Eco-friendly lifestyle is one thing, but eco-friendly travel is another when everything from taking planes to buying souvenirs can leave a mark on the planet. But an intrepid young man and his van proves that we can see the world and tread lightly at the same time.
For the past year, Mike Hudson has been traveling around Europe in his solar-powered van. Photo credit: Vandog Traveller
After quitting his engineering job in October 2013 to live his dream of traveling, 26-year old Mike Hudson of Hull, England, got rid of his possessions and purchased a 10-year-old LDV Convoy van off eBay. Before setting off, Hudson and his friends spent five months renovating the rusty camper van into a tiny home on wheels.
The entire operation—buying the van, fixing the engine, installing a stove, a 70-liter (18.5-gallon) water tank, a shower and toilet, heater, desk space and even solar panels—cost Hudson only £5,000 (about $7,700). The van also has a refrigerator, speakers and storage space.
From a rusty camper to an apartment on wheels. The van now has running water, a convertible sofa-bed, stove and more.
Hudson and his two buddies set off officially on March 2014, ferrying from England to France and driving south to Spain and hasn’t stopped since. For the past year, Hudson has gallivanted around Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Austria and more, attending music festivals and camping under starry skies. The 26-year-old documents his travels around Europe on his blog, Vandog Traveller.
Ever the minimalists, the travelers sleep on hammocks or a foldaway sofa-bed. They’ve also washed their clothes by a lake near Bucharest, and dived in a dumpster for homemade jam ingredients in Budapest.
Thanks to his two 100 watt solar panels and two large 200 amp hour batteries, Hudson and his buddies can have enough juice to power their electronics for three weeks. “After some tweaks, the solar powered electrical system is completely self sufficient and almost maintenance free,” he wrote. “I’m not exactly frugal with the electricity either and there have been three of us living in here for more than half the time.” As far as water, Hudson says the van has enough running water to last for 12 days, or probably more than a month if they are near a spring or a well.
For fuel, Hudson said his van’s refillable cylinder can store 11 kilograms (or 24 pounds) of petroleum, which is enough to power the stove, kettle and heater for three people for two weeks. Finding a stable internet connection, he says, is one of the hardest parts of off-grid travel.
Hudson didn’t intentionally plan to live off the grid, but realized he was heading into this territory without even knowing it. “Being off-grid probably isn’t the easiest way to live but it does seem to offer choice and much freedom with no white lines or boundaries,” he wrote.
In Greece, Hudson and his friends stayed for a few weeks at a wind-and-solar powered eco-community 40 miles from Athens, where they picked their own salad from an herb garden and cooked in a clay oven. “I’m not really a serious environmentalist kind of person, but I do think there is something hugely satisfying about being responsible for generating your own electricity, dealing with your own waste and growing your own food,” he wrote. “Doing this in a communal environment with a dynamic pool of talent and knowledge is a pretty powerful setup.”
Hudson logs his miles on a shoestring budget (“I can eat three very good meals a day for €3 [about $3.36].”) and stretches out his euros by busking, baking his own bread and avoiding tourist traps. Click here for more of his frugal travel tips.
“I am doing my dream; I can comfortably live wherever I want. I am temporarily free and in control,” he wrote. “The next thing I need to figure out is how to make this last for as long as I like.”
In the video below, watch Hudson and his pals convert an old van into an apartment on wheels.