An eco-nomad is someone who lives in harmony with the planet. They may roam from place to place but are careful to leave no trace, minimizing their carbon footprint more than the average bear. They travel the world and save money by refusing to lay down stakes.
Their lifestyle is one of liberty and serenity, combining principles of wu-wei or going with the flow of life with a passion for sustainability. You might wonder how to embrace this lifestyle. It’s not as impossible as you think, although it might take considerable planning to do so comfortably.
Here’s how to become an eco-nomad.
Your Ride Is Your Home
The typical American household uses lots of energy, accounting for 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions — which doesn’t include store runs. Eco-nomads embrace principles of urban car living and modern technological conveniences to decrease their carbon footprint by combining their ride and residence into one.
The Prius is a popular vehicle choice for true minimalists who wish to stay near urban settings. However, many eco-nomads prefer the convenience of van life or RVing, some converting old school buses and box trucks for this purpose. Still others build ground-up tiny homes on wheels.
Much depends on your vehicle, and you may want to go for something bigger and more powerful. For example, you may want a truck with ample bed space to install an adapter for gooseneck trailers, which can carry 14,000 to 25,000 pounds. This capacity should be more than enough to transport any belongings or equipment you want to take with you.
At the same time, decide what features you can’t do without. For example:
- Bathroom: Peeing in a bottle is the least-glam part of eco-nomad life. Most RVs have toilets and bathing facilities, and some vans have tiny bathrooms with removable toilets in shower stalls.
- Kitchen: Although many RVs come with a stove and microwave, you might save space by installing an all-in-one air fryer, convection oven and microwave.
- Workspace: Folding tables and stowaway stools let you work in style. You can also consider an outside table mount for working in the sunshine.
The toughest part of being an eco-nomad is making it self-sustaining. The right supplies make living and working on the go easier while minimizing your carbon footprint. You’ll need the following before you take to the road:
- A medical kit: Include extras of prescription medications and first-aid supplies you know how to use. Jace Medical is a good resource.
- A vehicle repair kit: Your kit should include flares, triangles, and tools for fixing flats and minor issues like leaky radiators. Membership in a roadside assistance plan is wise if you aren’t too handy.
- Fire tools: Matches and lighters are easy, but you should also master primitive methods like flint and steel.
- A mess kit: Hunting, fishing and foraging are highly sustainable ways to eat, but you must cook what you catch. You might go as complex as a portable grill or as simple as a stove made from tin cans.
- Hygiene: Many eco-nomads rely on gym memberships for shower facilities. Keeping clean prevents illness — sanitizer or wipes to cleanse your hands before eating are musts if you don’t have a sink.
- Power supplies: Portable solar panels and power banks charge your computer and phone, though you can build intricate setups that run everything, including an air conditioner. A backup battery power source is a must for inclement weather.
The life of an eco-nomad might seem free-wheeling and glamorous, but it stops being fun in a hurry when you get the dreaded knock. Although most law enforcement officers afford you the same respect you show them, having your car towed when it is also your home can create insurmountable suffering.
It’s more acceptable to sleep in your car in some places than others. For example, you might have heard that Walmart is a good spot, but the proliferation of people living in vehicles and 24-hour store closures has made that a dubious proposition. In general, it’s best to have permission, although this isn’t always feasible. The following areas may offer a safe place to park and sleep if you remain quiet and respectful and don’t overstay your welcome:
- Cracker Barrel and Walmart — check the local scene
- Emergency room parking lots
- Truck stops — look for the RV/van section
- Church parking lots
- 24-hour gyms — which also provide showers
- Safe parking programs
- Renting a spot in someone’s yard or driveway
However, you’re an eco-nomad because you love the outdoors. You can camp on BLM land for free, although you must move every 14 days. State trust lands have different rules. You can also reserve a spot at one of America’s national park treasures — after all, you must spend all that money you save on lodging somewhere. Use it to spring for glam campsites now and then.
Working on the Road
Your ticket to the eco-nomad lifestyle may lie with choosing the right employer. You need true freedom to work from anywhere without worrying that return-to-office mandates will derail your lifestyle.
What are the best careers for eco-nomads? One avenue is to train in the skilled trades. It’s relatively easy for a licensed electrician, plumber or trim carpenter to find contract gigs that let them live in one place while they complete a project and then go where the wind takes them when it ends.
Another route is to cultivate remote work skills. For example, freelancers and IT professionals can often work anywhere they have a solid internet connection and a computer. While getting in with an employer who truly embraces remote work might be challenging at the moment, signs say telecommuting is here to stay — expect more organizations to offer full-flex or hybrid schedules to attract top talent amid a changing workplace.
Embrace the Eco-Nomad Life
Do you want to have the time and money to travel, save money on housing and reduce your carbon footprint? Becoming an eco-nomad may be your ticket to embracing the freedom of life on the road. Your next great adventure awaits.