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The Sustainable Van Question

Hippie Van in Ballard, SeattleAbout a week ago, I passed the fifteen-month anniversary of being in Madagascar, meaning I have less than a year before moving on. So, in lieu with all this “what next” talk, I wanted to throw out an idea I have been toying with, initially as a joke, but that got a few positive head-nods from travelers I ran it past while vacationing in Thailand:

Build a sustainable van, travel North America, and blog about it.

What do I mean by sustainable van?

The most significant characteristic of this van would be its engine, which I would convert to run on vegetable oil. I have to give credit to an old friend, Nate Dominy (and member of Gifts of Enola, who toured the U.S in a converted school bus), for the inspiration but also to making me aware of all the kinks and issues that come with maintaining such a vehicle. I realize that my non-auto savvy self would have to put a deal of time into learning auto maintenance before hitting the road, but I’m OK with that.

Secondly, the van would have solar panels for charging electronic devices. My exposure to solar panels here in Madagascar made me think, why wouldn’t I include this? I’m not sure of pricing in the United States, but the companies selling panels here are quite affordable. While not practical for charging larger devices, such as a laptop, a couple of smaller panels would be perfect for keeping cell phones and iPods running. I’d also throw my solar shower in the van for good measure, I don’t a fancy shower, I won’t be using the best LED shower head any time soon.

I would put basil plants in the pot holders.

The interior would be constructed almost completely with recycled materials or items I already own.

Where would I go?

I feel as though, for the purpose of a blog or article series, I would need to have a consistent theme to my destinations, such as rock climbing spots (what I initially wanted to build the van for), adventure travel destinations, or eco-friendly cities. Eco-friendly cities makes the most sense, but my interests lie more in adventure sports and outdoors travel, which I believe can be easily connected to sustainability. Many people who partake in multi-day treks, rock climbing, white-water rafting, etc. are looking for some sort of escapism. Living in a sustainable van would only further disconnect me from “living on the grid” and could be used more as a symbol of independence than environmentalism (although, environmentalism is definitely an intentional plus).

And the blogging?

This too, is something I would need to develop, since beatnomad.com currently is not a lucrative enough platform. Preferably, my writing would be a combination of personal blog posts and sponsored articles. My biggest concern is, what do I do first? Send out the proposals, or build the van? It’s an incredible time and financial commitment (not to mention, it grounds me in North America/Central America) but when else but in my 20s will I be able to do something as rash as this?

So, friends, tell me, what do you think of this idea, and are there any suggestions you have to add to what  I already have?