There are so many ways to enjoy time outside. This is one of many unique stories we’re sharing as part of our effort to highlight the Limitless Sides to Outside.
I was born in California but was raised in the woods of Snohomish, Washington. I grew up playing in the woods, riding horses and riding my bike. I certainly did not grow up going camping regularly. It wasn’t ever a family or summer tradition by any means, but I do remember camping a few times. My husband Ricardo, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, didn’t spend much time playing in the woods or camping, but he did spend summers playing in the city or visiting family on the Virgin Islands.
Fast forward to adulthood and parenthood. My husband and I wanted to create a new family tradition of camping at least once or twice every summer. We began doing this when our daughter was about 8 and our son was 2. We wanted to cultivate or provide them opportunities to play, hang out, explore and enjoy nature. Our camping adventures occurred primarily at state parks and county campgrounds. One of our favorite memories to date is making s’mores over the campfire and playing UNO or Mancala. Now that our kids are older, we tend to cabin camp, or “camp” staying in a cabin, versus tent camping. Our kids still adore the outdoors and have always been nature-loving kids. More recently, we take day trips to the mountains, hike on local trails and visit local beaches.
With all of that said, one of the harder and constant conversations we have as a family of color was: Is it safe? Is the location where we are going safe? Do we see ourselves where we go? Are other families of color when we go camping? Are we going with friends or other families where we have a white person with us, which could help us “feel” safer and who would help us “appear” safer to others around us? We would commonly joke about this and about rationalizing why we would spend our vacation days “sleeping on the ground” in the woods. Because that has been and still is a (historically) scary place and space to be in as Brown and Black people.
Ultimately, we’ve made the decision that we are just as worthy of experiencing camping as anyone else, and equally deserving of feeling safe in doing so. We are determined to allow and provide the opportunity for our children to enjoy camping as well. They have always enjoyed our time in nature and playing outdoors.