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Last Stop Alaska: Couple moves into school bus and sets out on journey of a lifetime

A schoolie is a bus you call home.
A schoolie is a bus you call home. - Contributed

Emily Webb is a 26-year-old veterinarian technician who loves being outside and connecting with nature. Adam Mattinson is a 30-year-old diesel mechanic who enjoys mountain biking and skiing. Biscuit is a geriatric bulldog mix who spends his time playing fetch and eating from the garbage.

Together, this quirky trio is making their way across the country in a renovated school bus on the journey of a lifetime, which they’re calling Last Stop Alaska.

Before partners Webb and Mattinson met, each of them had an interest in life on the road. Mattinson had already owned a few camper vans over the years, and the concept of “vanlife” was something that had always appealed to Webb. The pair had been thinking about getting a van to travel to festivals during the summer, but when Mattinson took a job as a school bus mechanic in Dartmouth, he hatched an even bigger plan.

“Adam came home with the idea to live in a bus,” says Webb. “We started watching YouTube channels run by other people living in buses, and got inspiration from those ‘skoolies’ as they’re called. Before we knew it, we told our friends and families that we were selling everything and moving into a school bus to travel.”

Though Webb and Mattinson expected a fair bit of skepticism, they say they were met with nothing but support and encouragement. This adventure was something so up Webb and Mattinson’s alley, that their family members and friends were just as excited for them to satisfy their shared wanderlust.

The bus was purchased from an auction for $1,500, and with a budget of $10,000 in mind, Webb and Mattinson got to work, transforming the vehicle into a home on wheels, equipped with all of the comforts of their former life on the ground. Day after day the pair worked from sunrise well into the night, putting literal blood, sweat, and tears into their new project. Though Webb and Mattinson didn’t have prior experience in home-building, they say they were lucky to have carpenters, welders, and fabricators who happily offered their shops and tools to help get the bus on the road.

After eight months of hard work, the couple sat back to enjoy the fruits of their labour. “That first night we spent in the bus with a mattress on the floor, looking out the back door watching the sun sink behind the trees, listening to the birds singing their goodnight lullabies and talking about what adventures lie ahead…it made all of that work worth it,” says Webb.

Retrofitting the bus was just the beginning. It was time for Webb and Mattinson to take life on the road from Nova Scotia to Alaska, a destination that topped both of their bucket lists. The pair worked overtime, saving as much as possible before embarking on their journey. To keep things afloat along the way, Webb makes and sells art in the towns the pair visits, and Mattinson has his apartment listed on Airbnb which the couple says helps quite a bit. But for these wanderlust lovers, the experience isn’t about money. “It’s exhilarating leaving everything you know, getting out of your comfort zone and taking in new sights, smells, and people,” says Webb. “It’s actually liberating not to have so much stuff.”

While many of us have had passing thoughts about how nice it would be to get off the grid and live on the road, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to do it as successfully as Webb and Mattinson. The couple has installed solar panels on the roof of the bus, which power their hot water heater, propane fridge and freezer, and oven. Their home is also equipped with a shower, composting toilet, mini woodstove and a queen-sized bed. Perhaps one of the coolest features is the rooftop patio where Webb and Mattinson often host friends they meet along the way.

“There are far more people than we thought out here living this lifestyle,” says Webb. “We’ve met people living in buses, vans, campers, even ambulances! Like us, they’ve learned that you don’t need a lot of space to live comfortably.” To keep in touch with friends, both on the road and back home, Webb says she sends postcards and letters, as well as taking advantage of social media. More than 3,000 people follow @LastStopAlaska on Instagram, eager to keep up with the trio’s journey.

As for Biscuit, he enjoys life on the road, taking in all of the smells he can get his little nose into. Although travelling with a pet comes with its own set of challenges, Webb and Mattinson say the pros far outweigh the cons. Biscuit has brought immeasurable joy and entertainment to their adventure every step of the way.

Being in such close quarters has been a learning experience for Webb and Mattinson, but they say they wouldn’t want it any other way. The pair has learned to prioritize taking time for themselves, Mattinson heading out for a ride on his mountain bike while Webb does yoga on the roof deck. “We make an effort to connect with ourselves which I think is important,” explains Webb.

Overall, the experience thus far has brought Webb and Mattinson closer together, as they develop new routines and traditions along the road. Webb says the little things like eating breakfast together or taking a walk after supper have become special moments. They say sitting on the roof deck watching the sun set behind city skylines, mountain peaks, and ocean shores, and getting together with other travellers for cookouts and bonfires are highlights of a journey they’ll never forget.

When asked what advice she would give to others considering life on the road, Webb keeps it short and sweet: “Just do it! If you really want to, you can make it happen.”

As for herself and Mattinson, Webb says the couple hopes to gain nothing more from the journey than to have lived, loved, and learned as much of the world as they can.

Fast facts about Emily & Adam’s adventure

  • Left Nova Scotia in September of 2018
  • Currently living in and loving Squamish BC
  • They don't have a hard plan, but currently they're heading to Mexico for the winter and then getting back on track to Alaska so they estimate they'll get there within the next year or two.
  • They covered about 9,000 kms from NS to BC and estimate to have clocked-in over 25,000 kms by the time they reach Alaska.

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