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This Is Monarch, a Very Cozy Short Bus Conversion With Off-Grid Capabilities

Downsizing isn't just a new, completely different lifestyle that takes a lot of adjusting, careful planning, and serious consideration. It's a lifestyle that's not cut out for everybody, regardless of its many benefits and proponents.
Monarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilities 20 photos
Photo: Regretlyss (Composite)
Monarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilitiesMonarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off-grid capabilities
Alyssa is one such proponent: a solo traveler that's been on the road for the better part of the last six years, accompanied solely by her faithful dogs and the home on wheels she partly builds herself. Unlike most vanlifers who make a living off creating online content, Alyssa strives to keep it real and not romanticize the nomad lifestyle to make it seem like it'd be something any other 9-to-5er could just decide to do on a whim.

One of the most frequent complaints leveled at the nomadic lifestyle and the whole downsizing trend is that they're not doable in the long term. Alyssa and Monarch are here to show that this doesn't necessarily hold true because they've been doing it for years.

Monarch is the name of Alyssa's second home on the road, which also happens to be one of the coziest and most functional shorty conversions around. A shorty is a short bus, which in this case is a Bluebird Micro Bird, so a Ford E-450 converted into a home with a two-week off-grid autonomy. Monarch is designed and built as a one-person home, but it's also made to go off the beaten track while still offering maximum comfort to the person inside.

Monarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off\-grid capabilities
Photo: Regretlyss
If you're growing tired of the high number of DIY (do-it-yourself) builds or professional conversions, Monarch is like a breath of fresh air since it's half of both. Alyssa did much of the work herself, using the experience she'd accumulated with her first build, Lucky, but she also used pros for some details she didn't feel confident enough to handle, like the layout or the insulation. The result is a striking-looking and very practical home on wheels with all the basic creature comforts in a very compact footprint and plenty of personality.

Monarch came to Alyssa with 68,000 miles (109,500 km) on the odo. It still has the original Powerstroke 7.3 diesel engine but now boasts an 8-inch (20.3-cm) roof raise that adds headroom (done professionally), proper insulation, and a layout that leaves nothing to chance. Even though this is a five-window short bus, Monarch offers all the features you'd find in a much larger space, including a deep but wet bathroom, a dinette that doubles as a guest room and entertainment lounge, a cozy bedroom, and ample storage options.

Perhaps more surprising is the fact that storage extends to books, which is not something you're likely to see in most builds, whether DIY or professional projects. Because she's an avid reader, Alyssa included a library inside the secret cabinet over the dashboard and additional book storage on the wraparound open shelf.

Monarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off\-grid capabilities
Photo: Regretlyss
The kitchen is very spacious and spreads almost the entire length of the bus, with a deep sink, separate fridge and freezer, a three-burner propane stove, an oven, a microwave, and plenty of cabinets, including a special pantry drawer under the bed. On the opposite side is the dinette with a storage-integrating bench that becomes a couch at night, a swiveling table, and enough space for entertaining a decently-sized party.

The bathroom and the bedroom take up the rear of the bus. The bathroom is a wet one but designed in such a way that the swiveling rain shower makes it possible to shower without getting the toilet wet or, more importantly, the wardrobe hidden in the wall above it. The bedroom is the sleeping area, a cozy nook with a large bed framed by windows on one side and art on the other.

Monarch is more than a pretty mobile house: it's an off-grid-capable one, as well. Alyssa counts on 1300W of solar on the roof and a 13kWh lithium battery pack that gives her two weeks of autonomy, including running the freezer and the mini-split AC. She also has a five-camera security system, a 2kW diesel heater and a mini-split, 100 gallons (378.5 liters) of freshwater, a 55-gallon (208-liter) diesel tank, and tank level monitoring for all systems. She's been living in Monarch full time as of earlier this year, both during hot summer days and freezing winter temperatures, and she's never had an issue.

Monarch is a shorty conversion with plenty of personality and serious off\-grid capabilities
Photo: Regretlyss
Earlier this year, Alyssa decided to hang up her nomad shoes for a while as she worked on remodeling a home that would become her homestead. She's kicked off the summer of 2023 back in Monarch, which has received a custom front suspension with a lift and new, beefier tires that give her a bit more confidence when she goes onto the trail. You can take the traveler off the road, but the calling for it will always be there, it would seem.



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About the author: Elena Gorgan
Elena Gorgan profile photo

Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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