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 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?

Adventure Travel North America The Nomadic Life The United States

Why I Want to Visit the Oregon Coast Trail Right Now

With novice-hiker friendly Camino de Santiago financially out of reach, inspiration for my latest travel daydream is a bit closer to home.

1. Potential for Long-Distance Trekking

While most sources seem to point towards day-treks on the Oregon Coast Trail (OCT), over the years the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department have developed the OCT as a route for hikers to be able to thru-trek the state’s coast. Most impressively, this project includes a set of comprehensive maps and directions for those attempting it. The remoteness of the trail varies from fairly secluded, to not at all — at times criss-crossing with highway 101 and several coastal towns. In fact, 41% of the trail is on paved roads, and not really much of a trail at all. However, there’s definitely an appeal to this as it makes  it easy to hop on and off the trail to refuel or quell that inevitable sense of loneliness on a long journey alone.

2. Diverse Landscapes

One of the highlights of the OCT is it’s unique geography.

“It’s incredibly varied. Tidepools, secluded beaches, old-growth forests, shifting sand dunes: All are part of the Oregon coast hiking experience” (from Day Hiking: Oregon Coast by Bonnie Henderson)

Not to mention an array of noteworthy sights and parks along the way, such as Cannon Beach, Rockaway Beach, and Ecola State Park, where the classic 1985 film The Goonies was shot. 1980s-style treasure hunt anyone?

3. Never too Far From Beer

Oregon and the Pacific Northwest have rapidly gained a solid reputation for their microbreweries, some of which are conveniently located alongside the OCT (a list can be found here). Happily, one of my favorite breweries, Rogue Ales (brewers of the oh-so-tasty Dead Guy Ale), is among them. It’s coastal location in Newport boasts 35 taps and a gastropub menu that will surely serve motivational purposes for the first half of the hike.

4. Watching the Whale Migrations

I’m not entirely sure why the possibility of spotting a one of the gray whales that make their Alaska – Mexico migration along the coast is so appealing — but it is. Each year in the winter and spring, whales can be seen making their migration along the coast. However, the parks estimate that about 200-400 whales stay put along the coast in the summer time, meaning that no matter what time of year it is there’s always a chance one will make an appearance.