Build SuperAdobe in the Mojave Desert – Beau Baconguis
For Solo Women Traveller Beau Baconguis losing and finding myself in California’s deserts connected her to the earth and hearth.
Beau Baconguis is a 56-year-old Filipina activist whose career spans over two decades of international environmental work. She is also a permaculturist and a natural builder.
After decades as an environmental campaigner, she retreats to a quiet life at home in the Philippines to grow and cultivate the earth with her parents, now octogenarians.
In conjunction with Earth Day, Beau shares her love for traveling solo as a woman and staying grounded with SmartDory.
Here are the 101 Questions: Get to know Beau Baconguis better, get insights into her lifestyle, and get some great travel tips.
Whoever thought of building something from scratch, whether to plant a garden or build a company or anything new – a SuperAdobe and why not?
Let’s build something good together! Take it away, Beau Baconguis!
Beau Baconguis’s Leap of Faith
My name is Beau.
For decades, I was an environmental campaigner running public campaigns.
I worked with communities, gave public speeches, organized direct actions, did media interviews, and lobbied Congress for policies.
My work allowed me to travel the world.
However, that lifestyle and the fact that success in this work line may not produce tangible changes and impacts quickly resulted in my burnout after two decades.
In 2014, despite the uncertainty, I left my stable job at an international campaigning organization.
I found a course on permaculture and earth architecture at the California Institute of Earth Architecture (CalEarth) in the Mojave Desert.
After living in Metro Manila for about 30 years, I moved back to Mindanao, the Philippines, in July 2020.
Today, my hands are always dirty from gardening, exploring recipes from home-grown ingredients, or building things that give me personal satisfaction.
I also run workshops on superadobe, the method of earth architecture I trained in.
My biggest build project to date was a training center for marginal farmers in Tarlac, Philippines.
What I do now is not veering away from environmental campaigning.
It is just another way of inspiring people with the ultimate goal of regenerating our natural ecosystems and living in harmony with nature.
#1 Beau Baconguis, do you call yourself a traveler or a tourist?
I am a traveler and an introvert.
I avoid crowded places as much as I can.
As a traveler, my goal is to learn about the people and their culture and the practices that make their community and natural environment worth experiencing.
I don’t get that when there is so much noise resulting from commercialism and mindless consumerism.
#2 What are your packing essentials for a solo trip?
Aside from my travel documents and a few toiletries, I make sure I have my phone, charger, battery pack, computer (for extended trips), camera, small notebook, and reusable kit, including cutleries and a drinking bottle and tiffin, can.
#3 Strict travel itinerary or go with the flow?
I come up with a general plan, but I usually go with what interests me at that moment.
I do not fret about not following the original plan.
I find more excitement in discovering things on my own.
#4 What’s been your weirdest moment?
When I completed my Superadobe and Permaculture courses at CalEarth, I was supposed to depart for San Francisco and meet some friends there.
When I arrived at the bus station in Victorville, the station was closed, and there were no buses.
My friend who drove me took me back to CalEarth and offered to drive me to LA the following morning for more bus options.
My friend couldn’t drive the following day because of a vertigo attack, and no one else could go with me.
While trying to find another way out, I had a long chat with the On-site Director.
The conversation ended with CalEarth offering to stay on as a long-term permaculture apprentice if I was interested.
I stayed for three months, which I believe changed the trajectory of my life.
#5 Do you prefer to walk, take public transport, or take a private vehicle?
Walking allows me to pay attention to details and helps me go deeper in my experience.
It is also my way of managing my poor sense of direction.
One memorable experience during my apprenticeship in CalEarth was when I decided to walk to a shop to buy some provisions.
I made the wrong turn and was walking on the side of the highway for 2 hours.
People who drove by probably thought that I was crazy.
One man stopped to ask if I was ok.
My feet were hurting from the sand rubbing against my skin because I wore running shoes without socks (in the Mojave Desert, one of the hottest places on earth!)
It was close to sunset when I returned, and my friends were ready to organize a search party.
#6 City or countryside?
Definitely the countryside.
In 2017, I returned to California and volunteered at CalEarth for more than a month with some plastering and other on-site jobs.
Then I moved to Quail Springs Permaculture, a farm in another desert.
I volunteered for 5 or 6 weeks, learning about cob as a building method and experiencing off-grid communal farm living.
I lived in their camping ground in a tent with a composting toilet nearby to use.
I would walk back alone from the commons area at night with nothing but the stars and the moon to guide my path.
I was careful not to walk into cacti or the stiff, spiny ends of the yucca plant or step on rattlesnakes or tarantulas.
The peace, quiet, clean air, and simple life were sheer bliss.
#7 What’s your dream job in any part of the world?
Quail Springs was such an inspiration that it had become my standard of a dream job.
I want to establish our family farm as a center for learning about ecology, food production, and how it connects to health, natural building, and other life skills.
#8 What would you do if you didn’t have to work?
Crafting, doing more art, and continuing to travel to educate and inspire me more.
#9 Who are your new friends who celebrate your birthday on the road?
I celebrated my birthday twice in California.
During my CalEarth long-term apprenticeship in Earth Architecture, the apprentices, some staff, and a little boy, Jeffrey, organized a surprise party for my birthday.
Then last year, before the Covid lockdowns, I revisited Quail Springs and CalEarth to see a few friends.
My dear friends from Quail Springs took me to see the California wildflowers for my birthday.
Then I traveled to CalEarth with another friend and his family and their new baby, Beau, named after me.
#10 What did you love most about traveling?
Travel deepens my understanding of myself and experiencing other cultures expands my mind.
I feel I am a better person because of the insights and lessons I get from my travels.
Beau Baconguis Quote
“The most precious souvenirs from my solo travels are not the material gifts but the inspiration and love from the communities that have embraced me as their own.” – Beau Baconguis.
What is SuperAdobe?
SuperAdobe is a form of earthbag architecture (using long sandbags) developed by architect and CalEarth founder Nader Khalili.