Let’s be real: if you’re white, straight, cis-gendered, and don’t have disabilities, chances are high that you’ve not had many times, if any, where you have felt excluded, unwelcome, or unsafe while traveling and/or recreating in outdoor spaces (besides perhaps from some encounters or proximity to some wildlife). We’ll also go ahead and bet that the vast majority of other people you’ve encountered in these spaces, on the road or on the trail, look a lot like you.
However, for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), those in the LGBTQIA+ community, plus-sized folx, and those with disabilities, this is unfortunately not often the case. Due to racial, socio-economic, and other historical privileges, the vast majority of folx in these historically underprivileged communities have not had equal access to the outdoors or travel, especially compared to white, straight, cis-gendered people, for a long time; what’s more, the lack of representation of folx who look like and/or identify as they do in these spaces can be discouraging and disheartening for many. Enter Diversify Vanlife.
Here at Diversify Vanlife, we’ve been pushing for more representation of historically marginalized peoples for years, flipping the script and showing that we out here, and striving to create a safe and welcoming space for all – online, and in all spaces in the outdoors; however, there’s still so much work to be done.
Read on to learn more about the Diversify Vanlife movement and how you can help make everyone feel welcome in the van life community.
Why Diversify Vanlife?
Diversify Vanlife seeks to create a safe space for people from all colors, races, sexual orientations, ethnicities, and physical abilities, to feel seen in the outdoors. Not only does it increase the confidence in BIPOC and LGBTQ+ to see themselves in nature and feel a sense of belonging, but it also empowers others to deconstruct what being in nature means for them. Seeing yourself somewhere is the first step to recreating and reimagining that very space in its truest form: and Diversify Vanlife is amplifying the voices which have been, for very long, unheard or silenced.
To be sure, we don’t exclude anybody who shares our values from our community. Diversify Vanlife and the many amazing people and organizations with platforms like ours, carve out these spaces because we have to. We can’t afford to wait for it to be carved out for us by other people.
What Steps Are We Taking at Diversify Vanlife?
Providing Resources and More Equitable Representation
Here at Diversify Vanlife, we’ve been sharing Community Features since the platform was founded back in 2019 on our website and Instagram. By doing so, we’ve been continuously cultivating a rich platform for sharing BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+, and other historically marginalized voices from many different intersections and walks of life. Simply seeing an abundance of people with shared experiences can be a huge first step for so many people who may have dismissed this lifestyle due to fear of being alone.
We’re also committed to providing resources and information to our community. Part of creating intentional spaces involves making information readily available that accounts for people’s lived experiences. We all have different experiences out on the road and in the outdoors, so resources aren’t always one-size-fits-all.
For example, a few months ago we released our BIPOC Guide to Vanlife & the Outdoors, a free resource curated entirely by BIPOC in our community and providing in-depth information for ALL nomads, outdoor enthusiasts, and road travelers – even those just starting out or curious about these lifestyles! We believe in making travel and enjoying the outdoors welcoming and accessible to everyone. Our goal with the BIPOC Guide is that is a living resource, which will grow and be added to over time.
Through our various media, we’re also undertaking the hard work of educating people. In 2020, the Nomads at the Intersections podcast was born, through which Noami, the founder of Diversify Vanlife, sat down with a variety of diverse nomads and outdoor enthusiasts. While diving deep into stories from these underrepresented voices, she furthered the work of shifting the narrative of the modern nomadic movement — and we’ll be back with more episodes, coming soon in 2022!
Tangibly Supporting and Connecting Our Community
With our strong community backing us, Diversify Vanlife regularly supports and successfully amplifies fundraisers for underrepresented folx in need in the outdoor and road travel spaces. Going beyond the virtual space is important to us; we aim to make as much of a positive impact as we can, on- and offline.
One of our main focuses for 2022 is to continue exploring alternative platforms and spaces that will allow our community members to more easily connect with each other, both virtually and in real life. Especially as opportunities for travel and in-person connection start to approach what they were pre-COVID, we want to be able to facilitate the strengthening of those intra-community bonds.
There’s a lot going on at Diversify Vanlife at any given time, from written resources being generated to educational IG Lives, to giveaways and fundraisers. A great deal of the work that DV does is possible via our community members stepping up; thus, we strive to compensate all of our contributors for their time and energy.
What Can We All Do to Make Everyone Feel More Welcome in the Vanlife Community?
We Need True Allies & Accomplices To The Cause
It begins with the acknowledgment of white privilege in the outdoors and in the van life community, and this doesn’t just mean financially: it can be something as basic as a lower likelihood of having to deal with certain things, like getting strange looks, being made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, or having to be cautious of what parts of the country you visit. Everyone experiences the outdoors and travel differently, that’s why it’s so important to allow the voices of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, and other historically marginalized folx to narrate their own experiences, without interpreting or gaslighting.
The goal is not guilt or self-flagellation. Rather it’s to increase our collective capacity for empathy, which is vital to understanding one another’s experiences in a way that will allow us to create a better, more inclusive paradigm. Listening with intention and then accepting their experiences is one important way that we can all make everyone feel more welcome.
Final Thoughts: Community and Unity
Community is spiritual. And finding community on the road is magical. It means connection between souls. Here at Diversify Vanlife, we acknowledge the oneness of humanity and are constantly striving towards creating a group of humans that love, care for and hold each other in spaces that are not meant to be held alone. The process of unlearning the social conditioning of our environment is not an easy one. But it is a wholly worthy one, that leads to a more vibrant and harmonious community for everyone. We are not just dreaming of equity and inclusivity in the outdoors: we are making it happen, one human at a time.
How will you join us in holding space for everyone in vanlife and the outdoors? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.