As Easter gets under way, people's thoughts often turn to a trip to the seaside or a holiday abroad.

While that, alas, is off the agenda this year many people will still be planning expeditions for when normality returns.

And anyone in need of inspiration, or just some escapism, might find succour in the example of Chris and Tracy Margetts from Swansea.

They realised their dream of creating a mobile home from home and set off to Europe last December with their two excited children, Harley and Sammy, in a converted American school bus called Skooby.

The worldwide adventure had been years in the making and had no defined end point.

Retired firefighter Chris could turn his hand to most things while teacher Tracy was the home-schooling lead.

"We had this plan that we would home-school the kids, see the world, and give them a different perspective," says Chris.

They headed down through France, skied in the Alps, and then drove further south to Italy, just as the coronavirus was starting to take its deadly grip.

Skooby in the Alps

They had planned to fly back to the UK in March for a quick visit, leaving Skooby in a camp site, but decided instead to drive.

"We were following what was happening in China," says Tracy.

"We both had a really strange feeling – I can't explain it."

Although they were an hour west of Lombardy – Italy's worst affected region – Harley has asthma, adding to their sense of caution.

"The [coronavirus] cases were still low," recalls Chris, 51. "There were nine one day but then 70 the next.

"In the fire service I dealt with emergency planning. And Tracy is an ex-nurse."

With hospitals being built from scratch in China, Chris sensed something unusual was happening.

"I thought 'This is the big one,'" he says.

The Margetts family inside the bus

And so, on February 28 this year, they crossed a rainy Severn bridge in their 38ft bus - their adventure curtailed for now.

The couple say they are deeply saddened by the pandemic's impact on Italy and elsewhere.

Now, with Airbnb bookings for their Uplands home cancelled, the Margetts' are hunkered down in familiar surroundings once more.

"Home is the best place to be," says Tracy.

But they plan to get back on the road as soon as it is safe to do so and are thinking of embarking on a North and Central America leg, leaving the rest of Europe and the world for later.

They are fully aware they are in a fortunate position compared to many people but the wanderlust remains strong.

And they have invested so much time and effort into Skooby.

The couple had looked into camper vans and overland trucks but settled on an American school bus.

"They are quite easy to convert," says qualified electrician Chris.

After researching the subject further the family headed to Florida in 2018 to check out some second-hand buses - those familiar yellow ones from classic movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Forrest Gump.

They were determined not to buy the first one they had a look at but that is what they did.

"We did see three or four other buses on the forecourt but when we got onto what is now Skooby the space was just right," says Tracy.

"The kids got a buzz of excitement. It had a Tannoy, which was a winner for them."

Chris gave the vehicle a good once over, checked the paperwork, and took it for a test drive.

The vendors agreed to fix a couple of leaks and take the bus to Brunswick, Georgia, for shipping.

The Margetts family in 2018 - proud new owners of an American school bus

Chris adds: "We wanted a Caterpillar diesel engine, which it's got. They're the most common diesel engine in the world - on tractors, earth movers."

With hands shaken and the deposit paid, the family returned home to Swansea – followed by the bus several weeks later.

Then Chris and Tracy really got to work.

There were four stages – stripping the vehicle out, preparing it for an MoT, tackling the bodywork, and then the internal rebuild.

Chris, who served in the Royal Engineers when he was younger, was very much hands-on but also knows a couple of mechanics.

The work involved cutting out side lockers for extra storage, renewing the brakes, fuel tank and fuel line, fitting new tyres, lights, roof rack and solar panels, among other alterations.

The interior was overhauled with the seats taken out and an insulated rust-proof floor laid.

Then insulated boarding was put down, with tape delineating where the various appliances would go.

Chris and Tracy Margetts, their sons Sammy (left) and Harley, and their converted American school bus at home in Swansea

Chris and Tracy created a scale model of the bus and the interior they wanted to help visualise what would and what wouldn't work.

They also had to respray the bus because they planned to trek around the States and former school buses cannot be their normal yellow.

"The kids really wanted it to be blue, because of the bus on (the computer game) Fortnite," says Tracy.

But, perhaps keen to avoid being swamped by young people wherever they went they opted for a more neutral shade.

Tracy took over on the interior design side of the job and the overall result is rather spectacular.

There are four seats up front – the rear two of which fold down and can be overlaid by a table – and then two couches which turn into a guest double bed.

Next is a kitchen with a striking, glass-covered map of the world, and a wood burner.

Behind that are the living quarters – bunk beds for the boys, a king-size bed for Chris and Tracy, a composting toilet and sink, and a shower cubicle featuring half a whisky barrel to stand in.

Sammy, dad Chris, and Harley in the sleeping quarters

There is also a fridge, freezer, washing machine, water tank, wi-fi, screens for the boys, board games and books.

In sunnier climes their pull-out barbecue, which is fitted to one of the exterior lockers, will prove handy.

Chris and Tracy say everyone who contributed to the project has really bought into the idea.

Once up and running and having passed its MoT, the newly-named Skooby was given some exercise, including down to Newton Primary School, where Tracy was teaching and the boys – until October last year – were pupils.

"We parked outside the school, on a rainy day, and we had every kid coming onto it except the very little ones," recalls Chris.

Skooby also put in appearances at Pembrey and Burry Port, turning heads aplenty.

Ready for an overhaul - the bus raised on pallets in a workshop in Fforestfach

Finally - a year after taking ownership of the bus - the family set off on their big adventure on December 6 last year, crossing the Channel from Plymouth.

Chris, 51, says: "We were excited, nervous – not about what we were doing but I was thinking: 'Have we got everything? Have I tightened all the nuts?'"

Tracy, 49,adds: "I'd been working all my life – if I thought about it too far ahead I felt a bit unnerved.

"I did have a tear – it was like a ghost town on the ferry."

But a glass of wine settled the worries and the excitement tingled.

"I felt as if we had done it!" she says.

The family motored south and spent several weeks in the Alps, with Tracy home-schooling the boys in the morning and the family skiing together in the afternoon.

They also did biathlon training and an igloo-building course.

Skooby stood up well to temperatures of minus 12C.

"We were lucky with the weather," says Chris. "We were aware of the battering Wales was getting. We had beautiful sunshine."

Skooby is powered by a Caterpillar diesel engine

Tracy says the "world-schooling" type of home-schooling the children did, which emphasises experiencing the world firsthand, was a success.

"It gives them more scope to do things they want to do," she explains.

"As soon as you give autonomy it sparks off a relationship that you normally don't have time for.

"They're really interested in learning new things.

"It's not always perfect – we're all learning – but for the most part it's really lovely to be with the kids."

The family has so many more places they want to see when they get back on the road.

Although Skooby is effectively a house on wheels it only does 13 miles to the gallon on a good run so when they reach a destination they park it up and use local buses or bikes to explore the area.

The family cwtches up on the king-size bed at the back of the bus

The bus came off the production line in 2006 and was on a school run in Ohio until June 2018, racking up 140,000 miles.

Chris and Tracy have added a further 2,500 miles.

As it weighs more than 7.5 tonnes, ex-fire engine driver Chris is the sole driver at present but Tracy plans to obtain the necessary licence.

Chris says: "It's easier to drive than a fire engine with 1,800 litres of water slopping around."

Harley, 12, and Sammy, 10, are big fans of the bus.

"It's really cool as you get to travel a lot," says Harley. "And you don't have to rush to school."

Sammy adds: "We do different school work every day, usually based on the country you're in. So we started learning French."

They've both made friends while on the road and, asked if they would prefer to be at home in Uplands or back on Skooby, they both reply: "The bus."