October 7, 2017

As we traveled throughout the United States with our Casita travel trailer, full-time for one and one-half  plus years, the lack of racial diversity in  RV Parks and Campgrounds was striking !   I do remembering seeing 2 or 3  Asian families, lots of Europeans, but no Hispanic or African American families. I’m sure there are a few out there, but we never saw any in our travels.  According to a 2009 National Park Service survey, people of color are underrepresented on public lands.  Minorities make up about 40% of the population, but they only comprise 20% of national park visitors.  According to Ambreen Tariq (of brown people camping), “There are some deep-rooted and dark history for some people of color in the outdoors”.   There needs to be more minorities in our parks and public spaces, perhaps in numbers that are a reflection of our population.

Being  white  campers, why should we care?  After a bit of research, I determine that we  should  care for many reasons, but for two important ones in particular:  our national health and passing the baton.


My first reason is a strong belief in the benefits of being outdoors.  When you spend time in nature, it gradually but firmly establishes a sense of connection to the earth.  It promotes health for you and for the planet. Breathing fresh air, camping, kayaking, canoeing,  hiking, and reading the stars in the night sky are only some of the outdoor activities that promote  a healthy lifestyle. The sense of solitude helps you to destress and can promote  introspection.   Minority history can be found in many natural areas, which helps us to discover and understand who we were yesterday, as well as who we are today – valuable lessons for all of us. Spending time with nature can inspire in us the  desire to protect vulnerable public lands for all of us to enjoy. The experiences you have when camping and spending time outdoors echo for you and your children,  long after you return home.

This is a photo of  Kevin Sims, former NFL linebacker,  his wife Tia and several of their children with their RV, from soulfulfamilyrv.com.


There are seven scientifically proven benefits to being outdoors.  (Credit to The Trek Blog)

  1. VITAMIN D – is essential for a healthy immune system.  We can get enough by just sitting in the sun. This is perhaps the most obvious reason to get outside, since the sun supplies us with the best source of Vitamin D.   Those who don’t get enough Vitamin D are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.  Getting enough sunlight has also been linked with the prevention of diabetes, auto immune disorders, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease. How much sun do you need to get enough vitamin D?  When the sun’s UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that enables skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. If you’re fair skinned, experts say going outside for just 10 minutes in the midday sun—in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen—will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units.  If you are dark skinned, you will need more a bit more time in the sun..  In fact, people with very dark skin need around five to six times more exposure to UV radiation to produce as much vitamin D as someone with fair skin. People who are dark-skinned may need sunlight exposure during peak times – i.e., the middle of the day, in the summer.  More than 30 minutes without sunscreen is not a good idea for anyone.  Too much sun can cause Melanoma, dangerous form of skin cancer.

 In May 1981 the music world lost a legend when Jamaican reggae artist  Bob Marley,  died after a four-year battle with a melanoma skin cancer that started on his toe.  



     A.  Being outdoors helps prevent CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome) – blurred vision, double vision, dry/red eyes, irritation, and headache
     B.  Artificial light has negative effect on nearsightedness, especially in children.
3.  IMPROVED SLEEP – Sleep patterns are regulated by an internal body clock called the Circadian Rhythm, which is tied to the sun’s schedule.  If you don’t get outdoors enough, it can disrupt your circadian rhythm, and disrupt sleep.
 4.  CLEAN AIR – Outdoor pollution is bad for your heath for sure.  But inside pollution can be worse – 2-5 times worse, leading to heart disease, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and asthmatic attacks
 BONUS:  According to NASA, there are 15 houseplants that can improve the quality of indoor
air including aloe, snake plant, golden pathos, and chrysanthemum. 
5.  GROUNDING – On the fringe of mainstream science is the practice of Grounding.  Grounding is  walking barefoot on natural surfaces like dirt and sand.  Because the earth is negatively charged, your body will absorb the negative electrons.  According to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine , Grounding can have an intense anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
BONUS:  See the documentary film, The Grounded.


    6.  EXERCISE – I know you’ve heard this endlessly, but here we go again.  Exercises like hiking, kayaking, and other outdoorsy exercises, and even light walking, help prevent heart disease, strokes, Type II Diabetes, Obesity, Osteoporosis, and many psychological conditions.
    7.  PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH – There are massive benefits in getting outdoors, on our mental health.  Spending time in nature is linked to improved attention span, and boosts in serotonin ( the feel good neuro – transmitter).  It also shows increased brain activity in the parts of the brain responsible for increased empathy, emotional stability, and love.  Conversely, urban environments tend to boost brain activity in centers for fear and anxiety.
         GET OUTSIDE !!!  GO CAMPING !!!

(Credit for this photo goes to OutdoorAfro)




My second reason is ultimately a selfish one. Although there are messages both subtle and not so subtle, that the “outdoors is for white people” –  that must change.  Due to the fact that the United States is moving towards a greater population of non-whites, it is important to pass the baton of caretaker to that next generation.  If the next generation isn’t aware of the treasure they are responsible for, it may be lost.  We need more people  involved in supporting policy decisions that affect access to public spaces, and that consider the size of the footprint we leave for the next generation.  We need everyone to care about the development of open spaces, and the ecosystem at large.  Funding for our public lands is in jeopardy. Falling in love with the outdoors will encourage everyone, including minorities,  to  use their spending power to work alongside any company or group that share a vision for equity in access and enjoyment of our parks and open spaces.  I hope that you, dear readers, will embrace the chance to work with regional and national organizations, companies, and leaders who support and give voice to diverse participation in the outdoors to achieve important goals for all of us.




Some thoughts –

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'”   – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“If we don’t learn to hang together, surely we will hang separately”.     – Ben Franklin

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you”.      -Frank Lloyd Wright

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt”.     – John Muir

Of our National Parks:  “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”  – John Muir

“Not just beautiful, though—the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they’re watching me.”     –  Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


Much thanks to the following blogs that were instrumental in helping to get my thoughts in order:



www.blackcampers.wordpress.com   and


www.NAARVA.com  (National African-American RV’ers Association )








  1. Patricia Reilly

    Many of my students were afraid to go even into the redwood forest in the Oakland hills. Go back 2 generations and they have plenty of reasons to be scared. Stop and think about it. Many urban African Americans don’t want to be “country”. Here it took families till the 1940s getting jobs at the Kaiser shipyards to finally get out of the rural south. Job opportunities were a step up. They STILL don’t have the opportunities we were born with. And do you think they’d have the same “welcoming” experience in many of the states you visited? Our idealistic suburbia is half SAFE nature, half city ways. We’re the weirdos who buy homes to lug around with us on the road, or the kids who backpack and sleep in a tiny tent while hoping bears don’t smell us. Of course there’s so much to see and the great outdoors is so healthy [except for fire season here], but people of color have totally different reasons for not being next to you at the RV parks.
    There’s a lot to think about. But I will say all my field trips were to open nature near the bay and the kids LOVED them!

  2. Rita Oakes

    Terrific topic. Excellently written. Good to hear from you again Janet! (From the benefits you sight, I think Trump could use an extended camping trip – on the Isle of Elba.)

  3. Joyce delmore

    I especially found your perspective on
    People of color and their role in the protection of National Parks interesting. I spent 17 years
    In Idaho. My perspective was of a city girl
    Thrown into the wild. It is to this day
    The most enriching experience. I was enchanted by nature and value its rewards. We can hope
    That the diversity of nature will find some way
    To entice those of color to experience its awesomeness.


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