This is an obvious one, but conscientious and green-minded consumers won’t want to settle for any old food on the road. Unless you plan ahead, you’ll end up eating at Starbucks and Chipotle all the time, since fresh, local, healthy and organic food is not always easy to come by. We have a cooler for refrigerating leftovers, but mostly we have a lot of healthy-as-possible canned and packaged food from Trader Joes, such as rice-stuffed grape leaves, beans, artichokes, packaged Indian food, nuts, and dried fruit. We also have a way to make soups and smoothies, and I have staples like rice, lentils, and potatoes, which keep a while. I wouldn’t normally recommend cans and packaged foods (fresh is always best), but in this case, Trader Joes is the next best thing that is also affordable.
You really don’t know how much you rely on water until you don’t have it. Since my van is not a self-contained recreational vehicle, I don’t have a water tank. I purchased a thin 6-gallon jug, one that is relatively durable and fits between my bed and the door, but sourcing water on the road can be challenging. Yesterday my assistant Kim and I filled up our water jugs with a Walmart water fountain! We don’t necessarily recommend that you do the same, but because it was Labor Day, a lot of other places were closed. Here are some smarter ways to source water: visitor centers on the side of the highway usually have a way to fill up. And campgrounds and parks – depending on whether they are regional, state, private, or national, or whether or not they are primitive – are a good place to fill up, though my goal is to pay for camping as seldom as possible since I’m on a very tight budget. Today we were eating lunch outside of James Bronson’s apartment and he invited us to come in and fill up our jugs and solar shower. James happens to work at Thunder Bunny Tattoos, which is just across the street from where we’re doing laundry today in Athens, Ohio! Seems like it will be necessary to fill up our jug every two days to allow for cooking, washing dishes and clothes when the weather permits, and we have to fill up a 10-gallon solar shower every four days as well. We’ll also pay strict attention to quality. Since we’ll be going through communities that are fracked, and where municipal water is chlorinated to the gills, planning ahead will be key. Either way, we won’t be buying anymore disposable plastic bottles!
For now, I have an adaptor that allows me to use the van’s one 12-volt charger to juice up my laptop and smartphone when I’m on the go. It’s not great to run the car to charge these while stopped, nor is it good to run the battery down, so for right now when I need to work I need access to an electrical outlet. Either I can acquire this at the homes of friends and family along the way, or coffee shops, or certain campgrounds, but typically such a luxury comes with a hefty fee and I am trying to be as frugal as possible. Voltaic Systems is donating a couple of 17 watt solar kits for my van, which I’ll be picking up in Colorado in a couple of weeks (so excited!) These panels will be attached (and easily detached) with magnets, so no high speed driving, and the battery will be stored inside the van. Stay tuned for more on this soon.
4. Internet access
Road warriors who don’t need to work while traveling wouldn’t necessarily need to have electricity or internet access, but for me it’s essential. All of my work is online. No work, no gas, no food, no nada. So, as much as I would prefer to hang around Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and other remote parts of this vast country, I have no choice but to stay within range of cell phone towers so that my Verizon hotspot will work. I’m sure that one day there will be better ways to get online remotely, ways that will be fast enough to allow me to fulfill my duties as news editor for Inhabitat, but for now this is a major limitation. (If anyone has better ideas, please let me know!)