For many people, the thought of quitting a job and traveling the United States sounds like a dream. For Justin and Megan Webb, it’s a reality.
Last year, the Tennessee couple decided they had nothing to lose by pursuing a passion. They sold almost everything they had, donated what they could, and kept only a box each of sentimental belongings. They then traveled to Boise, Idaho, where they picked up the vehicle they would live in and drive across the country—a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia.
When the Webbs first bought the van from a collector at the beginning of 2018, it had about 89,000 miles on it. It now has 110,000 miles in the early stages of the Webb’s dream journey—to attend as many cosplay conventions as possible.
To people who aren’t familiar with the world of cosplay: Yes, it’s short for “costume play,” people who dress up as characters from pop culture—movies, video games, comic books, and elsewhere. It’s a way to express creativity, boast fandom and have fun, all at once. Justin describes it as the chance to celebrate Halloween every day of the year: “Cosplay is the chance to showcase your love of a show or game and step out of your skin to be someone else,” he says.
The Webbs have dressed as a variety of characters at cosplay conventions and their VW bus is always a hot commodity. Decked out with magnet decals that can be peeled on and off easily, their Volkswagen van is a replica evacuation shuttle from a popular series of video games set in a post-apocalyptic future. “It’s got really cool memorabilia and people can come sit inside and check it out. People think it’s awesome,” says Justin.
“The van really fits the shape of the one from the game,” says Justin. “I like the freedom the apocalypse offers to the people in the game. You step out into a wasteland with all new people surviving and building new cities. It’s all about exploration, and the van, outside of the game, offers the same thing—exploration and freedom.”
The van is also equipped with solar panels, a solar shower, wood flooring and an awning that Justin has built himself.
“Every spare dime went into this van. We might have lost a lot of amenities moving into it, but we gained a lot of freedom,” says Justin.
While their friends were jealous of their adventure, Justin admits his family thought he and Megan were nuts, and worried about their finances. But due to the van’s cosplay theme, Justin and Megan are often invited to conventions and paid to attend.
On the road, Justin and Megan enjoy all the honks and thumbs ups from other drivers, but sometimes wish getting gas could be quicker. They are often stopped by other customers asking about the van and wanting to take pictures. When Justin and Megan want to drive in peace, they simply take the magnets off.
Justin and Megan plan to live in the van for a minimum of one year, visiting all 50 states, Canada and Peru. They hope the trip lasts longer though, and they plan to keep going as long as they continue to receive sponsorships. Because of Megan’s German heritage, their end goal is ultimately to take the van to Germany. They are currently in the process of learning German, to learn to read the original owner’s manual.
In the meantime, Justin is most looking forward to visiting Anchorage, Alaska to see the Northern Lights, while Megan is most excited to visit all of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C.
“That’s what the Volkswagen bus means to us,” said Justin. “We can explore ourselves and the world that was given to us.”