what happened to the guy that joined the military at 17 and moved multiple times while he served. He tries to figure out when he transitioned from non-stop travel, from someone with little constants because he feels alive seeing the world, to the guy who goes to Texas Roadhouse every Wednesday to get the 10-ounce steak and two sides for $10 instead of the usual $16.

While the rigid schedule is excruciating for Morrison, an end is in sight and offers relief. In a school bus he renovated alone, Morrison is taking a minimalist approach this summer and plans to travel coast to coast across the United States. He faces many unknowns. But that is no deterrent.

“I’m excited to not know,” Morrison said. “I traveled a bit when I was a teenager for a few weeks to Colorado and got my first face time with what it is out there, and there was so much to do. Now, I sit at Kiwanis Park on a metal fence feeding prairie dogs getting pissed off that I’m not traveling. The moment I realized I had a routine here I knew I had to do something.”

Initially, Morrison and three friends were going to work together in equal parts to finish the bus before the end of May. But as one friend after another left the project to Morrison, what was supposed to take a third of the time has accumulated to more than 1,000 hours of work by himself Morrison said. The plan was to move into the bus during May when his apartment lease ran out, but with the mobile home still in its “primitive state,” Morrison said the date has been pushed back to June 1, which is perfect timing to get back out into the world and get back to being the person he was before he got “too comfortable.”

“Originally, when I had three or four people planning on working with me, I would have triple the production power, triple the man hours,” Morrison said. “Everything I need to do in the next coming month/month-and-a-half, I could get done in about a solid week of work, if it was me and three other guys. Since it’s only me, it’s not exactly as efficient as it needs to be.”

According to Morrison, Wichita Falls is a black-hole to anybody who has grown up here, and because he got a taste of the world around him, he never planned on coming back and making a home here.

“When I found my way out, I took it, and I never wanted to come back,” Morrison said. “I was never in a place long enough to get bored, and here I sit looking at the last two years of my life and it’s sad thinking about how I was this guy who did all this stuff, but here I am. I have all the things that come together to make a comfortable life: a girlfriend, an apartment, a dog, but I want more.”

His girlfriend, Shalysha Finley, said this kind of spontaneity is right up Morrison’s alley, and while she didn’t fully believe him at first, the lengths he has gone to get this plan in motion have proved to be exciting both for him and her.

“At first I was iffy about it because I have never lived in a tiny house or a small area like a bus, but I’ve come around and I’m excited,” Finley said. “I haven’t been to very many places outside of Texas, and this gives me an opportunity to see all the places he talks about.”

Morrison said he has traveled internationally with the military and lived in about 11 places-he couldn’t remember. Once he left the military at 22 years old, he said he went across the U.S. back and forth because of the excitement of it all. His eyes were set on Colorado for a few years to work in ski lodges, then off to Florida to live by the beach. After six months of sun, Morrison headed back to the Rocky Mountain area in New Mexico. After he got bored there, he went to Colorado again, and now that he is back in Texas, Morrison said this inactivity comes from comfortability.

“Since being back in Wichita Falls, I see how people get into routine of their lives and forget how boring it is,” he said. “A lot of time, people get complacent. They get too comfortable where they are.”

Although he hasn’t gotten to work on it much, Morrison said he still puts in about 10 hours of work a week on the bus and is a little more than a month to from finishing it. He said one perk from working on it with his own hands is the ability to make it for his needs “as opposed to your everyday customer.”

A lot of people romanticize living on the road,” Morrison said. “Even I did until about three months in, and yes there is still a ton of romanticism about the idea of getting up and living anywhere and having a mobile home, but at the end of the day it’s a pain in the ass.”

“I can take it and tailor it to what we need out of it,” he said. “I like to think of myself a little artisanal where I like to make things and this is by my hands. People have said they’ve wanted to do something like this before, but for whatever reason they just can’t. Really, the only obstacle is yourself. Things don’t work out because you didn’t work at them enough and living here isn’t really conducive with reaching the stars.”

From digitally designing the entire bus on an online software program, to learning how to double insulate plexiglass windows, Morrison has obtained skills throughout the building process that he can use for the rest of his life.

“Maybe I won’t use these skills in a professional, fiscal setting, but I love to gain them. I have more plans outside of the bus,” Morrison said. “Short-term, medium-term, long-term plans. I have a pretty good nest egg saved up from the military, for a plot of land, a couple goats, a couple bee hives, and I need to have space for all this. So the skills will come in handy eventually when I build a house, all by hand.”

While Morrison thrives off of adventure and plans for an eventual “Earth-bag house, or a super-adobe,” Finley said she hasn’t really gotten to taste that part of life, but can’t wait to experience it first hand. The differences don’t stop there, Finley said.

“Whenever we moved in together, I had to get rid of like 50 percent of my little knickknacks, and I love knickknacks,” Finley said. “Taylor is all about the minimalist approach and condensing down, so I have to get rid of the rest of the nonessentials since it will be a small area.”

More than anything, Finley said this whole thing started out as an idea for Morrison and he set out to accomplish it. There is a lot more progress to be made, but Finley said they are still “definitely going to get out there as soon as possible.”

“With school and work being a major factor to consider, he hasn’t been getting to work on it as much as he wants to, and that has been defeating him a little bit, but he works on the project whenever he gets the chance, whether that’s after work, school or on the weekends,” Finley said. “He finds time to get out there and make it happen for us.”

With about a week left of school, Morrison said he will be hitting it hard in production of the bus once school lets out, but the blood, sweat and hours drenched on this bus aren’t appealing until the final product is revealed.

“I don’t like showing people this place just yet, because I’m not exactly proud of it yet. I’m not where I want to be on it, and it looks like complete trash,” Morrison said. “Anybody who has seen a bus remodel only sees it at it’s final stage. You don’t see how many times I’ve dropped a thousands of pounds of steel on my feet, broken my toes, pinched my fingers, cut my hands. I really want to show this place off when it get’s done, but until then I am apprehensive towards anyone who wants to see it.”

Morrison said this is a very romantic project because “there’s a lot of passion behind it,” and that’s what makes all the turmoil worth it in the end.

“A lot of people romanticize living on the road,” he said. “Even I did until about three months in, and yes there is still a ton of romanticism about the idea of getting up and living anywhere and having a mobile home, but at the end of the day it’s a pain in the ass. It’s a labor of love, but it’s a labor. I’m moving into this thing one way of another. If it comes June and it doesn’t have plumbing, electrical wiring like I plan, I’m putting a bed in this thing and I’m sleeping in it.”