The Rise. The Shine. Series Featuring Noami Grevemberg
Originally from the island of Trinidad and Tobago, Noami immigrated to the United States at the age of 17 seeking to break the chains of intergenerational trauma and create a better life for herself. Fast Forward 22 years and many twists and turns, and Noami has been living on the road in her van for almost 6 years with her partner, Dustin, and her dog, Amara, living the life of her dreams.
Prior to becoming eco van lifers and digital nomads, Naomi was an environmental scientist. During this time in her life, Naomi felt like she was living someone else’s life and reaching for dreams that felt out of reach. Also, as a scientist in a predominantly white space, it was really hard for her as a Black-identifying immigrant. During the first few years of her career, Naomi found herself deep in the throes of depression and anxiety. One day Noami’s partner, Dustin, brought up the dream they had once had in college of traveling the country in a van and asked if maybe it was time they gave it a try. Noami quickly agreed. They gave themselves 3 months to quit their jobs, sell their belongings, and get a van. It started out as a one year adventure spanning from New Orleans to Alaska and back, with the hope that they would have a life-changing epiphany.
Back in 2015 when Noami and her partner embarked on this journey, van life was still in its infancy, and there weren’t really any resources available. Not only was it a scary decision, but they also lost a lot of friends who didn’t understand what they were doing and felt like they were ruining their lives.
The first year was really hard and the couple weren’t meeting anyone like themselves, meeting mostly retirees who were RVing. About 6 months into their journey, they really started questioning what they were doing with their lives. Naomi was scrolling on instagram one day and saw there was a van life gathering happening in a few days in Bend, Oregon. The pair decided to pack up camp and head to Oregon. When they arrived, not only did they find a hodgepodge of vans similar to theirs, but they found community. That’s the moment Noami and Dustin realized that they could sustain this lifestyle for themselves. From there on out, there was a lot of trial and error as they figured out how to make money on the road, but they eventually figured out how to make it work for themselves.
One year turned into almost 6 and now the couple are full-time entrepreneurs who have made an entire life out of what was supposed to be a one year rendezvous and are now teaching others that anyone can recreate their lives if they desire to.
In 2019, Noami founded Diversify VanLife out of frustration for the lack of representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) at all intersections in the road travel community. The narrative that was very prominent at the time was very white and didn’t reflect her experience as Black woman or the experiences of other People of Color. Not only was it frustrating, it made it unsafe for people who wanted to enter into this lifestyle because the resources available didn’t reflect the needs of people like herself. Eventually, she decided to create the representation herself, and thus Diversify VanLife was founded, with the mission of creating resources and bringing diverse voices from the Vanlife community into a safe spaces where they create the things that they need to make it sustainable, with the recognition that not everyone chooses this lifestyle, as some are forced into it.
Nomads at the Intersections, a podcast started by Noami, is another platform created to amplify the stories and voices of BIPOC at all intersections in the van life and nomadic community. According to Noami, “it’s another place to share stories to bring more awareness and create representation in the space.”
For Noami, the most rewarding part of van life is being able to recreate her life on her own terms. “It’s an experiment, and I love looking at my life that way. It’s been so life changing to be able to create the space to do that. I can do it over and over again, and I have done it over and over again in the van. We live frugally. We live simply. We live a minimalist lifestyle. We don't have to worry about much. The things we need to be happy are really very simple so that has opened up a lot of room for us to be able to try different things and create different things, and this has such a profound impact on me and the way I see my life.”
While it’s a super rewarding lifestyle for them, it’s also a lot of work. Additionally, there are absolutely moments that Noami finds challenging, such as dealing with cold and inclement weather, among other things, but the challenges have also been some of the biggest lessons as well.
For those interested in van life or curious about a different lifestyle, Noami encourages people to head over to Diversify Van Life and start building community with others. “While it can feel scary and really out of reach, we have resources to make it more approachable. Our mission is to make this lifestyle more and more accessible to the people who want to try it or to the people who are forced into living this lifestyle. It’s really important that this lifestyle be made accessible to everyone because we all deserve community. We all deserve the ability to try something new. The outdoors is for everyone. Van life is for everyone.”
Although embarking on van life was one of the scariest things Noami has ever done, it was a life alternating decision that changed the entire trajectory of her life in the best way. To learn more about Noami's adventures head over to https://irietoaurora.com/.