By Tim Gruver
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Ambreen Tariq was just 8 years old when she traveled halfway across the world to the United States from India.
The daughter of immigrant parents who both worked two jobs to make ends meet, Tariq grew up all across the country as a part of what she calls a road trip family that developed a mutual love of the outdoors with their daughter.
That love led Tariq to start Brown People Camping, a social media campaign aimed at promoting greater diversity in outdoor recreation. Together with her husband, Nader Jameel, Tariq partnered with Airstream Travel Trailers for a week-long trek across the Pacific Northwest from June 29 through July 6.
Their trip took them from Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park to holding a Korean barbecue at Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park — all with the aim of showing what’s out there for people of color to explore.
“We see so many different types of people from all walks of life,” Tariq said. “I want to see that in the outdoors. We want it to be inclusive and reflect truly American identities.”
According to The Outdoor Foundation’s 2017 report, over 48 percent of Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2016 and 70 percent of participants were white.
For Tariq, Seattle is the kind of place that embodies all of the qualities she wants to see in American cities.
“[Seattle’s] diversity, culture, and landscape truly, truly represents the spirit of America,” Tariq said. “There’s such a richness and culture, especially with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. I feel like that’s truly representative of the beauty of diversity and how it enriches all of our lives.”
According to Tariq, making the outdoors a normal part of life for anyone is key to broadening the scope of how outdoor recreation is marketed to people of color.
“I rarely see any outdoor advertisements that I can look at and identify with a person,” Tariq said. “So if I have no desire to try outdoor recreation and I don’t see it in marketing, I don’t see it in advertisements, what motivation do I have to really seek it out? I think there’s a great responsibility that outdoor retailers bear.”
That responsibility should not just extend to people of color. Many white families, Tariq argues, are just as interested in walking hiking trails alone.
“I think brand marketing is not just attracting customers, it’s also about enriching the experience of the customers you have, whether they’re people of color or not,” Tariq said. “So many white people reach out to me and tell me they are just as uncomfortable, they’re just as offended at the lack of diversity in the outdoors. It’s important to them the way they’re raising their children to see people of color on the trails.”
Outdoor recreation is a privilege that neither Tariq or Jameel take for granted. While the two do not have children, Jameel, a medical student at George Washington University, and Tariq, a recent law school graduate, spent a mere two days on their honeymoon. Their trip this summer was a means of catching up on lost time.
Born and raised in Ohio, the outdoors was little more than a soccer field to Jameel. Seeing the great outdoors for himself with his wife was much more rewarding than he could have imagined.
“Going on these classic hikes has been pretty rewarding,” Jameel said. “To go on a hike that we’ve researched, we’ve read about, but to actually walk those trails and be on those steps, to remember the feeling you felt when you first saw those photos, and be like, ‘Oh, these photos didn’t do it justice.’ It’s empowering.”
The couple enjoy their trips as a way of testing their limits, from dealing with windswept tents to properly stocking their food supplies.
“We make more mistakes than we do things right,” Tariq said. “And there’s something exciting in that.”
The two share distinctly different opinions when it comes to things like packing gear or how to travel, but Tariq said that makes their trips all the more interesting.
“When we approach the outdoors, our personalities come with us,” Tariq said. “It’s really incredible and important to celebrate what people value and how they experience the outdoors.”
You can follow Tariq and Jameel’s adventures at brownpeoplecamping.com and @brownpeoplecamping on Instagram.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.