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How Our Camper Van Conversion Helps Us Travel Sustainably


When you travel, do you like to pick a place, stay there awhile, and settle into the rhythm and groove of that particular location? Or are you more of a "hit it, see it, do it, and move on" type of traveler? There's no right or wrong answer; most of us seek to find a balance between the two. But there are ways to make it easier to find the balance we seek.


Everything takes time. All we can do is do our best to enjoy the time it takes to do it. Travel logistics can be both time-consuming and stress-inducing. Logistics can make or break a vacation and, sometimes, prudent planning just isn't enough to help everything go smoothly. Sometimes, careful planning can be the antithesis of the flexibility and spontaneity you may be seeking when setting out on an adventure.


The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its ensuing restrictions, helped spur Erica and me into tackling and completing a project that would propel us towards something we had been researching and dreaming of for the previous few years: van-life. But...time. We just hadn't had the time.


Quarantined at home, away from work, we found ourselves with a lot of extra time—the time to tackle some long-overdue projects and to embark upon this new one. This one, a camper-van conversion, was a sustainable travel project aimed at saving ourselves time and resources while spoking out locally, from home, in search of adventure.


Thinking "small", thinking "portable", and thinking "efficiency", we knew we could reduce our carbon footprint while saving ourselves both time and money.


We purchased a used Ford E350 cargo/utility van (like those driven by your local cable company), stripped out the interior, and rebuilt it to our own specs. Designed to be a tiny-home-adventure mobile, we knew (for the sake of minimizing our environmental impact) we wanted to travel with the smallest vehicle we could feasibly inhabit for a few days at a time. 


We built a bed, some shelving/storage, and a kitchen with a sink, counter, and propane stove. We installed a ceiling vent/fan to cool the interior, slapped a bicycle rack on the rear bumper, and converted the utility ladder racks on top of the van to transport kayaks, surfboards, SUPs, and a solar panel to support our very minimalistic power needs (LED lights, fan, and phone chargers).


Almost weekly, now, we set out on our "van-life" weekends in search of adventure. Driving a tiny home laden with only our barest essentials and the toys we might need at any given turn, we are free to wander—without much planning or forethought and without having to stop for meals or to arrange nightly accommodations.


Traveling in "Pearl", our glossy-white cargo/camper-van conversion, we are free to make the most of our time doing whatever, whenever, and wherever we want to do it. There's no unpacking and re-packing as we move from spot to spot. There's no time wasted searching for suitable accommodations and checking availability. But for drive time, stops for refueling, and the occasional grocery run, there's essentially nothing to drain time from our adventure activities. By minimizing our needs, conserving resources, and saving the time usually given to logistics and planning, we pretty much get to play from sunrise to sunset. What's more, we have whittled our needs down to allow for driving the smallest vehicle we could feasibly inhabit in the interest of efficient sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint.


In the same way, Sustainable Travel Yogi plans group travel to be as time-efficient and environmentally sustainable as possible. We attend to the group's travel logistics to provide as much time as possible for our travel tribe to enjoy exploring, adventuring, and performing healthy activities like yoga.


At the beach this past weekend, Erica rolled out her mat and started her series of Sun Salutations while I converted the van bed from sleep mode to sitting mode. I poured coffee and plated a breakfast of fruit and nuts for us both before settling in to start meditating with the sunrise. Within moments, the correlation between van life and river-cruising dawned upon me.


It occurred to me recently that, in the same way that converting a small vehicle for van life was a step towards enjoying sustainable travel, the Danube River Yoga Cruise (July 2024) is a solid step in the same direction. It provides our tribe with the opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint while covering a lot of ground.


Like our camper van conversion, we were thinking "small", "portable", and "efficient" when we booked this river cruise yoga adventure. In addition to offering one of the most sustainable ways to visit up to 5 different countries, we are helping our travel tribe save time, money, and the headaches associated with travel logistics.


As a whole, Sustainable Travel Yogi is, well, sustainably oriented. Group travel is inherently eco-friendly. Resources (such as vans or busses, for transport, rather than individual vehicles per person/couple) can be shared rather than duplicated. 


River cruises themselves are resource-friendly, utilizing much smaller vessels than those used for ocean cruises. While an ocean liner transports tens of thousands of vacationers and is comparable to a floating city, an intimate river cruise ship carries approximately 150 passengers and is more like a floating luxury hotel. As a result, a river cruise (such as this one that sails from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Holland with multiple stops in France and Germany) is much more fuel-efficient than its ocean-liner counterparts. In fact, with an awareness of minimizing environmental impact, Sustainable Travel Yogi planned this itinerary as a down-river journey. Riding the current downstream and, thus, piggybacking on the river's NATURAL energy, our host ship will require less consumption of fossil fuels while producing fewer pollutant emissions.


A river cruise helps alleviate the stress of tackling logistics, so when you wake each morning you're relaxed and ready to embrace whatever adventures lay ahead. It's similar to the freedom Erica and I enjoy "drifting" from place to place in our little camper van conversion. It will effortlessly propel you from stop to stop, country to country, without the time-wasting logistics of moving from accommodation to accommodation each time we move from destination to destination. There is no packing and unpacking required. Waste none of your precious time scouring internet reviews and searching for quality accommodations at reasonable rates just to (potentially) find there is no availability. 


Waste none of your coveted vacation time cooking, cleaning, or researching the best restaurants in any given location. The team at Ama Waterways proudly boasts an award-winning culinary team with ever-shifting menus that reflect the cuisine of each destination. Additionally, Ama sources the finest wines from indigenous vineyards to pair with each of its all-you-can-enjoy feasts and offers delicious beers from local breweries in each of its host countries. (Enjoy as much as you care to, without stress, because these incredible beers and wines are included with each meal, at no extra cost).


Ama Waterways creates more play time for you by working for you while you sleep. You may not want to miss any of the foreign countryside vistas these river cruises offer while riding the currents, but, sometimes, you'll appreciate being ferried from port to port during the night. Rest easy, knowing you don't have to use your waking hours to arrange your transportation and physically get yourself and your belongings from place to place. 


Have you thought about how much time and stress it takes to reserve, pick up, and drive a rental car while reading a map or following signs in unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar laws? Or, perhaps to avoid those stressors, you usually opt for buses or trains. How much of your vacation time has been spent waiting in noisily crowded terminals for your next ride?


Not only does an Ama river cruise get you from place to place effortlessly and comfortably, but Ama includes a range of excursions, planned with local knowledge and experience, to make the most of each stop once you get there. With no need to worry, the most taxing part of each day will be deciding which of these fantastic daily itineraries you'll want to absorb. 


If, however, you're a traveler who prefers to venture out on your own, Ama provides access to bicycles you can use to get out and explore: another eco-friendly, sustainable travel perk. 


Sustainable Travel Yogi and Ama Waterways have paired up to save you money, money you can enjoy abroad. But, you'll have to act fast (the $1,000 per person discount offer dissolves on June 30th). Waste no more time on logistics while you could be saving time for adventure. 


Think "small", think "portable", and think "efficiency". Conserve resources (including time) and put one foot in front of the other, traveling sustainably whenever and wherever you can.


Written by Brian Burgess

Life is a gift. And nothing is guaranteed. 

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