A Few Reasons Why Van/RV Life Isn’t More Diverse

By Rachel Puryear

Van and RV living and traveling has grown tremendously in popularity during recent years – as has its online media presence, including blogs like this one.

However, better diversity and inclusive representation – both in media, as well as in real life – still lags in the traveling and van/RV life communities. This includes diversity on a number of levels.

My husband and I are into van and RV traveling, and we are an interracial couple – I’m white, and he’s black. Often when we visit natural places, he’ll be one of only a few people of color – sometimes the only one, and/or the only black person around. He also pointed out that most other people of color he sees outdoors are with a white person.

What are some challenges and issues that present in van/RV life for people who don’t fit the mold most commonly represented on social media – people of color, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, fat people, perhaps women traveling alone, and more?

For the sake of hopefully becoming better allies to a greater variety of van/RV travelers – and those who would like to be, here are some issues to (at the very least) make ourselves more aware of:

Several young, ethnically diverse friends unloading a camper van out in the woods.

Economic Inequalities

Van and RV life is awesome, but it isn’t cheap. Buying a vehicle in the first place, making maintenance and repairs, space and camping fees (or parking tickets…yup), fuel, gear and supplies, and more costs a fortune. One has to be in it for the lifestyle, not as an inexpensive way to live, contrary to popular belief.

Furthermore, these homes/hotels on wheels cost enough that most people need financing in order to obtain them. This means they need to have good enough credit to get loans of often tens of thousands of dollars, maybe more. Nicer ones can easily cost as much as some houses.

Many campgrounds and RV parks have age restrictions on camping vehicles, making it impracticable for many to buy older, cheaper vehicles. Not to mention the need for more repairs, and having more breakdowns.

Additionally, one must also figure out a way to earn a living on the road, if they’re not independently wealthy or retired already, if they want to travel more than a very limited amount of time per year. Flexibility also greatly helps. This tends to be more easily attained for people in higher-paying professions, skilled white collar jobs, and those with higher education (though not impossible for others – see non-office traveling jobs, remote jobs that don’t require a degree or experience, and well-paying remote professions you can learn quickly).

The financial costs and requirements of van and RV life make it difficult for many people to access. Disproportionately, it’s much harder for people of color in the USA to access and enjoy van and RV life compared with whites, due to persistent and large racial wealth gaps in the USA.

Not Blending In

The USA is a diverse country, on the whole – one of the most, if not the most diverse, in the world.

If you’ve ever traveled through lots of different parts of the USA, though, you may have noticed that the level of diversity greatly varies between different places. Some regions are more diverse than others, cities tend to be more diverse than small towns and rural areas, and segregation is definitely not a thing of the past – even if it’s now more socially institutionalized rather than legally mandated.

For a white person traveling through the USA, you can blend in just about anywhere. For people of color, though, there are lots of places where they won’t blend in – and there are justifiable reasons for that to be concerning.

My husband and I have met lots of kind and welcoming people while traveling, including in places where we clearly stood out together. I think most people are not a threat, but it only takes one person to cause problems for a traveler – so for anyone who stands out traveling, there’s a higher risk for them than for someone who can blend in.

Attracting Police Attention

For van/RV lifers, attracting police attention at times can come with the territory. From trying to discreetly car camp for the night in a residential neighborhood – only to be spotted by a local resident, to pulling over to fix something, to varying local regulations on camping vehicles, and more; it is bound to happen out on the open road at some point.

For most white people, interactions with police can be unnerving – and sometimes expensive, but we’re probably not seriously worried about a routine stop turning deadly. However, Americans of color live with this worry for themselves, and their families and neighbors.

Not Knowing Local Safe Places

For many people, there are key places of refuge in their local area, where they can feel and be safe. They can be themselves, they can meet other people with a shared life experience and heritage, they can relax and enjoy themselves together in a way that’s often not possible in much of everyday life.

For LGBTQ+ people, they know where their local bars and clubs are. For people of color, they know where local neighborhoods are where others who look like them live. For people with disabilities, they know what local places look like, and what it’s like to physically navigate them. For women, they know where their local areas are that are well-lit, and where they have trusted friends and allies around – or at least know who to avoid – and they can be more vulnerable traveling away from home, especially if they go solo. Their rights and bodily autonomy can also vary greatly in different areas.

When these people are away from home, though, they don’t know where all these places are in the locality they’re visiting. This can be lonely while traveling, as well as vulnerable.

Lack of Accessibility

For people with disabilities, accessibility in traveling and in visiting the outdoors is a critically important – and widely overlooked – matter.

Many people assume – incorrectly – that people with disabilities don’t visit the outdoors. However, that is not at all true – people with all kinds of bodies and abilities love the outdoors, and deserve to be included and welcomed here.

People with fat bodies, or bodies which are other than thin and athletic-looking, can also face a sense of being unwelcome outdoors – and an incorrect assumption that they don’t like physical activity, or visiting nature.

For fat people, exclusion might come in the form of a lack of available outdoor and fitness clothing and gear that fits them appropriately. This can also be a problem for people with some kinds of disabilities.

However, there are some businesses coming along and meeting this long-underserved need for plus-size fitness clothing – like Cootry on Amazon. They have lots of women’s/women-presenting clothing including swimwear, lots of items with pockets, and in sizes up to 5X.

For big and tall men/men-presenting, check out the Big and Tall section of the Real Essentials store on Amazon – also with sizes up to 5X.

What Resources are Available?

There are resources available for those who want to find more people into van and RV life who are also underrepresented like them, and also who are concerned about improving accessibility and diversity within this lifestyle.

There are online communities – like Black Nomads Meet, Diversify Vanlife, Disabled Nomads, Fat Girls Hiking, LGBTQ Travel Destinations, Travel as Trans, on Instagram.

Check out the website of people like James Edwards Mills, Teresa Baker, Danielle Williams, Len Necefer, Summer (does not use a last name publicly), Ambika Rajyagor, Vanessa Karel, Perry Cohen, and other activists for better diversity and inclusion in the outdoors.

Check out Nomad Fest, with events for travelers of color.

If you love the outdoors and know someone who might also enjoy a chance to explore the outdoors as well, especially if they’re not well represented in van/RV life social media, ask them about their love of the outdoors. See what you could do to better include them, and invite them along for an outdoor trip if they seem open to such.

Love this blog, and want to help support it? Please check out the following products. We are Amazon affiliates, and earn a commission when you purchase through these links – this helps support the blog, so we thank you!

  • Do you love being outdoors, and have wide feet, but have trouble finding shoes that will fit your feet, and serve all your needs? Check out:
    • The Dr. Comfort Store on Amazon, with lots of athletic shoes (and more) to choose from which come in wide, extra-wide and beyond sizes – some styles go up to men’s size 15. This store also includes a lot of diabetic footwear (all genders).
    • The Comfortview Store on Amazon, with plenty of shoes to choose from that will fit up to 13 double wide, and which are comfortable, stylish, cute, and suitable for many occasions – including sneakers, sandals, boots, flats, and dress shoes (women’s/women-presenting styles).
    • The New Balance Store on Amazon, with plenty of shoes to choose from including athletic and sneakers. Most styles go up to at least 11 or 12, and many include wide sizes (all genders).

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to better diversity and inclusion within van and RV life.

Check out my other blog, too – World Class Hugs, at https://freerangelife.net. It’s about celebrating empathic people, balanced relationships, spirituality with a curious mind and open heart, and visiting gorgeous natural places.

Got a question you want answered through this blog? Submit your question to me here – and if you don’t already, please request to subscribe to the Free Range Life newsletter while you’re there!

Note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. We appreciate your support!

Road Trips Uncategorized Van RV life

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