As a climber, the thought of living the #vanlife has likely crossed your mind. The idea of driving coast to coast to explore some of the country’s best rock is enticing. But as a Black climber, how realistic is it? It’s easy to get blinded by the luxury builds or fall in love with the cute melanated couple traveling the world together in their van, but the path vanlife is hard and requires a lot of planning but if done right, it can also be liberating.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding if it's time to pack up your climbing shoes and hop on the road.
CAN I AFFORD VANLIFE?
Depending on your personal circumstances, vanlife may seem like it's impossible to afford. If you're boujie like me, you want all the bells and whistles in a van, including tub. But if you're like vanlife couple Lovell and Paris, it could be a path to becoming debt free.
Vanlife can look like many things, a large car, schoolbus or your traditional van. Either way, some level of expense is involved to get started and most times customization is essential such as the multi-camera security system Lovell & Paris placed on their van to provide protection while on the road. Now while there's no way to indicate the precise cost of vanlife for one specific person, it's good to draft a realistic budget plan to see if it's realistic. When building the budget, there are two main costs: startup and recurring costs. Learn more about the potential costs and how to build out the budget HERE.
VAN LIFE WHILE BLACK
There's no way to sugarcoat this. The biggest element of vanlife that gave me pause was being Black on the road, especially knowing some of the most classic climbing areas are in the deepest of the south. Even if you have a partner on the road with you, it's simply high risk.
I'm sure it's a little less high risk if you have a non-Black partner who can speak to cops, park officials or anyone who might think you are simply lost. The reality is that the climbing gym will always feel a bit safer than outdoor climbing around the country. If you have any stories about vanlifing while Black, share them in the comments.
MENTAL VS PHYSICAL HEALTH
Yes, climbing outdoors regularly might improve your physical health. It might even bump you up a few grades in the gym. But what about the mental health aspect of vanlife? At the time of planning for van life, I was single with no pets. The isolating nature of vanlife may seem peaceful in the beginning but will it eventually feel lonely?
These were the three factors that kept me away from vanlife. But a younger me, with the right job and resources would’ve easily pounced. I do think if it's something you can make happen, even if temporary, it's worth it. Climbing in the United States is vast, landscapes are beautiful and most outdoor climbers and really welcoming.
I also think making the leap to vanlife would’ve been easier if Noami J Grevemberg’s (@irietoaurora) book “Living the Vanlife” existed. Understanding this lifestyle from someone who looked like me would've given me the confidence to take the leap. This book is not only a glimpse into what it’s like living on the road but how to be safe, find employment and have a sustainable experience. The book is out now and even if you’re not contemplating #vanlife, it’s still worth having this beautiful book rest on your coffee table.