One thing that we love about traveling is having the opportunity to be guests in so many different and varied houses. We see how people live in Thailand and Portugal, we meet interesting people in hostels, we daydream about being hoteliers at B&Bs, and sometimes we get to stay in really unique places like a treehouse in Hawai’i. I’m happy to report that we are currently in one of the most interesting houses I could imagine: Earthship Patagonia. It’s an eco-friendly, sustainable house built out of recycled materials into the side of a hill. It sounds weird, but it is really cool and totally beautiful.
But let’s take a step back. If you think that this is some hippie fantasy, well then you’re right. We are in the town of El Bolson which is the hippie capital of Argentina. In the 70s, the counterculture movement settled into this area and never left. It’s a little slice of Eden here: a mediterannean micro-climate means that the weather is always nice and all sorts of crops grow year-round. It’s one of the largest producers of hops in South America and so the craft beer scene is bustling as well. The town is in a valley surrounded by tall mountains and rivers, there’s a huge craft market four days a week, and everyone is super friendly. So of course the Earthship landed here.
An Earthship is more than just a name: it’s a specific building design that was created in the 70s. It’s built into the side of a hill facing the equator (in North America that means facing south, and in South America we face north). Sunlight floods into the building year round, and since the house is sort of a half-cave, it retains the heat in the winter but stays cool in the summer. The front room of an Earthship is a living room that doubles as a greenhouse.
The whole effect is to have a house where the line between inside and outside is blurred. You feel like you are part of the natural environment, with tomato plants growing in your living room and sunlight streaming into your shower.
The house is self-sufficient. It uses solar energy for electricity. It uses sunlight for heat and earth for cooling. It gathers, cleans, and stores rain for water. It grows crops inside and out. And of course everything is either recycled or composted.
This Earthship is set up to be a hostel and there are a bunch of volunteers that live here and keep the place running. The volunteers mostly live in yurts and tents outside in the gardens. They offer yoga and breakfast in the morning and dinner at night, which of course is made out of all the food they grow in the gardens and greenhouse. There’s plenty of time for relaxing and hanging out, and even on a rainy day the volunteers and guests will gather in the greenhouse to chat and make bracelets. Yup, it’s a hippie paradise.
We recorded a video tour of the Earthship, so check it out!
There are hundreds (or thousands?) of Earthships around the world. The biggest concentration is in New Mexico where they were originally created. The design is both sensible and fun and I would love to see more of these houses, or at least to see some of the ideas (such as solar heating and cooling, or integrated greenhouses) applied to more “traditional” homes.
What do you think, would you want to live aboard the Earthship?