Off-grid is a state of mind as much as, or more than, a way of getting your water and energy.
The Northwest US has many destinations for spiritual retreats, and we have listed 40 of the best on the next page. We will build up a retreat directory for the whole of N America and Europe shortly, so please write to us with your recommendations.
Click for list.
Camper Vans have celebrity fans — actor Matthew McConaughey convinced girlfriend Penelope Cruz to go on holiday with him in his camper van this year. He said: “I love my mobile home, I can feel my independence. I have everything I need.” The film About Schmidt, in which Jack Nicholson played a man who set out on a cross-country journey in a camper van, apparently led to a rise in sales of luxury camper vans to pensioners.
US households with RVs (i.e. motorhomes, or camper van as they are called in the UK) will reach 8 million by the end of the decade, according to the RVIA 2005 business indicators. There are just 3 million camper van owners in Europe – 500,000 of them in Italy. Last year a record 8,487 new motor homes and camper vans were registered for use on British roads. The market for camper vans grew in France by 3.7% per cent and in Germany by 6.6%.
The crew on a passenger ship recently hit the headlines when they fired a “sound cannon” to repel pirates. They were using an amazing new device invented by Elwood “Woody” Norris. But Woody may end up being remembered for his new form of personalised air transport.
“Its so cool,” chortles Woody, “I love swooping around ten feet off the ground. It makes me feel just superman.” Norris, aged 65 going on 15, is describing his latest invention and play-thing. Its a one-man microlite helicopter, costs less than a small family car, and he claims, is so simple to fly it can be mastered in a couple of hours.
He’s hoping his ‘Airscooter’, will go into mass production within the next year and revolutionise personal transport, perhaps making car transport obsolete.
Going off-grid is not just a matter of renewable energy or leaving a light footprint.
Its also about being able to drop yourself out of the urban melee, whether you are using meditation or disappearing from sight like John in Terminator 3.
Being able to block out annoying background noise is a way of slipping off the grid in the middle of town.
The Sleep Sound Generator (click to buy) quiets noise so you can rest….
Two icons of eco-hipness have ended their relationship according to media reports. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen is said to have left actor Leonardo di Caprio, who’s celebrating his 31st birthday this week .
Brazilian Gisele, recently described by the boss of her own modelling agency as completely vacuous, has a better track record on the environment than her ex. Di Caprio’s claim to fame is that he drives a Prius — not very cool and not particularly green.
Bundchen by contrast has renounced fur, at a time when models like Naomi Campbell are returning to animal skins, and she campaigns for the rainforest in her native country.
True, the accompanying photo makes them look cool and is more flattering than the usual poses at Oscar events, but it shows that in their unguarded moments the couple were about as environmentally friendly as the Governator — walking along with packaging dangling off them — and are those leather shoes?
Sandra Tsing Loh
I had often thought true camping to be a low-impact, environmentally progressive thing, writes Sandra Tsing Loh, that lean-muscled Sierra Club members do, involving tissuey materials like Gore-Tex and Thinsulate, ballerina-like climbing shoes, martial arts-style ponytails, and pitches of difficulty 5.7 and higher.
By contrast, I’d often associated car camping with Kar Kamping, as in Kampgrounds of America, where the wilderness bar is low, of difficulty or perhaps even -12.6. Kar Kamping is pulling the minivan into an oil-spotted parking place next to a rusty fire pit that cradles marshmallow droppings and discarded Bud Light cans, 50 yards away from the humming UFO-like vibrations of a fluorescent-lighted public bathroom. Kar Kamping is a camouflage-toned “fishing chair” whose seat features a built-in beer cooler, a Winnebago tent (bought at Kmart) so big you can stand up and flip hamburgers in it.
Recent Forecasts from the World Future Society for 2006 and beyond
* Urban heat waves will get hotter and last longer. Large urban centers like Chicago and Paris will experience an average of 25% more heat waves a year in the twenty-first century compared with the twentieth, according to the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. And those heat waves will last, on average, nine days longer.
* Designer plants will be more salt tolerant, reducing strains on freshwater supplies. Agricultural researchers in the United States are studying a range of salt-tolerant, or halophytic, flowers. Commercial species of flowers that can grow in salty environments could reduce costs for the cut-flower industry, preserve freshwater for more critical uses, and improve the efficiency of nurseries.
Take a weekend off to stay in a zero energy apartment, or learn to kite-surf , or just walk through the mountains. Eco-tourism is on the rise, and check out Natural Discovery, a new service offering ‘responsible holidays’ in the UK.
Discovery Breaks, aim to take ‘eco issues’ to mainstream holidaymakers in an interesting, interactive way. Their goal is to enable guests to make a difference through their choice of breaks, enjoy local culture, heritage and attractions and promote locally run activities and services such as guided walks, cycling and farmers’ markets. They provided their own carefully written local tour guide with detailed descriptions of the birds and flowers you’ll see on the break.
Are you listening eco-retreat owners? – We are always searching for and reviewing remote, stunning, wild eco-retreats.
Short-listed candidates in The 2006 Australian’s Travel & Tourism Awards include:
CATEGORY: BEST ECO/WILDERNESS ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE
(Last year’s winner was Cradle Mountain Huts & Bay of Fire Walks )
NINGALOO REEF RETREAT
Set among dunes on the cusp of the astonishingly beautiful Ningaloo Reef in the dramatic Cape Range National Park, this low-impact eco-camp takes travellers back to basics. Tents are simple but comfortable with queen-sized beds, composting loos, solar showers and hammocks strung to make the most of the stunning reef views. Provisions are delivered daily from Exmouth and guests pitch in to cook dinner from The Retreat Recipe book (BYO alcohol) before dining by candlelight. Sunny days are whiled away snorkelling with turtles from deserted beaches (the coral reef is only metres offshore), sea kayaking or swimming, with expert guides on hand to provide advice.
I am sorry, but the Toyota Prius just doesn’t do it for us. It’s a car your boring Uncle could drive on his way to the marketing convention. And the selection of celebs that have been queuing up to own one are certainly on the naff end of the A-list spectrum. Donny Osmond and (Seinfeld co-creator) Larry David??? Puh-lease!!
Plus Prius had to recall every single car they had ever produced in order to correct a safety fault in the onboard computer.
If auto transport is a must-have, there is a huge line-up of Green Cars on the starting grid, and sales are beginning to take off.