Authors: Faren Rajkumar @faren_wanderer ; Blix and Bess
We imagine adventures on the road with Blix and Bess must be a fun and empowering experience! An inspiring full-time vanlife couple: one half “showgirl” and one half digital nomad. These two are full of knowledge of LGBTQ+ nomad safety and great stories of their travels.
1. Tell us about you & your journeys, and how you balance work life with travel & adventure!
“We are Blix (they/them) and Bess (She/Her) and we have been together for a little over 4 years and have been traveling full-time on the road for over 9 months.
We moved into our van officially in December 2020. The pandemic really pushed us toward this way of life. We were living in the Bay Area (California) and paying a ridiculous amount in rent. We wanted a change so Blix was actually looking into tiny homes. That’s when Bess revisited her old love and fondness for living on the road. The #vanlife bug bit us both and we began searching to buy a van around late summer/early fall of 2020.
Bess left her job at the nursing home she was working at. But she is also a Burlesque Artist, and now that the world is more open, she is starting to perform more regularly and living out her “traveling showgirl” dreams. Blix got a remote job working in Tech Sales. We are still navigating how to find the balance between work, travel, and adventure, but we’d say it all feel like such a privilege to have this be something we are learning to balance at this point in time.“
2. How do you feel about the movement to increase diverse representation in the outdoors?
“We are incredibly passionate about it! We are sharing our experience on social media and vlog about our experience on Youtube because we want to contribute to diversifying the scene. We think it’s so vital to see people that look like you do what you want to do. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it! We hope that sharing our story and our lives will help others like us have the courage or feel inspired to do the same!”
3. What does community mean to you?
“That’s a really good question. We’ve really had to reflect on what that means to us this past year. The pandemic and civil unrest really forced us to reflect on what community means to us. We have learned that there are all kinds of communities, but the kind of community that we are interested in being a part of is closely tied to the following values: honesty, transparency, contributing to the greater good, kindness, joy, and having your back and supporting you, but also checking you if you’re contributing to causing pain/harm.”
4. What are some challenges you face as LGBTQ+ travelers?
“Safety is always our number one concern. On top of being an LGBTQ+ couple, we are also an interracial couple. There are several intersections of who we are that make traveling challenging because of who we are. Navigating public bathrooms and showers is a consistent challenge and making sure we do ample research about the places we visit is another “to-do” before we go anywhere.”
5. Where have you felt the safest during your vanlife journey?
“Definitely the Bay Area (SF, Berkely, Oakland CA). Perhaps because it’s familiar to us. But we just don’t have to carry around the fear of being queer when we are there. We can just be us. But surprisingly, we also felt very safe in Denver, Colorado, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Houston, Texas.”
6. How do you celebrate your Pride and cultural roots through your vanlife experiences?
Bess: “We celebrate Pride by sharing our story online, unapologetically being who we are, and making queer love visible and queer joy accessible. Culturally, I cook a lot of Japanese cuisines and we try to travel to places that we have ancestral ties to.”
7. How do you find/create joy while on the road?
Bess: “As a Burlesque Artist, I’ve found joy through practicing the art of burlesque in whatever environment I found myself in. Our first leg of our journey, everything was still shut down (all live performances halted) so I had to use the land around me to express myself and use digital ways to capture my art. This has brought me a lot of joy.
Together, we love going on walk/hikes with our dogs without our phones and talk about all the things we’d like to do in our lives. We find joy in the small things but also the grand things we hope for, for the future.
Additionally, something that has brought us countless joy has been reconnecting with friends, family, and loved ones that we haven’t seen in years. The road has brought us back to so many people we’d probably not have the time or means to see if we weren’t traveling on the road.”
8. What destination has been your favorite so far, and why?
Bess: “I loved Louisiana. My dad is from there but we never went growing up. It was a dream of mine to be on that land, be around the food, people, air…It was a dream come true, and it was as magical as I’d always thought it would be.”
Blix: “I really enjoyed Denver. I love how active people are and how the outdoors is so incorporated into the culture, and how dog friendly it was.”
9. Anything else you want to share with the community, about yourself?
“We are in constant gratitude that we get to experience this, but before we actually made it happen we really didn’t know how we were going to do it. There were many frustrating months figuring out our finances, transitioning out of in-person jobs, and a lot of fear that got in the way of being able to take the plunge. But the moment we had decided we were going to do it, a willingness to just go through the process came over us. And this willingness helped us through the frustrating process of transitioning our lives to be on the road full-time.
And truth be told, there are still many frustrating and fearful times, but we like to keep it one day at a time, and just do the next right thing. However, we are not remiss about the privilege that we have when it comes to the type of rig we are able to have, being able-bodied, and in general, having life circumstances align for us to live this way.
Also, we are both sober and would love to normalize sobriety for queers so if folks want to connect on that, we’re here for ya!”