Two Australians sold all their assets and decided to bunk in an electric camper van to travel from Fairbanks all the way to Tierra Del Fuego, the southernmost tip of the Americas.
Joel Hayes and Keegan Taccori had no prior knowledge of each other until the latter, with a background in journalism, answered a volunteer travel buddy posting on www.GoodWork.ca. It was posted by Hayes, who built the camper van in Oregon.
“I studied climate change in university and I also really enjoy travelling. So I just thought I needed to do something with those things I enjoy doing, those identifications. And so I just wanted to try and do this trip in the most environmentally friendly way or some something like that. I just threw everything I had at it, I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Hayes, who is originally from Tweed Heads in the Australian province of New South Wales, but has lived in Vancouver and Cape Breton for some time.
The electric camper van, or Carol Joan II, is outfitted with a solar panel, solar ray and an onboard changing system, to fuel the entire way of the journey via sunlight or electric charging, sometimes on the yard of complete strangers they’ve met along the way, such as Laurie Embree in 108 Mile Ranch.
Taccori was a last minute addition to the project, taking the spot of someone who unexpectedly dropped out last minute.
Also from New South Wales, but from the city of Wollongong, Taccori was living in his own van along Highway 99 in Whistler, Squamish and Vancouver. However, he was in Montreal when Hayes called him and the former journalism student realized he needed to fly out to Fairbanks.
He was with a couple of close friends of his when Hayes called him to figure out if Taccori was in or out. Taccori told Hayes that he would send him an email after the phone call with his answer. After he got off the phone, the journalism student asked his friends what the pros and cons are.
The Wollongonger said his friends told him there was no way he would not do the trip.
“A week and a half later, this is my life now,” he said.
When asked what it was like essentially living with a stranger in a very contained spot, they both immediately replied by calling each other smelly before turning serious.
“I’d say it was a big gamble and I guess more so a humongous gamble on Joel’s part to have someone come along on this journey and opening up his home and his life to that as well,” said Taccori. “So I guess when we literally had one phone call with each other it was both assessing the other person [and] asking a round of questions so that we’d kind of get a picture of the other person.
Then I realized that we were very, very similar. Our backgrounds are very different but also parts similar as well and I think we have that Australian edge to the both of us that we can both reminisce on and enjoy each other. Australians are their own species of clientele. We’re a different breed for sure and I guess our language can be quite intense for other people in North America… So I guess that ‘Australian Edge’ is me saying we see home in each other.”
Hayes piped in and said that he keeps on catching himself saying flip-flops, which has a different word for it in Australia. Now that he is travelling and living with a fellow Aussie, he is now trying to revert back to saying the word for it back home, which is ‘thong’.
“When we do go into a public space, it’s not just you being the alien in the room. It’s like the two of us bounce off each other and people really enjoy that, I think. They enjoy having the difference and see how we interact with each other,” Hayes also added.
It hasn’t all been friendship and lollipops though.
They got snowed in twice in the Yukon and Northern BC, stranded them for three weeks total due to the weather depleting their ability to harness the sun’s energy and at that time the solar array was busted. Unfortunately, both times the duo ran out of food, which meant one of them had to hitchhike into the closest town to get some food.
The second time it was Taccori, who had to trek into Fort Nelson.
“I had to hitch a week before that in town as well to get food because we ran out of food once again,” said Hayes. “We didn’t buy enough because I didn’t know and didn’t think that we would need it and we’d be out there sooner but low and behold a week or two later Keegan has to hitch into town and get more pancake mix.”
As for the solar array, the tracking system (it tilts the panel towards the sun) was hastily made in a ‘mad’ rush and was untested until they got desperate around Fairbanks. They decided to use it and apparently worked very well but as they called it a day it broke and snapped, which was a really tough moment for Hayes.
They finally fixed it in Prince George, a day before they landed in 108 Mile Ranch.
However, the main thing is meeting people and trying to discuss alternative energy.
One anecdote is when Hayes and Taccori had what the former called a great discussion with a gas worker somewhere north, a person on the complete opposite spectrum of the two in terms of energy beliefs. He had just finished doing some work on a well when the two Australians stroke up a conversation with him about their journey and what they were trying to accomplish.
“He was very ecstatic with what we’re doing and what we were achieving. Even those conversations were great as well and also those ones where you’re like-minded where you’re not necessarily expanding your consciousness with those people but with the oil and gas workers they’re pretty open and excited and I think it has something to do with just seeing two young kids on an adventure,” said Hayes.