Nomadic Trailblazers: Venturing Beyond the Conventional With Innovation and Flair
For many, the stereotypical idea of van lifers is straight, white couples. But, if you spend enough time on the road, you know that that’s far from the truth. In reality, van lifers come from diverse backgrounds.
Let’s take a look at seven van lifers who break the mold and show us that van life is open to all.
1. Kaya Lindsay (AKA @OneChickTravels)
Kaya Lindsay is an inspirational woman who shows us you really can have it all. A writer, filmmaker, photographer, and passionate rock climber, she chronicles all her adventures on her website One Chick Travels.
She got her start in 2016 when she bought and converted a 2006 Sprinter van. Her adventures have taken her all around the country, and she’s always looking for the best climbs wherever she goes.
In her films, Kaya focuses on other female travelers she’s met on the road. She has a passion for telling the stories of the amazing things women can accomplish.
On top of all this, Kaya also runs a shop on her site where she sells handmade merchandise like t-shirts, stickers, and more. She also provides guides for van conversion and maintenance. Whatever you’re looking for in the world of van life and beyond, Kaya has you covered.
2. Van Lifer Katie Larson (AKA @SoWeBoughtAVan)
27-year-old solo female traveler Katie Larson is the mind behind So We Bought A Van. On her site, you can learn about her adventures, find inspiration for DIY van builds, and get all the info you need for anything related to van life.
Katie first got her start in 2017 when she bought and converted a Sprinter. After 3 years in her Sprinter van, she decided to switch to a Ford Transit, which she also built out herself. Her chic and cozy DIY van builds are the perfect inspiration for any would-be van lifer.
Besides inspo for your next van build, So We Bought A Van is full of helpful information for all kinds of things. On her website, you can learn everything from how to find free campsites to how to make DIY holiday crafts. Plus, you can get everything you need for a van build and more through her website’s shop!
3. Ambreen Tariq (AKA @BrownPeopleCamping)
Ambreen Tariq moved to the US from India with her family at just 8 years old. She grew up camping in Minnesota and gained a passion for the outdoors. But as she got older, she noticed a problem: when she looked at the campers and van lifers around her, she realized there was a distinct lack of diversity.
This detail is what inspired her to start Brown People Camping in 2016. Her Instagram account is dedicated to highlighting people of color and immigrants’ experiences camping. She’s helped build a community and diversify outdoor spaces through her work.
In addition to her work lifting up people of color and immigrants, Tariq is the author of a children’s book called Fatima’s Great Outdoors. The book, inspired by her own life, tells the story of a young Muslim girl going on her first camping trip after moving to the US.
4. Van Lifer Jupiter (AKA @DoesThisCountAsVanLife)
For many, the typical idea of a van lifer is someone white and likely financially privileged. But van lifer Jupiter is dedicated to dispelling just this idea and breaking every mold in the van life world. If you ask, “Does this count as van life?” Jupiter will tell you yes, it does!
In fact, you can find this trailblazer on social media @DoesThisCountAsVanLife, where Jupiter catalogs experiences as a queer black van lifer. Jupiter remodeled a 1970s Class C and nicknamed it “Hottie,” explaining the whole process was a labor of love
On top of traveling the country, Jupiter is also studying to get into law school. As a lawyer, Jupiter hopes to work to bring justice to those discriminated against and underserved by our nation’s systems.
5. Amber Baldwin (AKA Story Chasing)
Before living the van life, Amber Baldwin was what you might call “traditionally successful.” She had a good job and a house of her own. But she knew this wasn’t what she really wanted out of life.
So, in 2017, Amber sold her house and everything in it and bought her first RV, a Winnebago Spirit Class C RV. A year later, she decided to downsize, purchasing a Hymer Aktiv Class B.
Today, this van lifer runs the blog (and vlog) StoryChasing, where she shares her life as a solo woman van lifer and provides guidance to van lifers, both hopeful and current. These aren’t just simple guides either. Amber has tons of in-depth resources on her site, including:
- Tips for remote working
- Travel guides for tons of destinations
- A free travel budgeting course
- A free masterclass on traveling full time
- A nomad mentorship boot camp
- Gear recommendations
- And more!
6. Tyler and Todd (@TylerAndTodd)
After years of working the 9 to 5, couple Tyler and Todd knew it was time for a change. In 2019, the couple decided it was time for just that. They bought and renovated a 1996 fifth wheel and hit the road.
After 9,000 km traveled, the couple put the RV life on pause to start a new adventure: building an off-grid homestead. The 10-acre piece of land, which they call simply “The Land,” started as a place to park their RV. But before long, they were working day in and day out to build a home with all the necessities.
So far, they’ve put in solar panels, wiring, and plumbing, as well as drainage systems. Even cooler, they’ve built a geodesic dome to live in while they build their dream cabin.
7. Van Lifers Jazmyn and Crystal (AKA @VanWives)
Vanwives is the project of couple Jazmyn Canning and Crystal Drinkwalter. These van lifers started RVing in early 2019 when they combined funds to buy and outfit a Sprinter. Since then, they’ve traveled across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala.
Besides Jazmyn and Crystal, the Vanwives family also includes their two dogs, Bella and Izzy. On their Youtube channel and other socials, they share all the adventures the four of them have gotten into together.
After over 3 years of van life, Jazmyn and Crystal decided to take on a new challenge. So, they decided to build an off-grid cabin in the woods. Along the way, they’ve shattered stereotypes about off-grid living and shown what strong women can accomplish when they put their minds to it.
Van Life and Camping Is for Everybody, Everywhere
For the past few decades, camping in the US has been a white pastime; in 2012, KOA reported that 88% of campers were white. Now, with the turning point of the pandemic, the representation of campers is beginning to align with the demographics of the US. In 2020, KOA found that 12% of campers were Black, 13% were Hispanic, and 7% were Asian. KOA also found that 60% of first-time campers were people of color.
These seven profiles are just a drop in the water of the unique perspectives that the next generation of van lifers and campers bring.