As Abi Roberts prepared to take off for a year of travel in a converted school bus with two friends late last month, she recognized that the story of how the three women came together sounds “unbelievable” — like the plot of a blockbuster movie.
If it was, the opening scenes would show the 19-year-old Utah State University student starting to date someone last October.
“We were having a great time, and then around December, I got a text from two girls,” Roberts recounted in a recent interview. “One of them had a mutual friend with me, so that’s how she found my phone number, and she basically said, ‘Hey, are you dating this person?’ And I said yes. And they’re like, ‘Well, we’re both dating him, too.’ So that was a huge shocker.”
It turned out the man was juggling at least six other women, Roberts said, most of whom thought they were part of an exclusive pair.
Roberts, who grew up in Salt Lake City, ditched the boyfriend — but she and two of the other women he’d been dating soon developed a close bond that was “really, really healing.”
“And while we were doing that healing, we started realizing we all have really similar interests. The guy really has a type, I think,” she joked.
Among those interests? Living in a van or a bus and traveling the western United States.
From there, they formed a plan and quickly executed it. Morgan Tabor, a 21-year-old who lives in Idaho and was one of the women who reached out to Roberts in December, found a good deal on a 1991 school bus through a family friend. And the women began building it into a space they could comfortably live in for at least a few months.
“It all kind of came together,” Roberts said, “after our lives had fallen apart.
Bekah King, an 18-year-old from Idaho, found out about the shared cheating boyfriend the day after Roberts did. She found “peace and solace,” she said, in becoming close to other women who were going through the same circumstances.
“I think more than anything this was some sort of weird blessing,” she said.
While the move to the so-called van life has been spurred for some by rising rents and housing costs, the “BAM bus” crew (an acronym using the initial letter of their first names) was moved more by the promise of adventure that a nomadic lifestyle has to offer.
The women hope to spend at least a year on the road but Roberts said they’re open to going longer, if they can afford it.
They started in Boise, where the bus was converted, and plan to travel through Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, through Washington state and down the west coast, each of them working remotely a few hours a week to finance gas, food and parking. They’ve been documenting their journey through their Instagram, @the.bam.bus.
In a phone interview from Grand Teton National Park earlier this month, just a few weeks after moving into the space full time, the women said the experience has already been life changing.
“I just looked at Abi yesterday or the day before and I was like, ‘I don’t know how I could go back to normal life again,’” said Tabor, who works remotely for an organic food company. “I don’t want to be stationary again; it just sounds boring to me now that I’ve opened this door.”
Roberts said before the departure that she was looking forward to waking up in a new place every morning, meeting new people on the road and being exposed to ideas she otherwise wouldn’t have encountered — and so far, she said, that vision of the adventure has panned out.
Most exciting, she said, has been the thriving and supportive community of other people who are traveling around in vans, RVs or school buses.
And while the women can laugh now at the strange circumstances that brought them together, they’re quick to note that their present has nothing to do with their past and the man who wronged them.
“I think sometimes, at face value, a lot of people think we’re just doing this out of spite [to our ex], but no,” Roberts said. “This is very authentically us following our dreams and taking opportunities and we’re excited about it.”
“What we’re doing,” Tabor added, " is so not for revenge.”