How to be a More Inclusive Camper
Respect, Curiosity, and Keeping an Open Mind Lead to a More Welcoming Campsite
As a person of color, I am an oddity in the camping space, especially as a full-time RVer. Because of this, I approach every situation cautiously as I’m never quite sure how I will be received. I am always aware that people may not be accustomed to seeing people like me, which can be challenging for them.
I come to the campground without judgments or expectations for other campers. That said, I do have expectations of respect and good manners. Just as I have this expectation of those I meet, I go into every conversation or interaction keeping respect for others in mind. I am used to people staring at me, making unfounded assumptions, or being suspicious of me mainly due to their own insecurities and experiences in life.
People treat me differently sometimes. But I do not hold that against them, provided they do not interfere with my camping space, security, or family fun. But if you want to be more inclusive at the campground, it helps to expand your views and be more accepting of others. Learning about other cultures and traditions can help remove stereotypes, allowing you to approach conversations with curiosity and objectivity rather than predefined assumptions.
Although other campers may look different from you, that doesn’t mean they necessarily have a background that is all that different from your own. For example, I have lived all over the world and in various places across the United States—including small towns, big cities, and everything in between. Throughout my career, I have worked in all kinds of jobs, ranging from manual labor to technology sales. I even served in the military. Those experiences have made me approachable and relatable, just like most RVers.
When meeting someone at the campground for the first time, approach every conversation with an open mind and remove your assumptions and insecurities. If you take the time to listen and focus on learning about the other person, the opportunity for a relationship to form can be grand. Growth and understanding follow when people ask questions and engage with one another. Communicating with other people allows stereotypes and fear-based insecurities to disappear.
If you want to help normalize camping for everyone—including people of color–try expanding your perspectives of other people. Be open to building relationships with those you meet and approach those opportunities without judgment or preconceived expectations. Be welcoming and accommodating of everyone who enjoys the RV lifestyle, as you probably have more things in common than you might expect.
Try approaching every conversation from a position of confidence and openness. Do not be easily offended and focus on being inquisitive and welcoming. Learning about other people should be fun and exciting, keeping in mind that they have just as much to learn from you as you do them. Stay focused on the person and not just their physical features, which may differ from you and most of the people you know.
Look for shared commonalities and experiences that you can laugh about or commiserate over. Humor and laughter are always good tools for breaking down barriers and connecting people, no matter their backgrounds. There are few things more universal in life than sharing a laugh.
Asking about my ethnic background or where my family is from is not a great way to start a conversation unless you suspect that you have been to that place or have some other connection to share. My skin is dark but immaterial to who I am, so try focusing on getting to know me personally, and everything else will fall into place.
Recognizing differences and using speech that draws attention to those differences is not preferred. For example, words that address a person of color outside of accepted pronouns do not create inclusion. Also, basing your questions around stereotypes you may have seen in movies or television shows is not a very good way to engage with anyone, no matter the color of their skin. By avoiding making assumptions, you’ll have a much better chance of getting to know someone and forming a lasting connection.
If you’re looking for a way to engage with others at the campground, here are some inclusive topics that you can use as conversation starters:
- Ask where they’re from and if it is their first time visiting the area
- Ask about RV travel experiences and favorite destinations
- Share local recommendations of things to see and do
- Extend an invitation to join an activity or gather around the campfire
Topics or habits to avoid include:
- Using segregating terminology such as “you guys” or “people like you” when referencing a person’s skin color, religion, ethnicity, or background.
- Absolutely no racial slurs, ethnic jokes, or discriminatory language
- Displaying Confederate flags or other racially charged signs, symbols, or iconography
Remember, everyone you meet is a human being, so approach them with an open mind and a healthy level of curiosity. This allows you to include one another in your camping adventures, building a relationship through shared experiences. And if you wonder if a certain topic is safe or if a question is respectful, perhaps it may be better to hold off until a friendship has formed.
Respect, understanding, and acceptance are the keys to creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment at any campground. Remember, the people you meet while camping are probably more like you than you might think. By spending a little time getting to know them, you’ll break through any preconceptions you might have and possibly make some new friends along the way.
See you around the campfire.
Essay Contributed by Blake Baderschneider of The Traveling Titans—a full-time travel family living their dream, one adventure at a time. Samantha is a rehabilitated adrenaline junky with a passion for hiking, photography and creating. Blake is a Marine Corps Veteran who loves to write, climb, run and cook. They spend their time chasing adventure with their two children, Atlas and Zora.
The Baderschneiders launched from the Washington DC area in 2020, originally anticipating they would spend two years travel before finding a new place to settle down. It is no longer just a trip but has become a lifestyle that they plan to pursue for many years to come. Blake and Samantha want to inspire others to live their dreams. Integrity drives them to share the full perspective, from incredible destinations to the raw emotions and the struggles of life on the road. They never know what they’ll encounter next, but it will be filled with laughs, love, and plenty of excitement!