Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Myth

During my research and even among my peers, I came across a myth that presented itself as fact. It was one of the reasons that motivated me to pursue the blog sharing my family's experiences with the world. This myth is so prevalent, that even the popular comedy site funny or die featured it as a topic for a segment. (see video above) The motivation to expose the lie for what it is, shed light on the truth and erase the stereotype. It also inspired our blog's name. The myth? Ethnic, meaning Black and Hispanic, people don't do nature.

While I can admit that during my research, the majority of modern families that blog about going fulltime RVing, returning to nature, or camping are not ethnic. However, that does not mean that these families simply do not exist. Nor does it mean that Ethnic people do not enjoy these activities. It means that exposure of our culture to this part of subculture is limited. It means that our media, our sources of information do not view this topic as important or relevant and consequently our community stays uninformed, or worse misinformed.

This, in my opinion, is a very modern trend. I cannot believe that people whose ancestral cultures have such a rooted, ancient and inherited bond with the earth, through food and its cultivation, through tradition and cultural celebrations, through literary expression and scientific discovery did not foster a passion for nature. Somewhere between our past and modernization, we traded the farms and fields for the grocery store, the books and pens for television and computers, our heritage and cultural ties to the earth for modern American culture of materialism and consumerism. We traded our values of family, God and betterment of ourselves and community for the value of the dollar, betterment of our looks, homes and keeping up with societal demands aka keeping up with the Joneses. In doing this, our connection has been severed, our feelings numbed and the calling of the wild drowned out by the utter chaos of the modernized world. Within the confines of our steel and stone prisons, our once clear and prominent signal broadcasting the voice of God has become white noise. Knowing God is in nature is one thing, having the ability and courage to seek Him in nature is another matter.

Is there some barrier keeping our modern community from embracing or pursuing a more natural lifestyle more often? Absolutely. Speaking first hand, (once upon a time) I had some misconceptions regarding camping, nature and RVing. Pursuing a (full time) lifestyle other than the standard American Dream was viewed in our community as being unmotivated, slacking or knocking the hustle. As far as viewing RVing as a new form of American Dream, I simply had no reference point, or at least none that I could relate to. The majority of people that I saw engaged in these type of activities, in my community, were referred to as "hippies or tree huggers".  The activities themselves were refered to much harsher, as things only "white people" do. These are not my words and I mean no offense to any readers, but if you enter an inner city and engage our youth about this topic, that is how they would put it. While I admit this is a position of pure ignorance, the lack of people I found that I could relate to remained a huge barrier.

Also. I think the ignorance of what being in nature consists of that also contributes to the lack of color engaging in nature. I read a wonderful article on Outdoor Afro(linked below) that touched on the topic of comfort. There is a misconception in our community that camping means sleeping on the ground, eating hotdogs on a fire made by rubbing sticks together, using the bathroom behind a tree, forgoing showers, sweating out your hair and being eaten alive by bugs. WRONG! Camping has been modernized too! Most sites offer bath houses with hot water, bathrooms, wifi and some even offer cable. Camping in a tent isn't bad either because now they have comfy cots, large cabin like tents and fire pits or propane cooking stoves. If you still need privacy, then RVing is the way to go. Our RV has three beds, a full kitchen including refrigerator, full bath, air conditioning, flatscreen TV and more. As for your hair, that's what braids or natural hair products are for(if u can't live w/o straight hair, RVs have outlets for blow dryers and flatirons)!

Yet, with these challenges facing our community, ethnic people are pursuing nature. What has changed? There are two answers, the economy and the health of our community. As the economy tanked, people were faced with the decision to continue life as they knew it or make changes. Some made changes for economical reasons like affordability, others made changes because continuously putting dreams on the back burner was a sure way to never achieve them.  In this moment of economical crisis the state of security through mortgages changed and so did the face of the RVing and nomadic culture. What once was a lifestyle for retirees, or "hippy tree huggers" was transformed. The economy took every day Americans that had done everything "right" and plunged them into impossible situations that required non-traditional solutions. It shattered the bubble that the traditional American Dream was the only dream you could have if you wanted to be happy and successful. More and more families are turning to RVing and the nomadic lifestyle that would normally never even consider it.

In addition to the economic motivation to restructure our dreams and lifestyle, the outdoors creates an engaging opportunity to keep physically healthy. The health statistics in our community are staggering and we all know them. Many of us have adjusted their diets, but obesity in our children and ourselves is still a problem. What's worse, I hate the gym. There is something about the monotony of going up and down round and round on a machine that just does not thrill me. Aerobics classes don't do much either, I don't like allowing others to set my pace or detail my movements. I like the freedom to slow and increase speed as I see fit. The outdoors provides those freedoms plus the motivation of the awesome views. Imagine doing a mile on the treadmill and right when you think you can't go any further, a slender and graceful deer runs through the row of elliptical machines. Much more motivating than a rerun of Oprah on the Idiot Box. As a family, it allows a place to do all the above with the added benefit of creating memories that last longer than those abs of steel.

The result of opening up to the possibilities of loving outdoors, rving or nomadic lifestyle? Families that once lived stressful lives of desperation where material items and slavery to debt determined every action have found peace and happiness in the last place they thought possible. They traded in the hustle and bustle of the fast lane for a beautiful and scenic drive in the slow lane. They embraced the natural world that God has provided and abandoned the illusion of the commercial world. Some find themselves yearning for the commercial American Dream, while others find that the return to nature is what they really had dreamed about all along. Families that had health problems can use fun and engaging activities found in nature to better their heath. They can use their new found lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of developing health problems.

Don't think that I am saying that every family doesn't has to pursue the RV lifestyle to return to nature. Growing up in the concrete jungle of Brooklyn, I didn't have much experience with natural outdoors and honestly had no desire to learn. I like majority of ethnic women thought that perspective would never be changed under any circumstances. Then, I spent the night in my RV. That night I stared into the clear winter sky, awestruck at the glittering diamonds I saw spread across the navy expanse. I felt the cool touch of wind whip around my face and even in the darkness saw the distinct lines of craggy peaks of mountain in  the distance. In those moments I felt closer to my creator that I had felt in any church. I attend the wrong church you say? Maybe. Yet, there is something about staring into the beauty of the world my God created and reaching my spirit out towards infinity that stirs a feeling that has no words. All at the same time you feel connected, a wholeness and a peace that no car, gadget or house will ever compete with.

Again, it is not my motivation to get all of my readers to change their lives in the same exact way that I have. Freeing yourself from societal standards is not about cookie cutting. In fact, it is the opposite. Instead, my goal is to present you with an alternative. Growing up I was sold a myth that there were two roads to travel. The good one, one of education, a home, a career and a family. Then the bad one, one devoid of education, career, goals and full of crime, drugs or some other taboo subject. I am here to shatter this myth. Life is full of roads, each as unique and different as the individual traversing it. With each new perspective, a different twist in the road and a new direction presents itself. I encourage you to challenge the options you have been given to discover new and unique directions. Above all, know that your dream it just that, YOUR dream and should not be limited by societal norms, cultural traditions, other's opinions or commercial trends.

If you were wondering about my earlier comment about inspiration of our blog name, I wanted a name that would play off the diversity of our Hispanic and African American cultures. Wracking my brain for a creative option, I was again inspired in nature. The members in our family are all among different shades of tan skin, so in the sun, we all appear to be golden. In our new lives as travelers, we have no traditional permanent home and would qualify as gypsies.

Help shatter the myth that Blacks and Hispanics don't do nature: Join Outdoor Afro

Here are some resources for encouraging minorities(and everyone in general) to get active, get out and get involved with nature:

Get Active Rap Video from New America Media on Vimeo.

Let's Move Outside: Get ideas of where to go and what to do to get your family OUTDOORS
Outdoor Afro: I HATE Camping Article
Outdoor Afro: 5 Concerns that Keep Black Folks Out of the Woods
National African American RV Association
Article: Black Campers Recruit Against History, Stereotype
Journey Outdoors :African American Outdoors Sport Association
Some multicultural inspirational quotes for you:

"Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God." -George Washington Carver

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in."
-George Washington Carver

"I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face."
-Langston Hughes

"At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens -- that letting go -- you let go because you can. The world will always be there -- while you sleep it will be there -- when you wake it will be there as well. So you can sleep and there is reason to wake."
-Toni Morrison

“Human beliefs, like all other natural growths, elude the barrier of systems.”
- Miguel de Unamuno quotes

“Your neighbor's vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you.”
- Miguel de Unamuno quotes

“To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be”
- Miguel de Unamuno quotes

"Man's heart away from nature becomes hard." ~Standing Bear

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. 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

"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. "-Author unknown, commonly attributed to Martin Luther

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. ~Henry David Thoreau

Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars... and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful. Everything is simply happy. Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. Look at the flowers - for no reason. It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are. ~Osho

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens. ~Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. This is not done by jostling in the street. ~William Blake

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. ~William Shakespeare

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. ~Albert Einstein

I've always regarded nature as the clothing of God. ~Alan Hovhaness

1 comment:

  1. I'm half hispanic and I LOVE being outside! I do hate bugs and camping in a tent isn't the easiest thing for me, but I love the fresh air, I love going on nature hikes, I love animals, I love the water....I could go on and on.

    In fact, it's my Mexican father and I that love the outdoors, while my white mother is the one who's freaked out by camping/nature and always wants to stay inside.


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