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Camping in Color: Black RVers

My husband and I have been RVing for the past 8 years with our 4 kids.

We started RVing in 2013 with one big decision to hit the road, go explore, and figure it out along the way. We were young, bored, and had a big thirst for wanderlust that we needed to quench. So, we took a chance on adventure.

Eyes brightened and heads turned from the very first campground we parked at.

Yes, we were the only Black couple. Yes, we were in our 20’s. Yes, we had 4 kids. Yes, our RV was old. And yes, of all things we were there to work camp…

People were curious. People stared. There were a lot of questions about what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how in the world we were able to do it.

We entertained it.

We didn’t take it personally. We realized quickly we were not the average RVers and we were okay with that. This was the start of our adventure, and we were determined to have a great time and keep going!

In the Beginning, The First Few Years

For the first 2-3 years, we felt a little out of place.

We never saw another Black family who were on the road full-time. We saw very few weekend campers, for that matter. RV parks, campgrounds, and even places we stopped for work camping jobs were lacking diversity in their customers as well as their staff. It was pretty obvious.

We finally met another Black RVer in 2014. She was a single mom who purchased a seasonal campsite at a Jellystone Park in Wisconsin, and while we didn’t have much interaction, it was awesome to see some diversity.

In 2016, we met a Black work camping couple at Amazon Camperforce in Campbellsville, KY, of all places! They were a bit older than us, which is the norm for work campers, but it was wonderful to get to know them over the course of several months. They happened to also be from Atlanta, Georgia (like us), which I thought was mind-blowing.

We didn’t let the lack of people who looked like us stop our adventure or skew our perception of the destinations we visited. To be honest, the lack of racial diversity in the camping industry was something we couldn’t control, but our interactions and our experiences were another story.

Our Experiences As A Black RVing Family

Overall, our experiences over the last 8 years have been great. So much so that we obviously have continued to RV full-time with no end date in site. With that said, we definitely have had our fair share of situations that made us varying combinations of uncomfortable, angry, and concerned.

Most of the time we find other campers are friendly, or at least cordial.

Occasionally, we run into a few who refuse to speak to us, wave, or even look in our direction. Sometimes we run into campers who openly stare at us or our children- these are the folks we tend to keep an eye on.

First off, it’s rude to stare. I learned that in kindergarten. But staring at me to the point that we’re having a standoff is unsettling and makes me wonder what is actually happening in this person’s head that makes them act this way.

Multiple times, we’ve encountered a fellow camper whose hatred was only apparent when their child called ours a hateful name. In these situations, we separated the kids and addressed the issue with the parents, who usually acted shocked and said things like “I have no idea where they heard that word” and then quickly shushed their child as they tried to explain. 

In more than a few situations, we’ve found ourselves having to immediately address something described as harmless. At this point, this has included a campground maintenance worker hanging a noose on their golf cart, being pegged as ‘white-black’, as well as someone referring to my husband as Buckwheat.

We try to keep an open mind, accept people for who they are, and not let ignorance and hatred stop us from living our life as we explore with our children. When we find ourselves in situations where things are heated, we try to keep in mind that the problem really isn’t with us; it’s a deep-seated issue this country continues to battle each and every day.

I’m not here to speak for anyone other than my family.

Our thoughts and feelings on this subject are obviously our own and have been shaped by our experiences. And as a result, I have a few final thoughts on camping in color, as well as a few resources for Black RVers looking to connect with others in our community!

Diversity & Inclusion in the Outdoors

Once we can all accept that we are different, we can move forward.

Diversity is a necessary dimension to social stability both inside and outside the campground. It’s about recognizing differences and valuing the depth that differences bring. Currently diversity in the outdoor industry is minimal.

Here’s the thing…

People in general, black, white, or whatever, tend to not go where they don’t feel welcome. People go where they feel they belong and are openly welcomed by others who are already there. This is inclusion.

Campgrounds, RV parks, state parks, national parks and even historical sites are all places where we’ve noticed a lack of diversity and inclusion, which is a shame. Making these outdoor hot spots feel like places where Black RVers feel safe to not only take a day trip but spend the night and return often with friends and family should be a high priority agenda item for decision makers.

Lastly, I have to say… when Black RVers can pull into a campground without excessive staring, awkward conversations about being far from home, and the occasional over-enforcement of rules and regulations that campers from any other cultural background seem to be exempt – then and only then will outdoor diversity be anything beyond a trending talking point.

Resources for Black RVers

We’ve spent a lot of time on the road as full-time RVers. For most of that time, we saw an absence of families as well as other Black RVers until Facebook groups and Instagram accounts for #BlackRVers started popping up everywhere about 4 years ago!

If you’re looking to find community and connect with like-minded RVers, social media as well as RV clubs and meetups will be your saving grace!

NAARVA

The National African American RVers Association is the largest RV organization of Black RVers in the country. It’s also one of the fastest growing, as more and more African Americans decide to try RVing full-time or part-time. They host regional and national camp rallies, offer annual memberships, youth sponsorships and a large community of people to share your adventures with.

Black People Camp Too

This is a private Facebook group to connect Black campers who want to share their experiences, as well as places to go. It’s an open forum to ask questions to other members who might be able to provide answers, tips, and helpful information.

African American Campers

This is a private Facebook group for African American people who love to camp and enjoy the outdoors. People camping in RVs as well as tents are welcome to join the group and share your latest camping adventures or ask questions to learn more.

African Americans that RV & Camp

This is a private Facebook group for African American RVers and Campers. Meet new friends, star conversations, discuss Black-owned businesses and share your tips and tricks for the RV lifestyle with the community!

African American Fulltime RV-ing

This is a private Facebook group for African American full-timers, where they can share their personal experiences and connect. Sharing of tips, stories, photos, recipes and more are all easy conversations inside the group.

 

Black RVers on Instagram

 

Sharee.Collier –  Full-time RVers > 8 years, Family of 6 (twins and teens), Travels + RV life, then and now

The Mom Trotter @themomtrotter Digital Nomad RV’ing the USA, International Travel, Founder @blackkidsdotravel, Gentle Parenting, Finance, Unschooling

Simon Crew  Adventures @simoncrewonadventure Traveling the US Full-time with 6 kiddos. Unschool + Roadschool Adventure. Your #1 stop for FUN FRUGAL FAMILY ADVENTURES

So Loved Life @solovedlife Full Time RV Traveling Family in our fifth wheel! A Family after God’s Heart! Tiny Living Ninjas We <3 Pancakes…

Fab & Fearless VanLife @fabnfearless_vanlife Fighting aging one adVANture at a time. Encouraging women 40+ to seek adventure with Glamping and Road Tripping.

Soulful RV Family @soulfulrvfamily A loving family traveling in an RV, road schooling, teaching black history, grilling & eating good food, & making memories to last a lifetime.

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Author

Sharee Collier

Sharee Collier is the founder of www.LiveCampWork.com – an online website delivering information and resources on jobs for RVers and making money while you travel. She’s the author of the best-selling book, Live Camp Work: Make Money & RV Full-time, the host of the Live Camp Work Podcast, and a full-time RV traveler with her husband and 4 kids.

3 Responses to “Camping in Color: Black RVers

  • I am a solo rv enthusiast, I am a xcapee member that has a concern about the very experience you speak of, I have been to s few rv sites and have experienced the same feeling, as I look at some of the pics I didn’t see any color and. that was a concern of mine. I don’t do social media therefore I won’t be able to connect with the likes of. however I am a member of NAARVA but have yet to attend any events, I would like to thank you for the insight, very informative..

    Upstream Adventurer

  • Lisa Beale
    6 months ago

    I love that Xscapers is sharing our experiences!!

  • Kevin Smith
    5 months ago

    So delighted to meet you and your family (virtually)! The past few years I’ve been on the road extensively, “practicing” full-timing while waiting for my wife to hit retirement age and I’ve been sorely seeking diversity in the places I visit and the folks I meet. As an old white guy I’m often mistaken for being a member of “the club” in spite of my plethora of equality, voting rights, pride and BLM stickers adorning my camper. It’s absolutely grueling to meet someone and realize they’re completely comfortable sharing their distasteful comments with me just because I look like them. I usually try to politely end contact and walk away but sometimes have been backed up against a wall where direct response is the only way out – some of the racist, misogynistic and awful things I’ve heard can’t compare to what you’ve experienced but it’s a sure way to feel unwelcome and ready to leave. The few & far between places I’ve run into folks who look like the demographic this lifelong urban dweller finds comforting have been damn near heartwarming. I’m likely someone who’s asked TOO many questions and asked about your experiences since you’re unfortunately out of the norm in my travels, I’ll certainly try to remember to keep my enthusiasm in check but be assured I’m looking forward to crossing paths with somewhere on the road!

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