When I show up at a campground, people notice. I have a handsome setup, of course. But far more fascinating to my neighbours is that a young, Black woman is out adventuring alone. The men often introduce themselves by commenting on my solo backing in skills. Women often come to congratulate me on embarking on the solo adventure they often wish they had taken before marriage compromised their independence.
Every so often, I also encounter fellow non-retirees, who are usually in their 40s. I have also met my fair share of older women travelling solo and living the life they always dreamed of. But, I have only met two millennials travelling full-time (they were married to each other) and I rarely encounter other persons of colour. Not surprisingly, over the past year, dozens of people in these rarer demographics have reached out to me.
Their curiosity is no less evident than my retiree neighbours, but their motivation for asking questions is far different. They don’t just want to know how I created this life for myself. They’re also curious to know how they can replicate it or create a good plan for themselves. Consequently, I spend a lot of time — happily! — passing on remote work opportunities, giving social media advice, offering budgeting tips, privately reviewing gear I own, and giving pet travel advice.
The very first day I arrived in Mexico, two Arizonans fell in love with my FJ Cruiser and invited me to go offroading on the sand dunes. That was the first time anyone had ever invited me offroad and actually followed through with it. It compelled me to reflect on something I had discussed here before: how difficult it is to gain traction or build a community within the White-dominated offroading, overlanding and RVing spaces.
“I never thought people like us were out there doing that stuff,” is a comment I get often. It’s often followed by, “I’ve always wanted to do it, but I don’t know how, I don’t have anyone to go with, and I don’t know where to start.”
To be honest, when I first bought my rig, encouraging diversity was the furthest thing from my mind. My goals were simple: minimalism and full-time travel. Yet, I hadn’t been on the road for a week when minorities started reaching out to me on social media for advice. Months later, I became part of a diversity campaign launched by Goal Zero.
The lovely people it connected me with juxtaposed against the racists posting hateful comments only further reminded me of the importance of community. I recognized that the gatekeepers in White-dominated spaces felt threatened and there was no time like the present to kick down the gate.
Since then, I realize that community is often on the mind of many other solo adventurers, regardless of their age, race or gender. Recently, a British environmentalist working in Costa Rica asked me a question that has stayed with me since. He asked whether I had found community and lamented that while he thoroughly enjoyed the people around him, he hadn’t yet found community in his travels or in Costa Rica.
But, what exactly is community? Is it a space filled with people who look like us, talk like us, think like us, or share the same generation? It is, for some people, and that sounds perfectly boring. For me, community happens when people from diverse backgrounds share strong values and interests that tie us together.
Kicking down the gate is going to be a long, labour-intensive process. It will require suiting up all the trespassers one by one — until our mere presence is protest enough.
Funding the Goal
I am certainly not the biggest and the baddest when it comes to breaching the gate with diversity. But, for whatever reason, quite a few people seem to have chosen me for the job and I’d like to help them get to where they want to be. So, if I could spend less time on client work and more time on diversifying the outdoors, I count that as progress.
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