Sep 19, 2023 - News

Overlanding and van-life adventures rising in popularity among women

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Twenty women sat in a half circle, introducing themselves by name β€” and the make and model of their trucks.

What's happening: For the first time, the recent Mountain West Overland Expo in Colorado dedicated an entire track of seminars and speakers for women who want to travel off-grid.

  • The discussions ranged from personal safety and hygiene to gear tips and car maintenance.
  • But organizer Misti Tokarsky, who traveled the road full-time with her family for six years, said the main goal was to build a stronger community in an arena best known for its big tires and testosterone.

The big picture: The popularity of overlanding β€” traveling via vehicle to remote areas, often without facilities like water or cell phone service β€” boomed during the pandemic, and the August expo in Loveland drew thousands of enthusiasts.

What they're saying: "It's a hard lifestyle to give up once you start," says Tara McGovern, a mother of two and photographer from Littleton, who owns a customized Jeep. "I think we are craving being out there and doing things alone."

Zoom in: Halfway through introductions at the expo's "Ladies Overland Lounge," the conversation turned to how to be safe when traveling alone and if men violate their space.

  • Some in the audience who wanted to get into the sport worried about bears or a fictional "ax-murderer" lurking in the dark.
  • Tokarsky says this is typical when she talks with other women about van-life and overlanding adventures. "They feel a little uncomfortable talking to men about it," she said.

The bottom line: The other obstacle that the organizers tried to dispel is the fear of failure, by offering easy steps to get introduced to traveling to far-away places.

  • "Failing at it is half the fun," McGovern joked.

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