For most of us, the idea of travelling around the world chasing snow and surf and meeting new people sounds like a dream. But for Val Cook and Tim Boffe, this dream is about to become a reality as they prepare for the first tour aboard their Nomad Bus, the first snow and wave chasing hostel in the world. Converted from an old American high school bus, the hostel aims to travel across Austria, Switzerland and France throughout 2015. We caught up with Val for a chat about the project.
What was your inspiration behind creating the world’s first mobile snow-chasing hostel?
The idea of turning a school bus into a home on wheels had been in our minds for quite a while. The peak of our inspiration was when we saw the YouTube video for The Tiny house on Wheels. I (Val) watched it just before going to bed one night in December 2013 in Guatemala, and somehow it felt like all the puzzle pieces came together. The whole night I lay awake imagining a big bus full of stoked riders driving from one ski resort to another.
For two years we had been traveling around the world with the goal of finding a project or a job that would blend our passions. The problem was that we had so many. With the Nomads Bus we can fit in everything we love to do from cooking to instructing snowboarding.
Travelling means different things to different people. What does it mean to you guys?
Travelling to us mostly means adventure, and adventure normally means things not going to plan. If things do work out as expected, then for me, it means that I’m following the beaten path too much and it’s time to find some fun challenges; like traveling around the world on a budget of nine euros a day, which we just did for two years.
What I love most about adventure, even though it’s exhausting, is that it makes you remember those adventurous travel days for the rest of your life. Just think about it: if you spend a day on your couch watching TV you will never remember that day when you’re 80 years old. And that’s what travelling is about for us: creating memories.
When do you plan to set off on your first tour?
As soon as possible! The inital plan was to leave mid-December 2014, but like I said earlier, the most adventurous of plans don’t always work out on schedule. In the meantime, our life changed a bit when we received the amazing news that we have a little girl on the way, due January 5th. So that pushed our date back a bit. We also have to comply with Belgian regulations for mobile homes. In short: if you want to register a bus as a mobile home then it needs to be approved by the government, which can take from 3 to 6 months! In order to start this procedure the bus needs to be equipped with a bed, seats and a stove. We hope to do our first tour around April until mid-May, experience winter a bit and then move forward with some good end-of-winter sun and slush. The summer will be definitely be a goer and that tour will start at the beginning July.
What can fellow travellers expect on a typical nomad tour?
A ‘live simply’ atmosphere, adventure, a cozy home, becoming part of a nomads family and tonnes of good pow, waves or whatever action sports you’re looking for. It will definitely be a holiday like no other - no two days will be the same. We’re also being as environmentally conscious as possible. We are following the golden rule of ‘reduce what you can, offset what you can’t’ in order to give our grandchildren the opportunity to experience knee-deep pow lines.
If you could travel anywhere in the world on your bus, where would you visit and why?
Alaska! Those huge white mountains, the pure vast wilderness, the breath-taking scenery. For years, it has been our dream to ride lines in Alaska. We love touring and exploring the backcountry, I guess Alaska just sounds like heaven to explore.
In a sense, you guys are creating your own community of travellers. How important is the social aspect of travelling to you?
I think that’s the most important aspect of it all. Even though I love moments of silence and solitude, nothing beats a powday with friends, or the stoked feeling you get après ski with fellow riders. It’s all about creating and sharing memories with fellow travellers. Even when we were converting our bus on our site in Belgium, we managed to create that vibe and we’re not even on the road yet. We’re constantly joined by excited Skilled Nomads (as we like to call them), who want to become a part of this dream, help us out and become a part of our stoked Nomads Family for a few weeks. That’s what makes me the happiest of all: having this great energy of people around me.
The Nomad Bus is an ambitious project and I imagine it hasn’t been without its hiccups. What challenges have you faced in getting the project off the ground?
Let’s just say that every day brings a challenge. It keeps you your feet on the ground and keeps your brain sharp as you always need to find solutions to crazy problems. One of the most annoying challenges was the day we travelled to Belgium’s harbour to pick up the bus. Somehow the dockworkers managed to drive the bus off the ship with a flat tyre; they literally just drove on the rim. Trying to resolve this issue took quite some time. It was also a challenge emptying the bus of all the seats and getting rid of the ceiling - it turned out to be a lot harder than expected. I’m very glad that part is over - building is definitely a more rewarding aspect than deconstructing.
Not only do you guys have a great sense of adventure but you’re also environmentally conscious too. Can you tell us about some of the eco-features you have on your bus?
We try to find the most ecological option for everything we buy. For example, the insulation is made from sheep wool; the walls are poplar wood constructed without any glue or chemical binding materials and the lights are LEDs. We also plan to equip the bus with a great solar power installation thanks to Goal Zero, a wood stove and a compost toilet. We’re already using the compost toilet on our conversion site and loving it. The best part about it is that it doesn’t need water so we won’t need a black tank in the bus either. Besides all those things we are going to pay for every kilometre on the road to a non-profit carbon neutralizing company. Like I said earlier: reduce what you can, offset what you can’t.
On your website you encourage people to enjoy their time on the bus without ‘the complications of modernity’. How much is the bus about getting back to the simple life?
Even though you’ll be able to check your emails if needed and take a hot shower sometimes, that’s not what this journey is about for us. It’s about spending time together, eating delicious food, sitting around the woodstove, playing guitar, reading books, and playing board games, basically doing things that are awesome because of their simplicity. One thing is for sure; I’ll be throwing hair dryers and heels straight out the window! It’s all about epic outdoor activities and ultimately about chilling, and some good après-ski of course.
How can someone book a place on the Nomad Bus?
On our website www.letsbenomads.com you can discover where we will be and when. Check out our tour diary and feel free to send us an email just to say hello or with any questions. Hope to see you on the bus soon, or at our conversion site in Belgium!