Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Brown Folks Don't Camp" and Why this is Ridiculous

I’m sitting beside my rig in my anti-gravity chair enjoying the cool breeze from the California air. This campsite is really beautiful. The desert is on one side and the Colorado River on the other. The sun is shining, the wind is gently blowing. It’s perfect right now. The only thing missing is a drink in hand and other brown people. Where are all the other brown people?

Oh boy! Here we go. A post about race. Well, hold on a second. While this post is about the lack of diversity on campsites throughout the southern US it is not about race necessarily. I’m not going to start in on issues of disenfranchisement, racism, and civil rights (although I could). This post isn’t going to be that heavy. All I really want to know is where are all the brown folks?

I asked the question, ‘Why don’t brown folks camp?’ in on online public forum that is geared to the traveling, adventure seeking person of color. The responses that I received were mostly expected ranging from not liking bugs, to camping being to much work for a vacation, to not wanting to rough it. The other responses I received were that brown folks do camp, and I was cited a lot of resources showing just that.

I realized then that I had asked the wrong question. Instead of asking ‘why don’t brown folks camp?’ I should have asked ‘why don’t brown folks RV?’.

When most people hear the word camping they think of the woods, tents, cooking over a fire. The often thing of the not so fun side of camping that includes bugs, the physically labor that is involved in camping, and limited bathroom facilities. To some this sounds absolutely fantastic. I’ll raise my hand here because it truly does sound wonderful. To others this does not sound like much a vacation and they can imagine many other places they’d rather be. But did you know that camping is more than sleeping in a tent in the woods? I’ve done my fair share of camping in secluded wooded areas but I’ve also camped on beaches, in the middle of cities, and in historic towns. During these experiences I’ve slept in my own bed, cooked in my own kitchen, and used my own bathroom. How you ask? By utilizing an RV. That’s right! Camping doesn’t have to be all about pitching a tent. There are thousands upon thousands of people who RV. Some even live in their RV full-time and travel the country with their families. Others RV recreationally which mostly includes the weekends and holidays. My family is somewhere in the middle. My family RVs at least five months out of the year. We are not full time necessarily because during those other seven months of the year we are either gone internationally or at our sticks and bricks house in North Carolina. Needless to say we love the RVing/Camping lifestyle and I want to encourage other people of color to get out and give it a try.

Now I know that brown people camp. I know we are out there somewhere but I’m wondering why is our representation so small? Why aren’t we filling these campgrounds and enjoying the wonderful experiences to be had outdoors? We are filling cruise ships, popular international destinations, theme parks in Florida, fancy restaurants in New York, beaches in California, but we do not represent when it comes to utilizing and being a part of the very essences of this earth… nature and the outdoors.

This particular campground that we are parked on, for example, proudly boasts that it has eight hundred and twenty spots on its property. Yes, you read that right, 820 camp sites. The resort is full with the exception of one or two sports yet my kids and I are the only brown family here. Now I haven’t walked up and knocked on each and every door to see who resides there but I have walked this entire property, visited with people sitting outside their rig, seen those driving up and down the streets of the camp resort, visited the store, the bar, the beach area as well as the laundry and the bathrooms and I have not encountered a single other brown person. 

This isn’t anything new. It is a phenomenon that my kids and I have noticed quite a bit in our travels. As we currently cross the US from North Carolina to California, and last summer when we traveled from North Carolina to Canada we have become more and more aware that we are frequently the only brown family. It baffles me because camping is truly amazing and is something everyone could and should enjoy. From being one with nature in a more rugged camping style to a more luxurious clamping experience there is truly something for everyone. So why is “everyone” not participating?

My Sammie Blue... It doesn't have to be fancy to have a good time!

I asked several friends why they don’t camp and was not surprised by the responses I got. I hope I can address some of the reasons I heard ‘brown folks don’t camp/ RV” in an effort to dispel some myths and encourage more people of color to get out and experience it. 

1. Why sleep on the floor in the woods when there are 5 star hotels out there?

Ok! That’s valid. There are many nice hotels with wonderful amenities out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a nice hotel. I love getting pampered and wined and dined like the next person. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give camping a chance. While sleeping in a tent is amazing in it’s own right it is not the only way to camp. I’ll admit I haven’t tent camped in years. My current method of camping is sleeping in my own bed, using my own bathroom (including my own shower with hot water), and cooking in my own kitchen in my own RV. Camping doesn’t just mean pitching a tent and living that rugged life although it can. There are many different styles of camping and the RV is a popular choice. There are many different types and styles of RVs to choose from, from the simple and used RV to the million dollar mansion on wheels. So if luxury is the only thing you require when vacationing then camping should certainly be on your list of options.

2. I don’t want to deal with bugs and wild animals.

Trust me, I don’t either. I’m pretty sure that many of the campers I’ve met on the road don’t particularly want to deal with bugs and animals either. Fortunately, this is an issue that you probably won’t even have to deal with. While it is true that camping probably does increase your chances of a run in with bugs and animals it does not mean you absolutely will encounter anything creature outside of the same ants and spiders you might see at home. In all of the years that I’ve been camping I have had a run in with only one animal and that was a deer standing in the middle of the road while I was driving. The same thing could have happened to me in my car too. The only bugs I’ve encountered was being invaded by ants not unlike what happened in my sticks and bricks home last summer. Animals and bugs are just not a major part of camping. Or at least they don’t have to be. If you choose that rugged style of camping in the woods with tents and sleeping bags you just might have a greater chance of encounter bugs. Even in these type of camping settings animals will more than likely try to avoid you and your chances of even seeing them, much less having a run in with them, is slim.

3. I can’t afford a fancy RV to camp in and I certainly don’t want to sleep in a tent.

I get it. You want to camp but don’t really want to do the tent thing.That only leaves you with the RV option. You don’t know anyone to borrow one from and you can’t afford to buy one. Let me tell you that you probably can afford to buy one. RVs come in all shapes and sizes and price points. Like I mentioned earlier they ranged from a million dollars all the way down to a couple of thousand. My very first motorhome cost me $3500. It was a small rig that got my kids and I all the way from North Carolina to Canada and back. The rig we are currently in now, while slightly newer and definitely bigger, still didn’t break the bank. At just under $10k it was an investment I made for my family. This rig has, so far, gotten us from North Carolina to California. Not to mention all the places it got us before we started on this grand journey. We’ve had no mechanical problems or otherwise. But stop right there. Let’s back up. You don’t even have to spend that kind if money on an RV. There are numerous RV rental companies scattered across the US that will lend you their rig and let you experience the joys of camping without the major commitment that purchasing brings. Heck, if it will get you out of the house and into the campgrounds I’ll even rent you mine.

4. There’s nothing to do. I’ll be bored.

This statement is so far from the truth that’s it’s almost comical. Granted the things to do while camping are unique and might be outside of your realm of comfort but there is certainly not a lack of things to do. Depending on our locale we have gone swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and biking while camping. I have hung out at the bar, read a book while swinging in a hammock by the lake, eaten at extraordinary restaurants that were either near or on the campground I stayed at. My kids have played at the playgrounds, watched movies in the theaters, and played with groups of kids from around the country. Depending on where you are some major rest and relaxation is in store. Camping doesn’t have to just be secluded in the woods. There are urban campsites scattered about  that you can consider as well. At these sites you can take advantage of what the town or city has to offer just like you would in that five star hotel but for a fraction of the cost. So, you see camping doesn’t have to be boring. It really is what you make it, just like any other vacation you find yourself on.

5. Camping is for older folks.

Hmmmmmmm. Looking around it is hard to dispute this one so I won’t even try. We are not only often the only brown family but usually the youngest too. But let me let you in on a little secret. The retired generation that travel the country in their motorhomes have figured out life and are doing it right. I’m just trying to do it decades earlier. But the campgrounds aren't only filled with people of retirement age. More and more we’re meeting other young families and individuals on the road.There’s even groups dedicated to families that live full-time on the road. So, no, camping is not just for “old people”. Camping is for everyone. Plus that is not an excuse for you and your family to not get out and give RVing a try it. Regardless of the age make-up you are more than likely going to meet some amazing people full of fantastic and wonderful stories to share around the campfire. So at the end of the day, who cares (as my kids would say) what the age break down of campers really is?

6. Brown folks just don’t do that.

So that is the major myth that I hope is dispelled and never resurfaces. I don't like the idea of being lumped in a group that does or doesn't do something simply because of the color of my skin. "Brown folks don't camp", "Brown folks sure can dance", "Brown folks eat fried chicken and watermelon". To far? Ok Ok I'll tone it back down, but I hope you can see how all of those statements are just plain ridiculous. 

The whole "brown folks don't camp/ RV" isn't completely true anyway. I’m brown and I love camping. I have several “brown” friends that also love to camp so I know they exist. I just hope more and more give camping and RVing a try. Forget the stereotypes and the ideas that you will loose all your swag or that your proverbial “brown card” will be taken if you camp. Ignore all of the nonsense that says brown folks don’t do something and go give it a try yourself. If you hate it you never have to do it again but at least give it a try (this is what I tell my kids when trying to encourage them to try something new and it's worked pretty well so far). 

Have no equipment or don't know where to start? I will be more than happy to offer advice and assist in any way that I can in helping you set up or look into camping a experience. That is what my new campaign, URBAN RV (unless you can come up with a better name), is going to be about.... offering guidance, advice, and assistance to those (any and everyone) that want to give camping a try but don't know where to start. For now email me at or visit my website at

So what reasons have you heard that “Brown Folks Don’t Camp/RV”? I would love to hear from you so that I can continue to add to this list and hopefully change a few minds to realize Brown Folks actually can and do camp and it is fun and amazing.

Until I see you on the road or somewhere around the globe… Get Outdoors and give RVing a chance!!!

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