Traveling Lightly


Decisions, Decisions – Motorhomes or Going Light

"fast und light"

" Capt'n Fast und Light"

Huge motorhomes rumbling down the Motorways and Interstates are proof that humans have entirely too many non-renewable resources at their disposal. What it takes to move these beasts of burden one kilometer in energy could light the two lightbulbs in my yurt for a week.  OK,  I actually owned a motorhome when living in Sedona Arizona, as an alternative to apartment living. We’d drive out into the desert at night and base there, while I led trips for Sedona Adventures.  And yes, we drove it to Washington state, fully loaded for the Outward Bound summer season. If a motorhome is one’s main residence, it may be “going lighter” on the planet, (I think) –  Maybe lighter than owning a MacMansion.  If, however, it’s one’s vacation mode of travel, please read on.

While I don’t expect to change ingrained habits, it never hurts to make the attempt. Maybe this will end up the hands of a “road slug” owner.
Turning the lens back on  one’s self, and taking an objective look at one’s  lifestyle can be a challenging, almost impossible exercise.  For example when on Outward Bound’s pulling boats, (30’ sailing and rowing craft for 13 people)  in the San Juan Islands, with 10 students and 2 instructors, we would row or sail past 26’-40’ foot yachts who would toast us at cocktail hour as we slowly rowed  past.  We, in our salty open cockpit replica of Vancouver’s exploratory boats that plied the sound and Gulf islands, we would look up, thinking “how nice an hor’dourve  would be about now”.  But we also felt a bit superior in our closer-than-thou experience with the earth, tides, sea and beaches.  Heck we even pooped over the rail. Those aloft, topsides, in the big yachts, were friendly enough, but seemingly detached from their environment.  Maybe we  had some right to be indignant,  but in retrospect,  not really. Maybe we weren’t as arrogant as simply feeling like, huddled in our foul weather gear, we were living in different worlds.

12vlt Van Shower

12volt Van Shower

But for the case of going light,  a motorhome is complete idiocy for the vacationer. Why haul around a shower stall, a hot water heater, water pump and drainage holding tank when you can drive a van, and take around 1) a “solar hot water bag”  outfitted with a shower nozzle? Note that I’ve never actually warmed my water up by the sun. I’m sure it works, but I can’t believe it took me so long  to figure out the following, especially after my fifty-plus trips across the USA.  Simply go into a quick-mart, gas station or truck stop,  and ask to fill up your water bag at the sink with hot water. Then, wrap it in your sleeping bag or blankets, to keep it hot while you drive to your evening destination or nearby field or forest.  2)  A new gadget I’d not found before,  is sold at Mitre10, (NZ’s equivelent to Home Depot) which I just purchased two months ago. I can’t believe I’d not seen it before.

Shower Head & Switch

Shower Head & Switch

A shower nozzle  with a suction cup holder for  a side window attachment, and…(drum roll please) a 12-volt water pump with a cigarette lighter plug.  Before this gadget, I used gravity by placing the hot water bag/shower on the roof or opened back door of the van. I will still use that system too, but after sticking the water pump in a bucket of hot water and turning on the nozzle, this outdoor shower is second to none. Interested readers can contact me. I’ll look more into the manufacturer’s address or maybe you can order directly from Mitre 10 in NZ.

About the toilet. When I give people a tour of my van, I present my toilet by taking them around to the side of the van, slide open the door and see here’s the toilet. They’re left looking at a classic orange trowel and a roll of toilet paper in two *plastic bags. (*More on backcountry/vagabond hygiene and leave-no-trace practices in another article)

Portable Toilet

Portable Toilet

This system of catholes, (or poop and carry), saves hauling a portalet, driving around with wastewater and dumping sewage. Of course we can’t have middle America pooping at every field they see, or can we? It certainly doesn’t work in National Parks, and I obviously advocate this as a back up to public toilets, when nothing else is on the horizon. But for earth’s sake, leave the motorhome at the junkyard!

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