Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Camper Vans and Digital Nomads

A photo posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on
I'm heading down a state highway with loud tunes playing above the sound of air rushing through open windows, sunnies covering my face while my hair whips around me, and I have the satisfaction of knowing there are cold beers stowed in the chilly bin. The road atlas is splayed across my lap, as my eyes follow the highlighted route we've already taken.

I'm at home right now - in the belly of Doug, our 1988 Chevy conversion van. Luckily, we didn't have to do any conversions ourselves. This machine seats 6 (legally) and then at night transforms into a metal cabin with a queen-size bed and another three lazy-boy style chairs which swivel towards each other to form a lounge for a convenient game of gin rummy or a shared late-night toke (if you're in Washington or Colorado).

A photo posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

Doug has been through a lot in the last few years. Before we bought him, he made at least two trips to Burning Man, among other festivals, and lived in the remote hills of Northern California where he was owned by a farmer who grew herbal product. Apparently before that, he sat in the backyard of an old woman. For a 27 year old camper van, this guy only has 180k kilometers (110,000 miles) and has been reliable for the last two months of travel across the United States.

While I've been in the passenger seat, Doug has crossed international borders (where his exhaust embarrassingly fell off due to rust and a nasty speed bump), parked in Walmart parking lots and coastal cliffs, rested peacefully in many national and state parks, was filled with at least a dozen boozy Coachella-ers, skidded through a random snowstorm in Colorado, drove through a flooded bridge in Texas, powered through a hailstorm in Florida, and provided stealth camping on the city streets of Eugene, New Orleans, and Miami.

Doug provided the opportunity to live like the quintessential hippie / vagabond / wanderer that many of us dream of being. Travel plans? What travel plans? Many days we didn't know where we wanted to go or how long we wanted to stay. We lived in the moment. On the west coast, our deadlines were ruled by music festivals and concerts. Around the center of the country, our departure times depended more on the weather. By the time we made it to the far, southeast where heat and humidity made Doug a bit more uncomfortable to travel in - we established dates to meet up with friends and family but our days were still filled with balancing time in the shade and in the water. Our towels were damp for days on end.

A photo posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

I hope everyone gets the opportunity to take a few weeks off and enjoy life on the road. I imagine it still holds the same amount of adventure and romance of road trips from the 60s and 70s... but with much more convenience.

I'm sitting in my brown velvet seat with wood accents, stickers from past music festivals stuck to the dash (which has no air bags), and the A/C barely functioning. It could easily be a scene from the 70s, except the GPS is mounted to the window, our iPods are connected via Bluetooth to our portable speakers, our action cameras, tablets, and Kindles are plugged into the inverter so we're all fully charged and connected. We look up tasty cheap eats and book last minute accommodations on our cell phones. We get on wi-fi wherever we can so we can stay in touch with friends and family and upload photos on to our Instagram accounts.

A photo posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

I wish I could be the person who is proud to put the digital screen away... but I'm not. I love that I can read my Kindle at night, take snorkeling photos with my waterproofed iPhone, and book 4-star hotels last minute for cheap online. I want to be the crunchy-granola type, but I'm also happy to be on the grid. It's an amazing time to be a nomad when you can have the best of both worlds.

Doug will be resting for a month or two. We've traded our van for two surfboards and a one way ticket to Mexico. I'm going to miss the freedom of having my little home on wheels, but I'm quite excited to post up at a surf beach and live in one spot for a bit (if only for 6 weeks.)

Besides, it's too damn hot in Doug for the summer. I think we'll come back in the fall and make one last trip back north to Canada. Now accepting travel companions.

If you'd also like to have a camper van adventure, please consider voting for our side project, Doug Honey - an online booking service for privately-owned campers and RVs. We need to be in the top 12 for Kickstarter mentorship!

4 comments:

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