Women on the Road Gathering

I got back recently from the first-ever Women on the Road Gathering, a weekend event for adventurous women and nonbinary people. The gathering took place October 26-28 at Hotel Luna Mystica in Taos, New Mexico, and it exceeded all of our expectations.

Through my organization Vanlife Diaries, I worked with the She Explores/Women on the Road team to create a comfortable and safe space for women to have conversations about living and working on the road. We knew there was a need for a gathering like this, but we had no idea how big that need was until we hosted one.

Never before had we experienced a gathering where participants flew to the location and rented cars to make sure they could be there. Some women messaged each other beforehand and caravanned; many traveled several thousand miles in their own rigs to get there. There were women who would normally travel with partners who joined the gathering without them.

Van circles started to form until there was a sea of vans. Cars parked along the edge and soon a tent city formed for those without beds inside their rigs. After everyone got parked and situated, we had a welcome ceremony by the Vanlife Diaries and Women on the Road teams, and we recognized the sacred importance of the land our intention for the weekend. We shared that we were not far from the Taos Pueblo ruins, an ancient site located about 15 minutes from the gathering location. We also introduced a member from Heart of Taos, a nonprofit organization that offers transitional housing, emergency assistance, and support services for women in the area who are facing homelessness or are homeless. Because we were donating a portion of our ticket and raffle sales to this organization, it was important for us to educate our community about the significance of our partnership.

We love sharing music at gatherings, and we were lucky enough to have the talented Ira Wolf perform at our event. Ira lives and tours out of a 1988 VW Vanagon (Ruby) full-time, and her music has been a favorite in the traveling community. We couldn’t have anticipated the power of a performance like the one she gave. Her songs spoke about loneliness on the open road, the places she’s traveled to in her van, and about heartache and death. These topics resonated with our audience, and we walked away with tears and smiles from such a profound performance.

That night, the sky opened up and we could see the Milky Way. We went to bed that night full of music in our hearts and food in our bellies.

Saturday, we woke up and were greeted with warm espresso by Mobile Mountain Cafe, a coffee truck run by Dani Poirier. The Women on the Road Gathering was the preliminary launch of her business and we were stoked to support her.

To continue with the buzz of the morning, we headed over to yoga in the grass led by local Taos teacher Adi Luna. Afterwards, there were a number of workshops led by locals and members of our community including one on minimalism, jewelry, road safety, sexism and how to get started. While some went to the workshops, others stayed back and toured vans.

Later in the afternoon, we headed over to Taos Mesa Brewery’s Amphitheater to listen to a live Women on the Road podcast episode. We heard from panelists Martha Hudson, Lisa Jacobs, Sydney Ferbrache, Emily Hart, Katie Larsen and Kit Whistler. You can listen to Episode 39 here.  

We gathered around for a fireside chat by Kit Whistler about the importance of practicing idleness and the year she practiced it with her partner J.R. Switchgrass.

Sunday, we woke up and went to a morning yoga session led by Maddie Hare. We said goodbyes, took photos, swapped things we didn’t need in our rigs and also making sure each other’s contact information. Latasha Dunston of Jitterbug Art Studio sketched custom portraits of women and their pets inside their rigs.

It was hard to say goodbye to all of the women we met throughout the weekend. We felt so high from all our connections and the loneliness of leaving each other started to set in. But this time, we knew that feeling would be short lived. Our road family had expanded. We left knowing there are others out there like us who understand our differences. We’re more alike than we realize, and when we broke down the barriers that held us back, we came together and created a powerful connection.

Thank you to Wylder Goods for providing some gear for the weekend! Nights in the desert get cold. And even though I was snuggled up next to Peaches, having the Diamond Capra Fleece Hoody provided that extra warmth I needed inside my sleeping bag. Browse the Patagonia collection.

Find out more about Vanlife Diaries & Women on the Road at www.vanlife.com.au and www.she-explores.com. On Instagram @vanlifediaries and @womenontheroad.

Photos courtesy of Megan Cable, Gale Straub, Shella Jaybird, Hailey Hirst & Kathleen Morton.