Photo Credit: TN
Noami and Dustin Grevemberg Encourage BIPOC: You Don't Need A Van To Start Vanlife
Noami and Dustin Grevemberg, or ‘Irie to Aurora’ on Instagram, met about 11 years ago during college. Neither of the two imagined they’d be heading to South by Southwest (SXSW) to meet and test out the new, all electric Volkswagen. With an initial goal of driving Irie, their Volkswagen Van, to Alaska in the first six months, Noami and Dustin have now been living in Irie for 5 years. Their detour has been a noble one, as the two are leading the drive in creating diversity in vanlife and long term road travel through the community organization, Diversify Vanlife.
Noami and Dustin, along with their dog Amara are, “exploring new places, building intentional community, challenging the narrative of what it means to be successful, and creating our own paths as digital nomads and eco-vanlifers.”
TN: You two just got finished with South by Southwest, how was it?
Noami: It was hectic. A lot of people, a bit overwhelming. That was our first big event since the pandemic, so let’s just say there was a lot of social anxiety, a lot of stimulation!
TN: What role did you guys play at SXSW?
Noami: We went there with VW bc they launched the new fully – electric microbus, so it’s a fully sustainable bus. So, we went there with them just for the launch and to drive the new VW.
Dustin: Yep, we were there doing some social media, meetings, reviews and photography.
TN: So… Are you guys going to get one?
Dustin: Well… they don’t come out until 2024. but it was really cool to compare the two.
Noami: It was really nice to see they kept the iconic parts of Volkswagen, the smiley faces; bright colors; the spaciousness; everything like that were kept.
I got to test drive it. It was so much fun and so smooth. I mean, it’s fully electric, fully sustainable, the seats are vegan leather, parts of it were made out of plastic water bottles. It’s truly revolutionary and exciting.
TN: How long have you been in your VW van?
Noami: Wow, we’ve been in this Volkswagen since 2016. That’s when we started van life. It was supposed to be a one year journey, from New Orleans to Alaska and back, but six months in we decided we wanted to continue doing vanlife. We wanted to see if we could try and sustain it in any way we could and yeah, we’ve been doing it ever since.
TN: How did you two meet?
Dustin: We met about 10 years ago at an LSU football tailgate party. She came with a mutual friend to our tailgate party. Me and a group of friends would get out there every Saturday morning there was a home game, at about 8 a.m. and start drinking out of the keg. So, when Noami came in the afternoon I was FULL of liquid courage. So, it didn’t take much for me to work up the nerve and go approach her and start talking to her. She indulged me and we ended up speaking all day. And, uh, the rest was kind of history. We met up the next week and I think I told her the same story as I did the previous week and we’ve been together pretty much ever since.
TN: Did you just know it would work for you to travel this way? To both be vanlifers?
Noami: The day we met, I shared with Dustin my dream to travel by van to see all of the national parks. When we got married, we kind of went about regular life with careers and planning a family, thinking about buying a house together, It really wasn’t for us. So, separately, we kind of decided we each wanted to dig up that old dream of traveling the country in a van. It was kind of serendipitous that way. One afternoon, at home, we kind of cornered each other in the kitchen to tell each other we wanted to dig up that old dream of traveling the country by van. We were like, well why don’t we do it? That night we gave ourselves three months to get a van and hit the road.
TN: Dustin, you have quite the beard, sir! Do you have any beard maintenance tips for travelers with awesome beards like yours?
Dustin: Don’t wash it every day. Our water supply is limited, but when you wash it everyday, you are stripped of natural oils. Eating healthy and taking vitamins help keep the beard nice and fresh and shiny! Moisturize with beard oils. I use natural organic oils, jojoba, shea butter, almond oil, vitamin e. I have a nice patchouli oil now. Comb it regularly. Wash thoroughly once or twice a week.
TN: You started Diversify Vanlife Noami, tell me more about it!
Noami: Diversify Vanlife is a community organization, I founded it in 2019 due to the frustration of being the only BIPOC participating in vanlife. It’s like I didn’t feel like I was being heard. The community is what’s necessary and needed. BIPOC having their own space to share their own experiences on the road. It’s a place where we can share ideas and sustain our way of living in vanlife. It’s been growing and going strong since then. There’s a lot of positive change happening and has inspired others to create their own spaces, like vanlife PRIDE. Since then we’ve created so many different resources, We recently launched Diversify Vanlife: BIPOC Guide to Vanlife & the Outdoors and it’s created by very wise and creative individuals who are saying hey, we outchea! This is how we continue thriving as a community. This resource is created for the marginalized individuals in vanlife.
Dustin: It’s definitely heartwarming seeing more and more interracial couples, more and more LGBTQ couples in van life and on the road traveling.
TN: What has been the most exciting experience on the road so far?
Dustin: Well, bonding-wise for us, as a couple, we made it to Alaska last summer. That was our goal in the beginning. It took us five years to get there.
Noami: Yea, it was a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl to make it to Alaska. It was really special to make it there, it felt like we came full circle.
TN: Vanlife is still such a movement, but many don’t know where to start. What are your top vanlife 101 tips:
Noami: Experiment! Do road trips. Doesn’t matter if you have a van or not. We would take our pots and pans out of our kitchen and go camping, go experimenting. That’s kind of how we figured out what our needs are. The car camping kind of kicked the door open to doing longer trips. Weekend, to week long, to month long trips. Everyone’s needs are different, it’s really important to gauge your own basic needs on the road.
Dustin: I agree, it’s kind of a try before you buy kind of thing. One thing I would say, it is really important early on, is to dispel the idea that you have to have it all figured out because your needs will change. So thinking that you have to have a plan for everything, having to have a complete plan, or a perfect van or a perfect build. There’s no one way to do vanlife. So, get rid of the idea that you have to have everything planned out and take that first step.
Noami: You don’t need a van to start vanlife!