What is Regenerative Travel?

Learn more about our attempts to make vanlife sustainable

Traveling and seeing beautiful places is an important and amazingly rewarding part of life, but to fully enjoy the beauty of the world, we need to start treating the places we see with respect. Regenerative travel is about moving past “consuming” the places you visit to providing a positive impact that integrates with the land and the people you see.

The 3 most important aspects of regenerative travel are planet, people and community:

  • using sustainable transportation to move around
  • utilizing the solidarity economy (ie, cooperative businesses) instead of the exploitative economy whenever possible
  • contributing in a regenerative way to the communities that you visit

Why sustainable transportation?

Transportation makes up about 25% of the carbon emissions in the US, and by traveling by car or plane the legacy we leave future generations is a warmer planet with a more chatoic climate. But there are way to experience the world with a minimal carbon footprint!

At SPTC, we treat sustainability to mean being able to answer the following question:

Could everybody in the world live at the level of consumption that I'm living at for 10 generations without destroying the planet?

So to use sustainable travel means to transport yourself and your belongings using an amount of resources and energy that could feasibly be scaled to the entire human population without running out. There are a number of ways to move around this way, including travel on foot, by bicycle, by electric train powered by renewables, or—our personal favorite—small scale electric vehicles like the ebike powered by renewable energy.

Why bike touring? Why solar ebike?

Lots of people have bike toured across the country and around the world. Everyone we've met agrees that it changes your perspective on travel and enables you to experience the world in a new way. We think it boils down to 3 main things.

  1. By traveling slowly, you are immersed in the ecosystem (either natural or city), instead of our usual mode of just whizzing through to reach a predetermined destination. On a bike you notice all be beauty in between places, all the flowers and small creeks and every meadow, hearing the birds. And you stop more often, because something catches your eye and it doesn't matter if there isn't designated parking, your bike fits anywhere. You get to know a place more deeply because you take a week instead of a few days.
  2. It's sustainable. You feel great that your travel used no fossil fuels and has an extremely low carbon footprint. Travel is wonderful, but as the planet warms and dries up and burns and we consider just what we are leaving our grandchildren, we need to embrace new ways to travel lightly. Bike touring is a solution to this, but its also just a more fun way to travel.
  3. You meet wonderful people and experience the kindness of humanity. Never before have I gotten to know so many new people as on a bike trip. Everyone is excited about your trip and has stoies to share, plus help to offer, should you need it. Staying at campsites with other cyclists and hosting/being hosted through Warm Showers is an amazing part of the experience.

But why a solar ebike?

Having the boost from a motor makes bike touring more accessible to eveyone. You don't need to train at all! Hills aren't a pain and you can carry a bit more stuff (you'll appreciate the coffee supplies and extra change of cloths). Or if you are a cyclist, you can spend less time in the saddle and more time sight-seeing. But the bike battery needs to be charged, and most power from the grid is not yet from renewable sources (in some places it is, but not consistently, especially if you are charging at night). Thus solar-charging the battery keeps the carbon footprints of an ebike almost as low as a regular bike.

Plus, you can adventure into the wilderness, where there won't be outlets, for as long as you want! This is our favorite part, being off-grid in the woods for days, and we even have enough charge to power phones and bike lights, and even our laptop.

Finally, when comparing a regular bike and an ebike you have to keep in mind that traveling by bicycle can take extra energy in the form of food! The energy you put out has to come from somewhere and depending how fast you go, traveling by bicycle for 50 miles can require eating an extra 2000-3000 calories. Generating that many calories is actually quite energy intensive so if done correctly, creating electric power from renewables can actually be more environmentally friendly than just bicycling alone.

We've made a video about how we made a solar powered ebike so that we can travel wherever we want using pedal power and the sun!


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♬ original sound - SPTC

Get in touch on our forum if you'd like to learn more.

What does it mean to contribute regeneratively to a community?

By regenerative work we mean focusing on integrating into a community in a small way to do meaningful work and enjoy the satisfaction of giving back. There are so many ways that this can be done, but the most important way is to ask what does regenerative work mean in the community you are visiting. The major categories that we've identified are:

  • WWOOFing on organic farms
  • promoting cooperatives, nonprofits, sustainability-focused businesses and other components of the solidarity economy
  • building new connections to create more opportunities in an area
  • ecological restoration and trail maintenance
  • contribute and participate in local social justice and solidarity causes
  • other positively impactful ideas that we haven't though of yet!
It can be hard to connect with and do good work for the communities you visit, but we've found this to be much more rewarding for the traveler, and provides real human connection between the traveler and the place they visit.

From our personal experience, we've been working on farms committed to regenerative agriculture, doing environmental work helping to manage ecosystems in accordance with sound ecological principles, promoting cooperative businesses on our Youtube channels and social media, and engaging in community activism. But anything truly needed by a community can qualify as regenerative work. You could ask if a community bikeworks needs help or ask what volunteer projects are being done at local community housing.

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